The Old Trainer: Helpful idea may be more than bargained for

DEAR OLD TRAINER: Is it possible to train my golden retriever, Max, to be a cadaver dog, and if so, how do I do it? I would like to help find bodies in disasters such as earthquakes, floods, etc.

-- Altruistic, Atwater

A: Goldens have a magnificent sense of smell, Altruistic, so Max will have no trouble finding bodies. Goldens are a common sight at every ski resort in the country, riding the lifts with the ski patrol and playing in the snow while they train for duty in case of an avalanche. They do an excellent job of finding avalanche victims.

But disaster areas are not ski resorts. A disaster area is ... well, a disaster, and it is very unpleasant. After Katrina, disaster dogs and their owners were working in 100 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity, in a disease infected area that was without water, power, air conditioning, or transportation.

Are you willing to subject yourself and Max to conditions like that? Remember, Max may not be as altruistic as you are, and he is the one who will be doing the work.

In addition, while dogs love to search for lost people and are overjoyed when they find them, some breeds cannot deal with finding cadavers instead of a living people. They become melancholy when they face what they consider failure after failure, and it is not easy to bring them out of it.

If you decide you are serious about such training, there are more than 50,000 organizations and individuals who offer such training listed on the Internet.

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I have had my German shepherd, Meatloaf, for five years and he is a perfect companion. My boyfriend, who I have been dating for six months, doesn't like dogs, and Meatloaf has always refused to have anything to do with him. He criticizes Meatloaf constantly and last weekend he insisted I give him to my parents. I would never do that. What do you advise?

-- Ambivalent, San Francisco

A: The Old Trainer advises you to appreciate how lucky you are. Your boyfriend has unwittingly revealed his true personality. This type of inadvertent revelation is the only insight into a person's character that you know is accurate.

It reminds me of the Marlon Brando western, One Eyed Jacks. Marlon, a bank robber, gets out of jail in Texas and travels to California only to discover that his old partner in crime, Karl Malden, is now sheriff of Monterrey. Marlon Brando, as Johnny Rio, tells Karl Malden, "You may be a one eyed jack around here, but I've seen the other side of your face."

You have seen the other side of your boyfriend's face, Ambivalent, the one that he hides from the public.

This is an easy decision. On the one hand you have Meatloaf, who has been a perfect companion for five years and gives you unconditional love. On the other hand you have a man who cares nothing for what you want or for what makes you happy. He wants you to sacrifice your happiness to accommodate his whims. He will never change. Do you really need The Old Trainer to tell you how to decide that one?

Dogs are an extremely good judge of character. Anytime a dog dislikes someone on sight, there is good reason. Meatloaf is reading body language, tone of voice, and subtle indicators of character that you do not notice. And Meatloaf is watching your boyfriend while your attention is elsewhere.

Trust Meatloaf, and get rid of this guy.

Then take Meatloaf for a long weekend walk along the Marina Green and Crissy Field. You will have no problem meeting someone that both you and Meatloaf find worthwhile.

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