Friday, April 7, 2017

50 for 50: 9 -- Do Something Charitable, with Molly

Some of the stuff on my 50 for 50 list has flexibility built into it.  Such as "Do Something Charitable."

Let me introduce you to Canine Companions for Independence.  They breed puppies, turn the puppies into service dogs, match those dogs with people whom they can help, and then give the dogs to the people.  This is a totally free service for the people who need the dogs.  They matched Molly and Patterson.

It is hard to make a puppy into a service dog.  They send the puppies to volunteer puppy raisers, who raise the puppies from about 8 weeks to eighteen months, bring the puppies with them everywhere they go, and teach the puppies a bunch of commands.  (Then the puppies go off for more serious training to get ready to be matched.)  The puppy raisers (and the puppies) go to classes and work on the commands.  

I went to a puppy training class today.  I saw the puppies work on things like not getting distracted when someone is standing nearby with a very enticing squeaky toy; running to their human when called; and a great little thing called "wait."  I'd seen "wait" in action when Molly (and Patterson) and I went to the aquarium the day before.  I was pushing the chair, and I learned pretty quickly that there were doorways and pathways that were too narrow for the chair and the dog to go through simultaneously.  I asked Molly if Patterson should go ahead of the chair or after it.  She said, after -- and told Pat to "wait."  I'd push her through the doorway while Pat stayed behind on the far end of the leash, then he'd follow through the doorway and join Molly back at her side.  Seems pretty simple; Pat must have done it a couple dozen times at the aquarium.  But it has to be TAUGHT.  And, at the puppy class, the volunteer puppy raisers went up to every doorway in the training room and practiced telling their puppies to wait while they walked a step through the doorway.  Getting the dog to hold the position (without a "sit" or "stay") isn't natural, and everyone was working on it, just one step at a time.  I was pretty impressed.

Actually, what impressed me the most was a command called "release."  You know how you're not supposed to pet a service dog when they're working?  That's because even if they don't look like they're under command, they are.  And the way you really truly know this is that a handler has a "release" command, which takes the dog off duty.  Here's me, sitting on the floor, watching the puppy class happen.  One of the volunteers brings her dog over to me and starts to chat.  While we talk, her dog looks at me.  Because I'm on the floor, his face is pretty much right in my face.  There's a puppy nose a few inches from my nose.  The handler asks if I want to say "hello."  I innocently say "yes."  The handler gives the dog the "release" command and instantly, I'm covered in excited puppy.  The dog licks me, then lies on his back across my legs, begging for a belly rub.  We went from zero to eleven with one command.  And I realized then how strong puppy training is; while under command, that dog just stood there NEAR me, but not actually INTERACTING WITH me -- not until she gave him permission to go off duty and just be his wacky self.

Molly and Patterson were guests in this class.  (Patterson did the whole come-when-called thing, then impressed everyone by doing "leash" -- picking up his leash and giving it to Molly when she asked.)  But they didn't come to Atlanta just to drop in on a CCI class; they came to Atlanta to drop in on THIS class.

Because THIS is where Patterson came to class as a puppy.  And his puppy raisers were back with a new puppy.  And Molly and Patterson came to have a reunion with Patterson's puppy raisers and to meet their new puppy.

Patterson's puppy raisers are a really cool couple who have put a lot of time and effort into raising two (going on three) puppies and then handing them off to people who need them.  They've kept in touch with Molly because they share a connection through Patterson.  (Once or twice today, the puppy raiser offered to take Patterson over to the grassy area for a little toileting break; Molly said yes.  And I thought, "great, someone else is handling the toileting."  And Molly said that she just wanted to let Pat and the raiser work together again, because they both enjoyed it.)  

Yesterday, at the aquarium, I saw the relationship between a service dog and the person it helps.  Today I got to see the complex and beautiful relationship between someone who put time and love and effort into raising a service dog and the person whose life was changed by that dog.  

I made a donation to CCI, in thanks for giving me a peek into what they do.

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