Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Day 110

I could write about the boring everyday stuff. About how we worked on coming, staying, sitting, heeling, the retrieve, the stand, all that sort of thing, but I think it will be way more interesting to write about what happened in the evening, when all the training to date was put to a real life test.

I am a member of a Citizen's Advisory Committee for the City of Laurel. This particular committee happens to be the one on Person's with Disabilities. We sort of deal with accessibility issues, but that's another topic all together.

Last evening Sanity went to her very first CAC meeting and this is pretty much a step-by-step of what happened. First I took off the Pro 500 ecollar she was wearing and traded it for a Sport50G2. Smaller sized receiver and transmitter which makes for easier use when out and about. Next I had her stand and put on the service dog in training cape and then put on my own coat and picking up cane, keys,a purse and a 6' leather leash headed out the door. At this point, Sanity is not wearing the leash and I have stuffed it in my pocket for later use. At the open inner gate, she waits until I tell her she can go through. The same thing happens when I open the outer gate. She waits until I tell her she may pass and then she sits on the other side while I close and latch the gate. Next we head for the car. Sanity is traveling in a more or less heel position, not because I have told her to, but because she has already learned that is the most efficient position to be in and be able to watch both me and what is happening around us.

At the car, she sort of sniffs around while I open the rear door and tell her to get in. She hops in and sits ever so properly in the middle of the rear seat. When we reach the City administration building, she patiently waits for me to gather up all my "stuff", get out of the car and then open the rear door for her. She continues to wait without being told until I have managed to clip the leash to the live ring of her chain training collar and call her out of the car. Then in a loose heel position, never moving in front of me or falling behind me or so much as causing the leash to tighten, we headed into the building. A building she had never been in before and of a type she had never seen before. She held her heel position and other than a single tap to the remote to remind her that this was not the time to sniff the floor, did every thing I required.

Once in the conference room, she waited beside me while I selected a chair and put my stuff down. Then, single whispered command, she heeled beside me while I wandered off to find the soda machine and buy a Coke. For the record, this was her first experience with a soda machine. She held her sit/stay while the bottle dropped almost under her nose. She visually acknowledged the person next to us at the junk food machine and didn't even blink at the large and rather bulky powerchair he was using.

Back in the conference room again, she slipped under the table and lay down on a single whispered "go under" command and gesture from me. During the hour long meeting her rather well-timed soft moans or groans or mumbles were not enough to be distruptive, however they did cause some laughter from the other committee members. It was the timing of the sounds that got us all.

I am still trying to decide how I feel about the behavior of the committee chairman. We had some blueprints to look at for a new business getting ready to open. It just so happened that the best place to put the blueprints also caused him to be standing right beside my chair. He was so worried about the possibility of stepping on Sanity's nose that he took his shoes off. Now there was a bit of a problem. Sanity wanted so very, very much to check out those stocking feet and the wonderful, smelly shoes. That was the one time when I did have to issue a mild correction, using both chain collar and ecollar. Message heard, received and the nose got put in my lap where it would stay out of temptations way.

After the meeting was over, I called Sanity out from under the table and told her she was free to "go say hello". She went from person to person and very, very politely placed her head and body in a please pet me position. Meanwhile I struggled to answer questions about her, her age, her training, what had happened to Wrap and how was Wrap handling the retirement. Only one member of the committee is less than fond of dogs and he left as soon as the meeting was over so there was no worry on my part of our infringing on someone else's rights.

Once the hellos had been made and the questions answered, we said good night and headed back out to the car. Just as soon as she was in the car the leash came off and stayed off. Home and she waited until told to exit the car and then walked with me back to the gate, where she waited while I unlatched and opened the first gate and then the second gate and finally when I told her to "go in the house" she headed up the ramp and waited at the door. Once inside, I took her service dog cape off, opened the door again and released her to do what I refer to as "doggie things". End of day.

Yes, I do think Sanity is on her way to becoming a pretty durn good service dog someday.

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