Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Danes and Donkeys

I realize that I have been slacking, terribly, with this blog.  I have good excuses (holidays, work, stress, general poor mental health) but you don't really want to hear them.  Rather, let me catch you up on what you've missed.  Picture the following images being accompanied by a rapid voice over (a la Glee recaps).

Pauly started coming with me to Green Chimneys about three weeks ago.  This meant tons of new exposures (think guinea hens, horses, camels, cows, kids, cafeterias).  Of particular concern, at least to Pauly, was the dreaded donkeys.  On his first day of school, as we were arriving at our classroom which happens to be situated adjacent to the donkeys' home, the donkeys welcomed us with a loud and excited "yee haw".  If you've never heard a donkey up close and personal, they are rather loud.  Poor Pauly heard this, took one look at the evil beasts, and hit the ground hard.  He sprawled on his belly, tail tucked tightly beneath him, ears flattened against his head, and convulsed from the tip of his tail to the tip of his nose.  In the two years I have known this dog, I have never seen him so afraid.  In the three weeks since that encounter, Pauly and I have made a point of saying good morning and good night to the donkeys every single day.  It helps if we bring a more donkey-friendly canine companion to reassure him.  As you can see, we've made great progress.  We can now be in donkey vicinity, with our backs turned to them, while simultaneously not cowering under mom.  Admittedly, the donkeys have been quiet for us and I'm not too confident Pauly would do so well if they vocalized. The funniest part?  In the middle of my class, if we hear the donkeys, all of my students turn and say to Pauly "Quick!  Hide!  They're coming to get you!".  Poor Paulus.

160 lb, 2-year old Yoda sits on my lap in the vet's office
Shiloh is 1/2 Dane, 1/2 lab
A few years ago, ECAD started mixing Great Danes with Labradors in order to create a taller, stronger service dog for veterans.  This means that we have a couple of pure Danes that hang out around the office.  It wasn't until I posted a photo of Yoda on Facebook that I realized how unusual and exciting these dogs are for all you folks.  I guess I've just gotten used to 160lb puppies hanging out all day.  To answer all of your questions, the Dane Labs look like large, sturdy, muscular labs.  The Dane in them makes them mouthier, smarter, stronger, and way more one-person-focused. For example, Yoda, who is not a service dog because of his ridiculous size, can open any door, break out of any kennel, and snap any chain to get to his owner.  He will chew round doorknobs into squares in order to open them.  He will spin a tie-down chain around his body until it snaps.  He can essentially get into and out of anything he wants to with minimal effort.  It's impressive, but seriously high maintenance as he needs a strong-willed babysitter any time his owner wants to  leave him alone.
Uno is 3/4 lab, 1/4 Dane, 10 months old, 60 lbs
Happy Holidays

Honey and Spezzano are great at "hold".  Pauly needs work.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NYC Veteran's Day Parade

On Friday, Pauly and I marched in the NYC Veteran's Day Parade with our ECAD family.  It was a very chilly November day, and while I complained bitterly for the 3 hours before the parade began, I actually enjoyed myself once we got marching.  The whole time, I was hoping that Pauly wouldn't take a dump in the middle of the parade route (he didn't! yay!).  Here are some of my favorite photos from the day.
Together only a week and the bond is already there.  Tucker snuggles up to new client, Shane.
PJ, Lu and Dale's grandson, with Pauly.

Russel Jr. and Aries look cool in their shades, but Pauly can't manage to keep his on.
Pauly sporting his Veteran's Day Pride

Reese wearing Phil's cavalry cap

Comforting each other on the ECAD float
My two favorite foot-warmers

PJ walking Pauly, who managed to perfect his "hold" command with the American Flag

