Friday, May 28, 2010

It's a rollercoaster ride.

Pet ownership, no matter what kind of pet or where they came from, is always going to have it's ups and downs. We are all individual creatures, with feelings and minds of our own. It's just life, how things happen.

Take for example the last week. Finn had a lovely breakthrough at our Pets On Wheels visit last Thursday. Finn had been willing to go, and enjoyed meeting people and getting petted, but he didn't understand why we were there, so was always a bit stressed and distracted. Last Thursday I had the day off, so we were able to go to the center and take our time.

I walked Finn a bit more before we went inside, and I concentrated on keeping him at heel and engaged. After the first 10 minutes, Finn relaxed, and started connecting with the people at the center. By connecting, I mean eye contact and attention. Before this, people would get a quick glance and maybe a lick, but that was it. This time he focused on their faces, and waited for them to talk to him and pet him. It's like the light went on in his head "Oh, I'm here to see people!"

I was really excited, because that is the purpose of Pets On Wheels, and other pet therapy programs. The people we serve NEED a connection. They need someone, person or animal, to look at them, and validate their existence. By interacting with the elderly, or challenged we let them know we acknowledge them, that they are important, and we care about their thoughts and feelings.

This was a big high! Finn left the center with tail high, happy and energized. He 'got it' finally. This has been a goal of mine, as a way we can both give back to our community. Plus Finn is such a sweet gentle dog, I have suspected he would be very good at this kind of therapy.

Fast forward to Sunday, and another goal I have. We went to Manassas for dog show, to work on our next Rally leg, and try our first Obedience class. We had not has as much time to practice as I would like, but I really only wanted to qualify, I wasn't looking for ribbons. Finn knew all the commands, and done them flawlessly. We had practiced with a friend as judge, and gone to a run through at a training center.

Sunday was warm and muggy, with lots of rain and puddles. We were up at 6, out the door before 7 and then a 2 hour drive to the show. We get to the show, set up, and frankly it was rather miserable. But Finn and I soldiered on, practicing, and waiting for our class. Finn got less and less enthused and more clingy, wanting to not leave my side. When our turn came for Rally, he basically shut down. The dog who got a 95 at the last rally, and complements from the judge on his sit and response, this time couldn't remember what 'sit' meant, or 'heel' or even to just follow me. I was mortified and embarrassed, and excused ourselves from the ring.

We did no better in obedience. Finn had mentally checked out. Whether from the heat, the long drive, the rain, or a combo of them all, he was not participating. I was bitterly disappointed (in no small amount because I gave up sleeping in and a whole day of my weekend to do this). So there was the low. But just like the high, Finn shared the low also. He didn't have fun that day either, and no one had even asked him if he WANTED to come to the show. So we both came home, wet, tired and grumpy.

But we came home together, and that is always a good ending to the day. As several people at the show said, no matter how you do, you get to go home with your best friend. What could be better than that? (It was a rough show for a lot of people)

I also have to remember that these are MY goals, and Finn has no clue what they are. It's my job in the partnership to help him understand what I want, and to make it rewarding for him to participate. I certainly failed in that part of it.

The next day Finn was wagging his tail, and bouncing after his ball, and delirious to see me after work. All forgiven and no grudges held. We should all be as generous of heart as our dogs are.


  1. Aw, Finn seems like such a lovely best friend. :)

    You two do a lot of good together. He'll get the rest eventually. Enjoy your friendship! :)

  2. Congratulations on your breakthrough with Finn! I totally get your point with rally and obedience. I try to do so much with my dogs - classes, events, therapy work, etc. - but I have been trying to be conscious of what they want to do and what they enjoy. It sounds like you're doing wonderfully - and Finn is just so darn cute!