Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cleaning service dog

This morning, while I was vacuuming and Dempsey was sitting around chewing a Nylabone, I had a bright idea. We've already taught Dempsey to "push" drawers and doors, and he's supposed to be generalizing that skill to other objects. Instead of just pushing boxes around, why not something useful? Like a vacuum? Now we're talking!

Dempsey's best skill remains cleaning up spilled food, a task he performs, unasked, with remarkable speed and thoroughness. Unfortunately, this is not a service dog skill.

Retrieve, however, is a service dog skill, and Dempsey is getting much better, though he also tends to do it unasked. The other night, Dempsey was lying at my feet while I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen. He got bored, trotted off, and returned to give me -- a shoe.

"Dempsey," I asked, "what am I supposed to do with a shoe? That's not very useful now, is it?"

He looked very sad and disappointed, probably because I didn't give him a carrot. He trotted off again, and came back, tail wagging, with a sandal. He was sitting holding the sandal, waiting to "give" it to me nicely. "Hi! A left shoe and a right sandal! That's more useful, isn't it?"

That was just too cute! Even though I didn't ask for either, I gave him a carrot anyway.

Eventually, we'll be teaching Dempsey to help people get dressed. I haven't seen the lesson plan yet, but I sure hope it doesn't include fashion advice.

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