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The Lessons I learned From Lassie

A cooperative working relationship between human and canine is a joy to witness.

Adler, the nearly perfect Doberman. Her name means “Eagle” in German.

Adler, the nearly perfect Doberman. Her name means “Eagle” in German.

Career paths can be guided by opportunity, education, fate, and often just dumb luck. Mine began in the back yards of indulgent neighbors, before the word “liability” crept into our lexicon. No spaniel, poodle or mutt was exempt from my unflagging attention. After school let out, my mother could find me with Barney, an extremely tolerant West Highland white terrier, putting him through his paces or dressing him in doll clothes. As long as I was outdoors, my allergies remained in check, but indoors, the symptoms kept me dogless. The hissing sounds of the vaporizer and the smell of Vicks accompanied my sleep on most nights, and I went for allergy shots each Saturday for two years. Our carpets were ripped up and feather pillows discarded.

Banned from playing with neighborhood dogs by my hated allergist, I absorbed Lassie movies and the television series like a sponge, infuriated at the ineptitude of everyone affiliated with this incredible dog. Lassie’s baffled owners and clueless neighbors were always at a loss as to what to do in any crisis situation. Only Lassie seemed to know what the heck was going on, and what course of action should be taken. It was years later that I learned the true genius behind Lassie originated in the brain of Rudd Weatherwax, the collie’s imaginative and ground-breaking trainer.

Read the entire article in the May 2012 issue