Dempsey hasn't had very many adventures lately, because we've been working on the "relaxation protocol." It sounds like an uptight scientist's definition of "vacation," but actually the "relaxation protocol" is a trainer geek's 12-step program for chillin' out.
You see, Dempsey needs a special program to relax. He's terrific at all his service dog skills, but like his parents, he has a hard time just kicking back with nothing to do. Without a cue or a toy, Dempsey gets very fidgety.
This is a problem because so much of a service dog's work entails waiting. Boring conference calls, long sermons, chick flicks -- Dempsey has to learn to sleep through these things, like the rest of us do.
Being Type-A parents, we're worried Dempsey will flunk out of service dog school because of his hyperactivity. We haven't told him (we like to set high expectations for our boy), but we've started thinking of alternate careers, in case the service dog gig doesn't work out.
Shoe shine boy
In Istanbul (which, by the way, is a wonderful city you should visit), there are dozens of shoe shine boys by every tourist attraction. It doesn't matter if you're an American wearing sneakers; they'll come up to you, tug your sleeve, and ask "Shoe shine? Shoe shine?" They're very persistent, and sometimes you'll give them a few lira just to leave you alone. This could be Dempsey!
Ever since he has learned "tug," he's been very eager to help you take off your glove, sock, or jacket. Now that it's colder, Doreen and I walk around with our socks on, and Dempsey follows us around everywhere, staring at our socks. If we sit down, Dempsey sits too, but after a few minutes, he'll nudge us and look at our socks. He is just dying to take them off. This is when we we give him an extraneous task (sit, drop, shake), and give him a little treat for that, just like tossing a lira to a shoe shine boy to leave you alone.
Of course, "sock tugger" would only work in a place where tourists walk around with socks and no shoes. We've heard there are places like this in California, though they tend to be run by cult leaders.
Supermarket mop boy
You know how sometimes you'll be grocery shopping, and you'll hear over the P.A., "Cleanup in aisle 6"? This could be Dempsey!
Dempsey has remarkable hearing. Verily, if a treat falls in the forest and no one hears it, Dempsey will. Dempsey isn't very interested in metaphysics, but he can refute Bishop Berkeley as well as Dr. Johnson can.
If Dempsey got this job, supermarkets could save money on mops and buckets, and there wouldn't be any announcements to interrupt the beautiful Muzak. Dempsey would just magically appear. On the negative side, Dempsey's cleanups invariably leave a pool of drool: "Cleanup in aisle 6!"
Fancy drawers these days have a self-closing mechanism, so that if you leave a drawer partially open, it shuts itself. We don't have fancy drawers, because we have Dempsey!
Because he's such an entrepreneurial little fellow, always looking for tasks that will earn him treats, he goes on regular patrol now through the kitchen, looking for drawers that need to be shut. When he spots one, he'll sit patiently by it, till we see him and tell him to "push" it shut.
We like to think this is because we have the cue on stimulus control, but in all honesty, Dempsey is a smart little guy, and he knows he'll only get credit for the work if we see him do it.
I suppose Dempsey could find a job as a replacement for self-closing drawers, but to be really honest, he's not as convenient.
Our homework the other week had a really cute picture of how a dishwasher really works. This could be Dempsey!
Ever since he's seen "An Irritating Truth," Al Gore's documentary (like we said, we're trying to get him to sleep through these things, like the rest of us), Dempsey has been trying to convince us to go green by unplugging the dishwasher and letting him clean the dishes. He is convinced there is a market for sustainable doggie dishwashing services. We haven't yet persuaded him that the health inspector has a different opinion.
Hmm. None of these alternate careers really works, does it? I guess we just need to work harder on relaxing.