Today Ranger and I went to the Poulsbo library so he could listen to children read. I'm really pleased by how well he's learned the routine. Rather than use the main door and possibly run into people with allergies or fear of dogs we've been asked to enter through the French doors that open directly into the children's section. The walkway leads to the main doors and the path to the French doors isn't immediately obvious but as Ranger took a step past the path I reminded him "Our door." And Ranger immediately turned and headed down the path to our door.
When we arrived there were no children waiting so Ranger was visiting with the Children's Librarian. As we were talking and Ranger was getting his tummy rubs twin boys came and were interested in reading to Ranger. I asked Ranger to get up and told him we needed to go to our space. He jumped to his feet and headed for the corner where we set up for reading time. I asked him to wait while I shifted the furniture around to make room for him--he's a big guy. Then I spread his blanket on the floor and told him to get ready for listening. He trotted over to the blanket and lay down. The boys were very impressed that Ranger did everything I told him to. Their Mom wanted to know how long it had taken to train Ranger like that. The answer is that we've had him for three and a half years and have worked on his training nearly every single day. I went on to say that while we do train pretty much every day it isn't all formal training and that for Ranger it's fun time for interacting with his people. After Ranger had listened to a Lego firefighter story the boys began asking me questions about Ranger's gear. He wears a pair of bandannas around his neck when we visit one is his red Therapy Dog International bandanna the other is the blue PAWS Buddy Brigade bandanna--one bandanna isn't quite long enough to go around his neck and still allow me to tie it without getting a lot of his fur caught in the knot. By sewing the two bandannas together it makes it long enough that I have a better chance of not tying him into the knot. We talked about how he knows that if I put his "uniform" on he knows that he's going to work and that he knows if he's not wearing his "uniform" he's off duty. We looked at his ID card which really impressed the boys and talked about how it says he is not a Service or Assistance Dog and what the difference is between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog.
After they left there wasn't another child waiting to read so Ranger and I hung out in our corner and practiced some of his tricks and then I was just petting him, running my fingers through his fur. About this point a little girl came to show Ranger the pictures in her book. I was still running my fingers through his fur and hit a snag. Apparently I pulled a little hard trying to work it out as Ranger yelped and jumped up. The girl was very startled and kind of afraid but when I asked her if she'd ever yelled ouch when her Mom was combing her hair and explained that what Ranger had just done was to yell ouch she was fascinated. They finished looking at the pictures in her book and she held her hand out to Ranger so he licked it. I'm not sure what she expected when she gave him her hand but Ranger had no doubt what to do. It was pretty cute listening to her giggle because his tongue tickled. Please, note that part of Ranger's equipment is hand sanitizer. However, when I offered it to them her mother said they'd just go wash her hands in the bathroom.
Ranger and I had a long talk with the Children's Librarian as we were getting ready to leave. Some of her colleagues at other branches have been asking about the program and she wanted to know what kind of training the dogs have and how people go about getting their dogs registered. All in all it was a good day of educating.