Sunday, June 2, 2013

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What Was Left is Now Right

By Fred
Like all prospective guide dog puppies, Jam grew up on the left. Walking, sitting, heeling, all on our left side.

On that first morning after Jam returned home a few weeks ago we assembled in the kitchen for breakfast, now with three dogs instead of two, and we started into our meal-time puppy push-ups: heel, sit, stand, down, stay, etc. I expected to see their usual enthusiasm and sincerity and willingness to do well and love for me (at least that's what I see--all they really want is for me to put the food down, shut up and go away).

From the first command, it became clear that I had one fewer left leg than necessary. "Coach, sit," I said, and Coach and Jam politely struggled and pushed so as to sit snugly against my left leg. This wouldn't do. I took Jam aside and explained to him that he was ready now to graduate to the right side. After all, Willow had long since graduated to her own space. The right side is just as good, I said and gave him a hug.

A picture of Coach and Jam at meal time.
Coach is on the left. Jam is happy on the right.

A few weeks have passed and now the meal times go well. On good days, it is "Coach, sit. Jam sit. Coach stand. Jam stand." Beautiful. Coach is happy to show off his left-ness, eager to claim his place and to demonstrate his superior technique (he can be very best dog ever).

And Jam seems very happy now on the right, or sometimes on the far left, or sometimes in front. Wherever he is, he really wants to do a good job. And he really wants me to shut up and put the food down.

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