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Do the Hokey Pokey

Micron poses at the P&G headquarters

He slaps a right shake in.
He pulls his right paw out.
He slaps a left shake in.
And then barks and barks about.

And so goes the Hokey Pokey, Micron-style.

Here’s the recurring scene in the office. Someone has a cookie for Micron. He knows it. Nothing for free is drilled into his golden head, so he must execute one of his highly trained skills.

But in all the excitement he instead suffers a short-circuit in the memory neurons. Every. Time.

Shake! thinks Micron. I know this one! Give me five! No, wait! I’ll use the other paw! What? Why are you still talking and not giving me the cookie! Did you want me to Speak? I know that one too! 

And the three actions – right paw Shake, left paw Shake and Speak – are looped until the cookie is finally and safely tucked away in the great Micron maw.

Doesn’t he know any other commands? asks a colleague.

Oh sure, of course, I say. He does a nice solid Heel. Watch this. Micron! Heel!

Micron? I say again. Heel! Hey, Mikey … hello?

I wave my hand in front of his face, but he refuses to break eye contact with the prior cookie profferer.*

It’s ok, says my colleague. Don’t embarrass yourself.

There was a time, ok let me think a minute, let’s say about May 2011, when this dog knew a full thirty commands. Thirty, people. Speak, Shake and a whole twenty eight more. I’m not making this up. That was when we had sent Micron off to college. You know, dog college. He spent three months at Canine Companions for Independence to learn how to be an assistance dog before it was decided he should pursue another career path.

And now? Today, Micron is a pet. He has decent manners, holds a GED of sorts with a Canine Good Citizen certificate, and is a sweet, sweet boy.

Ok, there’s more. Micron is also an active volunteer in pet therapy, a job that it seems he was born to do. We should all be so lucky, right? Do what we love?

But highly trained? We don’t use those words with the mighty Micron. Well, not without air quotation marks.

Ah, I see, you say. But is it that he doesn’t remember those thirty commands… or just that he doesn’t want to?

Is there a difference? I ask you.

But I do lay claim to some bragging rights here. Because the dog is so proficient in Speak that we actually have two commands for the feat of barking on command.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Micron will demonstrate.

See? Told ya.

What? Are you still stuck on that thirty command thing? Wondering what these assistance dogs-in-training actually learn? Well, hold onto your britches because you know what? That’s just the beginning — those thirty.

CCI builds on the foundation the volunteer puppy raisers created with Shake, Speak, Down, Kennel, Heel, Side, Bed, Car (No we don’t teach them to drive. Really, people), and et cetera.  For instance the Shake command is upgraded in Advanced Training to a target command to flip a light switch.

Even better, let’s take a look at another short video. This gives a deeper look at what happens at a Team Training; two weeks of an individual and fully trained assistance dog learning how to work together.

Spoiler: tissue alert

Ok, dab your eyes, y’all.  Don’t worry about the mascara trails, though. Nobody’s judging you.  But you’ll want clear vision to see this next one, too.

Just what can a fully trained assistance dog do to change the lives of our country’s wounded warriors?

Yeah, this.

We don’t teach our pups a command for empathy or for warm companionship. Or give them that remarkable sixth sense that these furries have that makes us wonder if they can see into our very souls. 
That’s just being a dog. We should all be so blessed to have this in our lives.
And that’s, people, what it’s all about.**
*Prior Cookie Profferer.  In spite of my spell check’s squiggly red line, Profferer really is a word. It’s in the unabridged Merriam Webster. I originally had typed Procurer before realizing that was actually very, very wrong. 
**Get it? We went full circle back to Hokey Pokey. I’m real clever like that. Never mind that I had to explain myself. 

About Donna Black-Sword

Lover of all things Dog.

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