Learning and Growing (the hard way)

8 Oct

With this blog you will find many entries written from Casper’s perspective.  We like to play with what we think might go through his mind as we go about our daily life. From time to time you will find pieces that come directly from me and share what I think and how I feel. I’m apprehensive to write many of them; okay, all of them. Today is no different, and I will do as I always do and leave it up to my editor (Lauri) to decide whether this passes muster or gets swept up with Casper’s cookie crumbs and the cat hair.

There is a reason I’m unsure if I should share this or not, that reason comes down to one word, and a concept that is uncomfortable for most of us, that word is failure. Yes, failure. For me, just the word sends a shiver down my spine and a sinking feeling to my stomach. To help us feel better about it I would like to share a quote. “Success is not final, and failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill (To name drop, my understanding is that we are related on my maternal side of the family.) With this in mind, let me change tracks here and make this post about having the courage to continue. (There, I feel better already!) Since I’m not dead, and far from, done all that’s left, is continuing…and to learn from the rough patches. I’m sharing this because I assume that many would not.

The road to success starts back in Connecticut, at the Ye ole Condo, where we first brought Casper to live with us. I will tell you now I love him (and Lauri) more than you can understand. I’ll say this now so you keep it in mind as we go. The Condo was great and fit my needs for quite some time. We quickly out grew the home as Lauri and I committed to each other, not to mention the two kids, three cats and Casper. Not only did we run out of indoor space, but I quickly felt confined by the association rules around dogs and the lack of freedom for Casper to stretch out and run the way he could before he was released for service. I vowed that when we moved he would have a fenced yard so he could run free.  We found our home and although we are replacing the fence because 75% of it is inadequate for the long run, it is fenced and safe for him to run in. I somehow thought that if I didn’t give him space to be free and to ‘be a dog’ that I wasn’t showing him the love he deserves for wanting to work for me. (Casper really loves his job. He practically runs into his vest and correction collar when I hold them open.) So this, if I haven’t foreshadowed it, is where I went wrong. I didn’t see that I went wrong, others did, Lauri did and she told me. I didn’t listen. I heard her but I was blinded by what I wanted for Bubba. I mean look at him out there zooming around the yard, exchanging barks at the neighbor dogs from time to time, and digging a little trench in the flower bed. He’s happy, right? Sure, he’s happy. Until I need him and he plays, with a big wide grin and tongue lolling while I try to call him to me. To him it was a back yard game we played; fun! For me it was the stuff of my nightmares. My dog that I love with my whole heart didn’t want to obey. When I was super frustrated I got told how wrong I was by the woman I am going to spend the rest of my life with. (Editor’s Note: I did not say, “Hey, you are wrong.” I just suggested, and maybe yelled a couple times, that he needed to chill out a bit.) These things, for me, are crushing; virtually blinding. Keep in mind this process took weeks.

I now had two different dogs. One dog in a vest, that is good in public and one dog that was a jerk at home. I am stubborn, to put it nicely. I knew, deep down, that I had to go back to basics. One step crawl, a lead when “doing your business”, and treats for responses I wanted. I was even told this by Lauri and trusted advisors, but somehow I didn’t act. The only explanation I can come up with is that I needed proof, again. OK then, let’s prove the two faces of Casper. We went to an event at Creek County Fairgrounds called Vintage Market Days. The event was centered in a large arena that most often, houses large animal events, based on the dirt and straw floor, and waste receptacles labeled for or against specific output. There were food vendors selling everything from funnel cake to BBQ to stir-fry outside. Inside there were easily a hundred vendors selling all types of antique and hand-made up-cycled items. We didn’t buy anything because most of what I saw was at full retail and we were in a tag-sale state of mind. Still it was great to see creativity abound. On top of this, it was a great “work” environment for me and Casper. We took each other through tight booths crammed with items and through throngs of people. We did this as if we were a professional dance team. We even had one woman, behind me; reach through my bent arm to pet Casper. I’m sure if it were a guy I would have tried to liberate that arm from its torso, but Lauri and I sufficiently “notified” her not to touch a service dog! He did an amazing job.

