How Can I Give Up My Dog? part 2

Note: If you haven’t already, read part 1 of this post here.

Taking Seva to training classes at Helping Paws each week has been a big part of my life for over 2 years. Besides classes at the training center, we train in public several times a week. While it would be an exaggeration to say Seva has been my constant companion, I do work from home and take her places, so we see a lot of each other.

A few weeks ago, Seva spent the weekend with S., a woman in need of a successor dog who used to be a vet tech.

I spent the weekend convinced S. was falling in love with Seva. How could she not?

I’ve gone on vacation and left Seva with other Helping Paws families. It’s a nice break, like when the kids have a sleepover and you get to go out or stay in, grown-up style. This weekend was different.

I must have told myself 50 times that S. would say “yes” to Seva, and I would soon be saying “good bye” to her.

Waiting for life-changing news is never easy. (Sure, on the spectrum of life-changing news, learning whether or not I’ll get to keep a dog is relatively low, not like getting test results from a doctor. I do have perspective, but this is a blog about the Wonder Dog so bear with me.) The thing is, most news you wait for is one of two things: good or bad. Whichever way Seva’s weekend with S. went, I would be torn.

I want her. I’ll miss her. I would never stand in her way. I love her. I don’t need her. She should be with someone who needs her. S. will love her as much as I do. What if Seva misses me? I might never see her again.

And around and around I went.

When I picked up Seva from Helping Paws, I let her out of a crate and she leapt on me, all tongue and paws and uncontained joy. She’s a kisser. Always has been. The moment she was first placed in my arms, I looked down and she lifted her chin and licked my face. She was barely 8 weeks old.

 

  • A tired puppy.

 

Turns out, S. didn’t love her.

Seva had done well during the pre-matching, but didn’t want to retrieve for S. at her house. And she was a little bit naughty. Seva found some duct tape serving a purpose she couldn’t see, so she gnawed at it till she got a corner lifted and pulled it off.

She does have a naughty streak. Her new thing is to bound over while I’m working at my desk and stare me down. If I tell her to go away, she runs off and finds something to shred, like a piece of mail. My next move is to leash her to furniture. Hers is to whine. It’s a dreadful, high-pitched sound. My final move is to capitulate. We take a walk.

Besides not retrieving, some barking, and tearing of duct tape, S. reported that Seva’s allergies are bad.

Bad as in pull-her-from-the-program bad.

I heard this from one of the trainers when I picked up Seva, so it was almost official, but not quite. E. has the final say. I went to the following Big Dog class as though everything was normal, except it wasn’t.

We went to Centennial Lakes in Edina. As I walked Seva around the lake, I started thinking, this is it. Toward the end of class, I had Seva in a Drop-Stay on the sidewalk and E. came over to talk.

E. told me they couldn’t place Seva due to her allergies, and I almost cried. I admit, that’s kind of weird. I knew it was coming and had been thinking about it for 2 days. Still, when you hear it from E., it’s final. It felt like the closing of a door.

All those great reasons I had for getting into the program, all the effort put into training this dog, the classes and field trips and other training teams…done.

We agreed that I’d go on the next couple of field trips as though nothing had happened, giving E. time to make an announcement to the class. We also agreed the news could go public after the Foster Family Recognition Ice Cream Social.

 

The Big Dogs at Union Depot--our last class.

The Big Dogs at Union Depot–our last class.

 

Last night, Seva and I made our final visit to Helping Paws as a training team. I received a certificate for the work we’ve done, and E. announced that Seva is having a career change.

That’s what it’s called, a career change. I’ve heard that only about 60% of dogs graduate. Problems with the training, personality, health, even odd quirks like a phobia of stairs can prevent a dog from graduating. Seva actually had 3 strikes against her: her hip sockets are only “fair,” she’s an indiscriminate eater, and she has allergies. The hip sockets concern is minor compared to the others. She is getting better about eating everything in sight, and I don’t expect this to be a problem for long. It’s the allergies that determined her fate–and mine.

 

Recognizing Seva's Career Change

Recognizing Seva’s Career Change

 

Seva is now my dog.

What’s more, we’re going to be a demo team for Helping Paws. That means she keeps the blue pack and we will answer calls to show the world what a service dog can do for a person. In a year or two, when she’s mellowed even more, I’ll probably look into a therapy dog program as well.

 

I’M SO GRATEFUL TO E. AND S. FOR GIVING IT A GO.

IT MEANS THAT SEVA’S DESTINY WAS OUT OF MY HANDS.

AND NOW HER FUTURE IS IN THEM.

 

 

Look: A Training Video

One of Seva’s recent commands is Look. It tells her there is something nearby I want her to find and retrieve.

