Okay, so maybe not a really legitimate problem, but it could certainly lead up to one if we don’t start working through it now. If there is anything you’ve learned about me through my writing, it would be that I have a flair for the dramatics.
As per our usual Wednesday routine, Helaine and I loaded up my gold Hyundai and headed to puppy class last night. Wednesdays are usually my favorite day of the week, for multiple reasons. The first and foremost being that it begins the down-hill slide into the weekend, closely followed by the fact that it’s puppy class and we love going to class! Our CCI contract trainer plans a few group outings a year in place of one of our weekly classes. This week, we went to the Redmond Fire Department and then meandered over to the skate park that is housed next door. It was an interesting experience to say the least, but a good one nonetheless.
From the very first day, Helaine has showed me a level of maturity and confidence I have never seen in such a young puppy. She was practically fearless, and handled many situations that some adult dogs can’t even handle. She has never ceased to amaze me with how well she takes everything thrown her way. I knew that this day was bound to happen, I just didn’t expect it to show up now. Ladies and Gents, it appears that we have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a fear period. She’s showing the classic signs.
When we got to the fire department, she was stoked to see everyone! We have only been on two other outings with other dogs and she is definitely not used to working with a crowd of canine friends in public. She settled in pretty quickly while we waited for our fearless leader to arrive and run through the course of action for the evening. Then it was on to the first room, which was grated floors and stairs. Not only were they grated stairs, but they were open backed as well. Helaine has never been fearful of stairs, but even I was nervous. We could see straight through them as well as each platform, and when you get three stories up, it gets a little nerve racking. She did everything I asked her to, every sit, down and up, but she was most definitely nervous. The panting, the licking of the lips and when we walked, she hunched close to the ground. She even had the most pathetic worried eyes ever. I felt so bad that she was so worried, but I made sure to praise her with everything I had and use my voice to reassure her that with every stair she completed, she was doing an awesome job. We’re going to have to find more grates to work on. This is one thing that can really make or break a service dog.
We explored around the fire station and did ups and unders on a lot of different surfaces. We then each had our turn putting our puppies up on the ledge of a firetruck and snapping a picture. Helaine has been less than photogenic lately, so this is the best picture we could get.
I also got a few pictures of her in the passenger side floorboard of the fire truck:
After the adventure with the fire truck, we walked slowly over to the skate park. I had never thought to take any of my dogs to a skate park before, but it is such a good experience and great exposure!
All our puppies in the 7:30 Wednesday night class
For the most part, Helaine was calm and interested. She didn’t show fear until a skateboarder came right at us. I can understand that fear and I will be taking her to many skate parks until she feels calm an dcomfortable enough to just remain sitting or laying down.
The major issue we all experienced at the skate park was a lose pomeranian. There was a man who was sitting and observing us all from a distance, with an Australian Shepherd on leash beside him. We didn’t realize until the very end that he also owned the obnoxious and down right dumb pomeranian who wouldn’t leave our dogs alone. The worst part of it was, we were all sticking our feet out at this little dog (who wouldn’t stay out of the lady parts of all our puppies) and we were shooing him away constantly! The guy just sat and watched! Then…THEN…he snapped the leash on his dog, walks slowly passed all of us as we had our puppies in a heel position, and says “ehhh your dogs are much better behaved than mine…heh heh heh”. So smug he was, and as he walked passed, each puppy paid him no attention, when he got to the very end he says “is it okay if I walk passed you guys and your dogs?” This coming from the man who let his dog get all up in our business for over 20 minutes as he observed from a distance. The nerve of some people! Aren’t there leash laws or something like that?! *end rant*
While it was a great experience, I am looking forward to working with Helaine through this fear period with compassion, love and encouragement. I have to keep reminding myself that she is young and she has a lot of learning and growing to do! While she shows me unsurpassed maturity and level headedness, she’s allowed to be worried about things, and she is also encouraged to realize that they are all okay. I’m looking forward to blogging about this outing again this time next year, when Helaine will be 18 months old!