Goofy Reesey

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pursuit of Happiness

It's been awhile since I wrote a blog post.  I could say it's because I don't have time, or because I'm absolutely exhausted all of the time, or because I don't even have time to speak to my best friends, or get a cup of coffee, or pee.  Those are all just excuses.  I think the real reason I haven't posted in so long is because I haven't felt very happy or confident.  I feel like I'm trying to sprint through a marathon.  From the moment I wake up to the moment I hit my pillow at night, I am sprinting.  I love my job, I love the dogs, I love the clients, I love the students.  I also love ice cream, but I'll still get a stomach ache if I eat a whole gallon.  I am literally working myself to death and functioning at a stress level that is way too high to be healthy.  I work more hours than my investment banker little brother, who makes seven times as much money as I do (without a graduate degree).  I would be happy if I spent all of those hours training dogs, but the reality is that I spend most of those hours making spreadsheets, organizing people, managing the madness.  I feel like my training skills are slipping.  I am not the trainer I used to be, I am hearing all my fellow trainers telling me to do things differently and I'm losing my instinct.  My instinct used to be on point.  I think it's just because I haven't seriously trained in ages.  I feel stressed and exhausted.  So, you ask, what are you doing about it?  Well, first things first, I am taking more time for myself.  I am taking better care of my body.  This means thinking ahead about what I'm going to eat when I get home from work at 8:30pm.  This means hitting the gym on all those days I'm not working until 8:30pm.  It means saying "no" when I simply can't add anything else to my plate.  I need to make time for friends and family, even if it's just a phone call.  The bottom line, is I need to work out a better work-life-balance.  I need to take charge of my own happiness. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Puppies and Piggies

As part of my apprenticeship at ECAD, I will be spending a couple of months at each of the different schools that we work in.  This will give me a chance to learn about training at all the different stages of puppy development, and to learn about the different populations of students that we work with.  I began this rotation at a school called Green Chimneys.  Green Chimneys is located in Brewster, NY and it is a residential or day-school that serves children with emotional, behavioral, social, and learning challenges.  The thing that makes Green Chimneys so amazing is that it has pioneered the use of animal-assisted therapy with the students.  The school takes in abused, mistreated, and unwanted animals and gives them a fresh start on life.  All of the animals that do not have the potential to be rehabilitated remain on the campus for life.  The students work on "the farm", caring for chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cows, owls, hawks, vultures, eagles, llamas, and, of course, puppies!  That's where I come in.  All of ECAD's puppies start their education at Green Chimneys.  This means that we are working with itty bitty pups ranging from 2 to 6 months old.  Our current class consists of Sevilla, Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid (6-month old labs) and Ace, Bauer, Specht, Hanson, and Boone (3-month old golden retrievers).  Today was a special day because it was also the first day of school for Blondie's pup pups who are just 5 weeks old.  They seemed to enjoy their first day and we look forward to having them back when they're a bit older.

Barcelona, Madrid, Ace, Specht, and ?

In my first two weeks at Green Chimneys, I've learned a lot about training such young puppies.  The first thing that I learned is that they are really, incredibly, unbelievably frustrating.  I have been spoiled for 3 months with the older dogs and it's a real adjustment when you realize that a puppy barely knows how to sit or walk on a leash.  For me, this has been the most challenging thing I've experienced since working for ECAD.  I forgot how much patience and motivation puppies require.  I catch myself saying "no" when they don't even know better.  Working with the puppies makes me feel like a failure about 90% of the time, but then those moments when they truly learn something that I taught them makes it all worth while.

Bella and Jazmine

After a day spent with 9 5-week old labrador puppies and meeting a mini potbellied pig named Bella, how could I not love my job (I've always wanted a pet pig).  If you're in NYC this weekend, be sure to check out the Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  Green Chimneys animals, staff, and students will be at the service and I can say first-hand that it is something every animal-lover must see.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Personal Training

As most dog owners and trainers know, a tired dog is easier to work and has better manners in a kennel situation.  Our facility at ECAD is not conducive to free-running the dogs outside.  We are equipped with dog runs, but they aren't large enough for the dogs to get up to full speed.  We are lucky to have been given an old treadmill that allows us to run the dogs indoors.  Unfortunately, most of the dogs who were taught to run on the treadmill as younger pups have since forgotten or developed anxiety about it.  So last week, I decided to devote a significant amount of time (as well as sacrificing my lower back), to becoming a doggy personal trainer.  I spent 3 full days running 15 dogs each day.  Some of the dogs loved it, and jumped right on for 15 minutes at 4.0 speed.  Other dogs required three people, one in the front luring with kibble, another holding the rear legs up to "wheelbarrow" the dog, and a third with an arm behind the back legs to keep them moving forward.  Needless to say, maintaining that position for 15 minutes with a bucking/peeing/crazed dog is quite a work out.  The miraculous part of this whole training exercise for me was to see that by the second day, the majority of dogs got back on the treadmill better than they got off the day before.  It was like they needed to sleep on it, come to terms with it, and then they could love it.  I have dogs who were miserable the first day, who I literally had to hold upright, who are now running full-speed ahead with a huge grin on their panting faces. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Just another day at the office

Yesterday, I went to work ready to train my dogs and have a normal work day.  Upon arriving, I was informed that I would be going to Greenwich, CT, where I would be "soliciting" the rich and famous to sponsor or donate for a huge, fancy benefit we are having in September (if you are rich or know anybody rich and/or famous and/or generous, click here: DENIM, HEELS, BOOTS, TAILS).  I ended up sitting in a 50 million dollar home on the water getting tipsy off $50 bottles of white wine while the maid served fancy sandwiches by the saltwater swimming pool.  The tour of the house included a Matisse, 6 Picassos, and a bathroom the size of my entire apartment. 

