Sorry about missing a day, ladies and germs. Fatigue has gotten hold of me, and I’m going to bed earlier and earlier. We’ve been practicing her cues, and her ability to handle herself (and my ability to handle her) in public settings.

We also handled an “obstacle course.” Em built an obstacle course that involved a “Place” (I’ll have to take a picture of it when we get home), some baskets, a big trash bag, a huge garbage can with a toy in the end of it, a chair to “under,” tennis racquets, a metal folding chair, and scattered bits of cheese on the floor. I had to lead Emmy through this course. She had to “place” on the mat and stay, then pick up a basket, hold it and put it back. She had to walk across the plastic bag, then go into a strange room to get a toy out of the garbage can. This tested her response to my cue to “get it!” She cringingly went into the plastic garbage can, and tried to paw the toy closer to her, but it would roll away. She got it almost to the edge, but it rolled back to the bottom. It was a little doggie football. Em ended up putting a bit of cheese in it, then Emmy retrieved it with a little more interest. Nice to know that she doesn’t like climbing into overturned plastic garbage cans! Also nice to know that she will go through it for me when I need it done.

Then I sat in a chair and told her “under.” She went under the chair, turned around, and ended up with her head between my feet – where it belonged. No problem. Then back out into the hall, pass the cheese, walk over tennis racquets, stepping on them, walk across the metal chair, stepping on it, then into another room where she had to retrieve an eraser from a high counter. No problem!! She raised up, got her front feet on the counter, realized the object was 4 feet away, and walked herself over to it, got it, got down, and gave it to me! What a darling!

On the way out, she had to avoid the cheese, again, walk over the metal chair again (pause here for a comment. When she walked over it the first time, it shifted and clanked loudly, echoing in the hall. She became skittish. On the way back, when she needed to walk over it again, she did everything to avoid it. I worked with her a minute, and we overcame the problem. I was most pleased with her!), walk over the tennis racquets again and walk over the garbage bag again.

Even with her faltering a bit on the garbage can toy retrieval, we were graded as A+!!! Yeaaaaaa!

Still learning new cues. We’ve added “find someone!” – this is a cry for help, and she needs to search around for someone, bark at them, go a few steps away, see if they are following, bark again if they are not, and bring them to me. This is a very complex task!! She is still working on it, and we will continue to work on it at home. Once she has it down pat getting the Ol’ Curmudgeon, I’ll have her find the son next door, his wife, their kids, daughter, and her son. They will be in various places in the house – even in our closet or the bathroom with the door shut. Emmy will have to find them and “convince” them to come to me. This will be a work of weeks to months, I suspect, but Emmy is a Smart Girl, and will pick it up!

We continue to work on the emergency phone action. I need to come up with a one or two-syllable cue that is a word we don’t use very much, if at all, that I will remember to call out in an emergency. Don’t want her calling 911 if we are just having a conversation and say the word. Right now, she acts on “HELP!” But I use that a lot with the grandson I’m tutoring. The name of the phone is an Ablephone, so I thought “ABLE!” No, it’s a word that sounds like words we use frequently – cable, fable, label, Mable, sable, and table. So need to find a new word. Thinking … If you think of one, do add it to the comments to this post!

Emmy is very mannerly when she eats – she doesn’t start eating until I say, “OK,” and when she’s through, when I let her out of her kennel, she brings the pan with her. We go into the kitchen and she gives it to me when I say “thank you.” Didn’t I tell you she was a Smart Girl??

She is also the culmination of 2 years of daily training by very talented animal trainers. Jen has a background in marine mammals as well as service dogs. S is a trainer at the zoo, working with elephants (!) and giraffes! She’s also worked with other mammals. Em – I’m not sure of her background, but there is a lot of respect among the trainers, so I expect she has worked with zoo animals, too. S also works with obedience training dogs (different commands and expectations), and is training one of her own dogs in rescue work (think Oklahoma and 911). K has a background in obedience training and obedience and agility trials. K will be my “backup” – the person I call if I’m having a problem I can’t figure out, or a health problem (before the vet stage). I don’t anticipate having to call much. My medical-nursing background will help with the health things. And Emmy is such a responsive darling that I don’t anticipate much problem with training. I know the cues, she knows the cues and what to do with them. It’s just a matter of me continuing to use a command tone with her and not “request” her to do things. 😉 The other habit I am working on breaking is using her name to correct her. Rather than call her name in a severe voice (different from command voice, and a “reflex” from raising the Three Musketeers plus years with Godson), I need to simply tell her to “leave it” in a strong command voice. The nuances among these are difficult for me to discern – after all I cannot tell the difference between “Windy” and “Wendy!!” So these are things I need to work on that the only help I can get is from the Ol’ Curmudgeon who is giving me feedback on it. K can’t help because she is here in Columbia and won’t hear my voice. {I’m learning things I wish I had known when I was raising the Three Musketeers (all for one and one for all).}

