Saturday, February 15, 2014

On Our Way to a New Dog!

Today we embarked upon a courtship with a potential new dog. Tajji is a Seeing Eye Dog, a gorgeous sable German Shepherd Dog, who is now 10 years old. (GSDs typically live 9-12 years.) Seeing Eye work is physically as well as mentally demanding, so her owner is looking to retire her to all the delights of "just being a dog." Today we met her and her family (actually, Tajji's mommy plays in one of the bands in which Dave is also a member, which is how we heard about her).

Oh. My. What an amazing and wonderful dog. Dave and I have been looking at one another and wondering how we lucked out. She's got all the intelligence and intensity of a working-line GSD, coupled with sweetness of temper and focus on people. Compared to our old guy, Oka, who was quite aloof, she's outgoing and sociable with people she's just met.You'd never guess she was 10, she moves so freely.

So she'll come to stay with us in just a little bit while her owner travels abroad to places he isn't comfortable taking her, during which time he will make arrangements for a new dog. If all goes as planned, Tajji will just visit us forever.

There will, of course, be Issues. Like many service dogs, she's either "on" = working, or "off" = no rules. We have Rules For Dogs. Some we'll likely relax since she's older, but others we'll work on teaching her. She's a dog we will likely never have to raise our voices to except in emergency. She hasn't had recent cat exposure, so we'll do a step-wise introduction to our two dog-savvy cats, the first part of which has already happened, across either a sliding glass door or a baby gate & leash. Cats not too worried, at least at that distance. We'll also need to quickly address how to walk easily on a leash (as opposed to a working harness). Considering that she is bursting with energy and has been living in a small apartment, and our property is 1/3 acre, with adjacent meadow-for-romping and 3 mi RT walkies into town, it's likely she'll settle happily into a new and more active routine. Our approach, as with other things, will be several-pronged. We'll do our best to set up situations where she gets it right the first time, building on a dog's natural behaviors. We already have a bunch of techniques -- like a using front-clip harness to discourage pulling on the leash. We also have credit for dog classes we didn't use last year with a wonderful positive-technique trainer who can help us with strategies for a happy, successful dog.

Tajji's owners left with many expressions of relief and happiness that she'll be able to retire to a place where "bones rain from the skies" and every day is a new adventure, learning to just be a dog.

I'll be posting our adventures as we go along.

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