In the morning we packed up our things, tearfully left the puppies at Doglando (no pets allowed at the Zoo!) and went to the Brevard Zoo to see how people work with other animals. We got to see meerkats and siamangs and even meet some giraffes on the Zoo’s giraffe-eye-level feeding platform. Everybody got to feed a giraffe a lettuce leaf. The giraffe’s head was almost as long as some of the campers were tall!
When we got home we went swimming very quickly one last time and then went to work cleaning out the barn for graduation which started promptly at 4:00. Almost 50 people were there, including everybody’s parents and even members of the community interested in adopting the campers’ dogs. For the graduation presentation every camper showed a video about his or her dog, and then all the campers got up, got their dogs, and demonstrated all the things we learned over the last two weeks. Everybody did great, at door exercises, crate exercises, cone exercises, bed exercises and even at loose leash walking! We have all learned so much!
At the end of the day we paused to say goodbye to our camp dogs. These dogs come to us from local shelters (in this case, Pet Rescue by Judy) and for two weeks, the dogs think that this is their new life, and we are their new owners. We are very sorry that we now have to make the dogs sad by sending them back to the shelter, but dogs who have been trained at Camp Doglando always eventually get adopted, and are never sent back to the shelter once they are adopted — they have great training and great manners and every single one of them is fantastic with kids, a wonderful pedigree to get them the best new homes and keep them there.
On the bright side, Bella’s new family was here today to take her home after graduation, and Steven’s family adopted Diesel, who also went home right then and there! Five other dogs have meet and greets scheduled soon. Success!
Today we worked on loose leash walking some more (it’s very hard!). Then we added some new tricks — “bed exercises”, which emphasize the dog lying down on a dog bed while the handler works on distance, duration, and distraction; “door exercises”, where the campers learn how to teach the puppies to go through a door politely; and “cone exercises”, or “around”, which teaches the dogs to move away from the handler, go around an object, and come back. We thought about how tricks like this might be used in the real world — you will hardly ever have to go around a traffic cone while out for a walk, but what if your dog got his leash wrapped around a tree and you could just say “around” and he’d walk away from you, go around the tree, and come back, with his leash now unwrapped? Cool!
At the end of the day we had a visit from Mary with Canine Companions for Independence, who taught us about how CCI “socializes”, or raises, their puppies to be incredible service dogs. We got to meet Ralphie, a real service-dog-in-training!
First thing in the morning we worked on loose leash walking outside some more. Then we went to the Bithlo-Christmas Neighborhood Center for Families to deliver the meals we made last night. Campers brought hot meals and water to people who really needed them. (Doglando works with the Bithlo center as part of Full Tummy, a program which delivers free dog and cat food to families in need.)
Afterward we drove to the Greenwood Urban Wetland to let the dogs be dogs and to have a picnic in the park. Dogs who enjoyed the water were allowed to fetch sticks out of the lake while other dogs preferred to play on the shore and just watch.
At the end of the day everyone was so tired we had naptime!
In the morning today we worked on loose leash walking some more. There is more room outside in which to work but there are also way more distractions outdoors!
After we worked on walking outside we went on a field trip to Panera Bread, which has an outdoor space where the dogs can learn. We worked on pedestal exercises (climbing on and off a platform; staying on the platform until released) and then had lunch. We even met some nice people who were interested in adopting some of the dogs!
At the end of the day it was back into the pool for more swimming. Today we went in full circles around the pool and then each camper raced his or her dog to the ramp to get out! (Mostly, the dogs won.)
We spent the evening making meals for the homeless, which we will deliver tomorrow. Our fundraiser (we ended up having a bake sale instead of selling dog paintings) was a great success, earning $180 to buy food! We made chicken, pasta, green beans, and corn, and the leftovers from our bake sale will go to the homeless too.
Today we introduced loose leash walking. The only rule (for the dog) is that the dog should be on the handler’s left side with the leash loose. There are a lot of rules for the campers to learn in order to teach this one rule to the dog! It is very complicated to teach even simple things when you cannot use spoken language to communicate. The campers learned to guide the dogs with their bodies and with food lures, and the dogs (sometimes) learned how to respond to the campers’ movements and the pull of the leash. (It’s okay, everybody — we all start learning at the beginning!)
In the afternoon we cooled off in the pool. Now the puppies are learning to swim past the ramp and spend more time in the water. The campers are learning how to guide the puppies around the pool. At the end of the day we let the puppies rest on the dock and the humans spent time learning how to dive off the dock into the water and catch a dog toy on the way down!