A very warm welcome to the new year, and to AT’s first ever themed week! This week will be all about the varied and essential work of assistance dogs in human society. To kick start the week, ASPCA award winning author Beth Finke has kindly offered to guest post for Animal Translation. She’ll be talking about her seeing eye dog ‘Hanni’, you can read more about Beth and Hanni on her Safe and Sound blog. Enjoy!

In the Fall of 2007 Hanni led me to the Union League Club of Chicago to meet with a Women’s book club. Well, I say she led me there, but to be honest, when I asked her to turn at the front door she sped right by. The Union League Club is a swanky private club right in the heart of Chicago’s downtown financial district. Members meet there to “socialize and enjoy fine food and impeccable service.” No wonder Hanni raced passed the front door – she couldn’t believe we’d been invited!

When I felt we’d gone too far, I turned Hanni around and pointed in the general direction of the entryway. I could tell from the reluctant pull of the harness that she still wasn’t so sure. We were at the right place, though. Some members of the book club are also members of the Union League Club, and they were kind enough to invite Hanni and me to join them as a guest author. The club had read my memoir, “Long Time, No See.” We talked about how I decided to write that first book of mine and what all has happened to me since University of Illinois Press published it in 2003. Of course I managed to get a plug in for my children’s book “Hanni and Beth: Safe & sound”Image as well. When it was time for us to leave, some book club members asked, “Where’s Hanni?” . I pointed under the table – Hanni had curled up and fallen asleep down there. She was so quiet and still, they hadn’t realized she was with me! BUT THANK GOD SHE WAS.

When we left the Union League Club and headed east on Jackson, we approached a side street. Hanni stopped, of course. Traffic was rushing by at our parallel, cuing me that it was safe to cross. “Forward!” I commanded. Hanni looked both ways, and judging it safe, she pulled me forward. But then all of a sudden she jumped back. I followed her lead and heard the rush of a car literally inches in front of us. Hanni had seen the car turning right off the busy street. I hadn’t. She saved my life. I felt someone rush by us, then heard shouting down the side street. My heart was racing, but training at the Seeing Eye told me what to do next. “Walk backwards! Get on the sidewalk before you praise her!” I heard my trainer from years ago calling out in my head. We had practiced this very thing during training – staff members would drive Seeing Eye vans around town while we were out with our dogs, the van drivers would make quick turns and dart in front of us on purpose so we would feel how the dogs reacted.

Back on the sidewalk, I got on all fours to hug Hanni. I was afraid from what had happened, of course. But even more, I was afraid that the near miss could scare Hanni from wanting to work again. I pet Hanni. I hugged her. I reassured her. People who’d seen what happened called out from across the street to make sure I was okay. I called out a “yes!” and just then a man bent down and patted me ever so slightly on the shoulder. “You alright, miss?” he asked. He was out of breath, panting. “I work at the Union League Club, I saw the whole thing.” It was a cab that had sped around the corner, he explained. The driver hadn’t even slowed down to make the turn. We stood up; I patted down my skirt and tried to regain my composure. Suddenly I realized. The sweet man panting beside me, worrying if Hanni and I were alright – he was the one I’d felt rush past while I was reassuring Hanni. “Was that you shouting?” I asked. “Yeah, I was trying to catch him,” the doorman said. “Sure you’re alright?” He asked. This kind of caring, coming from a complete stranger, made me feel better. I was sure, I told him. Hanni was alright, too. She stopped at every curb after that, and we proceeded with caution. But as always, we made it home. Safe & Sound.

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Between 3 weeks and 14 weeks, your puppy is learning all about the world, and the experiences it has at this time will shape what it considers to be normal. For example, a puppy born into an apartment in New York will become quickly habituated to traffic noise, but will probably be terrified if it ever meets a sheep.

Using this knowledge, puppy owners and breeders can minimise the risk of phobias in their dog in later life. A good technique is to write a list of things you will expect the puppy to live with when it matures. Examples are vacuum cleaners, prams, loud bangs, trains, other puppies/dogs/animals, wearing a collar, people- and the list goes on! Remember to introduce these things in a gradual and positive manner, so that the puppy doesn’t learn to become frightened of them.

Rescue/older dog? Don’t worry, you can still habituate the dog to things, but it will be a longer process, especially if your dog has learned a fear response!

Welcome!

15/12/11

Welcome to Animal Translation, I hope to cover aspects of animal behaviour, welfare, training, cognition, evolution, ethics, anatomy and physiology in whatever order they occur to me!

Hopefully they’ll be something for everyone, especially those whose thoughts don’t run through their heads, but hop, lope, gallup, fly…