There is another picture to paint and it is a dog that doesn’t want to work in his yard. When I try to use him to brace while I pick poo, it’s HIS poo, but fine. Then when we go out for the final walk of the night wants to play in his yard and will not come until he is damn good and ready. I tried and could not get him to come without a stuffie. Lauri and I finally got him inside after I was damp, dirty and so upset that I was seeing red. This is a night that I got the “I told you so…” treatment and neither of us slept. I was mad at her, I was mad at Casper, and I was furious with myself because in reality the entire event was something I had created. This could be horrible, horrible news and if I don’t do something I could lose my service partner, and if we string enough sleepless nights together Lauri too; but like I said in the beginning I love both of them too much to allow that ridiculousness.

So, epic fail, now what? Now we look at what we know. We know Casper really does know his job, he wants to do his job, and we work well together. We also know that I stopped listening, I stopped seeing, and I needed to change. That ought to be enough to make the machine function so I set out to get us all back. I put cookies in my pocket, a lead and correction collar on Bubba, and went outside. We one step crawled around the yard. We one step crawled down the driveway and up the street to the corner and back. We worked quickly at exhausting the treats in my pocket. We proved he will in fact work in his yard. In the days since I always keep a supply of treats in my pocket and a calm demeanor. I can now call him in (off lead) from the yard at will with a happy tone and a treat. If I do need him in immediately, he will happily do his ‘business’ on a long lead and come back in. Yes, he gets a treat every time now. (Editor’s Note: It only took a day or two to get back on track. They both know what they are doing, but just got lazy.)

The next test was to take this show back in public. To do this I tried the Leanlix treat stick (…that Lauri bought us to start recall training in the yard and I so famously ignored weeks before.) Lauri and I dropped the girls off with their grandparents and we decided it was a beautiful day to visit the Philbrook Museum of Art. We walked indoors and out. We worked up and down stairs with no rails, past Koi ponds, past other visitors. We even worked past a garden cat who wanted to make sure Casper knew he was the boss. We worked and I treated each success with a beefy lick. (I think Casper may want to write about Philbrook too, so I won’t steal his thunder.) The day, and Casper, was perfect in every way.

I have learned what Casper was teaching. He taught me to not take the little things for granted. Just because someone is your friend it does not mean it’s alright not to thank them for their help. Friends and family don’t have to be there for you when you get angry and thoughtless. In Casper’s case cookies and treats and letting him know I value him by working together as often as possible.  In Lauri’s case, letting her know I value her by actually listening and taking the advice that she, and others give, rather than just hearing the words. Just because I didn’t want to hear her doesn’t make what she had to share was wrong. (I knew damn well she was right, and I was just being a brat.) (Editor’s Note: He totally was. We have RARELY fought. He is usually the most thoughtful man on the planet. I hesitate to ever yell at him or boss him around, but he needed it!) Please don’t make the mistakes I made and not pay attention. Your well-being may be on the line. Now it’s just about time that I refill my pocket and take a drive or a walk and see what I’m looking at, hear what I’m listening to, and be grateful for what crosses my path. If I can do these things there is no possible outcome but success.

About these ads

Being Awesome (as usual)

20 Sep

Hi friends –

I’m sure we’ve shared this somewhere along the way, so forgive me if I repeat myself. I’m a Dane of habit and I like my routine, well…any routine. This goes for just about everything from my meals to my butt scratches and back rubs while I sit on Dad’s lap. Yes, I get lap sits just like the cats. (Formerly “basement monsters”) I AM still a Widdle and I figure I can milk the puppy thing until I’m at least five or six. (You should see what the human puppies get away with!) This routine even extends to rides in the car. Now that Dad and I are starting to figure out our new environment the DPS (Dane Positioning System) is back in effect. For all of you who don’t know what this is; well, it’s where I decide I know where the car is supposed to be going and when I see we’ve taken the wrong road I pop up and get my face as close to the windshield as possible.

The DPS was in effect earlier this week when we passed right by a turn for Lily’s school and went to a brand new building. I insisted that Dad took a wrong turn. I even left a puddle of drool on the center console. Nuthin’? Alright, I guess we’re doing something new… AGAIN! I asked what we were doing here. Dad said that we were at the dentist’s office. I didn’t think I needed to go in so I smiled big and asked if I had something in my teeth. He said I could relax; the visit was for him, not me.

