Monday, March 7, 2016

Trooper's roots

All I knew about the origins of Trooper, my shaggy little black service schnoodle, was that he came from an animal shelter in Bakersfield, California. Last week I wrote to Paula Lysinger, who travels around the West looking for suitable candidates for training at Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point, Oregon, and asked her what she knew about him as well as why she chose him.

Her response:

“He was a stray that arrived at the City of Bakersfield Animal Care and Control on May 22, 2015, at approximately one year of age. I adopted him on May 29.

“He was a friendly, outgoing little guy who greeted me at the kennel gate with wags and a ‘pick ME’ attitude. I met him in a small fenced yard where I tested him for suitability for the program. 

“The testing included handling (feet, ears, mouth, pet gently, scratch, pick up, put down), reaction to a loud noise and a sudden movement (it's okay to be startled but the dog needs to recover quickly), food motivation (takes treats), toy motivation (plays with toys), a prey drive test in which I swing a floppy toy attached to a long line in front of the dog (okay to be interested, but not overly so) and a food guarding test in which I take away a tasty treat (no growling!). 

“Prior to this, I watched a staff member take him from the kennel and walk him past the other dogs to the yard. He was eager to get out and ignored the other dogs he passed.

“I thought he might be suitable (and I was right!) and adopted him. He had no health problems and was in good shape when I got him.”

Sounds like Trooper, all right. Ten months later, he may be showing a higher prey drive than he did at first—whenever he spots a squirrel on our walks, he quickly alerts and jerks the leash a bit, but when told to stand down (“Let him alone!” I say) he does not pull, and when we walk past the squirrel’s tree he quickly returns to heeling properly.

When we get up to our cabin in the woods on Lake Superior in May, it will be interesting to watch how Trooper treats the many chipmunks on the property. We are having a 25 foot by 35 foot mesh fence erected in the yard for a dog run, and some of the chippies are bound to stray inside.

I like the cute little 'munks and hope Trooper does not nail any, but if he should score a red squirrel or two—they are terribly destructive pests—I will not mourn.

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