Just so you know, Ari may be a retired GuideDog now, but that doesn’t mean he simply lays around all day, watching TV and eating peanut-butter snacks.
*Isn’t that the dream of every working dog?*
In fact, he’s back in school, learning new things every day. And so is his teacher.
It was a natural progression. Ari and I worked together for nine years, and as expected, I fed and cared for him exclusively. But once he neared retirement, my husband J asked to be mor involved. So little by little, we have come to share various tasks, including playtime.
Here’s how it goes:
As always, I feed Ari breakfast.
J accompanies him outside.
J and I eat breakfast.
I hide Ari’s favorite toy, Chaver, a few times, and he searches and retrieves.
Then J and Ari play a rollicking game of toss and skid as Chaver is thrown down the hall and Ari runs, pounces, slides, and retrieves.
At last, class begins.
Ari grabs his pal, joins J in the living room, heels and sits. A few kibbles are placed on the kitchen floor, Chaver is tossed past the “bait” and Ari is asked, “Ayfo Chaver?” (meaning, where is friend?) Ari trots past temptation, snatches Chaver and brings him to J.
Chaver is placed closer to the “bait” and the command is given, “Ayfo Chaver?” Ari approaches, grabs his friend, returns.
Finally, Chaver is in the midst of the “bait”. J says, “Ayfo Chaver,” and Ari retrieves.
Or so it should go. A pile of kibbles on the floor is a mighty powerful temptation for a Lab, you know, even a GuideDog, who thinks with his mouth. So Ari had to learn step by step to think beyond the “bait”.
He already knew how to retrieve Chaver. He needed to be literally walked past temptation several times over several sessions to succeed at the new task. And once he succeeded, , the command “Okay, go get ‘em,” released him to follow his instincts.
But one slip of the tongue, one “okay” out of place, one erroneous pointing of the finger…
Obviously, Ari is not the only one who’s learning!