We entered the office and were handed a packet of paperwork. Everyone at the office was really nice and respectful of our space. I think Momma might have tipped them off because she’d been there weeks before to get an ache fixed. Either way, good work. As we were called back we noticed Blue lady (the hygienist in her blue scrubs) looking back at us as we made our way down the hall like we may not make it under our own power, but figured it was just the fact that I make a service vest look amazing! As we entered, I noticed the chair prominently in the center of the space. The first assessment is, which side do I take to get us both around everything safely? I take the left side while Dad is busy deciding where to place my fluffy so that I can relax and be out of the way. He places my fluffy in the far right corner and is ready to ask me for a down-stay. Easy ‘nuff. While we are handling our business we can’t help but to be amused by the Blue Lady. The poor girl was so sweet, as they say in the South, Bless her heart. She was describing where the chair was in the room with relation to Dad. We quickly figured that she thought I was a sight dog and Dad has vision impairment. (Too funny to call her on and no need to embarrass our new friend, especially since she would soon have sharp things in Dad’s mouth. Pick your battles people, that’s all I’m sayin’.)

We both get settled down after a few minutes. I don’t drift off though; we are not on my couch with a stuffie. I had my eye on her. She opened up the box on the wall to pull out a robot arm (X-RAY machine). Then she put a big blanket on Dad’s lap and stuffed things in his mouth. I couldn’t help but think that Mom might like some of those to shut him up sometimes. Blue Lady then points it right at his face and repeats several times moving the mouth thing each time and talking to Dad. It seemed like some interrogation tactic to me, but Dad must have done OK because she put the robot away. Blue Lady calls in Blue Man and they both look at his mouth and Blue Man leaves. I got nervous again. She apparently didn’t know what to do. (I asked later, dad said that Blue Man was the dentist, and he said that once the deep cleaning was done Dad was in great shape otherwise. What a relief, not even a cavity.)  Blue Lady carried on, first with a needle to numb his gums and then with the tiny pressure washer, man was that annoying, it was a very high pitch. (Editor’s Note: This was a scaling so it was much more in depth than a regular cleaning.) I did get worried about him a few times, so I got up to check on him. When he could he would verbally assure me and request I return to my fluffy, which, of course, I did. There were a couple times though that he was “orally occupied” and overly reclined when I felt the need to get a closer look. When this happened dad put either his right or left hand out, depending on the side I chose for approach. Dad allowed me to gently touch his hand with my nose, so that I could make contact and really be sure he was alright. Then he would snap, point to my fluffy and then point his finger to the floor with purpose. Being a smart boy, I knew that meant for me to resume my down-stay.* (See, Miss Maria I always listen to him in public – when Mom isn’t there…) Finally we were done with the area she set out to clean. Blue Lady then asked if we wanted to continue or pick up later. Considering all the extra steps of a first visit, Dad asked if we could just go home. She agreed. I think she wanted to go home too since it was late afternoon.

We allowed those that asked early in our visit a chance to pet me in the waiting room so that I wouldn’t get confused between work and greeting time. On the drive home Dad apologized for the noise and said he didn’t know what to expect, but we’d bring my Mutt Muffs for future visits.

*Editor’s Note: This is long one so I am adding it way down here. We all know that Casper is amazing but sometimes he even amazes us. When Casper first came home with us we had an issue with down-stay at home. In public he was great, but while we ate dinner at home he wanted to get up and sniff what we had. We started emphatically pointing to the ground when we told him down and that worked. When he was being really stubborn we just added a point and Voila! Eventually we found that in public it worked to just point when we either couldn’t speak, like in this case, or are in an area where we shouldn’t speak, like church or a play. It works! Of course we still use a vocal command often because there are times when our hands are occupied. He has both down pat. 
I was worried about how he would handle Dan’s cleaning and thought he might end up having to come back home and stay with me next time. Nope. He was a pro as you can see. I was super impressed and I wasn’t even there to see it. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 968 other followers