Sunday, November 7, 2010

Maxie's CGC/TDI Certification - Pet Therapy

The first "title" Maxie acquired, back in October 2008, was when he passed his Canine Good Citizen test.  After 6 weeks of training with Robbie Avery, an LCCOC club member who "teaches you to pass the test" once a year, in the fall, a judge was flown in to administer the test.  There were about 12 dogs enrolled.  Maxie passed with no problems and within a few weeks we made our first Pet Therapy visit to Charlie's Place, where lo and behold I found Gracie, a past employee of mine, now suffering from Alzheimers.  We visited again and I brought my husband to meet her (see photo).  I brought her some home made jam, as I recall (in the bag).

The CGC Test consists of some basic Obedience -- long sit, walking on leash without pulling, coming when called, greeting a friendly stranger, not jumping up on people or growling,  accepting being touched, brushed, and having paws held, leaving food alone, able to be separated from owner for 5 minutes without distress.  Some dogs failed, especially on this last one.  The owner leaves the dog with the judge and disappears behind a tree or car.  Some dogs have such anxiety separation, they start whining, barking, or tugging, but the judge does not interact with them in any way except to hold their leash.  I found this to be the most difficult part of the test because it is unnatural to teach your dog to go off with a stranger and not protest, and unnatural for someone (in this case, the judge) not to reassure and comfort a distressed dog.  And oddly, it really hurts the owner to be separated from their dog.  I almost cried.  I kept asking someone near me to look and tell me "How's he doing?  Is he alright?"  Maxie looked steadily in my direction, but otherwise sat there pleasantly.  What else can a 7 lb dog do?

I was so proud of Maxie's first AKC title, which goes behind his name thus:

Ace Maximillion von Fry, CGC

Unfortunately, nobody mentioned we had to turn in the paperwork within 30 days, so by the time I got around to it my certification had become invalid.  I had to wait a whole year and take the test again in October of 2009, another $30, to finally get Maxie officially certified (for life).  I was bummed out because this snaffu could have been avoided if I had just been apprised of what is in the fine print.

Nevertheless, we immediately started participating in Pet Therapy thru my dog club, and in 2009 we retested and got it, but then I failed to turn in my results to Tracey Roth, who makes up our club's plaques and awards for each dog and passes them out at the Christmas Party, so Maxie didn't get a plaque!  My fault.  I still I didn't understand the system.

This year, end of 2010, Maxie will have hopefully earned 6 AKC agility titles, and his full AKC name will read:
Ace Maximillion von Fry, CGC AX AXJ

That's Canine Good Citizen, Agility Excellent, and Agility Excellent Jumpers, representing two years of work on our part!  As the dog goes up in difficulty, the previous title is replaced, so NA (Novice Agility) gets replaced with OA (Open Agility), which gets replaced with AX (Agility Excellent).  In other words AX implies 3 titles, not just one.  Next year, Maxie and I will try for MX (Master Excellent Agility) and MXJ (Master Excellent Jumpers), each of which requires 10 Q's (perfect runs) to obtain.  The others each required 3 Q's, so MX is about the same as all the work that went before.

In this dog titling world, there are a lot of rules that have to be learned.  Guess it's the same with anything but it would be good to have a mentor to carry you "over the river and thru the stream".
In fact, that's what I'd like to see our LCCOC "sponsors" do when they agree to sign a new member's application.  They should be agreeing to "watch your back" for awhile until you learn how to fend for yourself.

The Therapy Dog International (TDI) membership is just something to pay for every year and get a medallion and a scarf your dog can wear when doing Pet Therapy if they're big enough to wear it.  They both swallow Maxie. You have to have CGC certification to obtain your TDI.  I've since learned that the nursing homes and hospitals don't much care if your dog is CGC or TDI "certified".  They are so glad to have visitors and entertainment for their patients, you can bring your cat, dog, bird!  Whatever!  My cousin Scott's girlfriend, Annette, runs an outfit called Oodles of Poodles, and she and her 4 toy poodles visit one particular nursing home regularly in the New Orleans area.  Her dogs aren't "certified" -- they're just clean, friendly, cute, full of entertaining antics, and she provides treats which the patients give them with enthusiasm.  Click here to see her flyer and a cool dog poem. Click here to see a heartwarming video of her recent visit with her poodles interacting with the patients.

Willow and me at Obedience school,
trying to make her sit.
Sometimes I think we wring the joy out of life with too many rules.  My Willow is the very best therapy dog and everyone loves her.  She is soft and sweet and beautiful and loves to lick your face, but no way could she pass the CGC test.  Sitting on command!  HA!  Walking on a loose leash?  HA HA!  Staying in a sit while I walk away?  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!  But, the world would be poorer if I didn't take Willow along with Maxie on our visits to the nursing homes.  First, Willow wows them with her friendliness, then Maxie, friendly but not as friendly as Willow, does his amazing parlor tricks.  Tricks that I've never been able to train Willow to do -- not even one.  So, we have a 1-2 punch act, and I swear the staff gathers about and laughs and loves our visits more than the patients do.

Of course, the day an unruly dog goes in and bites some patient's face off, or some dog swallows a deadly pill he finds on the hospital floor, then come the rules.  And more rules.  And more rules, trying to avoid every conceivable accident, making it almost impossible to do anything without fear.  All "certification" is fear-based, isn't it.  Ah me, where is my mind going?  Let me end this right here and now.  Make happy talk, think happy thoughts, go plant more lettuce, shallots, bok choy and broccoli in my garden.

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