The month of February has a special holiday called Valentine’s Day, which my puppy raiser says is a day all about those we love. Well she loves me and she loves Hero Dogs Ruby, so what better way to start off this month than for HD Ruby to come home for the weekend!
Perhaps one of us gets a little more excited than the other…one that is younger and has lighter fur…but that’s besides the point. HD Ruby loves to come home and spend time playing and showing me the ropes on how to master some of my commands, but she also loves to just snuggle up with our puppy raiser, sniff a bunch on our walks, and gets very excited to see our human grandparents.
Now usually when our puppy raiser has us both at home she cannot take 2 dogs out at once, so she splits her time with each of us! One day over the weekend Becca had a bunch of errands to run. We did our normal potty, breakfast, morning exercise routine, then I went out to do some public work while Ruby stayed home, relaxing. Then Becca brought me home for a nap while Ruby got to go out – it’s a win win for us all! The first Friday of February we went out to a new restaurant that I haven’t been too called Mt. Washington Tavern. Because Becca’s mom has taken the Hero Dogs handling classes and well, she knows a whole bunch because of Becca about our service dog commands and how we should behave, both us service dogs got to go! I love my puppy raiser and want to spend all my time with her; however, I periodically get handed over to someone else to work with me. Just like the other month at the mall when Becca’s mom handled me for a little bit while we walked around a store, I need to be ok with her still being around, but listening to other people. So at the restaurant her mom handled me while HD Ruby was with Becca. The humans were so proud of how we behaved! We took the giant wooden staircase at a nice slow pace and settled on our “places” under the table. Many people had no idea we were there until we left, which is the best compliment! I listened very well to Becca’s mom and didn’t make any sad puppy noises at her.
Lots of little things tend to turn into training opportunities when you are working towards becoming a official service dog. Some furniture was going to be delivered to the house, so a big tarp was set out in the garage. Ruby and I walked on and across it with confidence and even did some “come” and “sit” on it. No big deal for us labradors! Fortunately Ruby has a big important job to get ready for (unfortunate for us that she can’t stay at home forever) so she was needed back at the facility. After taking her back to Hero Dogs I went to meet two other Hero Dogs at the Hunt Valley Town Center to do some work on stairs! HD Honor, HD Maggie, and I did some work on “step” on a set of outdoor stairs, stairs inside of Wegmans, and rode on a elevator. I tried to show them the ropes of taking stairs one at a time and at a nice slow pace. We even walked around the top floor of Wegmans that overlooks the store, but really, nothing bothers me so I just heeled nicely next to my puppy raiser.
The preschool class that my puppy raiser teaches was prepping for the 100th day of school this month. She and the other teacher in her classroom wanted to create a giving back/community service portion to get ready for their celebrations and they thought: why not do something for Hero Dogs! All of the students in Becca’s class know about Ruby and I and know that we are going to become service dogs…some of her students even play “Clara and Ruby” on the playground. For 2 weeks the class participated in what they called “Pennies for Puppies” where the students brought in any extra pennies they had at home and on the 100th day they had together collected $60! It was all donated back to Hero Dogs and the students kept talking about how many treats the dogs would get for training.
In addition to being a service dog in training, I like to think of myself as a professional puppy-sitter and I got to help dogsit my friend Nala for a weekend. This meant LOTS of running in their big yard and play time, which made for happy and tired puppies. It is not all fun and games being a Hero Dog because I am also enrolled in graduate school so twice a week I attend two and a half hour classes. I am really good at staying settled on my “place”, the professors speaking, moving around the room, and noises are no big deal for me. I really like when we get quick little breaks because Becca either walks me around the building to stretch my legs or takes me to a new place she discovered off of the student lounge that is totally fenced in so that I can do a little running!
There is a weekend in February that my puppy raiser gets 3 days off of school instead of just 2 because of Presidents Day! So we spent one day that weekend at the park. Apparently kids play a game called lacrosse which involves throwing a ball around with a stick. It looks an awful lot like my tennis ball and Chuck It and us dogs call it “fetch”. Either way, I like my version of this game better! I also went out to eat at Ryleigh’s Oyster Bar and sat on the patio because the weather was so nice. A couple of kids came to say hi to me but there was a baby, who was about 1 who kept running to see me. I was so gentle with her, Becca was extremely proud. I really love kids so I licked her face, rolled over for her to rub my belly, didn’t care when she pulled my ears and laid on me to give me a hug. She kept coming to sit on my place with me and I didn’t even get up, I loved her! I also ran some errands, supervised the cleaning of Becca’s car by being tethered outside (somebody has to clean all my hair out periodically and my paws can’t work a vacuum!) and ended President’s Day at kennel duty with the big dogs which is always a blast!
The very last weekend of February I went on a very exciting adventure. Becca packed a backpack of some of my stuff and we hopped in the car where she told me we were going for a hike! It was not just an ordinary hike, but instead it was with HD Archie, HD Lucy, and HD Boomer! We showed up at puppy raiser Margaret’s house and I ran around her backyard with my Hero Dog pals and her other dog, Lincoln. Then it was time for our hike to Historic Ellicott City – we went through the woods, walked through a neighborhood, on a road, and made it to old EC for some lunch. The humans walked around for a little bit, had delicious pizza in town, we went to Clipper’s Canine Cafe, then they had some ice cream. Let me tell you about this place, Clippers – first there was a giant Hugglehound toy that was practically the size of my puppy raiser! There were so many good toys and smells and they even gave me a free Mardi Gras cookie from their Mardi Gras celebration in town the day before. Oh and Becca bought 2 St. Patrick’s Day dog biscuits for me as a special treat It was a very fun couple of hours, so much fun that I slept the whole car ride home and on my dog bed for a long time!
I have been working very hard on my service dog tasks, including: touch, wait, stay, place, take it, bring, give, leash, heeling, under, and ignoring distractions. It’s a lot to remember and practice, but it’s a good thing I am a pretty smart pup! Well, I better go…Becca says we have to go to the vet soon then it’s off to service dog class with all my friends :). Check in next month for more of my adventures! And you can always follow my Facebook page: Raising Clara – Hero Dog in Training!