Yesterday was Dempsey's anniversary: It was March 27, 2009, that we brought Dempsey home for the first time. To celebrate, we took Dempsey on a train ride downtown on the new Northstar commuter train.
This wasn't his first trip on public transportation; we had warmed up a couple of weeks ago on the parking lot tram at the airport. But even on that very first trip, we think he did well:
It's hard for us to believe how quickly Dempsey has grown up. On this trip, he did everything a service dog should do: pushed the button to open the door to the waiting area; sat calmly by my feet while people boarded the train and ignored the kids yelling "Doggie!"; retrieved keys while the train was moving; did nice braces on the steps and in the restroom to help me get up. Except for trying to chew the strap by the bicycle storage area, he seemed like a real service dog.
This is quite a contrast from the day we met Dempsey, when, we must admit, we had serious doubts about whether he could ever be a service dog. The very first thing Dempsey did when I first picked him up was to pee on my jacket. When I put him down, he pooped on the floor -- and then tried eating it. On the car ride home, he peed in the crate, despite the fact that everyone said puppies are very reluctant to potty in their kennel.
Needless to say, he was quite stinky before we even walked in the door, and our first order of business was to give him a bath. He cried the whole time:
When we finally let him loose on the hardwood floors, he slipped and fell. For the first few hours, he was literally bouncing off the walls every time he tried running and crashed. This little clown is going to be a service dog?
For his part, Dempsey wasn't too impressed with our first-time parenting skills, either. We had been told to feed him a cup and a half of food every day, and when he didn't eat it all, I went into panic mode, thinking I might kill the puppy through starvation, or at least malnutrition. Here's the e-mail exchange I had with Nancy, our endlessly patient instructor:
Paul: We think the puppy is hungry, but he is not eating. On Sunday, he ate about 1 1/4 cup of food total. He has eaten maybe 1/4 cup of kibble for breakfast today. I took him outside to play, and he started eating mulch. Help!!!
Nancy: Is he having stools (are they loose or firm), is he urinating, and is he active? Does he appear to be sick, lethargic in any way?
Paul: Puppy seems healthy. He is not, repeat NOT, lethargic. He is pooping and peeing very, very regularly.
Nancy: Ha, I get the picture, Mr. Wildman?! I think maybe he's just not hungry.
Just not hungry? Well, I hadn't considered that.
Since then, I've learned to relax and not get too freaked out if Dempsey does not eat precisely 1.50 cups of food. For the past couple of months, despite the fact that we haven't measured his treats carefully, he has maintained a mean weight of 69.0 pounds, + 0.5 pound, with a standard deviation of 0.3. See, I've learned to relax! Somewhat.
You've come a long way, baby Dempsey.