Civic Duty & Animal Urges

Seva had an appointment at the veterinarian, so we popped into our polling place on the way. And this seems like a good time to explain what it’s like taking a service dog-in-training out in public.

Let me say, I figured she could handle it after she handled Minnetonka Middle School where she was swarmed by kids in the hallways, but I was ready to abort the mission at any moment–going out is all about the dog.

Seva did great. We worked on Sit and Watch before going inside, and again before getting in line. I did not want her in close proximity to any people unless I had her attention! This is typical for any public place. She has to be working with and for me, not following her animal urges. This animal’s urges tell her to greet everyone, jump, lick, and paw.

Speaking of animal urges: Dogs live through their noses, so anywhere with food or smelly stuff down low is out for Seva. We were in the hardware store last week with the Perfect Puppy class and she suddenly got a whiff of something on the floor. That was it. Nothing I said or did could pull her nose away from the linoleum. I couldn’t see or smell anything, so I have no idea what got her attention, but boy was it good! When a dog is working, we’re asking her to ignore her own urges. You ever get an itch on the bottom of your foot (or some other inconvenient part) during a meeting? All you want to do is pull off your shoe and rub your sole, but you can’t. You have to focus on what your boss wants you to focus on, and it sure isn’t your foot!

Seva gets itchy. She likes to “swim.” She rolls onto her back and wriggles around, her paws swimming in the air. This doesn’t go away just because she’s wearing the blue pack. She drops her shoulder to the ground and propels herself forward with her hind legs, digging her face and side into the ground. If I don’t get her on her feet fast enough, she’ll be doing the backstroke, decorum be damned.

When people see Seva sitting at attention, walking nicely, following my commands, they smile. They often want to talk to me or touch her. This can be nice. It can also kill a training session. SEVA LOVES EVERYONE. If she notices someone smiling at her, that can be enough to have her jumping at the end of her leash. She especially loves elderly ladies. I have no idea why, she just does.

Today, I caught a little boy sneaking up behind Seva, on tiptoes, hand out, big grin on his face. His mother was voting somewhere in the room. It was lucky I saw him before Seva did. To her, he would have been a playmate and it would have been pandemonium in the polling place.

I have a confession to make. I was training Seva with my right hand today, and the person who used that pen after me probably found a bit of salmon kibble residue on it. Sorry!


Seva votes.


Always know when to leave. Have you ever had to rush out of a place due to toddler meltdown? Everything is fine, then something snaps. Well, it’s the same deal with puppies. They can only take so much stimulation at a time and it wears them out. They lose all focus.

Seva’s preferred “I’ve had enough” tactic is to park her butt and not move. It used to be I could pick Seva up and carry her to the car. She is now 51.6 pounds of lead.

She was a good girl at the polling place. She was also good at the veterinarian’s office, though deteriorating. The nice lady there gave her a cookie, so that helps. But once we were out the door on a busy street, getting to the car was tough. I have spent long stretches of time cajoling her, holding kibble under her nose, begging her to get off her rump and walk! Today, once she moved I practically ran to the car–to hesitate would have been to lose her again.

And this is the face of a puppy who is done!


I voted.