Today is Thursday, and things are starting to gel. We complete our morning route—and I actually remember it in its entirety for the first time in the three days we’ve been working here. I typically learn routes extremely quickly, but there has been SO much to focus on for the past few days, that knowing how many blocks in a particular direction and where and which way to turn have proven too much for my poor overworked brain. We walk in tandem for the bulk of the morning, and it feels as if we’ve turned a very important corner—no pun intended—in our training.
When we arrive at campus for lunch, Michelle mentions not feeling well, so she stays in for the afternoon session. Although I hate that she feels ill, I am grateful to have the extra time to work one-on-one with Larissa.
Larissa brings a grooming kit, and talks me through the process of grooming Wella for the first time. Wella appears to enjoy it. Her raisers have trained her well, because she’s quite tolerant of having her teeth brushed, and is particularly fond of the poultry-flavored toothpaste.
For the entire time we’ve been walking in harness, Larissa has prodded me to generously and consistently provide Wella with verbal praise and encouragement. Just like my ability to memorize routes, things are finally beginning to click and this, too, is starting to occur naturally. Our afternoon route goes very smoothly as well, and I feel my frustration beginning to subside.
The three of us return to the lounge. As we approach the entry, Larissa moves ahead and positions herself between us and the front door and does her best to distract Wella by creating a ruckus and saying things like: “Oh, puppy, puppy, puppy! What a cute doggie! Oh, Doggie, come here!”
Because I remain calm and anticipate Wella’s temptation, encouraging her all the while, keeping her focus on the positive feedback I give—and because this level of investment is now starting to pay off for both of us—Wella is able to blow right by Larissa, as if she didn’t even exist. What a tiny, tremendous victory! It feels like we’re a team…and she’s truly my dog, now!
It’s now Friday. What a great day! Our morning routes go smoothly, but not mistake-free. I blank a couple of times, not knowing exactly how to properly correct her or not communicating as accurately in the moment as I’d like… but we work our way through. Kelley, our class supervisor, pops in a few times during my route, attempting to distract Wella. He doesn’t succeed. He meets us at our destination—a coffee shop—and is most complimentary of my handling of Wella, saying he would’ve never pegged me as a newbie. What a vote of confidence!
On campus, Larissa works with me to teach Wella how to locate a chair in the dining room. Hopefully the lesson will kick in and Wella will guide me safely and smoothly to a chair when dinner is served in an hour.
Copyright (C) 2015 Donna Mack Anderson. All rights reserved.