I've been back at school at Dog Guides 3 days now, I think, and those days have been jammed with activities. Starting with simply meeting each other.
The first day, we as a group, met for the first time over supper. I suspect we're all introverts, as very little was said at that table! We have two people who communicate by ASL, one person who speaks French, and three people who speak English. Imagine three different languages at one table! However, now we are communicating, albeit slowly. The Anglophones are dragging out their memories of high school French, the Francophone is dragging out her high school English, and the two people who use ASL are actually using a fair amount of miming. The really neat thing is if we can't think of a word, we draw a picture on paper, and then ask for the word in the other person's language. In other words, the Anglos are picking up French and sign, the Francophone is picking up English and sign, and the signers are picking up some French as well!
That first evening, we met briefly and listened while the trainers outlined what to expect during the next few weeks. We're listening, barely, because we just want to get our dogs! However, the information that the trainers are dispensing is important, so listen we do. We're told how to comport ourselves around other people's dogs at the school (no eye contact, no petting, and so on), as the dogs are in various stages of bonding and training, and distractions are .. well .. distractions! We also go over housekeeping items like general rules, fire drill information, meal times, and so on. Then we're dismissed for the evening.
The next day, we started the hard stuff. More information about dogs and distractions. What to expect. The most poignant talk of the day was when one of the trainers told us to be patient with our dogs. She said, "When you come here, you know you're getting a dog. When the dogs come here, they don't know they're getting a new person." It brought home to me once again that these dogs see a lot of changes. First, leaving mom and litter mates for their foster families, then leaving their foster families for the training facilities, then leaving the facilities and going home with a new person. Yet these dogs do it and go on to do so many wonderful things. So patient we strive to be.
The dogs are still at the pop-up stage around the dining table. I'm not used to this, because Bosley, my first dog, didn't give me any problems (don't worry, we had other stuff to deal with at the beginning!). My nickname for my new dog is pop-tart. Up and down and up and down and up again. He's tall enough to look over the table, and does. But he's a gentle soul, and I have another gentleman in my life, named Ekko (pronounced echo).
Yes, Ekko. Funny name for a dog destined to work with a hard of hearing person. I chuckled to myself when the trainer told me his name. Ekko is a male standard poodle, and his colouring is subtle and lovely in person. So far, I can't get a photo to do it justice. I honestly don't know at this point if he is a dark cream, or a very light apricot. In the sunlight, he looks like a cream, so I suspect that is what he is. He is a sensitive soul, and a big suck. Loves to be loved. At first he was shy with me. He is quite reserved, so I suspect Ekko will not have the adoring hoardes that Bosley had.
One major difference between labs and poodles that I've discovered is their attitude toward food. While Bosley was a typical lab/vacuum, Ekko is more refined. Taking out a few kibbles, leaving the dish to chew thoughtfully, then returning to the dish for a second mouthful. The labs would have finished the bowl by then. And they don't eat all their food! I'm a bit nonplussed, let me tell you!
How am I doing? I alternate between sadness, happiness, annoyance, victoriousness, jubilation and just plain tiredness. Sadness, because while I was waiting in my room to be introduced to Ekko, I had a flashback to the first time Bosley walked into my room with his tail wagging. I started to cry. So poor Ekko's first glimpse of me was one of a person smiling through tears. Joy and sorrow.
The days are packed but they go by quickly. I'm re-learning things I've forgotten from the first go-round, and I'm learning new things as well. I'm also learning a little patience. I've gone from a dog I knew for five years; a dog whose quirks I knew, and a dog who knew my quirks, to a dog who is a mystery to me ( and I to him).
Well, I only got up to go to the bathroom and check my Facebook account, and here I am at 3 o'clock in the morning and writing an installment here. I'm not going to edit it, as I just want to go back to bed now. So, here's hoping it isn't too long-winded, and is more or less coherent!
Talk to y'all later.