Sunday, December 5, 2010

The flu, Thanksgiving and trips out-of-town have waylaid my blogging efforts

It's been a couple long weeks since I last wrote - when I looked at the date of my last blog entry, I was stunned by how long it's been. And yet, there really hasn't been lots of noteworthy Hardy news over this time period. At 7 1/2 months, he is still an adolescent and hence, still has those butt head moments. But considering how boring it was for him the week I had the flu, he was actually very well behaved and found generally good things with which to stay busy. 
When I felt up to it, I did take Hardy on some short public access trips - we went to Costco a couple times and now, depending on how well he's doing, we are venturing into the food areas. He has also been to Target, Office Max, and World Market recently. He is doing well with these trips but they are still primarily for his benefit and I watch him carefully for appropriate behavior and for any signs of stress or his being overwhelmed. 
We attended APDT Rally trials the weekend after Thanksgiving. Laurel got her first Level 2 Championship (RL2X) and her APDT Rally Champion Excellent (ARCHX ) titles, which makes 6 rally or obedience championship titles this year.
In part because it got suddenly cold over the weekend, we put Laurel and Hardy into the same crate in our van; something they handled beautifully. I'm not sure that will still work when Hardy reaches full-size but for now, they settle in and snuggle together. Once again, we were thrilled with how well Hardy handled hanging around in his crate at the trials and then coming out to meet people and do some behaviors with me. He's also starting to appreciate one of Laurel's favorite activities - hanging out with us at hotels! 
Unfortunately, Brent slammed his back into our kitchen island on Thanksgiving day and although he felt okay through Friday, on Saturday morning, he was absolutely miserable with muscle spasms and radiating pain down his leg. He feels okay as long as he is sitting or laying down but the minute he gets up to do anything, he is just hobbling and hunched over again. This is the worst he has felt in a long time and it is reminding me how much of the physical things he does around the house. He is using Laurel to pick things up for him and do some of the other tasks she does for me. Hardy loves to join in but he is not real consistent ... he might pick the item up but that doesn't mean he's going to bring it to you - not yet. 
He is doing very well learning (and now that he's an adolescent, relearning) basic obedience skills and loves his classes - conformation, obedience and agility foundations! I know there are many people who say that dogs can't learn more than one thing at a time (which is the reason many people won't train conformation dogs in obedience - because then they might sit in the breed ring; and why some people won't do obedience with dogs they are training in agility - thinking that the dogs won't want to leave their sides to do obstacles away from them).
I know from my experience with Laurel that she has, in fact, been able to learn exactly what is expected with whatever activity we are doing. When she is "dressed" and out as my full public access service dog, she is very different than she is when we are doing those activities in which she is allowed to "just" be a dog - obedience, rally, agility and now, freestyle. Not only does she know the appropriate behavior when she is "working" and needs to be serious, focused on me and not overly enthusiastic or friendly; but she knows and understands what we are doing when she sees the rally signs, agility equipment, an obedience or a freestyle ring. I truly believe that Laurel is much better able to do her job as my service dog because she does have all these other opportunities to be her energetic, enthusiastic and incredibly friendly-self! Plus, it helps build our relationship - our connection, communication and level of teamwork.
Even at 6 - 7 months, Hardy has been showing the same ability to discriminate what behavior is appropriate when he is dressed and working; when we are doing conformation or obedience or when he sees the agility equipment. And, working together in these different ways is also building our relationship. In our agility class, for instance, we work off-lead and Hardy is learning to work away from me a bit plus, in addition to learning all the jumps and obstacles (with the teeter board on the ground), we are learning how to work together to get from one to another which is all about teamwork.
I include training and competing in various dog sports in my training plans which, I believe, keeps me from getting too serious or focused on the ultimate goal of having a full public access service dog when they are just puppies or service dogs in training . Also, I think that for me, doing the different dog sports gives me opportunities to do fun things with my service dogs as well as continuing to train and be tested as a team.
I'm including some of the photos Jack Powers took at the beginning of November below. One change since the photos, however - Hardy is now as big as Laurel! 

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