Sept. 2, 2005,
Mia at Work:

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.

Though double-duty 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 down.

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.

The Dog Leg Diaries
Tales of Restoration

by Karen Riggs

Sept. 2 Mia at Work
Mar 15 Mookie's Door
Feb. 15 Kisses in the Wind
Feb. 8 Mookie at the Window
Feb. 5, Raking Weather

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Eastern Sierra US - A guide to the Eastern Sierra Nevada: Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Bridgeport, Independence, Lone Pine and the counties of Inyo and Mono. Elevations from Mt Whitney to Death Valley.