|Still a Destroyer sometimes...|
The testing itself was nerve-wracking for me, the handler. To begin with, there were a dozen dogs in the building. Only a few of them were Toby's classmates. All of the other dogs were complete strangers, and 100% of the canines were reflecting the excitement and anxiety of their handlers.
The registration table was set up opposite the doorway, about 8 feet away. I pulled Toby's leash in close so he had to sit at my feet while I stood at the table filling out the paperwork. While I was distracted another owner allowed her dog to "get in Toby's face". I don't really know what took place, but suddenly Toby gave a VERY uncharacteristic warning growl. We could have failed the test on the spot. Fortunately, the tester who witnessed this incident chose to give Toby another chance to demonstrate his ability to get along with other dogs. She encouraged us to mingle around the room while she observed his interactions with the other pets. Of course I greeted the dogs we already knew first! By the end of about 10 minutes of mingling this tester was smiling and nodding encouragement to me from across the room. Whew!
I'll call the petite lady who was officially in charge of the proceedings the Head Tester. The other two testers were her assistants. She called us to gather around her and quietly reminded us, "Every emotion you are feeling is going right down that leash and into the dog. Relax and try to have fun this afternoon. If you don't pass, no big deal. We give tests frequently and you can try again. Does anyone have any treats? No? Good, because they are not permitted." Then we started the mingling again, but this time helpers were circulating around in wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. Pshaw. Toby couldn't care less about the medical equipment.
There were really only two parts of the test I was worried about. One was the supervised separation. This was the hardest part of the CGC test too. The idea is that Toby has to wait calmly with a total stranger for three minutes while I am out of sight. Can you guess what we had to do first? I got very lucky though. A handler had brought her teenage son and he had been recruited to help out. To my relief, this young man was Toby's "stranger". Toby loves children, and I had overheard the boy being told he could pet, talk to, and play with Toby. Whew again!
Next was sit, down, sit again, stay, and come. Toby is rock solid on those commands, and I was confident. Sure enough, Toby's performance in front of the Head Tester was flawless.
We relaxed on the floor against the wall as the other dogs finished the supervised separation and other commands. Soon it was time to gather in a circle for the testers to approach and handle each dog's ears and feet, then brush each one gently a few times. Toby was brushed by the Head Tester. I reminded her that he was going to want to smell her brush first; I didn't want her to think he was afraid of it. "Oh, of course! I was going to do that anyway." So that was no problem either. Ditto the part where the teenager ran past the line of dogs shrieking like a maniac and waving his arms, and the testers walked behind us banging on pans.
At that point all that remained was the one test I was dreading. The Head Tester placed an aluminum bread pan upside down in the center of the room. She put two Milk Bone treats on top. The only dog in the room who reacted was Toby. He was on his feet instantly, sniffing and pulling toward the treat. So inevitably she chose him to walk by first and "Leave It". Yikes. Hopefully, I asked if it mattered which side we passed the treats on. It did. Toby had to be on the side next to the treats. I tried to walk quickly but no question, I had to pull on the leash to restrain him from gobbling the Milk Bones. The other dogs paraded by in a line with far less trouble. As a result we had to try again and on this second pass I was able to get Toby by with just a quick turn of the head.
The testers conferred at one end of the room while Toby and I waited with the dogs and handlers from his class. No one was certain they had passed. Everyone had had trouble with something, so we encouraged each other and petted each other's dogs as we waited.
Several minutes dragged by before the Head Tester returned to line us up. Everyone passed! She read my name and handed me the Therapy Dog International paperwork to send in. Soon Toby will have his official Therapy Dog license and can start making visits. That will be our next adventure together.
|Toby makes short work of a canine brainteaser.|