Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Expert Observer

Sometimes I forget what an expert observer Ranger really is. This morning he reminded me. We were scheduled to visit a local nursing home called Mary and Martha's this morning. I went out to collect Ranger and take him for a walk before loading him in the car. As we were walking up the driveway from his enclosure I was telling him what the day had in store. "We'll have a quick walkies and then get in the car so we can get to Mary and Martha's on time." As soon as I said "Mary and Martha's" Ranger's ears went up and he picked up his pace heading directly to the car where he waited for me to open the back and load him in. He wasn't interested in having a walk at all.

It's habit for me by now to pick cues that tell Ranger what we'll be doing. Wearing his bandannas (With his coat I've sewn two bandannas together so that there's enough length to tie around his neck and still be seen--his "uniform" is composed of a Therapy Dog International bandanna and a PAWS Buddy Brigade bandanna; the red and blue look pretty snazzy together) means he'll be meeting and interacting with people wearing his tags means we'll be going somewhere ( dangling tags and his coat aren't the best combination as they tend to get caught in his fur.); longline is a hike in the woods and a leash is a walk. I forget that he also picks his own cues to look for and that sometimes those are words. I know that "go" is his favorite word; "would you like  to go for a walk?" "Shall we go to (fill in the blank)" "wanna go" any time he hears "go" he knows something good will happen for him. Since I know how much he listens for this word I try to be careful about using it. I hadn't realized that "Mary and Martha's" are words he's chosen to listen for.

When we visit at Mary and Martha's we are escorted around by one of the activities staff. Ranger has figured out that this person is his key to getting to visit residents. Today if she walked away he was determined to follow her. He didn't like her being out of his sight.

I love observing Ranger as he works and figuring out what he's chosen as his cues. He's really an expert observer.