Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing the dog petal

Spring (fever) is here! While the cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington, DC and 7 million tulips are blooming at Keukenhof, it's still bare here in Minnesota.

We really shouldn't complain. This March was the first since 1878 that no snow fell. About this time last year, our neighbors were putting up an Easter bunny... snowman. We're still trying to adjust to how cold it is in Minnesota.

But still: A lack of snow alone does not spring make. We need flowers!

Fortunately, there are places to see flowers in the spring. On Easter Sunday, we took Dempsey to the spring flower show at the Como Park Conservatory. It was packed, but Dempsey did beautifully. His best, though least interesting, skill was staying out of the way, and ignoring all the people who ignored the "Please Don't Pet" sign he has on his pack.

You can't tell from this picture, but Dempsey stayed close without me pulling on his leash:

And now that he's older, Dempsey can enjoy flowers without eating them.

We thought the temperature in the greenhouse was fabulous, but after about half an hour, Minnesota-born Dempsey disagreed.

The most fun skill we practiced was "switch": having Dempsey get up on his hind legs, and push a switch with his front paws to open a door. At the conservatory, there are two open-air elevators -- wheelchair lifts, really -- that take people down to the sunken garden.

Unfortunately, only one of them was working on Easter. Normally, this isn't too big a deal: When you finish walking around the garden, you can just turn around and go back. But not with the crowds on Easter Sunday -- going backwards, you'd be paddling hard upstream.

The really unfortunate thing is, we saw a woman in a wheelchair who had to do this. She didn't know that the "up" elevator wasn't working, so after she got to the end of the sunken garden, she had to turn her wheelchair around, and then go back, against the crowd, to the only working elevator. And because she had limited hand mobility, she was steering with her teeth.

I'm still stunned at how well she maneuvered a large, 500-pound wheelchair down a narrow path without hitting anyone. There's a good reason why the rehabilitation and resource center in Minnesota is called the Courage Center: It takes a lot of skill, determination, and courage to go places when you face so many barriers. Whenever I get selfish and think I'd like to keep Dempsey for myself, I'll think of that woman.

Though they're nothing like the challenges the woman in the wheelchair faced, Dempsey had his own challenge at the Macy's flower show: the door switched mounted on a glass wall.

The first time I asked Dempsey to rise and activate a switch on a glass wall, he just stared at the switch. Then he looked at me, smiled, and wagged his tail: This is a joke, right?

Apparently, the glass-mounted door switch is the doggie equivalent of the visual cliff. We had to practice a lot at home on the sliding glass door, with lots of treats, praise, and encouragement, but Dempsey can now activate a switch that's mounted above glass:

Dempsey seems to know that pushing the switch opens the door. Sometimes, when he hasn't pressed hard enough, he'll jump up again on his own, and, staring at the door, pound the switch with his paws until the door opens. We didn't get this on video, but it's really cute. He reminds me of Snoopy: BAM, BAM, BAM.

Dempsey was an angel at the Macy's flower show, and we were actually able to enjoy the flowers without watching Dempsey 100% of the time.

Happy spring everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful.... the pictures and words were a joy to see and read... :O)