Steve and I have long said that one reason we’ve continued to raise CCI puppies is because it’s such a great community. I was reminded of that yesterday.

Bob Smith, our teacher is on vacation this month, so the normal puppy classes in San Diego have been cancelled. Nonetheless, one puppyraiser announced that she was organizing an outing to Fashion Valley Mall on Monday, September 9th.

I was sad to be unable to join it, because of a schedule conflict. But another pair of puppy-raisers, Janice and Dan Flynn, put out word of a separate mall outing last night. This one I could make, so at 7 p.m. Dionne and I met up with four other CCI trainees on the west side of Bloomingdales.

Just being in any shopping mall is rather stimulating for a puppy. Finding four OTHER puppies there is exceedingly so. So getting practice at staying under control was a challenging and worthwhile experience in itself. 
But we also worked on other tasks. We walked up and down a big flight of steps.
Since these stairs didn’t have open treads, Dionne scaled them without hesitation. There are lots of benches in Fashion Valley, so that gave us all good opportunities to practice the Under command. 
Dan and Janice are masterful puppy-raisers. They’ve had well over a dozen of their dogs graduate over the course of their puppy-raising careers (an incredible success rate). I asked Dan if he would mind walking Dionne a bit, to let me observe how he handled her. That went well. 
I also explained that besides distractibility, another problem we were dealing with was her terror of open-tread steps. On Sunday, Steve and I had made another effort to overcome this. With our friend Alberto recording everything (for possible inclusion in his documentary about raising a service dog), we returned to the playground near our home.  Dionne once again scaled the play structure with ease. 
But then we took her to the open-tread steps that Steve had discovered at a nearby apartment building, and even big chunks of ham would not entice to ascend them. She cried, frozen in fear. 
Hearing about this, Dan seemed to regard it as a challenge. He found some open-tread steps leading to a parking structure, and our little pack walked to them.  Some of the youngest pups hesitated, but they all went up. Only Dionne balked. 
Dan and Janice coached me on where to position myself.  Everyone encouraged Dionne, and she finally got emboldened to walk up and down the lowest treads — a huge accomplishment for her.
I would have stopped there, but Dan took the leash. I think he may have even picked her up for a moment or two. It’s a blur in my memory. But suddenly, the two of them were climbing.  They made it all the way to the landing. We all cheered. 
Now the question is: is she over her fear? Will she repeat that feat? Will she be able to climb up the steps to Alberto’s condo when we go to the movies there a week from Friday? 
Stay tuned. But one thing is unquestionable: it takes a village to raise a puppy, and help from the other villagers goes a long way to making it easier. 

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