working and playing together
Friday we learned how to work a route with another team. It was fun and rewarding. Bailey took me around a bunch of spilled tomatoes on the ground on the sidewalk as we passed the food bank. Thanks to that accidental opportunity I learned more of his body language and corrected myself and learned how he problem solves. Good stuff. Next. We got to know one another even more in a private play session. We worked on recall “come” and treating him when he returned the toy or just came to me. We do need to work on this, though. I then went to Pet Smart and found the toys he preferred. A wubba, a canvas tug toy and a nuylabone that looks like a crazy wish bone. Since I felt really horrible when we returned from our morning trip, I skipped the Saturday session and stayed in bed. Today I caught up today with backing up and a mini-traffic check with a shopping cart indoors. This helped me understand how he moves and gave me some much needed practice on following him even when it’s really awkward. What a good boy.
Today was bootie time. Also another potentially awkward task. We did okay, will need to practice putting them on. But he walks very nicely in them.
One thing I really wanted to write about is how much the students here help one another. Sharing the student experience has helped me tremendously. I have heard a lot of second dog stories, good and not so good. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I went into it with no expectations, only a positive frame of mind and this has suited me well thus far. Now that I’m one week into this experience I think I’d like to describe it like this: it’s like a first dog only better. It’s just as demanding physically (maybe even more so since I’ve aged 6 years) and mentally and emotions run high, too. There is, however, a level of adjustment unique to already having been a handler. The struggle with the equipment, while still a little awkward, isn’t as intimidating. The husbandry part is familiar and grooming and the dog-centric knowledge is comforting, too. The movements are like an ever so familiar dance and it feels good when it happens so quickly, unlike the first time. Knowing what to do helps the transition.
There is a woman in our class that is here for her first dog at an age when most folks wouldn’t even consider it; I’ve grown a fondness for her. She is experiencing much of what I did the first time. The doubts, tears and questioning if she’ll ever get how to turn, pivot and learn all the skills. It is overwhelming at first — that is a fact. I keep saying to her that I want to be the first one to congratulate her on graduation and that her doubts are normal and healthy. If she wants it badly enough, she will do it and be there with us on graduation day. Today I watched her and the instructor practice her turns and I recalled how I had to do that, too. I assured her, later, after dinner, that her goals of increasing her independence and working on being more active are worthwhile and achievable. She will have a loyal and steady partner at her side to work with her and that is the best part of it, doing it together.