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Tag Archives: playtime

Learning and Growing (the hard way)

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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It’s my Birthday, Gonna party like it’s my Birthday!!!

Hi Friends –

As I often do, I wanted to share my weekend with all of you. This time our weekend started early mostly because Dad put off taking vacation time for a few reasons.  1. Mom doesn’t have as much time off as he does so he just goes to work. 2. He likes his job most days and forgets to take it. 3. He likes to save some days in case he gets sick. All of this makes me wonder what his problem is; humans are a strange breed. Take some advice from a working Dane: You should take more naps and play more! I’m only staying awake long enough to dictate this post. I’m tired! Why was I here? Ah yes, the weekend.

I have to say it started good. Dad rested in the morning before getting restless. If you know him this is an improvement because we don’t rest much. After we did get moving I helped him at the hardware store to pick up things he needed to fix a handrail that the human puppies helped to pull out from the wall. It took a couple trips because we didn’t check to see what was behind the drywall before we left so we bought anchors we didn’t need. (I know, I know an amazing amount about DIY work. That’s what happens when you are raised at SDP.) All is well though because we did get it right on the second trip and the rail is now safe again.  He says we need to make the handrail pretty now. I talked him down for the day and we just ran a few more errands and took it easy. The temporary rail and refinishing can wait. Dad seriously needs to learn to relax. We all spent a quiet evening at home

Saturday came and it was my birthday! (Mom made me wear the hat for the pupparazzi) I got a new toy and a new bag of food from my favorite store, Kibble-N-Stuff (It’s wonderful! We hit the door and the man inside smiles, puts a bag on his shoulder and gives me my food! He usually even carries it to the car, but this time mom didn’t let him because he had another customer.) after getting our morning fix of coffee (I only get sniffs, but I love me some coffee shop sniffs), of course (my family runs on Dunkin!). We just had to get out with such a clear beautiful fall day none of us felt chores were the priority. We talked it over in the truck with Mom and she was on board, so we decided to go for a short drive north and look at a piece of property that Mom & Dad fell in love with. To be clear, this is not something that we could decide is ours to move into tomorrow, but it is something that makes us feel good when we place ourselves there and imaging how it feels to live there. I feel good knowing that Dad can do this now. There was a time when he couldn’t allow himself to. It’s really good that he can be in the flow of the moment. This is something all your pets can teach you, by the way. If you don’t believe me, ask them two questions. 1. How much money do you have? 2. What time is it? If you tried it I bet they had no idea what money was or why people feel the need to accumulate it. (Dogs don’t worry our basic need can always be met) and as for time, their answer was simple: It’s now, the only time that matters. As you can see, I had to spend time training my person, it’s exhausting.

Looking back at it the next part of the day was just payback, a sort of train the trainer scenario. I didn’t see this coming. Mom said lets go for a walk. My tail wagged and Dad smiled so we did. Of all places we went to a cemetery. It was a beautiful 270 acre piece of land in the center of Hartford, called Cedar Hill Cemetery. I recommend it. If you’re not in the area you can see it online and from my Instagram feed.  As it turns out I was a little over anxious and pulled too much. This started Dad thinking, which is dangerous for sure. He thought: wait, no interruptions from admirers, plenty of space, this is a perfect place to work! I thought silly boy, there’s no wifi here…then we quickly started with the one step crawl. We one-stepped for the next half hour. Mom seemed to be so far away, and the only time we got close was when I walked with my ribs at his hip. I caught on quick and was happy when we loaded up in the truck. Oh great, Dad found a new place to train together. We were all tired after that but it was a satisfied tired.

Sunday came and I was convinced it was still my birthday, so I woke Dad for the morning walk and breakfast. I was so happy that he didn’t bother to correct me. We did get some of those chores done early that we put off but the fun was not over. The best part of the weekend was still to come. I love birthday surprises. What was to come was pretty amazing. We loaded up for another short ride, but this time it had nothing to with training and everything to do with FUN. You all remember my story that was on the news and blogs surrounding it? Well, as it turns out because of that Mom connected with Kristina, who read the blog. She has a Dane named Hiccup, from a breeder in Maine who donates some of her dogs to WALK and who is training with them to be a therapy dog. Dad drove us down to meet him. We could hardly contain ourselves from our cars. We were driving slowly on back roads so I convinced Dad to put the window down so we could track each other.  When we got to the park we exchanged barks to let each other know we’d protect our cars and people. As soon as we got out though the greeting was smooth and simple. We figured WALK and SDP are like family so maybe we are too. I can tell you this much,  when we were let off lead to play and run it surely was a happy time. We ran, jumped and played until we were exhausted. Hiccup is a little younger than me so I shared some service secrets, but we decided quickly it was time to play some more. We shared three or four long rounds of play.  Of course we kept checking back to ensure our people were getting along as well as we were.  I was so happy to find them bonding as well. There really should be no doubt, Dane people are Dane people, and we know how to pick good ones.  It’s still good to make sure. After we loaded up and napped (with doors & windows open) our people kept talking and promise to keep in touch. I’m really excited to have a new friend and can’t wait to play again soon. I slept all the way home. Another day of satisfied tired. I’m sure my humans are catching on to how abundant we all are. Let’s just call it another service this Dane provides for the small price of love and kibble.

written by DFS