Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Laev is now a Therapy Dog. And more.

Saturday was a busy day for us....

Laev and I got up early and went tracking with the club. For as little (bad trainer!) as we've been tracking lately, she did pretty okay. She's capable of much better, but that would require someone to actually take her out and practice....

Then I popped Laev into the car, skipping bitework. It was time for the 4H Dog Project Show at the County Fair. I left Laev in the car (fan with cold pack blowing into wire crate, grated cross-ventilation, open rear with shade cloth -- she was as comfortable as anyone can be outdoors in an Indiana July) and went inside.

Gah. I am continually amazed, and not in a good way, by the solidly outdated methods still prevalent. Everywhere I looked, dogs were being dragged through heel patterns on tight choke chains, desperately sniffing at the ground in stressy displacement, panting for reasons that had nothing to do with the heat. One 4Her was dismissed for abusive handling, and it takes a lot to dismiss a 4H project. I wanted to pull Laev from the car and shout, "Stop the show! Let me show you just for a moment what a happy working dog looks like!" but of course there's no way to wedge a demo into an event, even if I weren't just a bottom-dwelling first-year leader. But good grief, we have got to drag the project into the late twentieth century, at least.... How do we justify teaching kids to use force to get what they want as we allegedly prepare them to be better adults?

I left the fair for my blood pressure, and because Laev and I had another appointment. This one, at least, was in air-conditioning; CIA was hosting a TDI therapy dog evaluation.

Shakespeare had tested before, but needed re-testing. When the supplied neutral dog turned out to be non-neutral, Shakespeare and another dog stepped in. He passed, of course. He's a very good boy.

Laev was cheerful and enthusiastic in her testing, but she kept her paws on the floor (though I think she considered hopping into the wheelchair tester's lap). I was very pleased at how she worked with the disabled volunteer; she has not seen many physically handicapped folks and I worried that she might find the dramatic change in movement and speech a bit alarming. Nope, she was a pro! Made me proud.

Right up 'til the food test. /laugh/ We were waiting right next to where the evaluator kept her sliced ham between tests, which for some reason she stored on the floor beside us. Laev was very, very good at leaving it for the hour we waited. Then when it was her turn to demonstrate a leave it, she heeled right over it in perfect form. (Oohs and aahs!) Then, on the return, she heeled perfectly over it until she was nicking it with a toenail, when she dove.

She didn't get it; I barked a quick "leave it!" and moved forward quickly. She came back into heel position, nearly giggling, and we heeled over it twice more just to prove that we could. No way were we failing our test over this! not after ignoring that tempting ham for so long! And the evaluator laughed and passed us.

It was described by onlookers as, "I was just showing you that I could get it if I wanted to." Maybe so. Little monster.

So Laev passed her TDI test and can now get her therapy certification. She and Shakespeare will be working at the literacy program which the library system has asked one of CIA's instructors to put together.

Laev and I left (leaving Shakespeare to finish helping as the neutral dog) and headed to the park, where we were doing a tracking workshop. Laev's demo track was ugly, very ugly, but I attributed that to a long, hot day ending with a track across hot, dry ground. And of course, I hadn't been tracking her much. The novice dogs learning to track for the first time seemed to have a good time, though. But what dog doesn't really like tracking? "You mean, you want me to sniff the ground? And eat the food I find there?!"

So I'm pleased that Laev can now work as a therapy dog. I'll choose her visits; there are many types of therapy work, and not all dogs enjoy all kinds. But I think the literacy program will be a good option for her.

1 comment:

Shawndra said...

It was great to see you and the joyous Laev in action Saturday at the TDI eval! That is really depressing about 4-H though... People can't possibly still think dragging dogs around by the choke chain is the way to go. Argh.