Sometimes I think that my faithful little service dog has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to his Mistressâ€”me.
When he picked me out at only eight weeks of age he had no clue that I would prove to be so severely untrainable and such a major frustration at times. Had he known he would have probably played dead or done nothing but scream his little head off the moment he met me instead of curling against me and saying with those expressive eyes of his, â€œOkay, you will do.â€
Our training started that very same day with the introduction of the puppy litter pan, his place to go inside the house for days when I cannot manage getting down to the yard in a timely manner for a tiny pup with a bladder the size of a thimble. We had and have a regular dog litter pan, but he was so very tiny that he could not climb into it and we had to start him out using an old cookie sheet with a low lip and the ever present puppy pads. It only took him about an hour to figure this out and by the end of that first night I was delighted to see him race over to the pan to do his business which was accompanied with much praise and festivities.
I am lucky that Loki has always been a dream to train, taking to new tasks with gusto and watching the light in his eyes when all of a sudden it clicks.
â€œOhâ€¦ that sound and that hand motion means I am to bring you the phone! Well, I can do that!â€
Quickly he picked up â€œmark itâ€ meaning to press his nose to the item I pointed at, which then made learning how to turn on and off touch lamps a breeze. Every simple task was built on to more and more complex tasks and he always showed joy when things clicked in his growing mind. He has not only given me a helping paw when I drop things or need something, but he is a huge emotional support; helping me to keep calm and giving me comfort when feeling bad. I cry and he howls right along with me, I have a bad day and he does every cute thing he can think of to try to get me to laugh. In his training he also learned â€˜tricksâ€™ such asâ€”stick them up followed by a bang where he hams it up in a death scene, staggering then falling over (though sometimes he ducks, tail wagging as if to say, â€œYou missed.â€), playing a small toy piano and his personal favorite â€œGo snort Daddyâ€ where he will run to my husband and jump against him, snorting loudly.
He also suffers from some pretty major health concerns and has pancreatitis, meaning that he follows a strict fat free diet and at times has attacks that mean trips to the vet and days of vomiting and diarrhea which always scare me silly. How many people can say that they share their antacids with their dogs? When he is feeling a little belly ache he will bring me the bottle for a quarter of one of my tabs, but will not touch it until he sees me eat the other part!
His biggest problem in the world is that while he is well trained, I seem to be very slow in his estimation.
He will patiently bring me the same item over and over as I drop it on days when my hands just are not working, racing for the item the moment I point at it and say, â€œBring itâ€ (he will not do it until asked, necessary because I do not want him to try to bring any medications that I might drop) and bring it straight to me, dropping it on my lap or in my hand. The first two or three times he will get the item with his usual wagging tail and smiling eyes, but after the third retrieval of the same item in a short amount of time his expression will change. The tail will stop wagging and he will start delivering the item with a little more force behind it. If I do not stop dropping it he will soon start tossing it into my lap with a very disgusted look on his face as if to say, â€œThis is not a game, stop playing around.â€ If I refuse to listen to him he will eventually turn his back on me and ignore me for a few minutes to teach me a lesson since I obviously refuse to listen. He will eventually get me the item, but he will throw it at me and then take off to parts unknown in utter doggie disdain, giving me a time out.
I do believe that he would be most grateful if he could find me a good trainer to break me of this bad habit because obviously he cannot do it on his own.