WE PASSED!!

Whew! Talk about stress. All these people were sitting around on chairs looking at me.

I did not like it. It was really hard to pay attention when you asked me to follow you around

and lie down when you told me to. I like to lie down when I feel like lying down which I

demonstrated right in the middle of the test. I needed to show them I could lie down. One of my

distractions was the distinct smell of bacon on the table behind the nice lady who kept telling us

what to do.

I wanted the bacon in a big way. That was a problem because you wouldn’t give me any. I am

used to getting treats when I do what you want, and sometimes even just because I’m so cute.

The third time you asked me to lie down, you smoothed the hair back away from my eyes and I

could see your eyes, and your eyes showed me love and patience and confidence that you knew

I was just kidding all along. I knew what to do. So I did it.

Now we can go back to the airport and back to the University of Minnesota, and well, just a lot

of places where I love to go sporting my special “North Star Therapy Dog” scarf and leash. You

wear your badge that says Pet Partners. I am your partner. I’ll always be your partner. I may be

nine years old, but we ain’t done yet.

Advice from Oliver: If you don’t pass the first time, you may need to go back to school to be a better dog. I know I did, and we’re better off for it. You gave me lots of treats and love afterwards, but you would’ve done that anyway.

We’ve Been Suspended

ME LOOKING FORLORN

This will be short: I’ve had to hang up my special scarf and leash for awhile. We’ve been suspended. I wouldn’t lie down on command during my re-evaluation for Therapy Dog re-licensure. No airport. No University. No official work with people to let them pet me. No distribution of my business cards. We hope this is a temporary situation. It better be. I will try very hard to do what everyone wants I can get what I want too. That’s what is called a woof-woof or win-win.

I know you are trying your best to help me pass the test. We are taking lessons from a very special teacher named Patti who makes you laugh. I remember her from when I was a puppy. I like the way she smells. Like bacon. Yes. She has it in the pocket of her vest. She gave you some today during class because you did something nice for her. I don’t know what it was. I’m only a dog and I don’t know everything. At least not people stuff. I know a lot about dog stuff.

Patti remembers me too. She is very patient. We take our test again soon. I am very sad, as you can see from my picture, taken with Biscuit and our dear friend Raven. I am getting help working through this period. Biscuit leaps and jumps all over me. He fights with me over sticks. You walk with me around the lake and sometimes you take me to a neighboring field where I can run free and forget it all. That helps me a lot.

All I can say is, we’re going to try harder to pass the test in March.

Advice from Oliver: Neither one of us likes to quit .I’ll keep trying as long as you do.

LIFE THESE DAYS

You and Dad are home all the time. I like it.

I have discovered that you pay a lot more attention to me than way back before Biscuit. 

Things changed. I don’t know why. We don’t see as many people. We walk outside and around the lake with one person at a time. I like them all. I still do not like skateboarders and I don’t like those people with long sticks on their feet or poles in their hands either. They could mean trouble. You tell me they’re okay, but I make my own judgments.

Speaking of trouble, sometimes Biscuit is a pain in the fur. I used to collect the mail from Tim. I’d get one treat, sometimes two, from Tim and then I’d bring it in the house and get another treat. I’d collect the morning newspaper and get a treat. I’d bring in funny-tasting boxes from a man in uniform and bring those in between my powerful jaws and get another treat. Life was one treat after another. That was many barks ago.

Times have changed. Biscuit jumps up and down and whirls around and bites at everything in my mouth. He tears and shreds all of these things. You don’t like the barking noise. You put in earplugs. You don’t like his attitude. Me, me, me.  My mail. My newspaper. My package. You have tried to teach him how to bring in things made of paper, drop them in your hand and get a treat. He is a slow learner in this department. It’s hard for you. I understand. Sortof.  You get a treat from Dad who calls Biscuit’s work “an assist.” I don’t agree with that but I’m not in charge, at least not about treats.

I like having Biscuit around—most of the time. Sometimes I don’t.  I have taught him many things, like making sure no one is treading on our perimeter. He’s doing very well in that department. I have also taught him to bark when we go downstairs to get ready to take a walk. You put those little things in your ears. I’m trying to teach Biscuit how to fetch, but he is not catching on. He has taught me how to jump on the bed. He’s good at it. But I’m better.

I know I’m really The Boss because I was here first. I have to let him know when he acts too woofy, like when there’s an especially delicious stick that one of us finds during one of our five walks during the day. I growl and act fierce, but he isn’t too impressed. It’s only when I snap at him that he pays attention, but it’s hard to do with a stick in my mouth.

Advice from Oliver: It’s good to fight for some things and ignore the rest.

I’VE BEEN AROUND THE BLOCK

Hello, all you therapy team (and other) fans. I am in my seventh year of being part of a therapy team with my mom. You might say I am experienced and wise. I am too modest to say it outright. When we walk around, we get a lot of attention. People say we are beautiful. I take it in my stride. Biscuit hasn’t quite learned the art of being cool yet.

