The Lions Club of Canada has a building, a few minutes walk away from where we live, which is devoted to training service dogs for vision, hearing, seizure response, autism and diabetic alert needs. The dogs are provided at no charge and, as The Dog Guides are dependent on corporate and individual financial support, one of their fund raising events is a dog walk!
When Ray first came to live with us, we soon realized the value of having the The Dog Guides so close. We were often meeting their dogs in a nearby park, or on a sidewalk, while they were being trained. It took so much pressure off Ray (and us) when we knew that an approaching dog was being trained responsibly, and will generally show little interest in Ray. Given his reactive nature and total distrust of other dogs at that time, it was an invaluable experience for him to keep meeting either puppies (future guides) or older dogs in training.
Last Saturday was the Walk for Dog Guides and, as in the past few years, we have entered and enjoyed watching so many congenial interactions between all the dogs participating. Ray’s only issue was his memory! He remembered that they serve food afterwards, and was very hesitant to leave their building area to start the walk. He seemed a little dejected as we moved further away from the location, but soon picked up his pace when he realized that we were heading downtown, and was excited when he realized that we were heading back to the Dog Guides building!
Our local Fire Department had a fire truck on display as part of the proceedings, and one particular fireman was giving any passing dog lots of attention… including Ray. He started by stroking him and scratching Ray’s head (Ray was very good!). The fireman then went into a squat position so his face was very close to Ray’s face… and continued to make a fuss of him (Ray seemed very relaxed, but we were a little apprehensive as we discourage such close contact). Before we could say anything, the fireman wrapped his arms around Ray and hugged him… and Ray was fine with it!
Carol and I are the only ones that have ever been able to hug Ray! He has lunged and barked at numerous people who may have shown an inclination to hug him, but his behavior at that moment totally surprised us. We would assume that it was mainly because of the totally low key and friendly atmosphere, his experience over the past few years, and probably because the fireman took total control and Ray was comfortable with that!
Below is a pic taken after the walk had finished:
Needless to say, we were very happy with the Ray’s “performance”. He has certainly come a long way in his interactions with people he does not know, as well as other dogs!