The Snake Incident

28 Oct
We recently had another great adventure at Marland Mansion. I know that Casper wants to tell you all about it, but first I have a story to tell. It is really a funny story, and an embarassing one, but the most important thing is how pawesome Casper was through the whole thing. (Of course.)
Part of our tour led us onto the grounds of the mansion. There was a small lake and a lot of lawn. As we walked down a sidewalk on our way to view one of the outbuildings another member of our group says to me, “Look what you stepped on!”
Well, there was a lake nearby so my thoughts were that it was goose poo or maybe a tiny frog. I picked up my left foot. Nothing.
“No, there,” she says as I begin to pick up my right foot, “A snake!”

People who know me know that I am afraid of snakes. Not just kind of afraid, but panic-attack-freak-out afraid!

Before I even saw the snake a scream rolled out of me. I say rolled out because this scream came from so deep within I had no control. It was not from my mouth, my throat, my gut. No, it was from my very soul! I screamed and began to shake and noticed that the snake under my shoe was about 5 inches long and very apparently already dead.
Do you think that mattered? Nope. Big Nope.
At this point I am flapping my arms, screaming, hopping and generally acting like a raving lunatic. Meanwhile, I am watching this all happen from a distance like some kind of out of body experience. It was like the rational me was standing there watching this maniac completely humiliate herself and she was saying, “Woah! Slow your roll! It was a tiny dead snake. It’s over now. CALM DOWN ALREADY!”
Crazy me heard all this and wanted to do what I was told, but still was screaming. I could hear the poor woman who told me about the snake laughing and apologizing and I managed to tell her it was ok, I think. My girls are laughing hysterically at their crazy mom and grabbing me and telling me its ok. Then I realize that Casper is probably freaking out too!
The thought of how he might be reacting to my panic made me immediately start to calm down. I got the girls in line and patted Casper, saying it was ok. He was fine, a little worried, but really doing amazing. I am completely shocked he did not pull down Dan trying to help me, but he was as professional as possible.
Then all this clarity was lost when my youngest decided to touch the dead snake and then come touch me. I told her to stop. I tried to tell her I was serious and that this was not ok. I started to panic again. I wanted her OFF OF ME, but I didn’t exactly want to shove the poor kid to the ground. Besides, I had many witnesses. I had to be a good mom!!! She took a while, but finally got it and stopped.
At this point the whole group, about 8 others and the tour guide, are either laughing or staring. That poor guide. I apologized as much as I could muster, still a bit shaken by the whole incident. It was maybe a minute and a half, but seemed like an eternity, and still does.
The whole thing was horrifying and hilarious, but since I am the type of person I am the hilarity won out and I had to share. Oh, and the worst part was later. As we walked back to the mansion a dread came over me. It was really windy out. I could just imagine the snake being blown up by a gust and smacking me in the face! Well, that didn’t happen. No, it was worse. The snake was gone. I realize that it could have been blown away or a bird took him away, but in my head it had been alive all along and now wanted revenge. *cringe*
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Woof! Casper here, and I wanted to tell you what I thought about the whole thing.

It was doggone funny!

Mama just barked as loud as I have ever heard her. My first move was to put myself in front of dad as a leaning post and to block him off from the group. Then, I stopped to look around and make sure I wasn’t in trouble for chasing a cat or somethin’. Once I did that, I checked in with dad to see if I needed to save her from drowning in her invisible simmin’ hole. I was ready to help but we figured out rather quickly that she wasn’t drowning on dry land or about to have a heart attack, although the latter might have been a judgment call. Dad was laughing after he decided she was in no real danger, so we stood back and enjoyed our interpretive dance break of the day. (I was wondering why Alyssa didn’t join in; she usually does.)

As we began to walk-on and dad said it was Okay so I asked dad why Mom didn’t like such a little snake? He explained her fear and that it is the same as if he stood me in front of a grocery store meet freezer when I was first released for service. I told him I understood. Of course, I suggested that we get her more snakes and bring them to her a couple times a week. Then, after a few weeks she will be less scared and she won’t forget how to human when she sees one. Dad laughed, and said No, buddy, that works for our training together, but in this situation, we don’t need to find her a fix. I’m sure she will at least like the cookies she’ll get out of the deal but I guess that’s more treats for me!

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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.

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