I am clearly in charge. Biscuit is my apprentice.

If you look closely in the photos above, I am the one with the stick. I am teaching Biscuit patience. We are wearing our blaze orange coats so hunters don’t mistake us for white-tailed deer. Some hunters are very stupid if they can’t tell us from deer, but oh, well. We just want to be safe and free in the woods.

Mom and I have now been back on the job for a few months. I have not had a COVID vaccine, but Mom has had three. Biscuit stays home when I put on my special leash and scarf, because Biscuit doesn’t know all my moves yet. He loves me a lot and I love him too, but it’s hard to have a conversation with Mom when he’s around because he jumps on her and sticks his face all up in hers while I sit quietly by and watch. I am quite mature as dogs go.

Going back to work has been doglicious. We go to the airport, once a month on Friday mornings, which is hard on my ears but exciting. I know how to carry myself on the elevator. I am quiet and calm. Sometimes, people roll big, bangy suitcases right up next to me as if I’m not there. I hold my head up high and look straight ahead to indicate I know where we’re going. The truth is I can’t push the elevator buttons, so I wait until someone else does. Dad comes with us and he really does know where we’re going so he does the important things like carrying my equipment and checking us through. He also finds where we parked, a very important skill.

I like children best. They tell me how much they love me. They smell wet. They tell us about the dogs they left at home. A lot of big people walk right past us as I lie in front of the tall banner that says, “Pet me.” How rude. I ignore them. Not everyone appreciates what petting me does for them. It helps their tickers. It balances their hormones (and we all know how important balanced hormones are). It improves their tacticity (that is their ability to feel things with their hands, especially my long, well-groomed hair). They hurry off to their airplanes with a little dog-spring in their steps.

We also go to the University of Minnesota to be petted by students and staff in the PAWS program. We like Carlson School of Management. Everyone is learning how to manage things. They manage me by petting me into oblivion. They tell me I’m chill. Around them, I am amazing. The PAWS program has cats, chickens, llamas, rabbits and dogs to pet. I love the smell of chickens. If you didn’t hold my leash, I would advance quickly toward the  basket where a beautiful chicken perches and preens. Her name is Tilly, a diminutive for Attila the Hen. My diminutive is Ollie. Did you forget I have a very large vocabulary? (Just saying.) Tillie and Tanya are besties, but Tilly and I might get along too if anyone would give us a chance. Interspecies inspection is discouraged, so I accept that. I can’t play on the job with other therapy animals either. I’ve gotten used to it, but I’m glad I have Biscuit.

When I go home to Biscuit, I am not chill. I am reduced to a ridiculous, flying whirl of fur. Dog! Do we have fun! I explain to Biscuit about going around the block. I have already taught him how to lift his leg, how to pick up and eat sticks and how to sniff around every ridge and furrow of every tree. Those ridges and furrows are called tree rhytidome. I have tried to teach Biscuit that word, but he’s still stuck in the sniffing stage where other dogs have lifted their legs and left their scent. Biscuit is an excellent sniffer and sampler. He likes to sample the way things taste. You call him the sanitary engineer because he licks in places he believes need cleaning up. I say Yog! (my word for Yuk!) I am a patient teacher, so I will wait for him to catch up on all my sophisticated means of communication until he’s a little older. It’s hard to learn if you’re not ready. 

Advice from Oliver: When you’ve been around the block, it isn’t polite to let everyone know. 

MY BEST FRIEND

AREN’T WE QUITE THE DUO?

It’s true I’ve had others, but no one makes me laugh and gives me a run for my gastrointestinal biome food like my best friend, Biscuit. Our new kibble, designed to keep our bellies from shedding their contents inappropriately, is not what I’d call delicious. You take him away sometimes and neither of us can eat a bite. Our food just sits in our bowls for at least a day. That should let you know that we need to be together. I know we’re a handful. When we are in full play mode, we’re several hands full. We bark and leap and jump around and act silly and you get that look on your face that is supposed to make us stop doing what comes naturally. We braid our leashes if you aren’t paying complete attention to each of us.

Dognabbit. If you keep him from me, I just get more excited when I see him. When my brown eyes get blue, I’m really scheming up new tricks for us. I’ve taught Biscuit The Dishtowel Tear; The Sock Stealer; The Newspaper Ripoff; Rules for Bedtime, including who gets to sleep where. I usually get first choice because so far Biscuit watches me with those big golden eyes of his to see which spot I’ll take. Then he assumes his own space. I’ve taught him other games too, but I can’t reveal them. 

When he’s not here, I put my chin on my front paws and wait. Some dumbies say dogs have no sense of time. They don’t know how it feels to wait and wait for your best friend to come home.

So, how about it, just bring me along as much as you can when you take Biscuit up to Old Pines or anywhere else you go. I promise I’ll be about as good as I can be. 

Advice from Oliver: It hurts the heart to be torn asunder from loved ones.