One Year, One Test
Time often creeps up on us, years pass before we realize they are gone. That was the case at our house earlier this month when I was startled with the memory that Luna has been with us for a year. The time has flown, it feels like she has been a part of our family forever – and yet it also feels as if only yesterday we lost Ari. There will always be this gut wrenching twist when the anniversary of her arrival rolls around, but that stab is dulled with the ‘looniness’.
Luna has come a long way, not just in her training, but also in her confidence. It’s hard to believe that this is the same poor dog that was scared to death when we meet her, teeth bared as she crouched in the back of her kennel. I have come to accept that someone in her past not only treated her poorly, but likely chose to reprehend her physically when she misbehaved, or simply did not understand what it was they wanted from her.
She is in fact quick to learn and eager to please. There is still nothing she seems to enjoy doing more than going to class and I’ve recently been taking her to two, rather than one, class once a week. We start out our evening with rally and then move into her intermediate obedience class. She’s taken intermediate repeatedly for the last eight months or so, not because she couldn’t learn, but because she still was fighting to obtain her Canine Good Citizen.
That all changed three days before her anniversary in our home. On a whim I decided to test her again with the graduating intermediate class we had been crashing. I had planned on skipping the test, knowing she could not stand for three minutes in my absence. The only reason we didn’t leave was Ella was performing her STAR puppy at the same time with my daughter and since we were in the building I decided I might as well use the time for more training.
We got lucky. Our examiner was Luna’s original trainer from our beginning class, someone she had no trouble letting approach her. We passed each step with flying colors, and when it came time to have a stranger hold her I handed her off to someone from our rally class. We listened to a few whines out in the hall, three minutes feeling like three hours, and I was certain it was Luna I could hear whining.
To my surprise I returned and was notified she passed. It turned out when she started to whine the person holding her would just ask her to sit. Torn between her need to be with me and her need to obey she sat, and finally, we passed.
It may seem like a little thing to some, but I could hardly sleep afterward, I was so happy and proud of this little girl that had been so afraid when we took her home. The future already looked bright, but now it feels as if Luna can accomplish just about anything.
We’re still taking two classes though, this time around so Luna can attend with Ella (who passed her STAR) so that the younger pup can learn to work even if her big sis is around. Just last week Ella pounced Luna during a stay exercise to which Luna remained transfixed in her sitting position, looking up at me.
I was almost as proud of her in that moment as hearing the words, “She passed”.
I have been away for too long. Not just here, but everywhere online that is dog related, including Worldly Dogs. I found that after losing Ari and then Miley I needed a break from stories and photos of dogs. It was too easy for the tears to fall, on some days it still is, but now it is past time to start a new chapter and return.
Luna is doing great, if still Loony (she wouldn't be Luna otherwise). Together we have completed intermediate obedience three times now, still trying to obtain her Canine Good Citizen (CGC). She has become a very obedient dog in the last 11 months; she just cannot manage me leaving her with a stranger for three minutes - or even one. It’s frustrating, but I know it isn't everything. Luna is amazing on a leash and her stays are almost unbreakable, she does so well that despite the CGC mishap we enrolled in Rally two weeks ago. Of course, that was also due to me being unable to have two dogs in class at the same. It became two because apparently my life is a little empty without three dogs.
This time I really wasn't looking for another dog (unlike when I told myself I wasn't with Luna). My husband and I had decided we would look for a third dog after our next family trip sometime this year and I already felt like my hands were full training Luna. Then the photo of "Binkie" found its way onto my Facebook feed. She was an adorable four month old wiry Jack Russell mix and somehow I knew right away that she was the missing dog in our pack.
I was a little worried that being a Jack Russell mix she would remind me too much of Ari, but when we arrived at Best Friends I was shocked to find that aside from a different coat color she was very much a "Miley-dog". She sat up on her hind legs in those first few moments and for a moment I thought my heart would break. How on earth could I bring home a dog that looked so much like my old girl? Luckily I gave her the chance to be her own dog - because in personality she is a dog all her own!
I had been slightly worried about trying to introduce a new family member to Luna, but the two of them bonded as soon as we got home and the newly renamed Ella and her have become inseparable ever since. They love to roughhouse, Ella thinking she's one of the big dogs while Luna still thinks she should be allowed on laps.
Life is good again. My pack is complete.
A Slight Snag
I’ve said for a long time that if I had known how to train a dog Luna wouldn’t have needed to take basic training classes because she already had the basics down before I brought her home. Now, more than halfway through her intermediate class, I was proud to know that she was one of the top dogs in her group. She loves to work and her stays (sit or down) can last forever as long as I’m in her sight. She once tied a lazy St. Bernard in our class on a down/stay competition. A tie because we got tired of waiting to see which dog would break.
I beamed the first time I had to leave her with our trainer while I cleaned up an accident and he told me that she hadn’t acted the bit concerned when I walked away. Apparently leaving your dog with a stranger for three minutes is one of the harder parts of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test we are expected to take at the end of our course.
This was all before last week.
It was my own fault for not researching the CGC, I was so pleased with the way that she had progressed that I hadn’t felt the need to. Our trainer was walking down the line, petting each of the dogs on the chest and head, but on that particular time added the paws – at which point Luna’s ‘grin’ from the kennel returned and she backed away from him. She was having none of the feet touching and was not even pleased to resume the petting at that point.
After class was when I found out that touching her paws was part of the CGC and he wasn’t confident that she’ll be able to pass the test in a few weeks. It might sound odd to some, but it does make perfect sense when you consider that groomers and vets would have to handle the same area (oddly she had no problem at her vet appointment). Worse, if she can’t pass the CGC they won’t let her move on to the advanced class.
I understand the why, but it’s still disappointing. I’ve been to several sites researching the CGC and so many of them make it sound easy – if you’ve had your dog as a pup. It’s clear Luna didn’t have the perfect socialization as a puppy and I still half suspect that she was abused on at least some level by a male. I always say both puppies and rescues are hard in their own way and socialization is Luna’s trial.
We’ll take the next few weeks and try to work past this point. While I’m already working on her social skills we’ll be adding some extra trips to relative and friends in the next few weeks. Our trainer still wants her to at least test even if she’s not ready so we’ll know what to expect the next time around – and who knows, maybe the evaluator will be female and she’ll be much more relaxed!
Lisa (and Luna)