It was a lovely day in San Francisco and my class and I had just finished up at the air port for our morning workout with the dogs. All of them had done well going through security and they had taken the various noises of the airport in stride.
Seamus and I were heading out towards the van which would take us back to campus. The students lined up to get aboard and I waited my turn. I was waiting, idly thinking about the rest of my day when suddenly Seamus spun to the left and stared at something, stared hard. I asked him to heel and he did, but his neck was still craned around to the left, his ears pricked intensely forward.
An instructor came over to me and in that calm, confident voice they always seem to have she asked me to put him into a sit. I did. Seamus obediently sat, and yet his head was still pulled to the left as if by some magical tractor beam. The instructor asked me, “He sat, but do you feel like you have his focus?” I said no and she said that I should give him a high collar.
I paused for a second. I wasn’t upset about giving the correction itself. I’d done it many times before with my first guide, a gentle, happy yellow lab who went bonkers around other dogs.
“Guide work…? What the hell is guide work? Mom, don’t you see that other dog? Play play play!”
I was fine with giving the correction, but I didn’t know if this dog could take it. We’d only known each other for 10 days or so and I didn’t know how sensitive he would be. My previous guide, a sweet, willful dog named Torpedo often times did what he wanted, but he could never take a high collar very well. He’d bare it well enough, but whenever I’d needed to do it, I could tell his feelings were hurt.
My other worry was the different training between my previous dog Torpedo and Seamus, the new dog sitting beside me, still staring off into the distance. Seamus had been clicker trained, a more positive form of training than my last two guides had been given and I didn’t know how a correction that severe would effect him.
I looked up at my instructor and asked if it was ok. She said yes and so I pulled the martingail collar up under his ears and chin, the highest point on his neck and gave a quick, pull and release on the collar.
The correction worked. Seamus’s head turned and his focus went back to me. He didn’t seem the worse for wear from it either. To him, it seemed like just another day and in this day, he happened to get a correction. I picked up the harness handle and prepared to move forward towards the van. The instructor told me, with a laugh in her voice, “Do you know what had his attention? A floating piece of fuzz, or lint, about an inch long.”
I still laugh at that incident, and yesterday, it happened again.
I was walking out of the grocery store and seamus led me off a slight curb without stopping. I dropped the harness handle and asked him to heel so we could rework the mistake. He didn’t. He backed up and eventually made it back onto the side walk, but he wasn’t focused on me. Again, I high collared him and his focus returned. I asked my father who was with me, what had Seamus been looking at? Again, it was a piece of fuzz, or lint, blowing around in the wind.
I wish I could ask my dog, what is so facenating about floating, fuzzy things? So far, he isn’t talking. I have a feeling a few more Lint sightings will cross our path throughout our working life together and I’ll be sure to let you all know if they capture his attention. 🙂