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Being judged = never easy

June 3, 2010

For those who have never met Miki, she’s a loveable miniature American Eskimo that stands about 13″ tall and weighs about 16 lbs (1/3 of which is fluffy, white fur). Being Miki’s owner has been a trip in many ways, but one thing I’ve noticed recently is that nobody can look at her without smiling. Kids can’t wait to wrap their arms around her and give her a hug, the elderly get big grins, and multitudes of people stop to ask me more about my friendly little dog. She’s even got the schtick down pat – she’ll plunk down in a sit in front of anybody and give them puppy eyes. Melt, hearts, melt.

I figured that it’s only “fair” to share Miki – I have been blessed with so much and she is someone in my life that I can bring into other peoples’ lives. I did some research into groups in Calgary and one shone through, regardless of what Google search I was conducting: Pet Access League Society. I got in touch with the group at the beginning of March and, luckily, managed to fit into their spring intake.  I interviewed at the beginning of April and, against all odds, they figured I wasn’t a crazy person and passed me through to the second step.

On Sunday, May 2, Miki and I attended a pet screening for PALS. While the first interview was for me, this appointment was to test Miki on her behaviour and social skills.

Let’s interject a little humour into this blog post. White, fluffy puppy… white, fluffy fur that almost touches the ground at her belly… white fluffy paws… As a way to tire Miki out before the screening (I figured it might make her a little less energetic and, therefore, more likely to behave – I’m a CHEATER) I took her for an off-leash walk at the Southland Dog Park. We did an awesome job of keeping her away from puddles at the park for the first 3/4, but next to the BIGGEST and LAST puddle of the walk, I unhooked her from the leash and, instead of going to play with the other dogs like I expected, she did a U-turn and plowed right into the puddle.

ARGH!!!

So, instead of having an entire hour to grab my first meal of the day, take a leisurely drive up to the NE for the screening and generally be relaxed, I had to rush to a dog wash (no time to go home) and try to clean her off, then to a pet store to buy a new brush and try to make her look like less of a drowned rat, and then madly drive up Deerfoot so as not to be late. Oh, did I mention that I did my makeup in the mirror at red lights for the first time ever AND my clothes were slightly dirty from the dog washing? Best. Day. Ever.

Back to the screening – I show up, slightly dishevelled but on-time, and Miki is absolutely energetic: tugging at the leash, wanting to explore everywhere (and everyone), jumping up on people – these are all things discouraged at the pet screening and I’m still in the waiting room. There are about 7 of us to start with and then, after the screeners have graded us on our waiting room etiquette, we were pulled into rooms individually to do more tests. In short, her health and grooming was looked at, behaviour around equipment like crutches and wheelchairs, reaction to being squeezed, what she does around loud noises and how gently she takes treats from a person.

We passed! (conditionally – Miki and I need to work on her exuberance a little, and she needs to use fewer teeth and more tongue when accepting treats).

I have to say, though – the test was incredibly difficult! More than one dog/owner failed the screening (you are informed of what went wrong and given a chance to correct it and come back for the next intake’s screening), which surprised me. And I felt completely helpless as Miki’s handler – she was completely in charge of her own reactions and behaviour and all I could do was hold the leash. I imagine that this is what parents must feel like when their children are participating in a sport or writing a test – there for moral support but useless to actually affect the result. I did my best to train her, give her commands, let her know what I do or do not find appropriate. There have been outside influences – people who allow her to jump up on them because it’s “cute”, other dogs that spur on a fit of barking or wanting to play. But when it all comes down to it, it’s Miki’s decision to act how she wants, although some may think I’m giving her more credit than a dog deserves. Another learning experience to add to my portfolio.

Has anyone ever experienced something like this with their pet? Parents – do you agree/disagree with my comparison of this experience being similar to one with children?

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