September 12, 2010

Back From BlogPaws!

Had a fun Thurs-Fri-Sat at BlogPaws here in Denver, it was a great event! I want to thank all of our friends and readers who brought us a nomination in the Petties Awards. The winners of "Best Cause Related Blog" were the dedicated bloggers at – congratulations, Ashley and Nikki! Ruby and I were so happy to have met you and look forward to working with you on your mission!

We may only have finished as runners-up, but Ruby and I could not have felt more like winners! People from every aspect of this conference – session presenters, fellow bloggers and attendees, vendors, hotel and event staff – expressed incredible interest in Ruby and her training. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to answer some really excellent questions about service puppy raising and to meet some wonderful and caring people. Thank you to everyone who came up to us and spent some time learning about our journey and the role service dogs have in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

But most importantly, how did our Roo behave during her first conference? Well, all in all, I can definitely give her a solid "B." Was she marvelous? NOPE! Did she get restless and do things the likes of which I haven't seen since she was a baby? Ohhhh, yes.

Typo or eerily accurate prediction of a wriggly Roo?

During our first hour-long session, she expressed her displeasure by pawing and rubbing at her Gentle Leader, swimming (yes) across the floor, snuffling under a tablecloth like a pig on a truffle, and chewing on her leash, while giving me the "HAH! What are YOU going to do about it?" eyeballs.

A rare break in the action.

And some of those behaviors kept popping up throughout the three days. But I wasn't really worried. This was a weekend of firsts for her. Crowded rooms with large audiences and loud talking and applause and food and microphones and huge video screens and music and other dogs, cats, small animals and birds in attendance. And the expectation that she had to ignore all of these thousand distractions and just be quiet and still? A lot to ask.

But here's what happened over the three days: with a little help from me, she learned to calm herself. When we were seated and she'd start to go nuts, I'd quietly begin puppy pushups -- softly giving her the "Sit, Down, Stand" commands in rapid succession -- to help her channel that nervous energy and gain her focus. Once she locked in to me, I'd gently rub her snoot or her rump, her favorite places to be petted, so she'd feel that secure and familiar sensation in this unfamiliar place. As she relaxed, I'd put her in a down and make sure to treat her frequently as she gave me the desired behaviors.

Would she stay in that down? At first, no. She'd pop back up and we'd start the cycle again. But each time we went through it, her downs lasted longer. First it was a few seconds, then it was a few minutes. By the last day, during the long lunch and awards session, she started out fidgety (and a million thank yous to the awesome gals who sat on either side of me -- one whose legs got licked and another whose foot was used as a pillow) but Ruby wound up calming herself and eventually going to sleep.

As always, it's the constant repetition of the training that makes all the difference. And, on that note, I have to say how utterly bursting-at-the-seams proud I am of her when it came to interaction with the other dogs at the conference. No lunging, some curiosity and pulling and sniffing, but many times, she'd just out-and-out ignore 'em and walk right by. Can you believe it? She was so good, I put her in a sit next to an unfamiliar dog (with his owner's permission), and snapped a few pix. She couldn't care less. In most of the photos, she's not even looking at him.

Two more things really encouraged me. First, she responded very well to the "Heel" command, like, almost military style. Second, she made some great progress with "Under." She's not got it fully down pat yet, so instead of adding another challenge to the already challenging conference rooms (and to give her a break from all the din), I kept taking her into the bathroom to practice. We were in and out of there so often, people must think I had some sort of near-fatal bladder issue, but who cares! Look at my girl! Settled under and stayed while I'd wash my hands, walk around the room, freshen the make-up, chat with other gals in the ladies' room...she didn't move a muscle till I released her.

Oh, and how 'bout this? "Sit/Stay" with dropped leash while waiting in a busy line. Didn't budge.

It really was a win-win – we met some great people and had our most unique and challenging training experience yet!


The Thundering Herd said...

Sounds like a total blast and congratulations to Ruby on such great behavior and learnings. And, of course, congratulations on the honor.

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

WOW, what an awesome experience! Way to go Ruby (er, Rubby!) :D

Fiona, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

Great job, Ruby! (Rubby? Heehee!) Sounds like it was an excellent trip for both of you! And Ruby, you are doing things that I don't think we could do in a million years!

*kissey face*
-Fiona and Abby the Hippobottomus

PeeEss: We are engaged in shameless self-promotion; if you haven't voted for Abby's Hippobottomus tag and would like to offer your support, we'd love your vote (it's on the right side-bar): Thanks!

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom said...

Khongrats to Rubby and her Razor ;-)

We are glad to see you had such a great time!

As for Ruby's solid B, do you have any idea what grade Khyra would get?

SNICKERING from here!

Kari in WeHo said...

Sounds like it was a really fun event :)


Tamara said...

Just want to say 'HI' to you and Ruby :) It was such an honor to meet you at Blogpaws. I'm glad it was a good experience, and good learning experience, for you both. When Lucky joined his person on stage during the CCI keynote, I kept thinking of Ruby and her amazing future - which she will have, because of the wonderful start you have given her :)

Lori Jablons said...

You girls are total winners! So cool that you and Roo got to experience this and meet new, groovy people. Way to go, girls!!

Anonymous said...

Well girls you are winners in our book. It was a great experience for all,but most of all you all had fun.
Ruby keep up the good work. You are a cutie

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

Nothing wrong with a "B", and now you learned where Ruby might need some extra practice. It sounds like you as the Raiser handled her just right. We would love to have gone too, but it was a bit too far away. We are so glad you all had a good time.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Deborah Flick said...

Beautiful post! I'm so sorry we didn't meet up. I don't know how in the world I missed Ruby!

Ruby's Raiser said...

Deborah, so sorry to have missed you too! Hope you had a great time!

1000 Goldens said...

Puppy Push Ups - I love that!! Good girl Roo-Roo, I can't sit still at conferences either so I understand being fidgety :)

Starr Hendon said...

I love reading the progress you two are making. It's a wonderful thing you're doing :)