Tag Archives: service dane

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.

Leaving Connecticut – Part Two

Hi Friends –

Getting ready to leave Connecticut was so exhausting, you guys, that I had to give it some time before I told the stories. This time I’ll give you a taste of what it was like to leave my first forever kennel. Dad says this was bitter-sweet for him because the condo was the first home that he bought when he moved from his family kennel. I really don’t see the big deal, but he says most twenty somethings rent their kennel and Dad was proud to be in a position to own his. (Yes, your human twenties is late to be on your own, but we all know Dad is let’s say…”special” Woof.) Let me say this,  it really was a nice home, it had just become too small for our family’s dreams and we needed to stretch out in a big  “Dane – S” sorta way!

This all started pretty much as soon as we decided we needed a change. If you knew the Dane size load of things that had to be thrown in a dumpster you’d be shocked. We didn’t even think we had that much stuff crammed into the kennel. Dad worked really hard getting everything sorted into piles of keep, toss, donate and sell. Dad would go down into the land of the basement monsters and come up with bin after bin that could go to the dumpster. He sorted for hours at a time. When he’d find an item he thought was in good condition and needed to have a new home he would put it on the Internet and hope it found a home for a reasonable price. As time passed many of the items in the keep pile got shifted to the donate and sell piles. Even more time passed and the family settled on moving out west to Oklahoma. Dad knew this meant that once again he’d need to sort; after all, when you move that far it is reasonable to move as little as possible. The cost to ship what you haven’t touched in years, but may use some day does not keep a Dane fed, or in stuffies for that matter. Dad kept saying that he wanted to be done, and if someone would take everything he’d give it all away. I really thought that as the move date came closer and closer my bowls might just end up in the dumpster too. Of course that didn’t happen. (My favorite stuffie did, but that has been atoned for.)

There was a while where I thought Mom had given up and was tired of the place being a constant mess from upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms. She left Dad and I and didn’t come back for DAYS! Dad kept telling me not to worry but I have to watch out for him. She has never been away overnight before!! It turned out he was right; she was just in Oklahoma looking for our new kennel. Mom looked at so many places to find just the right one, and she did find one they made an offer on, but it was already under contract and she didn’t know. She came home only to find our new kennel on the Internet. Lucky for us there is a great contractor in the family who looked at the home for us, this made Dad happy, and  he bought the house sight un-seen (except for Internet pics, and we know how sketchy those can be!).

Around the same time as starting the process of buying the Oklahoma kennel we put the Connecticut one on the market. Things started out amazingly well, and we received two offers to buy on the same day! Mom & Dad thought to themselves that they had perfectly manifested these offers and were very relieved! Of course I advised that they take the higher offer, which was well over their asking price, and wanted to close on the day before we planned to leave. Now, this sounds wonderful, right? Well, it could have been, if the buyer hadn’t wasted two weeks to find personal reasons to rescind. By that time the list offer was no longer interested, and we had to go back on the market.  We did get another offer rather quickly, but it meant we’d have to carry two kennels for a while. I really don’t know how Dad can lift kennels and carry them? They seemed to be pretty solidly attached to the ground, but that is what he kept saying.

Before we left for Oklahoma we had “professional” movers come and they took all of our stuff and put it in a big truck. I’m not real sure about this you guys, but Mom says it is the way to go when you take that much stuff across the country. My biggest concern was they loaded my bed and stuffies into the truck! I guess it’s fair for me to wait with the rest of the family but I don’t like the thought that maybe someone else is playing with MY toys! I wish I could say that the packing of the truck went smoothly, but I can’t. The problem was that we needed to shop price first and Realtor recommendations second. This outfit appears to have farmed out our contract to people who showed up late, understaffed, and apparently dog-gone tired. It took them several hours longer than it should have, even splitting the load-in to two days (Dad gave them his only key so they could finish before dawn and they locked him out by leaving the key inside rather than in under the mat.) and leaving items behind that they were told ahead of time were to be on the truck.

Dad tried very hard to stay on their “good side” by making a gentleman’s agreement with them. He gave them items in the house in trade for them taking a couch and chair out to a dumpster. This seems wonderful, except for the fact that they broke their word in the end, leaving everything right where it was. (This added to our costs by having to pay others to do the haul-away for us; we were already on the road!) I didn’t understand that the truck wouldn’t be there when we arrived almost four days later, but I guess it doesn’t work that way. As we’re writing this the truck still has not arrived (It should be here tomorrow) and the company  does a very bad job at communicating with it’s customer’s. If Dad and I worked this way we wouldn’t be allowed in public, ever! I’m sure I’m putting this much nicer than it needs be, but take my word, it has been a nightmare of an experience. (Editor’s Note: They arrived Monday, the day after this was written. The gentlemen unloading were much more professional. We will tell you all about that to come.)

I wouldn’t want to end on negatives so I’ll change the subject and jump around in time a bit to tell you a little of what it is like to drive 1300 miles, in two cars with human puppies, basement monsters, and Harry Potter movies all the way to our new home. I can’t lie, it was stressful and tiring for Mom & Dad but they have both made the trip before so they were prepared. Being that they’d be in separate cars they did some smart things like taking almost four days to drive rather than two, and they got GMRS radios to talk along the way. This really helped in traffic, or when one car needs a restroom. (It really was a safety item I was glad we had.) Mom did a great job of scheduling rooms to stay in along the way as well as stops to see family who live along the route. Dad says meeting family was great, but Winkie and I loved the hotel beds the most! There was even a day when I didn’t want to leave the bed they slept in, so Dad gave me breakfast in bed! He says it’ll never happen again, but he loves me so much that I would be surprised if one day, maybe on my next “gotcha day” he treats me.

Breakfast in bed

I’m sure Mom (my editor) will fill in a few more details for you but I gotta get out to my new yard for zoomies!

(Editor’s Note: There will be a post all about family visits to come. Next post will be about traveling with animals.)