Today we meet for a late breakfast (for us, second breakfast) at the Cracker Barrell (ummm I love their food!), then back to the center where we are training. Lunch will be at the center – packed lunch – and we will work on our special cues as well as working through all the basic cues.

Friday involves the center, and lunch out, with a run-thru of Saturday’s test. I’m less anxious about it. We went over what will be on the test yesterday afternoon. As Jen said, there are no secrets, it’s all about things we already know and things we will encounter every time we go out. This ensures that the dogs will be mannerly and inoffensive – even to people who don’t much like dogs. Also, the test will involve 2 elevator rides, which will test our ability to handle the dog and to ensure the dog isn’t hurt. Elevator doors can close at unexpected times. How do we analyze the doors, and protect the dog going through? She doesn’t anticipate any of us failing the test. I don’t anticipate failing the test. Emmy and I have been working very hard at “Wait” and “Through.” And I am going to analyze that door first – may let it go by a couple of times – before trying to get on it. The Ol’ Curmudgeon sez I need to be calm and confident because any test anxiety I feel will be transmitted to Emmy – don’t want her to be worried, she will miss cues and anticipate my cues (a fault) if she thinks I’m worried. So no worrying allowed!

Aunt D is doing a smidgen better. She might be out of the ICU by Sunday or Monday. When she’s out, I can take Emmy with me to visit her. Although technically service dogs are permitted in the hospital – even the ICU – I’m not going to put Emmy or me through a situation that could be difficult this early in our career together. We’ll probably be challenged at some point, but I have all the answers, and will be glad to share them with the people! Just don’t want to interrupt the ICU. I believe Emmy will help Aunt D to feel better and to WANT to get well and come home. She just loves dogs. Please keep her and Uncle O in your prayers!!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suzanne
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 15:32:26

    Congrats on the A+!! I knew you’d do well. You’ll breeze through the next test, too. You are sounding very confident in this post, and I think that will follow you into your test. You’ve come a long way in this short time over there.


  2. turtlemom3
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 16:58:15

    Thanks, Suzanne! I feel very different – and I feel better. Even the aching and fatigue are somehow different and better. Tonight is a “Vicodin take me away!” night, but tomorrow and the next day should be fine after the good night’s sleep I get tonight. If I’m a bit foggy tomorrow, it will be less bad than if I’m “spased-out” on Saturday.

    Hope all is doing well with y’all. Aunt D is slightly better, although not ready to come off the vent as yet. Maybe tomorrow. That will give me an extra day or two to settle in with Emmy before I trek downtown to see her. (35 miles each way doesn’t sound like much, but it **IS** when you are as debilitated as I am.

    Hope all is well with you and T and the kids and grandkids. You are in my very grateful prayers!


  3. The Sagebrush Gazette
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 08:51:23

    Help! in Spanish is “ayuda” (pronounced ah-yoo-dah). Shortened to “yuda” (yoo-dah) worked well with my old lab and doberman.

    My old doggie (at my feet) learned all his commands in Russian… not necessarily convenient for mom to use. Mom takes him on his walks outside and gets frustrated with him, them hunts me down and tells me “He won’t mind me!”

    It’s just a language barrier.

    But, perhaps, a “foreign” word would work — if it doesn’t mimic something we use in English.

    P.S. Another one I thought of in Italian: aiuto (ah-yoo-toh) shortened to iuto (y0o-toh), might also work as a substitute for “help.”


  4. turtlemom3
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 08:58:33

    What a great idea! Now WHY didn’t I think of something like that!

    I’ll check with Jen, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.



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