Compared to some foster folk, Belle and I haven't done tons of demonstrations, but we've done enough to be comfortable with each other. Enough to know what to expect from each other. Until Monday night, when we did our first demonstration outdoors.
Let me step back a bit. The resort we're staying at has a "No Dog" policy. A few weeks back, I contacted the owner and explained Belle and her training and asked if it would be alright to bring her with us on our vacation. I also offered to do a demonstration with Belle for the lodge guests if he thought that would be a good idea. He did and we set the date for the Monday Night "Welcome New Guests" Picnic.
This being Belle's first time in real wilderness (as opposed to Ft. Snelling's pseudo-wildness), there are tons of new smells, critters and feelings she's never experienced before. Anticipating this, we headed down to the beach about 45 minutes before the picnic was scheduled to start and practiced "Attention" and the cues she would be performing.
When the guests arrived, we all had a wonderful dinner. Granted, it was simple picnic fare - but it always tastes like the finest gourmet when cooked on a grill, at the beach, and shared with lots of wonderful folk who, like us, are there to enjoy a restful week "up north".
Then, after the welcome speech and thanks to the chefs, came time for our demo. Belle was excited as usual. She's a born ham and loves to show off her stuff. The demo was going swimmingly until the heckling began. In the form of Mr. Chippy (or Ms. as the case may be), the resident woodpile ground squirrel who thought he'd just dash under the picnic table to check on any scraps that might have been dropped. Trouble was, neither Mr. Chippy nor Belle were expecting to see the other. As he sauntered right past her, Belle caught the movement out of the corner of her eye and did a double-take, broke her sit and swung around to get a better look at the rascally rodent. Belle's fast movement startled Mr. Chips and he responded in classic cartoon fashion - springing up and releasing a fearsome squeak - before dashing back to the safety of the woodpile.
The rest of the demo was rough. Try as she might, Belle had a tough time keeping her focus while simultaneously keeping one eye on the woodpile.
The funny thing is, the next day I received our homework e-mail from our awesome HP instructor. Our homework assignment for the week? Working on Attention in lots of different places. I told her we're all over it. Could Mr. Chippy have been an HP spy, perhaps?
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