Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy campers?

In a continuation of the happiest month of Dempsey's life, his brother Hudson is staying with us for a week while his parents are on vacation.

It's a lot of fun having two puppies in the house, and I had envisioned the two boys holding hands and cheerfully skipping through the daisies out back. Alas, yesterday it looked more like Michael Vick's training camp than a happy Helping Paws camp.

It all started after the boys were resting after playing for a while in the living room. Dempsey got bored. Like he sometimes does when he's bored, he stood up and put his front paws on the sofa to see if Doreen or I had accidentally left something there. Whenever he does this, I tell him "no," but that is what is known in training circles as a "no reward marker." My instructor suggested I instead offer him a positive alternative that I could treat him for, so I told Dempsey to "sit." Dempsey dutifully jumped up onto the sofa, and sat on it. I guess I didn't clarify that I meant "on the floor" and not "on the sofa."

Because Dempsey really misses training if we don't do enough of it in a day, I thought I'd end the play session and do some training. The puppies followed me into the kitchen, where I opened a drawer to get out a Ziploc bag for treats. Being in a new house, Hudson was curious to see what was in the drawer. Unfortunately, Dempsey was already in training mode, and he offered his new behavior, "push," slamming the drawer shut on Hudson's nose.

Hudson gave a little yelp, and then started chasing Dempsey around the kitchen. He tackled Dempsey in the dining room, and the two wrestled playfully for a while, before they started chasing each other again. I'd warned the boys about running in the house, and as you can imagine, it wasn't long before Dempsey crashed headfirst into the refrigerator.

As Dempsey got up to shake himself off, I saw blood on his fur. Oh no! I broke the dog!

The parenting instinct kicked in, and I dashed towards Dempsey, ignoring a piercing pain in my left foot. Dempsey was fine, smiling and wagging his tail like he usually does. I was so happy he was ok, I gave him a big hug and lots of kisses. Hudson became jealous, so he came, wagging his tail, to get his hugs and kisses too.

It was only after I saw blood on my arm that I noticed Hudson's mouth. He was drooling blood. I looked at my foot and saw that the piercing pain I'd felt was caused when I had stepped on one of Hudson's puppy teeth that had fallen out. Whew!

Just think, in only about five minutes, I had managed to get Hudson's nose pinched, Dempsey's head bonked, and my own foot stabbed with a tooth. As I was cleaning the blood from the kitchen floor, I thought of a new "career" for Dempsey, Hudson, and me, if the service dog thing doesn't work out. How about "The New Three Stooges"? I wonder what Hudson's parents would think.

P.S. After yesterday's incident, we decided to focus Dempsey's training on "stimulus control." This means he'll only push something closed when we tell him to. We're still watching our fingers and Hudson's nose, though.

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