Wednesday, February 22, 2006

War Wounds

Okay, anyone really looking closely Sunday afternoon might have wondered why exactly I enjoy this.

Wednesday night I was trying to walk Laev to the training building and carry several items as well; we were going to provide a little doggie distraction for a client. Well, as I was struggling with closing a door and juggling leash and retrieve items and toys, I momentarily forgot that it was not Shakespeare on the leash and I dropped the leash loop over my thumb. So when I had my hand wrapped around the door handle and Laev lunged excitedly, I thought I'd broken my thumb. Fortunately I had not, but I did teach much of the rest of the session with a paper towel wrapped around my right hand to slow the bleeding. (And Laev picks up bloody objects as well as clean ones; call it early scent training.)

Thursday night I was playing with Laev, actually working toward a targeted down with a fast burst forward (ultimately for agility contacts), in our usual method with a toy -- tug, tug, out, sit, whip out the toy for reward, tug, tug, out, down, whip out the toy for reward, etc. We've done this since she was eight weeks old, and she loves it -- she has fast downs but is ready to spring forward to catch the toy as I snap it from behind my back again.

Well, this time I wanted to reset her for another repetition, so I told her to sit (she did) and then brought my hand out to take her collar. From behind my back.

Laev launched and had my hand in her mouth before either of us realized what was really happening. To her credit, she realized immediately it wasn't a toy -- "Ack! Spit out Mommy! Spit out Mommy!" -- and backed off quickly, but not before I got a minor chomp. Thus, our first real mistake in tugwork.

Friday, then, saw my left hand mildly swollen and marked with shallow impressions of Laev's teeth across my thumb and both edges of the hand. I wasn't too upset, though -- she'd caught my hand perpendicularly across the metacarpals, the worst angle, and her quick realization that I had not, in fact, brought out a toy probably saved me from a broken hand.

Saturday I came home to see Laev rushing across the yard toward me; my husband had apparently put her out for a potty break and exercise spin. She was thrilled to see me pull in and made a couple loops around me before leaping up to say hello. Right into my face, as I was bending over.

There was a sickening numbing pain in my chin, and as I told Laev to sit I tasted blood. Drat. Oh, well. I went off toward the training building, needing to check on some Bravo! stock, and felt something warm on my face in the bitter cold day. I reached up and then saw blood covering my fingers.

"Not again," was my first, weary thought. (Many know that I had plastic surgery to repair the left side of my chin/mouth after a severe dog bite.) But no, I was just fine. Face wounds bleed, but all I really had was a single puncture from her grinning mouth and a cut on the inside from my own teeth and some bruising.

There's also a spreading green bruise over a good part of my left shin, but I have absolutely no idea where that came from. Really. It could have been Laev, but I don't remember it. It could have been taijutsu, but I don't think we did anything that should have bruised there. But given the week, maybe it's just as well I don't remember. :-)

So Sunday we went to a show and go to practice Rally Obedience, and I'm feeling like a dog training cripple. Laev's first round is not especially pretty, but it's functional, and her second was better. She was distracted the first time by the other activity around the ring, including a neighboring Obedience ring which featured a handler verbally flaying her dog for lying down on a sit-stay. I felt really bad for the other dogs in the line-up -- if it bothered Laev in the next ring, how must they feel? -- but I asked Laev to focus as if it didn't exist, and she did her best.

Shakespeare loves Rally, so he did fine, and I've learned to really appreciate his nice, reliable loose-leash behavior. Laev has it sometimes, but not others -- and to be fair, I think the inconsistency of "walk on a loose leash across the parking area but pull on the leash to get to the helper" doesn't make it easy. My current solution is to use an Easy Walk harness when I'm not really training, which works well.

Yesterday Laev seemed to "get it" at her Rally O class -- oh, yeah! We're here to work! -- and didn't need to spend the first part of class getting the wiggles out. She doesn't like waiting patiently for our turn at the course, but we have nose touches and things to help pass the time. And she got to be a star when I brought out her toy to reward a nice station and spun her in circles off the ground; the class hadn't seen such a large dog do that before. :-)

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