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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Every Challenge is a Training Opportunity

(My first Leader Dog puppy, Rosie, was career-changed, but now she lives with my sister Anne and her three girls, so I can see her anytime.  I feel lucky to be able to watch my nieces while Anne attends graduate classes at Oakland University.)

I'm early.  FLD Mike is straining against his leash; at this rate it's a good thing I'm early with all the backwards walking I do with him as we approach my sister's house.  Of course, it is cc'd (career-changed) Rosie that Mike is interested in.  My days to stay with the girls always turn into a "tire-the-dogs-out-wrestling-match."

Anne is busy getting dinner ready while simultaneously packing her bag for school, checking her girls' homework responsibilities, listening to reports from their day, monitoring moods, assigning chores, checking the soccer schedule, changing laundry as usual.  With our approach, Anne has to tackle Rosie, too.  (More about this later...)

I take advantage of the situation and work on getting FLD Mike's attention.  Mike.  SIT.  It takes a poke on his hinder with my finger to change his focus.  I count to myself:  One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand.  Mike sits, but he is panting and poised to leap at the mere suggestion of a "release."

Meanwhile, Anne has Rosie on her leash inside, backing her away from the front door.  I notice there is a new aluminum guard attached over the screen.

Inch-by-inch, I work FLD Mike closer.  We heel, we walk backwards, we sit; when Mike glances up at me we heel again.  Finally.  I get Mike to hold his SIT while I open the door.  We pause a few seconds more while Anne commands Rosie into a "DOWN."  I step over the threshold with Mike and make him SIT in the entryway.  He slumps into a "down" with a sigh.

Anne says, "Look at these two!  Mike is like, 'Guess I'm not going anywhere, so I'll just lie down here and wait.'  Rosie is a coiled spring geared up to launch!"  We chat for a few moments.  You ready?  We un-clip our leashes and direct each of our dogs to "WAIT."  They wait, but we know they won't stay still for long so we quickly say, "OK!"

The puppy games begin! 

Here's Rosie and FLD Mike sharing a drink after "Round One." 

Amidst all of this commotion, I feel apologetic for having saddled Anne with yet another responsibility.  Giving Rosie to her, I mean.  I know the girls have started to realize how much effort it takes to care for a dog; I hear stamping of feet and long, loud sighs when it's time to take Rosie out to "park."

I look into my younger sister's harried eyes and say, You know, if things get too much just call me...

"What?" Anne asks with a surprised and eager look on her face.  I can always find her another home, I answer.  When Anne took Rosie it was with the understanding that if things didn't work out she could return her to me.

"The dog?  You're talking about the dog?!"  Yep.

Anne throws back her head and laughs.  "The dog is easy.  I thought you meant my kids!"

The honeymoon might be over, but Anne and Company are in it for the long haul.


  1. (laughing and crying at the same time!)

  2. Hugs back at ya, either way!