Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fair Play

My favorite demonstration of all was yesterday. Belle and I went to the Minnesota State Fair to participate in the Helping Paws shows held in the Pet Center at 3, 5 and 6 PM. The crowds were huge as the weather was perfect for a day at the fair. Balmy, no humidity, a soft breeze, blue skies and sunshine called to the millions of Minnesotans that live here just for such days.

Last year, the State Fair was the first demonstration that Belle and I participated in. She was only nine months old at the time, but looked more like a full grown dog than a puppy. The format was the same. Nancy H., the Director of Foster Homes for Helping Paws gave the oral portion of the demonstration while those of us with dogs demonstrated the cues that our dogs know well. When the foster homes are done with showing off their dogs in training, the pro's come out. The working dogs that have graduated from our program and are now out in to the real world.

How wonderful for the crowd that these dogs and their partners come and show their tremendous skills - and the human/dog bond that is so precious between them. Spontaneous applause kept breaking out as the crowd was newly amazed with each skill the dogs displayed. Two of the biggest crowd pleasers were Josie performing "Get Help" and Dillon performing "open wide". I had never seen the "Get Help" cue performed and I was as fascinated as the crowd. Belle too, went in to high alert at Josie's loud directed bark at the closest human she found to help! Josie is a beautiful silver-gray standard poodle, and when she got help, you knew she meant business. The volunteer who she "got" really had to act fast before Josie was satisfied that help had indeed been got. What amazed me was how Josie picked the one human in the ring that did not have a dog - and how quickly she decided on the one she wanted to help. Everyone who witnessed Josie's work knew that something needed to be done, now. Belle didn't settle down until Josie did.

Dillon's unique cue of "open wide" was a little less dramatic, but impressive none the less. His partner had taught him this cue and she would trigger his action by wiggling her fingers directly in front of his snout. He would then open wide enough for her to get her entire fist into his mouth - and he held it open until she released him. Now why is this such an impressive cue? Well, if you've ever tried to brush a dog's teeth or get them to swallow a pill, or just hold their mouth open long enough for the vet to examine their oral health, you know what a wonder it is that a dog can be trained to open wide so willingly. Really cool stuff!

My only disappointment of the day was that there weren't more puppies. The one pup that came was simply magnificent - and the crowd was the biggest at the show in which the pup performed. I appreciate though, how tough a demo like the fair can be. There are so many people, and so many dogs, and so many smells, it's an amazing pup (and human) that can hold attention long enough to get through the show. I remember also, how exhausted both Belle and I were after our experience together last year - and we only did one show.


Logan said...

Wow! Get Help and Open Wide sound like something that mom would love to have me do. I think I may see them on my service dog training plan!

Wags & woofs,
Logan CGC, Service Dog

Speak(er) said...

Hi Logan!

Welcome to "Speak"! They were really cool cues and Lu and I plan on asking Josie and Dillon for some tips on how they're done at this week-end's Tail-Waggin' Buffet. The Tail-Waggin' is one of Helping Paws main fundraisers. I promise I'll make Lu write all about it when we get back - so please check back to see our tips!


ps. I think you're gorgeous!