I've been promising a post about Ike the Labradoodle for a few weeks now, but I've been enjoying my little blogging vacation. Since I've had a puppy-free week and am about to take on another puppysitting assignment, though, I thought I'd best get to it.
Ike is a sweetheart. It was such a comfort to have another dog in the apartment after Lomax's turn-in, especially one so willing to cuddle (Lomax was always a little bit "places to go, people to see, stop trying to hold me still"). And what a 180-degree difference: a long, tall, black, power-chewing, crazy-haired, soft-correction, easy-leash dog!
I love to watch him run; he's got quite the poodle-y spring to him with those long legs and tail, and he's really light on his delightfully hairy feet. Soft to the touch, too, and lovely to groom, despite what I was expecting for a longer-haired pooch. My roommate dubbed him "Captain Yellowbeard" in honor of his piratesque appearance.
Unfortunately, IkeyDoodle wasn't entirely comfortable with his surroundings the week he stayed with me. I walked him twice a day around my neighborhood, to which he never quite grew accustomed. He'd generally start out very strong and confident, walking in a *perfect* loose-lead heel position such that I felt like there was no dog there at all...then something would spook him, and he'd tail-tuck and lose his focus and throw his head back every few steps to look behind us, and have a tough time recovering. Sometimes it was the German shepherd who lives down the street, barking from behind his fence. Sometimes it was a human passerby, out for a walk. Once -- and he nearly tore my arm off with an unexpected bolt behind me and to my other side -- it was bees.
Poor little Ikey. I felt terrible.
He did very well, however, inside my apartment and at my office. It was as though these were places he felt safe; he would calm down and settle right in whenever we came back from our walks.
Sure, he was somewhat fearful, but Ike also has many excellent qualities that would make him a good guide! His obedience is great; in fact, he is lightning-fast with a "down" command and exhibits beautiful control walking up and down stairs, self-correcting with just a gently spoken "easy, Ike" if he gets too far ahead. And he is unbelievably cooperative with ear medication. I've never seen such a thing! All I had to do was pick up the ear drop bottle, sit on the floor and call his name, and he'd trot right over and lie down, turning one ear up toward me. Then he'd turn his head so I could medicate the other ear! That got some positive reinforcement, believe me.
Ike also seemed unphased by most non-dog animals we encountered, whether it was a flock of pigeons on the ground five feet away, or a long-extinct creature mired in a bubbling pit of smelly tar.
Even when it comes to that fearfulness, I'll give him this: Ike is very aware of his surroundings. Due to his "constant vigilance (!)," my roommate also took to calling him "Mad Ike Moody" (you Harry Potter fans will get my meaning).
Ike's fifteen months old and going in for training at the next turn-in, which is in November. Before then, a bunch of us will be swapping Ike around every once in a while so he can get in some extra practice with other handlers...I hope he can come back and visit again soon, because I already miss his lovable, springy self.