Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Misadventures of Henry Top Gun Walker: I Have a Dream for Henry

I have a dream when it comes to my poodle.

I want him to be a therapy poodle, like the poodles in the picture Jared sent me from the hospital:

I have had this dream ever since I had my first poodle, Lily. I got the idea when I used to volunteer in an Assisted Living home in Houston. I would go every Saturday morning for a few hours and participate in the morning group activities. We would do Sit and Be Fit (my kind of exercise), do Bible study, play dominoes and chat.

One of the favorite activities, however, occurred when a local pet therapy group would bring their dogs to visit the residents. My favorite, of course, was a black poodle who was so old, she had turned gray. I thought, Lily is a black poodle, she would be perfect at this! It made my heart happy to see how much joy the furry interaction brought the residents. Most residents didn't have many visitors, nor much physical interaction with anyone. To have a cute, furry dog be interested in you and allow you to pet them validates a very important human need: touch. I wanted to provide the same kind of comfort with my dog.

Unfortunately, I did not have the training skills and Lily did not have the disposition to be a therapy dog. Lily was extremely hyper, especially around strangers, until she was at least five years old. By the time Lily calmed down, I went off to college. The timing never was right. But when I got Henry, I swore I would make this dog a therapy dog!!!

I did research to see what it would take to make Henry a therapy dog. The first step, it seemed, was to build a trusting, obedient relationship between the two of us. As I already mentioned, I didn't have the skills to teach Henry myself, so I enrolled him in Puppy Kindergarten classes through a local training club called the South Plains Obedience Training Club. For all you Lubbockites, I highly recommend their program. Puppy Kindergarten taught Henry the basic commands, but it also taught him to trust me when I gave him a command, which is very important. It also taught me how to effectively communicate with my dog, which I did not do with Lily.

After Henry finished Puppy Kindergarten, I enrolled him in a slightly more advanced course to hone his skills. My hope is to get him officially certified as an obedience dog, but apparently, the dog needs to be at least two years old before they have the attention span to excel in the exam. Boo. Until then, I will continue to work with Henry in the hopes I can bring joy to people in the future.

As a bonus, here's a video of Henry showing what he's learned so far. He can also stay! (most of the time):

I made this video for Jared when he was out-of-town, so please forgive the mush in the beginning : )

If you cannot view this video, please click here.