Now that Dilly is five months old, life is starting to get more interesting. Last night we ventured out on our first puppy-class field trip.
Our wonderful instructor, Kay, has made these excursions a regular feature. For this very first outing for the kinder-pup group, we met at the big Petco outlet in Clairemont Square. A few of Dilly’s class members were too young to go out in public, and at least one older girl was in heat, so there were only three students — all blondes. Dilly found the whole experience to be fascinating.
In one of the toy aisles, Kay tossed colorful distractions on the floor, then the pups had to walk past them without pouncing.
They had to go Down next to delicious smelling rawhide chews…
Then the trio and their handlers marched together down the center aisle.
It was a fun and effective introduction to one of the biggest things we’ll be working on for the next 14 months: learning to behave well in public.
This adventure was followed by another today, when Steve walked Dilly over to our neighborhood grooming salon equipped with tubs where owners can bathe their own pets. Sadly but perhaps understandably, Steve forgot to take any photos during the bathing process, but he reported that Dilly tolerated the experience well.
I think he smells cleaner, but most dramatically, he now looks at least three times curlier than he did pre-bath.
It feels like a omen: in the coming months I expect him to look more and more interesting, as he comports himself better and better.
Last night Steve, Adagio, and I participated in the most entertaining field trip ever. Along with more than a dozen other older pups and their raisers, we gathered at Lindbergh’s Terminal 1, where we practiced going on a plane flight.
Service dogs need to be able to travel by air, and some CCI puppy-raisers take their charges to the skies as part of their formative training experiences. Not all airlines allow pups-in-training in the cabin, but many do, and in 2015 Southwest for the first time opened its cabins to CCI trainees. Still, Steve and I have always quailed at the thought of trying to get one of our puppies to board and behave impeccably in any airliner’s cramped quarters, even for a short excursion.
I did happily participate in a group practice session at the airport three years ago with Kyndall (our trainee at the time). Our group went through the security screening, strolled the terminals, visited the doggy “relief station,” and happily interacted with members of the traveling public. But we didn’t get near any actual planes.
Last night was different. After years of laying the groundwork, veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen managed to get permission for our group to board one of Southwest’s working 737s (furloughed in San Diego for the night). Here’s a glimpse into how the adventure unfolded.
Once through security, our group climbed the steps and found Gate 4, where we lined up just as if we were ready for boarding.
Some of other puppy-raisers and one of the Southwest representatives assured us that, should we ever need to fly with a puppy, we could get access to bulkhead seats, where even dogs as big as Adagio do fine.
I think Adagio probably learned something about good comportment from the whole exercise. And Steve and I can better imagine how flying with a pup could work out well. We’re still not ready to try it any time soon. But it was fun to come close to experiencing it.
Our puppy-class teacher, Kay, is a fan of field trips. We went on another one to Mission Bay Park on our last class day (August 20), and I was impressed again by how many learning opportunities arise simply by moving into a novel setting.
Out in the evening light, surrounded by new sights and smells, the puppies have to work extra hard to control themselves. But they responded well.
The stairs of this play structure looked a lot like the open-tread variety that until recently struck fear in Adagio’s heart. But he mounted them without hesitation.
Going down the slide was scarier, but he managed to do that too.
He walked across a wobbly bridge……did an Up on a turtle. (We don’t have those in our regular classroom.)…and an Under under a concrete bench.
Thick green grass is particularly alluring to puppies, but none of the class members flung themselves onto their backs in a fit of wriggly ecstasy. They Downed and Stayed obediently.
A couple of picnickers were eating something that looked and smelled interesting. But no one lunged to help themselves to a taste.
The dogs walked calmly, then Kay directed us to a little dock where more strange sights and smells surrounded the crew.
Dark had descended by the time we broke up. Everyone looked a little tired but content.
We should have class again this coming Monday, but because it’s Labor Day, it will be postponed until the following week. However, Adagio and Steve and I have signed up for an extracurricular activity that promises to be at least as educational as our field trip by the bay. We’re going to the Del Mar Racetrack with a giant group of puppies and puppy-raisers. Should be another winning excursion.
