Today was our Wags for Hope evaluation. I took Lily to the appointed site (Central Dawgma in Frederick) a little early so she could get used to the sights, sounds, and smells well in advance of the eval. A lady outside was walking her Doberman back and forth along the sidewalk in the frigid temperatures. It was about 15 degrees at the time, with a wind chill around 0. It was the kind of cold that sliced right through my jeans and froze my legs; the kind of cold that chapped my face instantly. Lily didn't seem to mind. She just knew she was getting to do something special with me.
We registered and wandered around the store. The only problem was that she knew the place. The last time we were there, it was to give her a bath in their Dawg Wash, a self-serve facility where they provide the sink, towels, shampoo/conditioner, and clean-up. It's a really nice service they offer. Halfway through her bath, though, the water ran cold, and unfortunately she got a cold rinse off, because we couldn't take her home with shampoo all over her. I wasn't happy about it, and obviously, neither was she. Now she gets her baths elsewhere. I had to keep reassuring her that we weren't there for a bath.
The allotted time arrived and we entered the training area in the back. Beside us, there were four other women with their dogs. Strange that there were no men.
One woman had a beautiful German Shepherd named James Bond who was just amazingly handsome and sleek. Another had a Lab mix, a mutt, named Pippy, who was a little nervous (like us). Another woman, a vet tech from Pennsylvania, had her Golden Retriever, River, with her (beautiful name, don't you think?). The woman with the Dobie was there, too.
The organizers explained what we'd be doing, and they gave us a little background on volunteering with Wags. It was nice to hear that two of them were active volunteers and another was a volunteer coordinator with one of the facilities that received visitors. There were a few moves we had to go through, including the approach of several strangers with wheelchairs and walkers.
Pippy went first, and she passed. Then James Bond went. Despite being a little young and antsy, he passed, too. It was our turn. I had made a conscious effort to calm my nerves, because I know that goes right down the leash. But still, Lily was panting.
Up we went. We made the loose leash walk around the ring with no problem. Then we were approached by a stranger. While I shook hands, Lily plopped her butt down and waited to be petted. Good girl!
Next, we were approached by a loudly complaining woman who was walking funny. No problems. Lily again sat and charmed the heck out of the woman. The wheelchair approach was also no problem. The walker scared her, however. She'd never seen one. She immediately tucked herself behind me and peered around at the noisy device. I crouched down and reassured her. I said, "Look, someone wants to meet you!" She gradually came out and noticed the person behind the walker. That was all it took! Big smile! Wagging butt!
The final attempt to startle her with loud noises made no impact at all. She just smiled and wagged. They were enamored of her.
We went back to our seat and waited. I leaned down and snuggled Lily. "Good job," I said.
The woman brought the form over for me to sign. The box that said, "Pass (with honors)" was checked, and I was beaming.
"We all loved her," the director said. "Welcome!"
In the end, we all passed except for the Doberman, which is why I didn't put his name in here. I don't want the poor owner to find herself in a search. He was a very nice dog, but he had a few bad habits. One of his habits would not have been appropriate - at all - for elderly people. He would jump up and kiss people on the nose. Elderly people often have poor balance and very fragile skin. This owner hadn't realized how she was reinforcing the behavior by thinking it was cute. Many people are afraid of big dogs like Dobermans anyway. To have one jump at your face is really scary.
As it turns out, Lily is the only one who hadn't had any puppy training or any real formal training at all (other than the wacky lady who came out to the house and whom I never asked back). It's all been us. First my daughter (whose dog Lily was for the first two years) and then me. I guess we did good!
On February 3rd, I have to go to a Visiting 101 class at the library, and then I'll get scheduled to "shadow" another team. Then a current volunteer will "shadow" Lily and I.
We still have Delta certification to get through in the spring in order to get Lily into HosPets. That will give me time to get through training myself. It's busy, folks!
Tomorrow is another hectic day. First I have an early service at church, and then I'll be heading straight over to Hood College for grad school orientation. I'll go through the normal red tape - assuring them I have health insurance, getting my parking tag, finding my way around - and then I'll have lunch with my advisor, Dr. Dana Cable. I have my books already, and my first class is Thursday after work. Oh boy!
Because my husband had eye surgery on Thursday, I've been having to do all the driving and handle everything around here. It gives me very little time for reading blogs, but I'm trying to skim them as I can. I'm still here, but as I knew it would, life in 2009 is a whole new ball game.
Anyway, I couldn't wait to share the good news with you all Lily is now passed out and snoring. I did a little of that after we got home, too!
Peace - D