Yesterday was the open house for my service dog organization. Because we missed so many service dog classes, we had to make an appearance there to make up for it. Well, more than an appearance. We had to go and stay for 2 hours to get ‘credit’ for being there.
It was, on the whole, a fun afternoon. We had good food (pulled pork bbq, a ton of salads and sides, ice cream from a local farm that makes the creamiest icecream I’ve ever had, sweets galore), we bought Hudson a new toy, socialized with other service dog partners, took Hudson on a short carriage ride, won another dog toy in a raffle, chatted with Hudson’s trainer, spotted a future partner with one of Hudson’s halfbrothers, and generally had a good time. I got a little overheated at one point, but was able to get into air conditioning and recover. Hudson did a lot of whining, because there were all these other dogs around that he wanted to investigate and play with. He’s so funny – the dogs nextdoor scare the pants off of him, but other service dogs are nothing but interesting.
There was one dark spot on the day, and that was finding out that if Hudson’s delicate GI had shown up before he graduated, he would have been failed out of the program; his allergies would have been iffy. I say it was a dark spot because the amount of money we have spent on vet care this year has been extremely frustrating. He’s had to take multiple courses of antibiotics, and we’ve had to change his food twice, he now gets a medicated conditioner when he gets washed, and he needs daily allergy meds at the very least all summer. Not fun, believe me! I’m still not sure how I feel about that. I don’t think Hudson would have made a good pet – he needs people too much. I’m also, on the whole, very pleased with him. He’s smart, he’s very loving, and I enjoy his furry little personality. The vet bills are just hard when the people paying them are a pair of students! And pilling a dog who won’t just gulp things down is no fun. As far as I can figure, the only difference between pilling him and pilling a cat is that he doesn’t want to hurt me and doesn’t tend to run away. (as I understand it, cats are rather vindictive creatures when it comes to pilling!) I learned very quickly that it didn’t matter what I hit the pill in, he’d find it. Even those pill pockets that work so well for anyone else would fail with him. Bread, cheese, meat, it doesn’t matter, he chews everything he eats so he always finds the pills. At this point, I pry his mouth open, put the pills all the way at the back of his mouth, force his mouth closed, and wait for him to swallow, sometimes massaging his throat. Even with practice, I get chomped on hard enough to bruise every few days and I have to try multiple times to get pills down about 1/4 of the time. I got a piller, and am going to be expiramenting with wrapping the pills in bread (because they’re too small for the piller) and using that.
Sorry for the side-track there. Ahem.
The toy we bought Hudson is like this but a different brand. He wasn’t sure about it at first, and couldn’t get the treats out. He was getting frustrated and bored, so I kept showing him that if it tipped over the right way, it spat out treats. He eventually managed to learn how to tip it over, but his method involves tipping it with his muzzle and then whapping it with a paw so it spins. He hasn’t quite gotten that the hole has to be down to get treats out, but he’s figured out a way to make it happen. Once he learned the trick, he was very, very enthusiastic about it and played until it was empty.
The other toy we got him was one we won in a raffle. I had looked at it in the stall of the toy vender I bought the pyramid from, and he said it was a bit symplistic for a dog as intelligent as a working dog, but I know Hudson gets bored easily with toys he can’t get treats out of, so I figured it was worth a try. Not worth the selling price for my purposes, but definitely worth the $5 I spent on raffle tickets.
We drooled over but couldn’t afford the Nina Ottosson wooden puzzle toys. They were georgous and some had multiple levels of difficulty that you could customize to the dog to keep the toy ‘new’ and exciting. If someone wanted to get a special present for Hudson, any of her puzzle games would be perfect, to judge by how much he likes his 2 new toys!
Hudson really wasn’t sure about the carriage ride at first – he didn’t want to get up on the carriage! It was a little single-horse drawn carriage a bit like this except that the seat could fold up for people to get in and the bottom extended past the seat. The driver was also a service dog recipient, so her dog was settled up front. Hudson eventually got settled half under half behind the seat. His tail poked out so that the spokes of the wheel were brushing against it, but he didn’t seem to mind. Once we got moving, he was no more nervous on the little cart than he is on the subway, which is to say, it was managable. This was good news for us, as we hope to take a horsedrawn carriage tour of the old part of our city. As we’re currently quite broke, it’ll have to wait for better times, but we know now that Hudson doesn’t mind too much.
We also picked up a little bag of gourmet doggie treats for Hudson. They cost more than our ‘usual’ treats, but I figured for a small splurge, it was okay. We only bought a quarter-pound, so it wasn’t too bad!
It was good to be among servicedog people. Knowing that if you were asked questions, it was probably for an applicant. Hudson, as usual, was quite the favorite. He’s a handsome lad, and I think he gets more attention because there are only a few ‘doodles in the program – it’s almost all labs and poodles. Even among his brothers, I think he may be the handsomest – especially the blondes just aren’t as striking as my silvery-black boy. I may be a little biased, but he gets a LOT of attention from other people!
All in all, I think it was a fun day for everyone involved. Especially Hudson. He was so happy about his new pyramid toy that he dozed off with his nose touched up against it while we were watching TV last night.