If youre a parent, you might recall those first few weeks when your baby came home from the hospital. Your whole life revolved around his naps, his feedings, his diaper changes, making him comfortable, keeping him from crying, keeping the relatives at bay, trying to catch some sleep yourself, grabbing food and eating it standing at the sink, and trying to keep your sanity. You were tired all the time. You couldnt concentrate on anything other than that precious bundle in the crib. Ah, those were the days.
Im going through something similar with a brand new dog guide. Youve probably noticed that all I can talk about these days is cisco. Thats because right now, my whole life is devoted to helping him make a dramatic transition in his young life. At 6 weeks, he was whisked away from his mama and taken to a 15-year-old young lady, who taught him house manners, took him with her to public places, played with him, and loved him. Then after about a year or so, he was taken back to the seeing eye. This is the way it goes for puppy-raisers. They foster a puppy, destined for work as a Seeing eye dog, give it love and discipline, and then brace themselves for the inevitable return of the puppy to the school. No matter how many puppies they raise for the Seeing eye, it is never easy, but just imagine what its like for the dog. Now, all of a sudden, hes in a kennel, with 40 dogs, and is now cared for by a team of kennel technicians and trainers. Eventually, he becomes part of a group of 8 dogs under the supervision of one trainer. Once a day, this trainer lavishes attention on him and teaches him how to do amazing tasks, like walking on the sidewalks only, stopping at corners, avoiding obstacles, learning his right from his left, and all with a leather harness that is fitted around his back and chest. Wheres the young lady who took care of him while he grew up? Who is this woman who is now in charge?
Then, in a few months, his world is changed again. Now, hes in a big house with only 20 dogs and 20 people, and hes expected to do all these amazing tasks with yet another person. He is literally connected to her by a leash. Wherever she goes, he goes too, 24 hours a day. What happened to that woman in the kennel who loved him so much? Who is this person he is now supposed to work for? And now, here he is in a completely different setting, a house with this new person, with no trainers and no other dogs or people. His world is turned upside down yet again. He is expected to guide her on streets he has never seen before. He is meeting all sorts of new people and learning a whole new set of rules, for us both. Thats why I need to be particularly sensitive to the transitions that he is going through. This means observing strict food portions, no treats except for training, regular trips outside to empty on leash, no barking at the doorbell, no sleeping on the bed, no running around the yard freely, no socializing with other people or dogs, and dozens of other restrictions. I got really lazy with Pippen, and thus, she got sloppy in her work. Im starting over with this new dog, resolving to discipline myself to stick to the right way to make this relationship work. Just as a baby needs to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime, that you are to put food in your mouth and not in your hair, and that when your mom says no, she really means it. A child who learns to live by the rules is a happier child and more likeable. So too is a dog.