Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Display

One of the fun things we get to do while raising a CCI puppy is presentations to school and civic organizations. It doesn't matter if you are good at speaking or bad, no one really cares what you're saying, they just want to see the dog. And speaking to children is the easiest of all.

Every year about this time, I go with my pup to Laurel Elementary School in Oceanside and read to one or more of the first, second or third grade classes. I usually choose a book that has something to do with dogs and the kids impatiently listen while they look at my puppy and dream about petting him. Today, Sergi and I went and read to a group of second graders.

I start by introducing Sergi and talking about the importance of never petting a strange dog without asking permission. I don't emphasize the working dog part of it as I want to discourage children from reaching out and petting any dog they don't know. I then explain what a halti is and that he is not a mean dog that might bite them. Having lived my entire life with one kind of a dog or another, I'm always surprised by how many kids are fearful of dogs. Once they realize they shouldn't be trying to touch Sergi and that he is calm and gentle, they settle in as best they can and listen to the story.

After the reading is done, I talk for a few minutes about "helper dogs" and what kinds of commands and tasks Sergi, or another dog like him, will learn and perform for a disabled partner. I then ask all the children to line up and come one at a time to ask if they may pet my dog or shake his paw. When they do it correctly, their teacher is standing by with a bookmark and a coloring book that I have brought to hand to each.

Sergi is just about as young as a dog can be to go to a presentation like this. I wasn't worried about his temperament or him misbehaving, but the distraction can be very stressful for a young pup being asked to perform. It was hard for him to pay a lot of attention to me, although with a treat in my hand he looked at me constantly. But I could see that his ears were elsewhere and I soon quit asking him to do anything but the very simple sit, down and shake (which in itself was tough enough). Still, the 8-year-olds were thrilled with him. He could have done everything wrong and they would have continued to applaud at his slightest movement. They loved him.

I was proud of him today for staying calm and quiet throughout our class time. He kept his licking to a minimum and was not excitable at any of the greetings. I'll take Sergi back in Fall for another visit. He'll be older and more mature, he'll have more commands under his belt and he'll be better able to handle the fidgety little boys and the squealing little girls with focus. I'm not sure any of those kids will really care, though, as far as they were concerned today he was the best dog in the world.

1 comment:

ann said...

Did you see Wy's picture with the kinder class at San Elijo?