Contributed by Kristeen Hughes
I returned home with my new dog, Mendle, on November 8 and this is s piece I wrote after our first attempt at an outing in our neighborhood.
Well, I'm one of the only people I know who could've done what I did today. I've got this new dog and it's his first full day in his new home and neighborhood so I really want to impress him with his first walk. I've got it all planned and I'm gonna click him and treat him and do everything right, at least today. So I make my preparations to leave. I've got the clicker; I've got the bait bag; I've got the fanny pack, in which I carry these items and other things; I've got my GPS receiver; and, wonder of wonders, I remembered to get the dog. It wouldn't be much of a first walk for him if I took it while he waited at home, but it would be something I might attempt.
The bait bag has this belt clip on the back of it, which I thought, mistakenly, would be secure if fastened to my fanny pack belt. I did this and when all was ready, Mendle and I strode forth into Monday afternoon.
Mendle was doing very well, considering everything was a first for him and I don't know why, but I felt so happy and surprised that he was walking just like he had during training in California. We walked up to a major intersection very near our house that we have to cross in order to do much of anything else. I wanted to work on targeting the light pole at one of the intersections. I was so eager for success; we'd begun targeting light poles in training and he was great. He was finding specific poles every time. I put the clicker around my wrist, I opened my fanny pack so I could reach inside and flip open the bait bag to get the kibble, I couldn't be more anticipatory. I walked up to the pole and said "pole" then touched it. Mendle immediately touched my hand with his nose and I clicked that clicker with great pride. I told him he was a good boy and reached into my fanny pack - empty! I didn't believe my fingers, so I continued to hunt around this small and obviously empty compartment looking for the bag. I continued to try and instill the fact into Mendle that he was a good boy and had done a good thing. The cardinal rule of clicker training had however been broken. I had clicked without treating. I felt heartsick and was certain that all the training we had done together was wiped away with one click and a non-existent kibble.
Dispirited, I trudged home with Mendle. He did very well and wagged and kissed and did all the Mendle things I have, in a very short time, come to love. I, however, was greatly disturbed by the fact that not only had I failed this first walk, I now had no bait bag now. I had no idea where it had fallen off my belt, but the fact remained, it was gone. I couldn't seem to get past the feeling that I'd made a total mess of this day and this wonderful dog. If my instructors could see me now, I would be soundly and harshly chastised.
Once home and settled, I told my housemate Lynne about my experience and she was sympathetic. I also called and lamented to my significant other, Terrie. She said she was on her way home with one of our neighbors, and that he would be happy to look around the area where we had been walking and see if he could spot it. I didn't know what to tell her it would look like so I called GDB to get a visual description of this infamous bag. I spoke with Beth in graduate services who had to go to her car in order to look at one, so she put me on hold.
During this same time, unbeknownst to me, Lynne had decided to take my retired guide, Bower, outside for a walk. While I was waiting on hold, Lynne and Bower burst into the house, and she was singing something about being a hero and saving the day. Just as Beth returned to the line and started telling me about the bag, Lynne and Bower presented me with my beloved bait bag! I was ecstatic - I didn't hear a word that Beth was saying! Not only had my bag been returned to me, but my Bower boy had gone out there and sniffed his way right to it. If it comes to finding food, a lab is what you want doing the searching. He seemed quite happy with himself and, of course, had to have some of the precious kibble in that bag for that one. He may be retired, but he can still do a few neat tricks now and again.
Beth, who was still on the phone with me, was quite pleased with this story. She laughed and said it was priceless. Needless to say, I will find a new place for the bait bag. I don't want to repeat the click-no-treat exercise any time soon.