All roads may be leading us to Gracie getting her Canine Good Citizen Certification (CGC) but nobody said we had to arrive at that destination tomorrow. Given yesterday’s trip to the vet’s office for a scheduled well visit, we’ll be taking the way of the turtle: s-l-o-w and steady with a part of every day set up to guarantee at least one success.
We did make sure to eliminate a lot of the paperwork shuffling before we got there. Last week my son and I loaded Gracie up into his car and drove over the the vets so that Gracie could sniff the place out and meet a few of the staff. That experience went rather well including having her step up on a scale so that her weight could be recorded. Not only did we make sure to arrive at a time when the office would be really quiet (the lunch hour) we made sure that we’d scheduled Gracie’s well visit when the clinic’s afternoon office hours, knowing that the office would be relatively calm.
As we let Gracie out of the car, I coached my son. “Say her name and heel and remember to ask her to wait when you get to the door.”
This was familiar language for Gracie. We’d started working with her on the second day that she became a part of our family. Twelve days later, she knows what’s expected of her when she hears “wait” and “heel.”
We spent 10 minutes in the reception area. Gracie got to sit and watch – which she likes doing when she’s in a new situation. And one of the vet techs came out to meet her. She heeled really nicely across the reception space and down a short hallway. As soon as she entered the exam room, she shut down. Kind of like she flipped a switch and turned off her happy self. She sat on the floor, velcro-ed to my son. Three minutes later, she lowered her boxy head between her two front paws and hunkered down. That was the moment when our vet walked in.
I’ve known him for more than 20 years. Not only has he been the vet for all of my family dogs, he came on board as the first vet to help with the foster program of the ex-racing greyhound adoption program that I helped to start. So, between us, we’ve shared a lot of dogs.
He leaned over the exam counter and looked down at Gracie. For the rest of the exam, the closest he came to touching her was to offer her a treat from the glass jar on the counter or one of the treats that we brought (dried flank steak pieces). He spent a fair amount of time with us, not being in a rush to get on to the next client; but he wasn’t going to put his hands on her either. We talked about her paper trail – the written medical history that started when she was turned in to Rochester Animal Services (RAS) this past December all the way up to April 5th of this year, Gracie’s official adoption date from Lollypop Farm.
We talked about socialization, how she’d already been evaluated by the canine behaviorist at Lollypop Farm, how she got to be the “meet and greet” dog at Lollypop Farm with the other shelter dogs because she likes other dogs and how she’s never shown any aggression towards other dogs or to people.
He looked at the cut of her ears and said, “Somebody spent a lot of money on this dog.”
And, at some point during our conversation he also said, “These types of dogs have a reputation … and right now, I’d be reluctant to treat her.” He’s never said that to me in all of the years that my dogs have been coming to see him and the rest of his staff.
Gracie lay on the floor with her boxy head between her front paws and registered no emotions at all.
We talked about bringing her back to the vets office when either of our other dogs had to come in for routine care. Then we were done. Except for picking up a year’s worth of heart guard for Gracie out at the front desk. Gracie stuck close to my son’s ankles, and leaned into him as we stood at the desk. I noticed a woman and her dog sitting on the bench where we’d sat with Gracie as we waited our turn to see Dr M. The woman’s arm was draped over a rather large, hound-looking dog, strikingly marked with black patches over a white undercoat. As the dog barked deeply and very loudly, the woman leaned into the dog’s face to whisper into its ear before kissing him along the side of his snout. The dog didn’t stop barking.
I looked down and watched as Gracie’s tail tucked even further underneath her and said to my son, “Why don’t you take Gracie outside while I finish here.” As my son and Gracie heeled toward the main door, the black and white dog saw Gracie and the level of that dog’s barking ratcheted up another 20 decibels. And Gracie slunk lower to the floor. “Turn around and take her out the side door,” I quickly admonished my son as the woman with the black and white dog continued to stroke her dog’s head.
Not five minutes after my son and Gracie disappeared out the side door, the door to the exam room closest to where I was standing, opened and another dog charged out into the reception area with its
hapless clueless owner behind it. The pair moved to the side of the front desk closest to the main reception area which put them in direct eye contact with the other clueless dog owner and her black and white dog. The second dog strained at its leash, barking furiously while it’s owner quietly reacted. “Don’t do that. Stop. That’s why I can never take you to the dog park.” The black and white dog’s barking added to the din and it sounded like I was standing in the middle of 100 angry dogs.
(The purpose of the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluation is for a dog/handler team to demonstrate responsible dog ownership and to encourage the training of well-mannered dogs. Two of the things that dogs must be able to do is to walk nicely on a loose leash and to react appropriately to another dog.)
I joined my son and Gracie out in the parking lot. “Let’s get Gracie into the car,” I said. “There’s a really stupid woman who can’t control her dog who’s about to come outside.” With Gracie safely in the back seat, we sat in the car and let the mood settle itself. As we watched, the side door that my son, Gracie and I had all used to leave the clinic opened. T. (one of the more experienced staff members who helped to manage the front desk) escorted that stupid woman and her dog outside. We watched as her dog strained at the end of its leash, all four paws scrambling down the sidewalk. Making no attempt to control the dog, the woman flung open the passenger side door to the car and her dog jumped into the front seat.
Gracie sat attentively in the back seat of my son’s car, watching.
Find us over on my Happy Dog Tails community Facebook page and join our “CGC Awareness Campaign.” You can post photos of your dogs and tell your CGC stories. Help us educate the world so that there are no more “stupid dog people.”
Come on over to Facebook and let me know what you think! Or leave your comment here. Together we can make a difference!