GREETINGS FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
As most of you know, Toby is (hopefully) going to be taking part in the production of “Annie” which is to be staged in May this year.
Last night I took Toby on yet another school visit to spend time with the cast. At the moment the venue is still on the school’s premises but will be moved to the main theatre closer to the time.
(Practicing the "AWAY" command)
The purpose of Toby’s participation at the moment is simply to get him accustomed to the children, the environment and the many distractions. He receives a lot of training during the week, but it is the proofing of his commands that is most important for the production itself.
Training a dog is hard work at the best of times. It can be energy sapping too and I admit that I often feel the fatigue. Each day is different and brings unique challenges. Yesterday Toby was phased by table-tennis balls and motor-bikes. Last week it was the white statuettes in the school’s court yard.
("It's okay Toby, they are only playing Table tennis!
There's no need to try to catch the balls!")
Sometimes I feel that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this with a dog so young. Toby is only 7 months old. Like all teenagers, he is energetic and exuberant and often gets distracted from his “focus” exercises. Last night I battled to keep his attention and his recalls were far from satisfactory. He was too excited for my liking.
What keeps me going with this goal is this amazing opportunity it presents – both for Toby as well as for me. In my case it’s an opportunity to work with a truly amazing trainer:
and the chance to be exposed to what is required when training an animal for a special stage production. In Toby’s case it is the opportunity to have some fun, to receive specialised wrangling training and to be exposed to environments which dogs normally don’t get. It’s a time when he is most impressionable and I am hoping this will be an advantage in the long-run.
The bonus in this whole exercise is that Toby is one of the most affable dogs I have ever met! He ADORES people, other animals and new environments.
(Some of the cast members getting to know Toby)
His exuberance is contagious and uninhibited.
("Yes, I want to hug you too!")
My problem is learning to control him at these times...and it’s difficult.
("Look at me, Toby!"
Last night I would say he was ‘half a hooligan...but still very sweet’. Although he did okay overall, his responses to my commands seemed half-hearted. What he really wanted to do was romp and play with all these young people. From an outsider’s point of view, I suppose this didn’t look out of the ordinary – he is simply a dog having fun. But from my own point of view, I feel uneasy about us successfully grooming him up "in time" for this event. Is his youth going to be his drawback? I know the importance of this event to the school and I am not one to give up once I have made a commitment, but his exuberance is still of concern to me.
(Breaking the "Down Stay!")
Objectively, I think that last night’s progress was on track. Toby had his first experience with being “on stage” and in the company of cast members who were practicing their lines.
("Yes, the audience will be 'down there', Toby!")
He got to meet “Annie” personally and I was delighted that he is able to respond to her own command for him to ‘Bow ‘. ( I have taught him this trick so that he can bow with the cast during the final curtain call)
(I'm showing "Annie" how to give the 'BOW!'command to Toby)
("Annie" does it herself..."GOOD BOY, TOBY!")
His ‘send- aways’ were very good but his ‘stays’ were dreadful...oh dear!
Also, the floors where they are currently rehearsing are extremely slippery at the moment and Toby ends up slipping and sliding during his exuberance.
(Practicing his "BOW!" on stage)
This concerns me because I know that he is a growing dog and his joints are always vulnerable. I am not sure what can be done about this problem yet.
(Getting a special ear-rub from the Dancing instructor)
Good news is that we have managed to procure a crate. Hopefully I will have it in my house by Friday this week and I can start crate training. I know this is an easy thing for many people but we’ll see how Toby responds. All dogs are different.
("Come Toby, let's have a break...Let's PLAY!")
At home Toby is vital and sweet. His affinity for searching through dustbins is most frustrating and last night his prize was a bath-plug.
( It’s now on my shopping list!)
Tissues too are converted into chewing gum... The joys of a growing pup!
This is all such a big challenge for me. I can only hope that things will progress smoothly and that Toby’s exuberance settles and his presence in the “Annie” production is ultimately a credit to everybody involved.
Finally I would like to say that my thoughts and prayers are with all those folk in Christchurch, New Zealand, after yet another devastating earthquake. What a blow it has been – not only for their city, but for the people who have lost their lives and the families which they leave behind. It’s a worrying time for everybody. A whole wave of South African love is coming your way!