Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Surprised by Joy*

As those of you who know Belle either from class, or through my blog posts you know that she is an exuberant pup that throws herself into whatever she does with a glee that is both a joy and a stress to see. From a training perspective - her high motivation makes her extremely trainable. At the same time, it often has to be tempered to keep her on cue.

A perfect example of how clear her vivacity shines through in her work happened on a walk a few days ago. Belle and I were heading down Summit Avenue, a broad street with many beautiful old homes along its length and traffic lanes that are separated by a wide grassy median. On the far side of the street, across the wide median, was a group of teenage boys. I could hear their banter as Belle and I practiced her LLW (loose leash walking) and knew that they, like we, were out enjoying the beautiful day. Suddenly, one of them yelled out in the most heartfelt tone, "I love your dog!" Belle didn't miss a beat but I gave the boys a thumbs up - and they started cheering! They could see from half a block away what a great dog she is.

So what's so stressful about that? As a new trainer, I'm still learning how to best work with Belle. Early on, I found that if I was too exuberant with my praise, Belle would go wild and I'd have difficulty getting her back on task. But in learning to temper my response, Belle has tempered hers and we manage. Yet I miss her wild wiggling and bunny hopping gambols through the yard. It's just so darn cute to see! Last night I got to see it again, thanks to my neighbor. I had taken our other puppy inside for some water. When I looked out my kitchen window I saw Belle with Bob. Oh, the joy she was displaying. Wiggling and prancing and racing for the ball that he would throw for her, then running back to him to sit on his feet and lean her head back against him for the scritches he was so willing to give her. Then they'd start it all over again. I could have watched for hours. Belle would have played for hours, but alas, Bob had to say goodbye eventually.

Still, in that too short time, Belle and I both were surprised by joy. And we're both still smiling with the memory.

*With due homage to C. S. Lewis for borrowing the title of one of his books.

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