The request was simple enough. At least on the surface. Could I feed, water and run the dogs for four or five days while the owners took their annual Labor Day Weekend camping trip to the mountains?

Sure. Absolutely. No problem. Why, I could even bring in the mail, newspapers, and water the tomatoes (for the small compensation of all the tomatoes I could eat for four or five days).

But did I mention that these dogs were Jack Russell Terriers?

Those who know dogs know that Jack Russells are extraordinarily energetic and can bounce and jump higher and faster than any Super Ball on steroids. So I got my exercise for a few days throwing the ball (bless the man who invented the “Chuk-it”), fending off the barrage of attempts to fly into my lap even when I was standing up, and dodging the onslaught of body blocks between the cans of dog food in the refrigerator and their food bowls.

The first day they weren’t too keen on eating, but they sure wanted me to throw that ball. Only they didn’t want to bring it all the way back. They wanted to play “keep away” and dared me to try to grab it from them. Just when I got close, they jumped right into the water trough and splashed around in a frenzy. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jack Russells can laugh, and that I was the obvious brunt of the joke.

The second day I cut my finger on the lip of the dog food can. Before I could get the bleeding under control it looked like someone had been murdered in the kitchen. The dogs took no mercy on me, though, and I still had to throw the ball until they were through chasing it. This I figured out when they flopped down halfway across the yard and rolled around on their backs, playing deaf when I called to them.

The third day was kind of scary. As we romped in the backyard, an eagle suddenly appeared overhead, circling our play area. Screaming like a banshee and brandishing my Chuk-it like a battle axe, I scurried the dogs into the greenhouse until the sky was clear. No way could I imagine how I’d explain why one of their pets became eagle food on MY watch.

By day four we had an established routine. As usual, they met me at the door bouncing with excitement. Their appetite had returned, and they even let me sit down before climbing into my lap for hugs and loves and scratches. They actually brought the ball back and dropped it at my feet without discussion. At the end of our exercise time I called out, “Let’s go kids,” and they beat me back to the house, no argument.

Were there lots of lessons learned? You betcha. Those dogs had me totally trained in just a couple days.