Sept. 2, 2005, Mia
I'm in need of
inspiration. Recently, you see, I've become paralyzed by becoming too
serious. The last poem I wrote was so startling, I hid it under a stack
of magazines to see if time and pressure would gentle it. In the meantime,
my daily companions at "The All-Black Dog Kennel" sit quietly,
waiting for a brainstorm. Of course, they don't mind when I am distracted
toward dog walks or liver-biscuit baking experiments.
on dog training is all consuming right now, I feel drawn to paper, so
I'll give you a peek at "Mia," the newest member of the All-Black
Dog Kennel. (It's not a prejudice I have in favor of black dogs; it's
just a name that came to me when my mother said, "I don't like
all black dogs." My three fit the category, either way, so I use
it to remind myself that not everybody likes dogs and there's not much
to be done about it.)
"Mia" is a sleek,
shiny-coated dog, an apparent labbull mix. Her beauty and grace are
tuned into a small frame and she's lovable and playful and timid, all
at once. She's young, probably about 7 months old now, but there are
so many things we don't know, because she came from the Inyo County
Animal Shelter. She was so timid that she didn't want anyone to touch
her. It took weeks to get her to "come." She would load up
into the car, but mostly when you didn't want her to and often it would
be through an open window.
But, now she has calmed
She's in training
for scent work - it's scientifically significant, but beyond my meager
understanding of atomic weight. But, my part is clear. "Mia"
is to learn the difference between two scents, and when she smells "Scent
A," she is to sit.
This is the way
she carries out her work. She walks through the line of Tupperware boxes
that contain vials of scent. She walks like a panther, slowly towards
the box. She sniffs the box, kicks it over and languidly sits sideways
beside it like a model, smiles and awaits her reward.
The hardest part
for a trainer is to know the answer, but not give it away with body
language or other cues. At first, of course, you have to give it away,
oh somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times. But, then to make that switch,
when the dog looks for the answer within, that is the moment of truth.
I think we had that breakthrough last evening. I walked slowly behind
Mia, backwards, so I couldn't see what she was doing. When I caught
up to where she was sitting and smiling, I lavished her with a King
Krab. She has a great smile - not scientifically proven, of course,
but she is an inspiration.