Monday, July 7, 2014

Outside simulation

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.


The set-up.
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 task.
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.
  1. Write down your puppy's name and number.
  2. Write down your name.
  3. Write down one thing your puppy has taught you.
After writing, the handler will exit with his puppy, passing by the squeaky toy.

The challenge.
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.

A tall, african american man is standing in the distance in the middle of the photo, near a set of double doors, one of which is open. He is wearing the prison blue pants and a long sleeved white t-shirt. He is looking down at a yellow lab which is sitting on his left side looking back at him. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The man's right hand is in a fist at his chest and his left hand hanging at his side is holding the leash. In the foreground are two men sitting in light blue plastic chairs, facing hte first man. The man on the left is wearing a white t-shirt and has a ponytail, his hair is grey. The man on the right is wearing a green sweatshirt and is bald. There is a woman standing far on the right, half out of view. She is wearing dark glases, blue jeans, a grey t-shirt and purple hoodie that is unzipped. It is very sunny out.
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.

A clsoe over-the-shoulder shot of a man wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. The man is on the far right side and half out of the frame. He is sitting and holds a notepad on his right knee and is writing on it with a pen in his right hand. His left hand is supporting the notepad and a leash is looped around his left wrist. A yellow lab is standing at the end of the leash in front of the man, facing away and to the right. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana. They are on cement and there is snow piled up in the distance. The sun is casting a dark shadow from the dog.
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.

A group of men and puppies are walking from side to side amongst each other. The man in the middle in the foreground is wearing the prison blue uniform and is walking to the left. He is holding the leash with both hands near his waist, a black lab is walking on his left side. In the background is a man in a white t-shirt and green pants waling to the left with a small german shepherd. The woman in a grey t-shirt and purple hoodie is in the very background standing with her hands on her hips near a red brick wall.
Tammy has the group divide into two and face each other. In a series of planned steps, she has the teams approach and retreat with their puppies until they can walk closely by and swap sides. Then she has half the group sit their puppies while the rest weave in and out among them.

 Coming up, time to say good-bye...

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