Monday, September 2, 2013

POPPY: 9 Month Puppy Report

Poppy - 9 months - Guide Dog Puppy
Poppy went to stay at Guide Dogs of America for 5 days to be thoroughly tested and checked by their trainers and veterinarians. They want to make sure that she is on track and developing properly.
I was nervous.
"What if she is too pushy and willful?" I thought. 
Another puppy I know was dropped at 9 months for being "too self-pleasing".
YOU know that we just went through episodes of Poppy stealing food so I was afraid I would hear back with a similar report. "Too obnoxious."
Instead they called her shy.
She's a happy bully around these parts. An incessant puller on the leash. A hearty eater and player.
But Yvette, the trainer, said that Poppy lagged behind when they went out walking. That she was "soft" and needed extra support. Don't get me wrong, Yvette loved her. She said Poppy was a snuggler and a sweetheart who did really well with her commands. 
Going to Sha's class every Sunday and working with her at home has paid off. When Yvette called her to come Poppy ran to her easily. She knows: Sit, Stay, Lay Down, Leave It, Heal, and Come.
But on the written report I got back, the category for STRESS was marked with the word "High." 
High stress.
That shocked me.
Since she's been back home Poppy seems different. Humbled? Maybe. ...Traumatized? That's dramatic, but there is an element of distress in her that I never saw before.
Somewhere in that little blond head is a new awareness that the world is not all about hanging out and playing with people and other doggies who love her. Commands are something more than a way to get treats or shine in front of her puppy class. This was Poppy's first real GDA experience with TRAINERS. Trainers who have expectations and don't take any silliness. It was not entirely pleasant for Poppy.
She always followed me happily from room to room. It was one of her personality traits that made me think she would be an excellent guide dog. She's bonded. She likes closeness.
But before, when she followed me there was eagerness, an expectation of something good right around the corner. If I could translate her body language it would be "Oh goody! What's next?"
Now when she follows me there is a touch of panic in her eyes, "Don't leave me."
The kennels at GDA are concrete. There is no soft bed or blanket or even a snuggly toy. I think being alone in the kennel was hard on her. The second day they gave her a roommate but I suspect the fear had already set in. And I still see it knocking around in there. 
The closest thing I've ever seen to discomfort in Poppy was when Sha corrected her in front of the class and then gave her back to me. Poppy made the whole class laugh by looking pleadingly into my eyes and trying to disappear into my leg. She couldn't have been more clear, "Get me out of here!" 
As I write this she is sleeping beside me. She could be on the dog bed a couple of feet away but she would rather be one inch from where I am. Or maybe the tile floor is just cooler. I don't know. 
I will keep my eye on the situation and let you know how she progresses.