It is not lost on me that the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has crossed my mind and vocal cords often during the past 60 years.

Today, I took Gillis, the 56-pound puppy on our daily walk. When we got on the path in the park, where there are loads of woods and green fields, I took Gillis off his leash. I wanted to let him run and get some of his abundant energy out of him. Wearing him out in the morning makes the day go better for the rest of us in the house.

I was walking along quite cocky and confident as Gillis would move ahead of me 10-15 yards, sniff at some grass near the sidewalk and then look to see where I was on the path. Sometimes I will stop in my steps to let him get ahead and then he’ll come back to where I am standing. He does that quite well. As long as he is not distracted.

What I had not banked on was that a few minutes after I let him off the leash, Gillis saw a rabbit jump out of its warren and run for the woods and brush like a scalded tomcat. If  he had been on a leash at that moment, I would have been dragged to death like a charioteer in “Ben Hur.”

Gillis covered with stickers

I stood there for a few moments to watch him go through the thick grass and the woods. Finally, he emerged from the woods. My expression of pride changed dramatically to horror! This picture will show you a bit of what I saw. He looked like someone had poured sesame seed salad dressing all over his body. He was covered with thousands of stickers. And I do mean multiple thousands. He had so many stickers that the white part of his coat was grey with the stickers. It was particularly heavy and thick around his nose and muzzle.

I got him back on the leash and we headed home. When I got home, I doused him with water and began using our dog brushes to comb out the stickers. It was a daunting task, to say the least. It was also a pain in the ass. Not like the damn dog wanted to help me out in any way. He jumped back and forth, but after an hour and a half, I had a good portion of his back cleaned. But his undercarriage, legs, muzzle and butt were still covered with gazillions of these stickers.

As I tried to begin working on his muzzle, his contrariness began to demonstrate itself significantly. Patti and I finally decided we needed to get him to a groomer because, more than likely, he needed to be shaved of these bothersome monsters.

When we got him to the groomer, we confirmed that they would  first try to comb out the stickers, but if they couldn’t do that, then they would give him a shave. After 2-3 hours, the groomer called and said that Gillis was ready. They also sent the picture below of him — after they had cleaned him up and gave him a bath.

Gillis 'de-stickered'

I was amazed. No more stickers. And, they didn’t have to shave him, either. I can’t fault Gillis for what he did. He saw a rabbit and he loves to chase them. So off he went! Don’t chase a rabbit tomorrow, when you can chase the little devil RIGHT NOW!

So, today, THIS old dog learned a new trick: don’t take the dog off his leash until he is at least a year old and has had SIGNIFICANT leash training. Also, I learned that when Gillis is after a rabbit, his hearing loss is profound. He never heard me when I yelled for him to heel or to come back to the path. No, indeed. He had a singular purpose and we both paid for it with him loaded stem to stern with thousands of the stickers.

So, the next time this old dog takes the young pup for a walk, you can bet that he’ll be on the leash. After all, what kind of master would I be if this dog thought that HE ran things around here?

He’s the one that got the tender-loving care from the groomer and the nifty bath that made him smell like a French poodle fresh out of the spa.