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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fire Fighters Take 2

Enter a large room where 20-some Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy-raisers with puppies (that range from 8-weeks to 1-year) are gathering and it quickly becomes a traffic jam. You open the door and people in front of you are walking backwards with their puppies, because, like your own puppy, they have forgotten all the rules about heeling nicely on a loose leash.

You face a conundrum. You must squeeze your puppy through, but you risk the deterioration of your effort in getting your puppy to NOT pull. You shorten your leash, suck it up, and barge your way in.

This evening, "in" is the fire truck garage at the Bay City Central Fire Station. There are at least two vehicles parked inside; I can't remember exactly because I am focusing on FLD Scout. The puppy-energy in the cement-floored building ricochets off the cavernous ceiling. Through the umbilical cord that we call a "leash," I feel Scout ramping up.

Scout looks worried.
Scout, heel, I say, and walk to the far end of the garage. I notice a pile of firefighter gear next to one of the trucks and ease Scout over. She hesitates. I'm sure she remembers our debacle at the Clare outing 10 days ago. (Read about Scout's fear behavior with the firemen on my post from April 9.)

Scout, sit, I say and follow up with a "stay" command. I take a step away. She leans a bit, but holds position.

FLD Scout holds her "sit/stay" next to fire boots and clothes.

When Phyllis brings FLD Autumn over, Scout relaxes and turns to sniff the boots. Without prompting, she eases into a "down." I'm not too concerned about this (she should hold the sit until released or given another command) because sliding down is typical behavior for her--that's a good sign she's getting comfortable.

FLD Autumn gives her buddy Scout some confidence.
FLD Scout takes a sniff.
She thinks it's okay.
Yep! Definitely okay. FLD Scout lays calmly by the gear.

Eventually, all the puppies settle (for the most part) after we use tools we've learned, like name recognition, redirection with commands, finger pokes, and "leave its."

We have a lot to accomplish in an hour and a half. Up and down stairs on a tour through the station, a chance to walk our puppies through an ambulance, loose leash heeling at a busy intersection, exposure to sirens and blasting horns, and (the coupe de grace for Scout), meeting fully-geared (with beeping, hissing air tanks) firemen.

All with the added distractions of the other puppies.

At the door of the ambulance, FLD Scout looks back as if saying, "What now?!"
FLD Scout jumps into the ambulance with no troubles, but is nervous about the long drop to the grated back step. After a few seconds of considering her plan of attack, she drops her front paws onto the bumper, decides it is okay, and pops the rest of the way down. Good girl, Scout!

Scout goes for the treat.
I'm pleased when FLD Scout is cautious, but curious, of the kneeling fireman. This time her tail is not tucked between her legs; she even manages a wag or two when I give him some treats to offer her. I let her hang around while other puppies get their loving from the men that look and sound like space invaders.

It's working! FLD Scout is getting over her fear!

Isn't this little pup adorable?


  1. Our group goes this Sunday to a fire station. Glad Scout is doing better!

    1. Have fun! Poor little Scout got a little bit overwhelmed today--we gave a presentation to 5 separate classes of 2nd graders. By the third classroom she just wanted to get out of there, but recovered nicely at the end. More to come... :)

  2. Awesome.. just pure awesome the work you guys do for us. I never knew you guys put so much time, effort, and love in training these dogs.. just awesome.. my hat goes off to all of you.

    1. Thomas, thank you for reading and commenting. Our puppies have so much love to pass on, it's easy.