Author’s Note: This post was written shortly after I attended the seminar. I knew I could wait until later to write about the content of the seminar because I take excellent notes, but because this post is about how Maisy did while we were there, I wrote it right away because I wanted to be sure I remembered all the details. Maisy has blossomed over the last year, so some of the things that I was amazed by back then are things I take for granted now! Still… this was an important step in our journey, so while it’s much belated, I want to preserve it.
In October, I saw Kathy Sdao for the third time (assuming you count the sessions at Clicker Expo as one). This meant that much of what she presented was review for me, so I probably won’t post as comprehensively as a result. But even if I’d heard it before, I had a great time anyway. She is such an amazing, energetic, intelligent, dynamic speaker that I think I could listen to her read from the phone book and still enjoy it.
This time was even more exciting because Maisy and I had a working spot. I was very excited for Maisy to meet Kathy (although Maisy seemed to prefer Dorothy Turley, Kathy’s assistant. Seriously, Dorothy took this picture of Kathy, Maisy, and I. It didn’t turn out well because Maisy was so squirmy, trying to get to Dorothy).
Because the seminar was held in Urbandale, Iowa, a five hour drive away, today I'm going to tell you about our traveling experiences, as well as how Maisy handled the whole thing in general. While this isn't technically about the seminar, I'm so proud of her that I just have to share.
We left just before noon on Friday afternoon because I have an Iowan friend whose house was on the way that I wanted to visit. Maisy and I spent about two hours with my friend and her 11-year-old daughter who decided Maisy was the best thing ever. Which means that Maisy spent two hours repeating the same three or four behaviors over and over and over and over again... for like five Cheerios total.
I watched Maisy pretty closely, and she was surprisingly happy throughout the visit. I did enforce a few breaks even though Maisy didn't really seem to need them. It just seemed prudent. Maisy was relaxed and responsive the entire time, which is a far cry from the dog who threatened to bite kids a few years ago. Like I said: proud.
We drove down to our hotel, checked in, and then found a park to walk in. We were surprised by an off-leash dog, and Maisy just wiggled at it, excited to say hello. Seriously? Who is this dog? Note: Ha. This behavior has become very typical of Maisy. It doesn’t surprise me at all anymore.
At the hotel that first night, Maisy barked once at the door. I decided to give her some clonidine, but I don't think she really needed it. Honestly, she did a lovely job handling all the strange noises (including another dog down the hall that barked all night long), and slept through the night soundly.
The seminar was a bit more difficult. I'd guess that there were around fifteen working teams, and probably thirty or forty people there in all. We were supposed to crate at our training stations, but I set Maisy's crate up next to me in the seating area so I could keep an eye on her. There were a few dogs who might have benefited from something similar; one barked quite frequently throughout the day- when people walked past, or there was a loud noise- in turn setting off nearby dogs.
Despite all the noise, Maisy settled in and ate her trachea treat (she won't eat chewies if she's too stressed), and then stretched out on her side and fell asleep. That's right: she slept in her crate at a dog event. I don't think that had ever happened before. Yeah, I was proud.
Still, it did take its toll on her, and she did a small bark and hop (not really a lunge, but not nothing, either) at a Golden at lunch, and later in the afternoon, growled and lunged at an adorable prick-eared dog. Although I found this disappointing, I was able to quickly redirect her back to the task at hand.
That night at the hotel was a bit more difficult; she probably barked a total of three or four times. Most were in the evening, but one was in the middle of the night. Still, she did sleep quite well. Interestingly, during the most difficult part of the evening, she chose to sleep in the bathroom away from me, returning after she had rested up to spend the rest of the night closely pressed up to me. Note: I’ve noticed this trend over and over again since. When Maisy has had a hard day, she needs space to decompress. It’s been a great way for me to gauge if I’ve pushed her too hard.
Sunday at the seminar was surprisingly good. She was quite clear that she needed to be crated in the car instead of the building (she couldn't chew or rest inside but could in the car). Still, she was eager and happy to come in to work, and didn't have any reactivity during the day. It probably helped that Sunday's training task was easier for us both, meaning that my attitude was more upbeat. Maisy feeds off emotional energy from me like crazy. Note: Okay, yes, I was frustrated during the Saturday training task, but I think there was more to it. My close friends will know what I mean when I say that this is about the same time that the fall started to get hard for me. For everyone else, suffice it to say that getting divorced is emotionally hard. Maisy reacted to that.
We drove home that night, arriving home around 10pm. Although I worried that she'd have difficulty settling in, she really didn't. She barked once, and then slept solidly until 10am the next morning, when I forced her to go out for a walk (which was really more of a stagger). I didn't see any residual stress, which is so different from the days where she needed five days to recover. Of course, I kept things low-key for several days anyway.
So she wasn't perfect, but I was so proud of how well she did. It was a really difficult situation for her to adjust to, and she did a really lovely job. Maisy will never be a “normal” dog, but she fakes it pretty well. Note: Ha. I pretty much think of her as normal now.