Hard work pays off. We have been training our dogs to be therapy dogs for quite some time. Tanker and Topher were well trained and probably ready for their tests by January, but I felt that taking a class would benefit us so that we could work around other dogs. Topher gets intimidated by bigger dogs. Tanker is fine with all dogs. We enrolled in a Canine Good Citizen class in order to get the experience of doing obedience work around other dogs in a controlled environment.
The CGC class we enrolled in lasted six weeks. We started with eight dogs in the class. We ended with five. Two were German Shepherds, a pit bull, and then there was us little guys. Although we had a little trouble in a couple of classes, Wes and I both learned to read our dogs better and anticipate their needs in stressful situations.
Tonight was our final class and test. I tested with Tanker and Wes tested with Topher. Because the Canine Good Citizen test only tests the dog, not the dog and handler team, I felt more comfortable letting Wes test with Topher. Topher did not completely overcome his fear of bigger dogs and because we had to test with a buckle collar, I felt more comfortable with Wes handling Topher. I also have a fear of big dogs because I was bit when I was younger. My lack of confidence around big dogs travels down the leash to Topher and makes him more nervous. When using a harness, I do better with Topher, but harnesses are not allowed for CGC testing. Anyhow, in order to give Topher the confidence he needed in the neutral dog portion of the test, Wes tested with him tonight. I tested with Tanker.
We started out in a small room with two other dogs while waiting to be brought in for our test. Believe it or not, Topher and Tanker did really well around the other dogs. We then proceeded into the gym to take our test. Tanker and Topher did excellent on all portions of the test. Topher did not do perfect during the neutral dog portion, but he did well enough to pass CGC standards. When Wes and Topher got close to the other dog, Topher yelped. He did not cross Wes' center line or even try to though. He remained heeling. I could tell he was stressed because he licked his lips some. Wes did not feel like Topher responded his best to him. Topher (Creeper Bear) was focused on me. I trained Topher and he is very partial to me. Most Australian Cattle Dogs are partial to one handler. Topher will work for anybody, but only while he keeps his eyes on me. For that reason, it was good for Topher to test with Wes. It's good to challenge a dog so that he doesn't stay so partial to one person that he won't listen to anyone else. Tanker, of course, did great on all portions of the test. Tanker is so good though that he could pass the CGC test with a child.
In the end, five of the seven dogs that tested tonight passed. As we were leaving, the trainer told us how proud she was of Topher and Tanker. She asked us to take a picture of them, write a short blurb about their training, and send it to her for her website. We felt honored to be asked.
We have one more test to take before Tanker and Topher can be called therapy dogs. It is our Delta Society pet partner evaluation. It is very similar to our CGC test. I am confident that we can pass it. I am allowed to use a harness on Topher, so I will test with him, of course. He is my partner and I feel that we will make a great therapy dog team. Tanker and Wes are, of course, an outstanding team as well.
I owe a lot of gratitude to many people for helping us get to where we are.
First off, thank you Wes for always having confidence in me, for encouraging me, for coaching me, for being patient with me, and for believing in our dreams of helping others. Thank you for never giving up and for always being a hard worker. You are an inspiration to me and you keep me going everyday. I love you with all my heart.
Thanks to my amazing parents for instilling a love for animals in me. Thanks for fostering that love by allowing me to have more animals than we were probably legally allowed to have in one house. Thank you for always encouraging me to train my own horses rather than buying them already trained. The skills I learned from training horses while growing up with no doubt helped me to train Topher and Tanker.
Thank you to Michelle and Georgia Humane Society for having the heart to rescue Topher from the animal shelter and for giving him a second chance. Without you, Topher wouldn't even be alive today.
Thank you Laura (with Georgia Humane Society) for fostering Topher. You have got so much compassion for animals and you did not give up on Topher despite the difficulties you had in your beginning days with him. Thank you Echo for being Topher's dog therapy dog. Thanks to Laura's kids for loving Topher, playing with Topher, and letting him love you as much as he did. It was the picture of you laying with Topher on the bed that caught my eye and made me believe that Topher was the right dog for us.
Lastly, thank you Kris for being our mentor. Thank you for allowing us to shadow you. Thank you for believing in me despite my difficulties. Thank you for pointing us in the right direction. Thank you for the training tips. Thank you for all the volunteer opportunities you have opened up for us. You are an inspiration to us and I know we are going to do great things in the future together.