In this video, Scott hid a set of keys in a store. Seva and I walked into the aisle and I gave her the command Look.

She looks for the keys and when she spots them, I say Get It.

She picks up the keys, and I say Give.

She puts them in my hand.

What if she didn’t know what to pick up? I would use the cues That’s It, Leave It, and/or Try Again to direct her to the right object. It’s kind of like playing Hotter/Colder and the tone of my voice does most of the work.

 

 

Oh, Happy Day!

At last Seva’s long quarantine is over! She’ll be in diapers at home a little while longer, but she is allowed to roam the streets once more. We took our first walk in three weeks on Saturday without incident. No little boy dogs trailed behind us. In fact, the couple of dogs we saw ignored us completely.

Sunday we went snowshoeing on the golf course. This dog could not have been happier!

Winter play

Awkward!

Seva had a big day today. Vet appointment at 8:30 a.m. I was told to bring her in with a full bladder, and I did.

These things are bound to happen. It was just a matter of time. Really.

When we finished at the vet, I took Seva into some wood chips to “do her business.” She did. I’m sure it was a relief to pee after all that time. Then we headed over to Knollwood Mall to do some indoor training.

Knollwood has a nice hallway without any real stores off it where you find tables, the restrooms, and an exit to a back lot. This is where we went, down the hallway, past the tables, and to a bench. I showed her kibble and we worked on Watch.

In just moments, Seva was distracted beyond distracted. She wouldn’t take a kibble if it was right under her nose, which it was. She gets like this, and typically a change of scenery or trying a new skill will bring her back to me. Not today.

She looked antsy. Then those hind legs started to spread and the tail curved away from the body. “No no no no no no no no!” I jumped up off the bench and ran for the door, Seva in tow. We got outside and I scanned the parking lot–where can we go? Ah ha! A median covered in wood chips covered in snow. We ran across the lot to the median and she wasted no time in dropping a large turd.

I dutifully bagged it and put it in the outdoor can at the mall entrance–because I’m considerate that way–thinking Boy, that was close!

Inside again, I noticed a janitor walking toward a storage room, a frown creasing his face. I looked further down the hallway and saw another janitor standing off to the side holding a long pole, also looking unhappy. Then I saw a chair positioned over a turd. It was nicely formed and about 3″ long. When you bag poo every day–as any dog person will tell you–shape and consistency matter. I don’t think the janitors were fully appreciating this turd.

I took a new baggie out of Seva’s pack. She carries her own poop bags–because she’s considerate that way. And we carried the poop to the outdoor can, then came in to resume training.

With both a healthy pee and poop out of the way, she would surely be able to concentrate on her work. We went deeper into the mall, because really, why would we want to hang around where she’d just done her business? We joined the senior mall walkers, looked at a bright store display, growled at a kiosk that was still draped with a tarp, and all was fine until it wasn’t.

Seva started acting all twitchy again. Forget it, I thought, this is not any way to train. So we went back to the tables where I’d left my coat. I had barely lifted it off the chair when Seva went into a squat!

Out popped a turd–I saw this one–and we ran for the door AGAIN. This time we knew right where to go and she dropped another big pile.

I used my last baggie on this one, so I grabbed a bunch of paper towels from the ladies’ room on our way inside. I picked up the turd and collected my coat, Seva’s leash around my wrist.

As I turned to leave, one of the mall walkers, an older gentlemen, called out, “Wait! I just wanted to tell you that my niece has one of these dogs. One of these exact dogs.”

1. I’m a polite person. “Oh, that’s great.”

“She’s paralyzed from the waist down.”

2. When we’re training in public we are ambassadors for Helping Paws and service dogs the world over. “Oh.” Not so great. “Does she have a Helping Paws dog?”

“It’s just amazing what these dogs can do with some training.”

3. I’m holding a turd in some paper towels, and it’s starting to smell. I discretely move the offensive object behind my back. “Yes, it is amazing.” You have no idea, mister!

Escaping at last, we deposited yet another poop in the outdoor can. And I have never been so glad to end a training session!

 

Guilty as charged.

Minnehaha Falls

On Saturday, we celebrated the gorgeous fall weather with a trip to Minnehaha Falls. Seva was a champ. She hiked a good 2 miles, went up and down stairs, met a few strangers, and had her first drinking fountain drink!

A rather dry Minnehaha Falls

One of Scott’s beautiful photos.

 

Me & Seva

Isn’t she smart in her blue backpack?

 

Seva hiking in the woods

Follow the leader.

 

Scott & Seva

Resting near a very dry creek.

 

A well-earned drink at the fountain!

This was fun. Who knew if you stand up at this gray pole you get a drink?