Well, after three weeks away, Lucy is home again and I have never seen her so consistently calm. Still happy, still joyous, but not loosing control of herself. Well, there were a couple of small incidents with a couple of squirrels to day, but nothing like a month ago. Christa Sapita is the goddess of all dog trainers.
You know, spending three weeks away like that really kills two birds with one stone (I never realized before, but that is actually a pretty morbid saying). While the trainer is doing her work with your dogbuddy, you can spend a little time coming to grips with the frustrations you had at your failed attempts at training. So that when your dogbuddy does come back to you all well behaved and all, you have a fresh perspective and are able to learn what the trainer will teach you.
So anyway, Christa came by with Lucy and showed me a few things: we took Lucy for a literal spin around the block. Then my friend Laura came by and we worked on a few more things, both Lucy-exercises and my doggy education. When Christa left, she left behind a write up of things to do and, believe me, I have my work cut out. But I can make it part of my daily routine pretty easily. And Christa and Lucy and I have four visits together, which (as I understand it) is troubleshooting me more than anything else. And I need to invite people over to my house so we can work on people coming over to my house. And I have to start bringing her over to other people’s houses so we can practice going over to people’s houses. And I have to take her out and about in places that will test her abilities and mine.
All of which means that I now have to develop a social life. So that’s, you know, good.
I also still have to get a treadmill (yes, Henrick, that’s right, a treadmill: I have visions of me working and Lucy exercising: by the way, if you camped again at my place, it would be a different experience, though Lucy would probably still want to visit you in the tent in the mornings). Have not done that yet. Next weekend. I need to line up a truck for that.
I started doing exercises with Lucy last night. I just wanted to get started. I did a couple of things around the house and then I took for a walk on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. And she was a nearly perfect dog. She got a little excited when she passed this one dog. I also took her to the front of the Piedmont Theater as a movie was letting out (crowded, you know) and she was a peaceful ladydog. Calm and centered. She started to get just a little excited when this family was admiring her, but she snapped out very quickly and became calm and sweet.
Today I took her to the soccer field in the morning and she ran around while I walked the track. I threw the disk for her and she brought it back. Then we went and walked on College Avenue in Oakland. Another somewhat crowded place. She nearly perfect there (again, excitement at other dogs, but nothing overwhelming or extreme). Then we went to Lake Merritt.
She was slightly high energy in the beginning, partly because of the capoeira troupe practicing to live percussion and banging sticks together and singshouting. So I just had her sit there until she calmed down and then we started what was the longest walk around the lake I have done. We stopped a few times so that she could face the little swimmingbirdies that were getting her excited. And I pretty much handled the little birds (including pigeons which are – of course – nonswimming) to the point where even when they were making their littlebirdy noises, she was unfazed. But the geese are another matter. We need to work on the geese.
There was also a squirrel that got to her, but again, she snapped out pretty quickly. (There was another squirrel that she saw and started for, but I had her lay down right there and watch the squirrel, sitting on top of a cyclone fence, jerking its tail at her. And then he ran up a tree branch and started taunting us with his little squirrel voice chipping away. But she just stayed down and – without effort from either of us – did not show interest. Pretty cool.)
The best thing about Lucy in excitable situations now is that she has a completely different attitude about them and is not easily overwhelmed and obsessed with her emotional state. Which means that it is easy for me to get her attention back onto where I want it.
So, really, the training has accomplished exactly what I wanted it to accomplish. She is still the same awesome girl, but with her harsh, rough edges polished nicely so that people can enjoy her. She is not overwhelmed by her excitement and when she does get excited, she comes out of it very quickly. After some more work (with me), my plan is for her to be unflustered and trustworthy. And, this cool, when I use the Tricky Treat Ball to feed her (every morning at least), she knows how to put it away in her toy basket. Sweet.
So now I have my little footlicker back and we are ready to work. Thank you Christa.
I leave you now with a couple of final pictures from Lucy’s last week with Christa.