After completely forgetting to tune into CBS’ The Greatest American Dog last week despite having a reminder on my calendar, I made sure to be in front of the television at ten to eight tonight to be sure not to miss a minute. From the recap of the premiere episode, it was clear Madison could have very easily made it on if I had known about the program in its casting stages. While challenges consisted of basic obedience (timed for greater intensity), the sit/stay and “leave it” commands were nothing he hadn’t mastered by six months. Sure, shaking hands with his right paw only would have been a bit of a challenge, but considering one dog actually bit another dog in the house, I thought he would be the star. As it is, he wins over complete strangers just by being adorable.
What was so empowering about the show, though, was how it truly did bring people together simply because of their love for their four-legged friends—as Bill said, “they are not just dogs; they’re companions.” Just sitting at home, alone, months after the episode was shot, I felt a connection to Beth Joy (even with the face of her dog tattooed onto her calf and the fact that she dresses her dog up in literal dresses) and Travis (cutie!) simply because they, too, used the “eyes on me” focus hand signal. Everyone I know always gives me such weird looks when I do it, but clearly it works, as Travis’ Presley is one of the best-behaved dogs (at least so far). I must admit I felt somewhat vindicated watching on-screen, national reinforcement that I am not the only one who can love a dog wholeheartedly and more than anything else in this world; I am not the only one who gets the greatest joy out of playing with her dog and watching him succeed.
When Bill’s Star returned from the vet after getting cut up in the yard, the fear and affection felt by everyone else over whether or not she was okay was genuine and touching and emotional. The fact that she was going to be okay was not a sign of distress for those who were competing against the duo but rather something about which to be relieved. She is such a sweet, gentle, happy dog, and the love between her and her master is obvious. Yes, it’s a competition show, and for a quarter of a million dollars, its no small prize, but what’s refreshing to see is that for these people, the money seems to be just a nice bonus prize. Really why they are there is to show off their dogs to the rest of America; they are the simply proud parents, and they want everyone to relish in their gifted children.
What I love most about the show, though, is how it is quick to show you whenever you see a dog acting out or acting badly, it is never because the dog is a bad dog; it is because the owner is stressing the dog out or confusing the dog with contradictory commands or being just plain lackadaisical about consistency with training. There is a lot to be learned from The Greatest American Dog, and I only hope Madison and I can use that hour each week while we watch the show together to not only form a stronger bond but also to work on new tricks, all which will only help us to take season two by storm!