There are two vets at the practice I take my dogs to. They’re both wonderful and when I leave the practice, I feel like the luckiest dog owner around. Dr Holds has no doubt seen a lot in his time and although most don’t pick that Sunny is a rescue dog, he saw straight away that she had been recently re-homed. ‘You’re very lucky’ he said, ‘She’s bonded strongly with you. It doesn’t always happen. She’s a really special animal this one. Take very good care of her.’ Sunny was a whole lot more secure by the time we saw Dr Bee Lin, who said to me in her thickly Chinese accented English ‘You won the rescue dog Gold Lottery with this one!’. Sunny beamed and so did I.
People are drawn to her joyous nature. She just looks happy. When she wags her tail her whole body wiggles and her eyes smile. I know I’m anthropomorphising, but I'm telling you, Sunny smiles. She’s so obviously friendly, people often don’t discourage her jumping up on them, in fact some actively encourage it. So, this is one of my major assistance dog training challenges. It’s taken months of positive reinforcement training to stop her from greeting everyone we meet on our daily beach walk by jumping up on them although that said, she’s not that hard to train. Like a lot of rescue dogs, he lives to please me and she’s a pig! It's a great training combination, and I was fairly certain we had the jumping thing down. Until the ‘Titanic incident’ this week.
The beach was pretty deserted and Sunny was off lead when I heard some pretty terrible singing in the distance. A couple of loved-up teenagers are doing the whole 'Titanic thing' on the beach. She's on his back, arms out wide and they’re both singing ‘My heart will go on...’ very loudly and in different keys. This was all too much for the joyous Sunny, who charges into the love action and knocks them flat. She takes their hysterical laughter as a sign to lick them all over and cover them in more sand. The whole incident finishes with the lovebirds taking a selfie with her and yelling out ‘Bye Sunny’. Some more fans to add to the collection.
Another challenge will be the vacuum cleaner. Now, I love my Dyson Pet Stick. I love my Dyson A LOT. In fact, this appliance should be standard issue when you get a Border Collie. But unfortunately, Sunny loves it even more. She barks, she jumps, she bites. Ask Sunny, and she’ll tell you the Dyson Pet Stick is the best out of all the games we play. This didn’t surprise me. My last Border Collie loved the lawnmower and lost several teeth trying to take it on. But his one true obsession, was the ceiling fan. It began when we bought our new house. On settlement day as we wandered around our empty blank slate, I happened to turn on the ceiling fan. ‘Apoplectic’ is the word that springs to mind as Finn launched himself across the empty room at the twirling blades. He twisted and turned almost turning himself inside out as he jumped over and over, coming dangerously close to decapitation. The habit stayed with him all his long life and even when it was turned off you would often find him lying underneath it for long periods of time, gazing up intently at those four blades. We called it his Mecca.
To pass her MindDog Public Access Test in 12 month’s time, Sunny will have to have all these things and many more under control. She will need to be calm in the face of hyped up teenagers, people that want to pat her, food and vacuum cleaners and the like. And although her obedience has come on in leaps and bounds, some things seem a long way off. My mind goes back to parenting a toddler. All those milestones you think are so impossibly far away and then ‘bam’ suddenly your child is walking, talking or is toilet trained. I’m guessing it will be like that. Except for the Dyson. I really don’t know what we are going to do about the Dyson!
Kristen Lawler September 2018