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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday's Training TIP: Don't Wait for Stuff to Happen

Stuff happens. Sometimes stuff happens in a way that causes you to relive events in your mind, thinking, "if only...." Other times stuff happens that leave you wondering, "Wow, how did I do that?"


A week and a half ago we were getting ready for a long weekend trip to the city. I fed the dogs and went outside to load our Hawken wood furnace before shutting it down. With the non-winter we've been having I thought the embers might smolder the whole time we were gone and then it would be a simple matter of flicking the switch when we returned.

I raked the coals to an even bed. With "poopsicle-picking-up" gloved hands I hoisted an 18 inch long, maybe 15" diameter log from the woodshed. Doesn't sound very big, but it was a heavy sucker. At the door of the Hawken, I heaved it.

WARNING: Those of you with squeamish stomachs might want to skip the next three paragraphs.

The word "exquisite" is often used to describe indescribable pain. Double that. And add sharp, severe, agonizing, piercing, excruciating, and just plain gut-wrenching to the word PAIN. In one fell moment, the log punched the interior roof of the Hawken and rebounded, cracking my left ring finger between it and the damning steel frame of the door.

I did not see the stars that suddenly blinked brightly back into the just-after-dawn sky. I did not see the brilliant embers that shot up like fireflies when the dastardly log flipped into the fire. I did not even see the darkness when my eyes grimaced shut as I jumped three feet back clutching my hand against my roiling stomach.

What I did see when I peeled off my glove was a Niagra rush of red-hot lava from a jagged fissure crossing the length of my finger.

Oh man! wasn't quite what I exclaimed.

A trip to the emergency room and surgery five days later left me with pins in my distal phalanx (which was completely broken in two) and stitches to hold everything else together. 

Ouch. Bad log.


Five days after hand surgery, FLD Scout and I took a working stroll with Phyllis and FLD Autumn in downtown West Branch to practice loose-leash heeling near traffic. The Future Leader Dog pups did very well with street crossings, railroad tracks, steps, and passing strangers. As is typical during outings like this, we found unexpected training opportunities.

Phyllis coaxes FLD Autumn up a short flight of stairs.

The spring-like 50 degrees and sunshine brought out a motorcyclist, who was just leaving an auto parts store as we passed. Inches away when the engine roared to life, FLDs Scout and Autumn sniffed in curiosity and exhibited no fear. Of course, the machine was not a Harley.

FLD Scout is not alarmed at all by this motorcycle.

We knew it was time to head back to the van when a very tired FLD Autumn sat down and refused to continue. After some cajoling, we managed to move her along. Then FLD Scout started pulling toward the grass like she had to "park." I removed her working jacket, released her with an OK, and let her sniff out a spot. We were on the south side of the busy five-lane Houghton Ave.

That's when it happened, the one thing you never want to happen. 

Scout bolted.

I had hold of the leash with my mangled left hand; Scout had been sniffing to my right. Her whiplash departure north toward Houghton Ave. jerked my hand. I knew if I tried to hang on I would be reacquainted with that double dose of exquisite pain. I let loose the leash while simultaneously lunging for it with my right hand.

The leash slithered out of reach like a spooked garter snake.

SCOUT! I yelled with a megaphone voice. I never heard Phyllis, who shrieked "Scout!" in harmony.

Scout paused in the middle of the right lane and looked back. Luckily there was no traffic heading east, but out of the corner of my eye I spotted a red car motoring west. I dropped to my knee. I knew if I took another step forward it was all over--if Scout turned away from me and kept running, she wouldn't even see what hit her. 

The world disappeared. It was just Scout and me.

Scout! Come! I said in the cheeriest voice I could muster. A subtle shift in her shoulder. Yes, good girl! I leaned back onto my heel and slapped my thighs to encourage her to come to me. I could almost see a thought-balloon form above her head: "I wonder if she has a treat for me? Hmmmmmm, I'll bet she does. Maybe I'd better check it out, I don't know where I was racing off to anyway."

A full turn and Scout was bouncing my way. Before my heart beat again, Scout and I were reattached and celebrating on the sidewalk. OF COURSE I had a treat for her! Good girl, Scout!!!!!


  • On leash recall. Practice in public buildings, at puppy outings, outside in the yard, while on walks, etc.
  • Off leash recall. Practice inside with my other dogs.
  • Never, never, NEVER chase her. (Playing "chase ME", however, is always good.)
  • And having the presence of mind to react in a manner that brought FLD Scout's attention back to me, instead of a reaction that would spur her on. (Calling her name ONCE, NOT chasing her, making myself interesting by getting down low, praising her at precisely the right moment, and rewarding her correct decision!)

WHEW. Disaster averted.

If only I had been that diligent in placing wood into the Hawken!

Sitting calmly on the north side of Houghton Ave. by the railroad tracks. (FLD Scout is safely tied to the bench. FLD Autumn is wearing a "Gentle Leader" to help her keep a loose leash.)


  1. Ouch!!!!!!! I hope your finger heals up quickly.
    And, good girl Scout...and good job you. :) That must have been so frightening...probably more so after you were able to take it all in with FLD Scout back with you. I've had that happen a few times-thankfully neither Jetta or Glacier have gone into the road-but having recall is so important for any dog owner, but especially for a blind one. You drop that leash and you need your dog to come back. Jetta didn't have any recall and I was told it was because the dogs weren't taught that at that time. I don't know if that was true, but thankfully, Glacier came with recall and I didn't have to spend a year teaching him like I had to with Jetta. LOL
    Glad Scout is safe and again, hope your hand heals.

  2. Whew! ALl that training sure came in handy! Good girl Scout!! Good Job Patti! :)

  3. Thanks Jess! I get my pins out on Monday. It was very frightening--I could see everything happening like it was slow-motion and my heart just about burst. SO glad Scout paid attention and came when I called her! I can't believe that they didn't teach Jetta a recall! And am glad that Glacier knows it--probably wouldn't hurt for you to reinforce his recall now and again.

    Erin--Thanks for stopping by and for your encouragement!

  4. Ouch! and Scary. I'm glad Scout is OK and hope your finger feels better soon.

  5. Thanks, Carolina...things are progressing!