Some would say that taking your puppy to the mall is more fun than just taking yourself. If you ask me, even more fun than taking one puppy is going with a pack of CCI trainees. That’s what we did last night; it was effectively a puppy-class field trip, led by our effervescent instructor Kay. Adagio was a little young to go. But Kay two weeks ago had said it would be okay. (He’s only two and a half weeks short of his 6-month birthday.)
We assembled near the Target in San Diego’s Mission Valley Mall — a mini-mob of puppy raisers handling 20 or so dogs who ranged from stolid almost-2-year-olds who will shortly begin their professional training to barely-more-than-babies like Adagio.
Part of the fun sprang from the reactions from passersby. We startled some, but brought smiles to many faces.
After doing some simple drills outside, we split into two groups, consisting of younger and older dogs. Then we in the younger pack marched into the Target….
… and trooped up and down the aisles.
Adagio was very attentive, though we had a bad moment, when I noted a look in his eye that often signals an imminent need for him to relieve himself. I literally ran for the exit and we made it out just in time to avoid disgrace. I cleaned up the deposit then was able to rejoin the gang on the store’s second level. CCI dogs never take escalators, but Target has commodious elevators, and riding in them provided a chance to practice good behavior in tight quarters.
Outside again, we practiced walking next to shopping carts, and Steve even introduced Adagio to the “Under” command.
Around 8 pm, some of the puppy-raisers headed for Starbucks, but we’d had enough and went home. We’ll be happy to go again, though. It’s a nice change of pace.
In all the years Steve and I have been raising CCI puppies (about 9), we’ve never flown with one. We know plenty of other puppy-raisers who’ve done it, and now that Southwest allows CCI trainees aboard its planes, it’s more likely we some day will take a pup aloft too. On the other hand, it strikes both of us as likely to add stress to an experience that all too often is trying.
Today, however, Kyndall and I had an aviation-related outing that
was both stress-free and entertaining. We joined a group of more than a dozen other CCI puppy-raisers at Lindbergh Field for a lesson from the TSA in “how to travel with a service dog.” Veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen, who organized a similar event once before, had us gather near the security checkpoint in Terminal 2. She passed out badges that would enable us to move through security even though we weren’t flying anywhere. Then we moved to a special TSA security line temporarily reserved for the practicing canines.
Dogs aren’t allowed to go through the airport’s complicated radiation scanners, so instead we all passed through an old-style metal-detector. We submitted to the tiresome preliminaries: shedding our shoes and jackets and purses and wallets and sending them on a conveyor belt past a TSA screener. Then each handler made his or her dog sit and stay. The handler (still holding the leash) walked through the portal, turned around, and called the dog to follow.
There was lots of discussion about whether the TSA can make one relinquish one’s leash. Although several puppy-raisers reported being ordered to do so, the team at Lindbergh insisted this was was wrong. You should always be able to retain control of your dog, and can request the option of going through the metal detector (though that does require that you have your hands inspected for explosives.)
Once through the screening station, we got a short tour of the terminal (escorted by no less than FIVE TSA employees — charged, apparently, with keeping our ticket-less pack under control.) Most fascinating to all of us was the introduction to the elegant “pet relief” room within the terminal (“We’re a dog-friendly airport,” the supervisor informed us.)
All the dogs thought this was the most incredibly interesting place imaginable — better than the best Duty Free Shop on earth!
When we could tear the dogs away from that symphony of smells, we headed for a small quiet lounge and practiced Unders…
Our guards seemed delighted to pose with some of the furry participants.
Then they led us to the door, collected our badges, and saw us out.
Marilyn says the supervisor claims to be working to make it possible for us to take the dogs on a visit inside an actual airplane. They’d get a chance to practice lying down in the oh-so-limited foot space. I’d love to do that, if the opportunity ever arises, though I’m sad to say I won’t be doing it with Kyndall. We’ll be taking her up to Oceanside to begin her Advanced Training in less than four weeks. I’m certain that outing will be a lot less fun than today’s.