Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Interview

You know those sequences in movies when the film goes into time lapse to indicate the passage of time and when it resumes regular speed, seem to be moving more slowly? That’s how this day felt.

Maudie and I went in for our interview/assessment this afternoon, slid downtown on our own melting…is more like it... it was so hot.

T came down into the lobby to fetch us and we went up on the elevator—one of the things that Maudie does not have a lot of experience with and that gives her pause. I was asked a series of questions about Maudie and about myself and our relationship while she settled in near my chair.

It takes her about 5-10 minutes to get comfortable in a new place, and she was hot, so her panting created the first impression, but, it was quickly evident that she was OK in an unfamiliar environment.

When we started to talk about interacting with strangers, it got interesting. Although Maude had a perfectly lovely encounter with a very sweet volunteer, she was uncomfortable with our interviewer and went into “is there someone else in this room with us? What other person?” mode. In short she moved away to lie with her back to T, did not respond to her invitations, paced around to me.

T has a lot of experience reading dogs and translated this to mean that Maudie wasn’t quite ready to interact with a lot of strangers; that she needed more ripening time and we should wait another 6 months to undergo the training. I kept juggling 2 voices in my head: 1) she wasn’t going to pass! She was not as outgoing as I thought and she will not like meeting all those new people in strange places. 2) Calm down, she just needs more experience, and no dog is perfect. The process just may take longer…

The conversation turned to how she deals with stress and uncomfortable situations. She turns away, either lies down, back to person, or leaves the room. T suggested that she probably goes flat---turns off----and that’s what she was doing. I expressed my surprise at Maudie’s behavior, because the Maudie I know loves to meet people, is not at all touchy and accepts a range of responses. But this is also where my knowledge sped up…and I saw Maudie more clearly. At home, where she is uber comfortable she is energetic enthusiastic and playful. In new situations where she is unsure, she pulls in and presents a very quiet picture. In fact, when I met her in Albany, she had that look; I read it as boredom. In fact she was hanging back and observing. She still likes to meet people, but in a more reserved way.

It strikes me just now that this seems very typical for a herding dog: confident but a little cautious, reserved with strangers, but not averse to new friends. Of course, the more experience she has with new friends, the more new friends she’ll be eager to collect. That she has that nascent desire is why she came to be with me on this journey in the first place.

Just as I was preparing myself to wait another 6 months to get started, Maudie walked over to T, wagging her tail, offering her Lassie paw and looking at her with “bedroom eyes” as Polly called them. Soon she was lying across her feet and letting her scratch her tummy. And T was reassessing. She said several times that she was on the fence…and in the end?

Long and short of it? We’re signed up to take the class in October. We can always pull back if she needs more time, but I do believe that we are ready to quicken our communication, leap into more experience and that we will rise to the occasion. And I left with the Delta training manual stuffed into my bag.

So. Huzzah! We’re on our way!

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