I know we shouldn’t say that Tucker “flunked out” of CCI. Sometimes we do use more politically correct language. We say he was “released” from the program, or we call him a COC (Change of Career) dog. We don’t mean him any disrespect. He’s a wonderful guy, and we love him dearly.

But like all CCI dogs who don’t graduate but instead return to their puppy-raisers’ home to become members of the family, Tucker routinely gets left behind; he receives way less attention than the current young one in training. We feel bad about it, but that’s his lot in life. Usually.

This morning was a glorious exception. Steve was taking Dionne to a morning of grocery-shopping. I, in turn, wanted to check out the annual pottery show in Balboa Park (something I’d never done before). It occurred to me Tucker could accompany me, as the show was all outside, in Spanish Village. Afterward, I could take him to Nate’s Point, the city’s showcase leash-free area on the west side of Cabrillo Bridget.

He and I were in the park for about an hour an a half, and he was smiling and wagging his tail almost every minute of that time. At the pottery show, several people complimented him and reached out to pet him. (Usually it’s our pup du jour who receives such attention.) They commented on how good he was; how handsome. Of course, his behavior was impeccable.

After a while he and I strolled down the Prado and through the plaza and westward, over the bridge.  As we neared the dog park, he began to look around in excitement. (He could smell the other dogs but couldn’t yet see them.) I led him to the gate, he was all but trembling with happiness. Once inside he greeted some of his fellow canines, then galloped off to smell the myriad peeing spots.

He also ran up to almost every other human in the place — barking at a few to throw their balls for him, or just saying hello and receiving more pats on the head. He paid virtually no attention to me.

A rare moment when he circled back in my general direction.

When we got home, I told Steve that he hadn’t been that happy since the day he was released from Advanced Training. I had a lovely time too.

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