Dempsey hasn't perfected his "service dog" skills yet, but he is an expert at his "puppy skills": wagging his tail, licking faces, and making people really happy. To help prepare Dempsey for his life of service, we took him yesterday to Dream Night at the Minnesota Zoo, where he volunteered to meet children with illnesses and special needs from Gillette Children's Specialty Heath Care, the Courage Center, and the Ronald McDonald House.
Dempsey loves kids, but he got really excited when we told him that lions and tigers are big cats. We decided he was not quite ready yet to see the animals, so we stuck around Central Plaza, greeting the kids as they came in. It was a good call, as he showed some fear when he first saw the caribou. Sculpture, that is.
Most of the time, Dempsey was a good little helper, calmly meeting all the kids and shaking hands. You really realize what a special little dog he is when you see some kids opt to skip the lions and tigers to spend more time petting Dempsey. One of the girls spent a good thirty minutes (of a two-hour event) sitting next to Dempsey, giving him hugs and kisses. Another little boy raised his hand and shouted, "I'll take him!" when we explained to his parents that we'll be giving Dempsey away after we finish training him.
Dempsey also enjoyed watching "big dog" Sky demonstrate her skills in removing gloves, picking up coins and credit cards, and flipping light switches. He wanted to be like a big dog, so we practiced his retrieving skills with keys. Thankfully, he is past the stage where he would trot over, pick up the keys, bring them to you, and then fling them in your face. Dempsey thinks that's very funny, but it's not something we wanted to demonstrate at the zoo.
Overall, it was a very fun night. Dempsey thanks the Minnesota Zoo and the event sponsors who helped make this a special night for the children and him!