Our 4 Paws Adventure – Service Dog Training Day 4 and First Public Outing!

*This post is part of a series originally posted on my former blog, Stinker Babies. I’m reposting here for families who are interested in learning more about the process of being matched with a service dog for their children. This series was written during March of 2013.*

smushyfaceDay 4 of service dog training started early.  We humans finally wised up and took April to the 4 Paws facility about 20 minutes early so she could play before class.  It totally worked out.  She was a model pupil today.  Yesterday, she and her pal, Pretzel, were like teenage girls who had to be separated in class so they’d stop talking and giggling.  Today, they just quietly passed a note or two.  =)

After some review and learning the “under” command (the dog goes under the table and lies down – perfect for restaurants or classrooms), we went out for our second track.  It was a balmy 38 degrees!  Practically summer.  So I went without my hat, scarf and gloves and felt okay.  The wind was a bit chilly but no big deal.  I figured I was just quickly becoming a seasoned pro at this midwest March thing, which is great because we’re going to be getting snow on Sunday and Monday!!  Just a little word of advice to any other Southerners headed this way: When you find yourself saying, “Hey it’s really not so bad!” just know that is about three hours before you realize your hands are so windburned, you just want to stick them in a bucket of aloe and call it a night.

Windburned hands are worth what I got to see April do today.  It is completely obvious that tracking is her thing.  Each kid that walked off with a trainer, she had her eye on until she couldn’t see them any longer.  She whined and jumped and squirmed to try to go and find them.  She kept looking at me as if to say, “Don’t you see this?  They’re walking away!”  It was incredible to be on this side of the tracking practice and see her do her sniffing and tracking.  Even though Caleb was so not in the mood for it (just post-meltdown before the track), it all worked out great.  And I’m happy I didn’t break my ankle running across the uneven field.

After lunch, we headed out to the mall for our first public outing as service dog handlers.  I’m not gonna lie.  I was totally nervous.  Had we ruined her in the few days she’s been with us?  Would we get in public and she would totally change personalities?  What if she pooped on the floor?  What if she jumped on a kid?  Would we leave the mall with a latte and a lawsuit?

She. Was. Perfect.  I have absolutely no fears about taking her anywhere.  She followed commands.  She stayed in a “down” with other dogs in the group passing her, with strangers coming up to pet her, and even with people walking by with really yummy-smelling food.  Once, someone even spilled a bag of dog treats about three feet from her.  She perked up but never left her position.  Mind = blown.  I am so humbly grateful that our prayers have been answered so abundantly.

We came back to the hotel and just ate dinner in our room because we were all kinda worn out from a long day.  It was so great to get all cleaned up and cozy.  Have I mentioned lately that I love staying in hotels?  I especially love staying in this hotel.  Let me tell you.  I could definitely get used to having someone cook two hot meals a day for me plus clean my house.  Not only does the “suite keeper” come in every day and take out the trash, dust, vacuum, and make our beds, but she also leaves the kids blankets in fun shapes, writes sweet notes for us, and makes sure to let us know what to expect in her schedule.  I’m trying to figure out how to make enough room in the car for her.  Sorry, Homewood Suites, Brittany is coming home with us.

Tomorrow, we’ll go for another morning track and then back to 4 Paws for the rest of the day.  According to the weather forecast, tracking practice on Sunday and Monday looks like it might be in the snow!  The temps will be technically warmer than they were earlier this week, so we’re good with it.  I really hope I can get some cute pictures of the kids and April in the snow.  They told us that April loves playing in the snow.  I feel a little bad that she has no idea what she’s in for with Florida’s summertime heat and humidity.  Maybe she’ll love swimming just as much as the snow?  I hope so!

Hope everyone enjoys their weekends!  Goodnight from Ohio!

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