April 11, 2014
One thing that stands out during the dice game is how the teams root for each puppy, even if it isn't their own. When Tammy asked Eric to heel FLD August through the cones a second time, it felt like we were in a baseball stadium, the batter facing a 3-2 count with two outs and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win or lose the game. A proud Eric nodded to the cheering crowd as August rounded the last cone for a home-run performance.
As the last team tosses the dice it is about noon. Inmates assigned to clean the lunchroom hover outside the door. Tammy has more tricks in her training bag and the raisers want to keep working, so we move out to the yard. Piles of snow linger yet the sun is shining and the temperature is quite pleasant.
WAITING ROOM GAME
Tammy asks for five chairs; she sets two facing the door to Pike Unit and three in a row behind them facing to the side. This game will simulate a visit to a busy doctor's office. Eric and Dave sit in the two chairs. I sit in the middle chair of the group of three with a notepad and pen. A squeaky toy is staged a bit beyond.
The handler and his FLD will enter the "waiting room," maneuver around the waiting "patients" and take a seat next to me. Hopefully, he will settle his puppy before I hand him the notepad and pen. I will give three instructions.
- Write down your puppy's name and number.
- Write down your name.
- Write down one thing your puppy has taught you.
After writing, the handler will exit with his puppy, passing by the squeaky toy.
Of course, nothing goes easy. Those of you who raise puppies on the outside will recognize the scenario. As the team approaches the waiting room, Tammy acts much like many people in the general public. "I know I'm not supposed to," she squeals, reaching out, "but I just HAVE to pet your puppy!" She encourages Eric and Dave to do the same. By the time the handler reaches me, the puppy is wound up and not interested in going "under" the chair. Surprisingly, most of the puppies care less about the squeaky toy.
|Josh gets FLD August's attention before braving the waiting room gauntlet. Eric (left) and Dave (right) are August's raisers, so this will prove exceptionally challenging. In the end, Josh does a great job keeping the pup's focus on him.|
|Churchard writes his answers to my three questions while hanging on to FLD Ekco's leash. Managing the puppy while trying to write (and remember the questions) proves to be the biggest challenge to the men!|
Playing games makes it easy to forget that all the while the puppy is being trained to maintain a loose leash, generalize cues like "under" or "sit," and ignore distractions. The waiting room game in particular points out to the inmate raisers what outside raisers deal with every day when socializing their puppies. Strong obedience skills make these situations easier to manage.
As if to prove that point, Tammy has the group do one last loose leash heeling exercise.
Coming up, time to say good-bye...