Last Saturday from 8am -5pm I spent at Dove Lewis in a handler-training seminar. There was quite a large group of us, maybe 30 people, and made up mostly of women with retrievers. One person was working with a cat. Australian Shepherd/border collie crosses weighed in with 2, also a Bouvier, a beagle, an English setter, Chihuahua, a pit bull mix. Many of the retrievers, most of which are Labs, are guide dog almosts.
There were no animals there, but I remember people’s dogs from their introductions.
We talked about proactive handling, Dove Lewis, hospital protocol and decorum, and preparation for the certification test. A video of Turid Rigas’ on “calming signals” showed some of the more subtle incarnations of dog-dog communication.
Next Saturday, Maudie and I will go to Dove Lewis for more training together. They call it a lab and the 2nd floor of Dove Lewis will be set up as a mock hospital environment. We are to prepare our dogs and ourselves as if for a real visit: dog freshly washed, handler well turned out and equipped.
Although we were reminded several times that this is a lab, not a test, and that we should try to approach it with a relaxed and open state of mind, we will also be evaluated as we go. Copious notes will be taken. So it is not a pressure free hour….and I keep thinking of the lab like a haunted house set up for Halloween.
I have a lot of confidence in both of us though. Maudie is extremely well behaved in public, and she keeps me calm and focused. My conscious “worry” is about my ability to role-play as a mature adult: “Hello Mr. Alzheimer; my name is E and this is Maudie and we’re from Dove Lewis. Would you like us to come in for a visit?”
I want so desperately to appear natural and un self conscious that I get nervous and sometimes when I get nervous I make jokes and laugh inappropriately. But it’s not about me…it’s about us. And I can speak as the manager for the Marvelous Maudie.
Friday I will have to bathe the marvelously furry Maudie, do her nails again, check her teeth, be sure to comb out and untangle her coat. I need to bring the things we would take on a real visit: water, a safe brush (no metal or sharp tines) a collar and lead with no chain, some wipes and bags, a towel, her quilt. A notebook.
Nov 3 is the test. It is the same test that the Delta Society administers and if we pass we can register with them to also be a certified Pet Partner team. If we pass we can begin the work.
Nov 3 is my father’s birthday. He would have been 75… Perhaps from his seat in the Other World, he will help guide us, support my small part for Tikkun Olam (healing of the world).
“It is not your job to fix the whole world, but neither should you shirk your part in the work.” (Talmud)
Here we go.