Saturday, 18 November 2017

CP Liggy is home

Yesterday was a really mixed day. Having spent almost two weeks at the Canine Partners' Midland training centre, with Liggy, her trainer and two other new partnerships, yesterday was going home day - so exciting! However, it also meant saying goodbye to some new friends... friends that have journeyed through the last two weeks together, supporting, chatting, joking and living together. Although I was glad to be returning home, I was so sad to say goodbye to them.

I want to tell you about the training but first of all, I should post a couple of pics of my new Canine Partner to melt your heart and send any doggy lovers all mushy.

Liggy lying next to me in the cafe, wearing her CP jacket.Liggy practising her new 'cuddle' command

Training

It seems a lifetime ago that I arrived, a little nervous, to begin the two week onsite training course. So much has happened since then, and I've been on a rollercoaster journey, very similar to that of bringing home a new born baby. One minute, things are going really well and falling into place, and I think, "That's it! I've cracked this dog-training thing. I'm an expert!" The next minute, something goes wrong and I think, "I'm going to be the only person in the world, who can't learn how to take care of a labrador puppy."

We started with really easy things like basic obedience work. Well, I say 'easy' and 'basic'. It was quite easy, once I'd programmed my brain to remember the right commands. For a dog, a command word means one thing and only one thing. So, for example, 'down' means lie on the floor and look very cute. When she jumps up and you want her not to, 'down' (the first word that comes to mind) means nothing. It's 'off'. And as someone who frequently says, ' I'd better go now...' I really have to remember that 'better go now' is the command to pee or poo, and Liggy pretty much pees and poos on that command within seconds of hearing it. Don't worry, I haven't said it at the wrong time yet but it's only a matter of time.

We did lots of outings to practise walking nicely and to practise where to stand, sit or lie in various situations. She perfected the art of browsing through Christmas jumpers in Boyes, a task neither of us will ever need to repeat. She also did a fab job of lying parallel to my wheelchair, whilst I had a coffee and cinnamon roll in a cafe. This was one of my favourite sessions!

Liggy has learned to do various tasks already that will help me out. The most useful is that she will instantly pick up virtually anything I drop. She has picked up keys, pens, her lead, my phone, the TV remote control. Initially, I was dropping items on purpose for her to practise but now she's doing it for real and that is just the best feeling ever. I can't describe that sinking feeling I used to get, when I dropped my keys or pen. Bending down, whilst just about doable, is so painful and difficult. Now, I almost like dropping things, just to see her response. If she could talk, I imagine her saying, "It's alright mum. I'll get it for you. You just sit tight. Here you go mum. I did it! Treat???"

The other thing that I love is her specially-for-me 'cuddle'. She has been trained to cuddle my left leg (yes, she knows her left and right) by putting her paws over so that her armpits are right next to my knee (which often feels cold, even when the rest of me is warm). Then she stays there for ages, while I feed her treats and tickle behind her ears. We both really enjoy it!

Home

Okay, so I know that this will be Liggy's last relocation experience. She's gone from breeder to puppy parents, to onsite training with weekend foster parents and now she has arrived in her new forever home... but she doesn't know that. Moving house is stressful for us and we can talk and understand what's happening. Liggy hasn't got a clue what is going on. She just has to trust me to take care of her needs and her biggest need this weekend is to get used to her new home and know that all the normal stuff still applies.

I suppose, like all living things, the two most basic needs of a dog are food and water going in at one end, and pee and poo coming out of the other. Toileting and feeding are very routine things that I need to keep as routine as possible. I was a little nervous (in the light of some comments by Neil's aunty) that Liggy might not use her dog toilet as readily as I hoped. However, it was the first thing she did on arriving here. We went straight out in the garden, went to her toilet and she peed on my first command. She has kept to her normal routine of going at her usual times. Later this morning, I'll go out and try out my new long-handled poop-scoop. I'm less sure of it's ability to perform than Liggy's.

Feeding is the thing that most amazes me. Liggy is still very puppy-like. She's an obedient dog but absolutely loves food more than anything in the world (girl after my own heart). As soon as she sees me get her bowl out, she goes and lies on her bed. She waits patiently while I prepare it and then waits for two toots on the whistle. Then (for Harry Potter fans) she apparates from her bed to the bowl and vacuums it up.  When she has finished, she brings me her bowl so I can put it in the sink. Eventually, I hope to cut out the middle man and she'll put in the sink herself. Sadly, I don't think we'll get as far as doing the washing up though.

Morning

One final thing that I love more than anything. I have spent years in an all-male, night-owl, grumpy-morning-people home. Liggy loves morning! We may need to work on an acceptable weekend wake-up time but it's like going back to the days of enthusiastic toddlers. If I show any signs of waking up, she's straight in there, wagging her tail for all she's worth, parading back and forth carrying her favourite teddy and generally doing her morning dance. I'm sure she's trying to say, "Hooray! It's morning! A new day, mum! Quick! Wake up! I'm ready to pick things up, do nice walking and cuddle your leg. Come on mum! Let's do the dance!" (Evan Almighty reference there.) So I do... I get up and do the dance... okay, maybe not.