|Sam and young Piper last June|
|Sam and Piper in December|
Although Piper is my close partner and we have amazing times together, Sam is something special - the absolute light of his life. As Piper's raiser, handler and teacher, I don't see anything wrong with this. On the contrary, I think it is wonderful Piper can forge strong attachments with other people since close relationships are an important facet of a service dog's life. In fact, I am rather relieved. As a small puppy Piper tended to be rather aloof and independent and I used to worry about him giving people the cold shoulder.
|Piper loves the cold and ice.|
One day when I heard Sam drive up, instead of letting Piper hurl himself at the back door, I quickly snapped on the leash. As Sam walked in, I positioned myself with Piper on the far side of the room and told Sam to stay by the door and wait quietly. With Piper weighing in at 65 pounds of solid muscle, our slick floors gave me a big advantage. He couldn't get a solid purchase to claw and haul himself over like a lassoed bull. Because I stayed rooted in one spot, Piper finally decided to pay attention and cooperate. Reaching Sam was his big reward.
The aim was for Piper to sit on a loose leash and check in with me, though it was fine if he watched Sam as well. When Piper was ready for permission, I'd softly say, "Piper, you want to Go Visit? Let's Go." We'd take a step or two forward. This is when Piper would try to launch himself again, at which point I would anchor myself again and we'd started the calming-down, checking-in-with-me process all over again. Whenever he completely ignored me, we'd play Monopoly: Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, meaning we'd retreat to the far corner and start all over. "Hmm," thought Piper, "that didn't work like I wanted."
To move forward, he had to exercise self-control by walking at my pace and not surging ahead. Reminding him with "Eee-asy" helped. In fits of starts and stops, we slowly advanced across the room toward the prize - Sam. Finally, finally he calmly reached Sam. I released him with a "Go Visit", and they had a glorious reunion, where Piper lifted his muzzle, laid back his ears and molded his body around Sam's legs. He let out a little groan of pleasure. It was too cute. I gave Sam and Piper a minute of howjadoo-time, then called Piper away with a treat and lots of praise. Over to the far side of the room we retreated and did the whole exercise again.
By the third repeat, Piper got it, loose-leash heeling nicely across the room with only minor stops and reminders to walk easy. Success! At the start of this exercise I had to exert quite a bit of control over Piper, but it progressively switched to Piper understanding he needed to control himself. The big payoff was after the third repeat Sam and Piper got a nice, long visit. Sweet!
|Piper last Tuesday at Riverside nursing home. Starting to figure it out!|