Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All Dog Night - Part II

Last week, I blogged about All Dog Night - a class format used when the lesson plan is appropriate for all the dogs and their handlers regardless of their stage in the service dog spectrum. In All Dog Night - Part I, pre-placement preparation was the primary topic. As a result, the audience was mostly foster homes. Last night, at All Dog Night - Part II, the topic was public outreach and demonstrations. Since both foster homes and graduates take part in public demonstrations the audience was truly representative of the Helping Paws extended family.

Jessica was our emcee for the evening and had prepared a terrific packet of materials, including a foldable, laminated set of note cards, filled with tips, tricks and best practices to follow when doing public outreach with our dogs. In addition, two volunteers (Liz and Hudy, and Jane and Juni) spoke of their experiences with public demonstrations, and shared some of their more memorable stories. My two favorites I will call Wigged-Out and Coin Your Phrases Carefully.


When Liz related this story, she told it in the context of how she prepares for public demonstrations. She talked about what she packs as "props" for the demo - and what she learned the hard way not to pack. She described her prop bag as including all the standards - a light switch, a push light, a retrieval item, as well as some non-standard items that she decides upon depending on the target audience. This particular demo was going to be at a nursing home and in reflecting on what to include in her bag that might be pertinent to her audience she settled on a woman's wig.

She didn't plan on her dog's penchant for nosing in the bag and dragging out various items while she was speaking. Or that a wig in the jaws of a dog might look, to an elderly person, like something alive - such as a squirrel. Sheer bedlam broke out when a female resident began shrieking in fear that a rodent was loose in the nursing home. Suffice it to say there was more excitement that day than most of the old folks had seen in years.

Coin Your Phrases Carefully:

Jane shared that her favorite type of demonstration audience was third-graders. She also related that she saves all of the thank-you letters she has received over the years from the children who have witnessed the wonderful skills that her dog demonstrated. During the course of each presentation with kids, she loves to highlight her dog's skill at retrieving difficult items from the floor such as credit cards and a coin because the children are amazed when the dog carefully picks up the card or coin with its' mouth and brings it to her.

After one of these demonstrations, Liz received a thank-you letter from a young child. In this letter, the young child said that their favorite skill was the dog picking up the coin. The child then wrote that they knew that trick was really hard because after school that day, they went home and tried doing it but the floor didn't taste very good.

To quote a popular local radio host known for his garage logic - "you can't make this stuff up".

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