The past few weeks have been busy ones for Rocket. He traveled up north with us over Labor Day weekend and took a short hike in Split Rock State Park. We followed a steep trail for only a few blocks to the top of a hill that gave us a spectacular view of the lighthouse and shoreline. Loose leash walking was pretty challenging, as he was overwhelmed with all the scents and sounds in the woods, but we took our time and finally made it to the top. If you’re ever on the North Shore I’d recommend the Day Hill Trail – it’s not at all crowded and quite worth the short climb. On the way home, we stopped at Gooseberry Falls State Park. Being a holiday weekend, the park was overrun with visitors, and Rocket had plenty of chances to practice his seated greetings. It has been fun to watch his progress with this. Now when he sees someone new coming, he will often sit without being told, and as the visitor comes closer, he sometimes automatically throws his paw out as far as he can reach – he is beginning to figure out that shaking the paw is followed by lots of love and attention. Everyone thinks he is pretty adorable – of course, from my completely unbiased, wholly objective perspective, I’d have to agree.
As you can see from the picture at right, Rocket is growing pretty rapidly – he doesn’t have that far to go to catch up to Risa, and I’m confident his adult height will surpass hers. He has made a couple of transitions lately that were milestones of a sort. First of all, he rarely sleeps in his crate at night any more – Risa has a dog bed, and since I haven’t bought one for Rocket yet, he has appropriated hers. I usually find him right there by my side in the morning, and when he knows I’m awake, he rolls over and offers his belly for his good morning scratch. His territory is also expanding while I’m at work in my office; he no longer spends time in an ex-pen, but has the run of the room while I work. Although I do have to redirect him every now and then, for the most part he simply lies down close by and lets me work; that is, unless Risa is also in the room – in that case, they still spend a LOT of time wrestling.
Then last Saturday was our first Tall Waggin’ Dinner, the major fundraising event for Helping Paws of the year, held at the Southwest Marriott in Minnetonka. It was a very fun evening, and I was astonished at how well Rocket handled himself. He didn’t jump on anyone, remained calm, was able to practice a few sit-stays in the midst of the very crowded hallways, and gave me some wonderful attention when we walked up on stage with the group of other new foster puppies. We learned that at that time he still needed $2700 to be fully sponsored for the year, and I hope that with the money raised that evening he will be fully sponsored soon – I’ll be anxious to hear. And a big THANK YOU to those of you have already pledged your support for Rocket – whether you’re in the Rocket Fan Club (hi G and K!) or are donors, I appreciate it so much! It helps to know I have people cheering us on.
One cute story from this evening. The newest skill Rocket is learning is to go to a rug and lie down. I was in a hurry this evening, as I had a meeting to go to, so I decided to multitask and work on this while I was eating my dinner (okay – confession here – it was a bowl of cereal). I set myself up with the clicker, a bowl of his kibble, and put his rug across the kitchen. Rocket likes this exercise and offered a few good, solid behaviors, planting himself squarely in the middle of the rug. Normally we are supposed to give the reinforcement in the position we are working on, but since I was in a hurry I was making him come to me to get his piece of food after the click. After a few of these instances, Rocket decided he had had enough of this back and forth, and he picked up the rug, moved it over next to the table, and laid down on it, waiting for his click and treat! He may not have known exactly what he was doing or why, but I do like to see that he isn’t afraid to try something new – this is why I like training him – it’s so fun to watch him think!