Warning: may not be suited for all audiences, particularly those with weak stomachs.

Today, at 8am, one of the volunteers was banging on the door of the cottage I live in.  The breeder dog she cares for was in the car, in labor, and she was unable to reach anybody else.  We brought mama into the office, knowing that labor usually lasts for hours and nothing would be happening anytime soon.  10 minutes later, after a lot of blood and a horrific scream, we had a boy.  40 minutes later, we were covered in placentas and afterbirth and we had a total of 4 puppies (2 girls, 2 boys).  3 hours later, many contractions, and a very miserable mama, we were still waiting for 5 more puppies.  We called the vet, who said we needed to get mama into the office so she could induce heavier contractions.  We loaded the 4 puppies, now almost 4 hours old, into a laundry basket and stuck them in the front seat of the car.  I loaded a contracting, laboring mama dog into the back of a station wagon.  I climbed in the back with her in case she delivered en route.  I rode, 45 minutes to the vet, hunched over, covered in birthing fluids with my hand on a dog's vagina in the trunk of a station wagon.  15 minutes later, the vet was drenched in sweat, forceps in hand, pulling a stuck stillborn puppy out of the birth canal.  The foot broke off in the process.  2 more living, squealing puppies followed within 30 minutes.  According to the x-ray we took weeks ago, there should be 1 more puppy.  We gave mama a shot of oxytocin to keep her pushing, since she was now exhausted and reluctant to continue.  We got another puppy.  We x-rayed again to make sure we got them all.  There was 1 more.  It wouldn't come out.  We discussed a c-section.  We gave more oxytocin.  10 hours after the banging on my door, puppy #10 came out.  We put a catheter in mom to get her fluids.  Suddenly, things were peaceful.  9 puppies (4 boys, 5 girls) were suckling happily.  I realized I was starving, that I hadn't eaten all day amid the chaos, that my back and butt and knees were killing me from hunching over on the floor for the past 10 hours, that I wreaked of placentas and afterbirth and blood and puppy and that I was covered in all of these nasty things.

I absolutely love my job.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sleep Training

While much of the office is out on vacation, I've been put in charge of running the kennel and keeping the dogs, boys, and volunteers alive and flowing smoothly.  Silly me, I was looking forward to a taking it easy post-train-the-trainer.  Evidently, last night, when I finally fell asleep after a fun dinner in the city with my friends, my roommate heard me talking and came in to see what I was saying.  In my sleep, I was, apparently, giving dog commands.  "Off! No! Down!".  If I don't watch out they're gonna put me in a padded room soon.

After a night full of training dream dogs, I show up at work this morning to do my 7am kennel management duties and find one of my dogs has pooped in her kennel and proceeded to cover every square inch of herself and her kennel in feces.  Thrilled to be out of the poop-cave, she bounded out of her kennel, jumping all over me, spreading poop on me, the floors, the walls, etc.  An hour and a half later, she was bathed, runs were bleached, kennel was cleaned, floors were mopped, 15 other dogs were busied and fed, and Lia was a very cranky human.  As a quick day-fixer, I got a VENTI latte (which I never do) and took Pauly on a super-fast exercise walk, which both of us desperately needed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Train-the-Trainer: Week 6

Tuesday night marked the ending of our Train-the-Trainer course and the graduation of our dog/client teams.  It was a wonderful and difficult final week of perfecting the dogs, preparing for graduation, and heightened emotions all around.  The graduation ceremony was absolutely delightful and was attended by over 40 guests.  Lu said many kind things about each of us students who completed train-the-trainer and I think we all felt honored by what she had to say.  Wonderful speeches were presented by Ben as well as one of our graduating clients, and a very entertaining video was created and presented by Adam chronicling our bootcamp experience.  And then, when the guests all left, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I have not felt this relaxed in 6 long weeks, but I would do it over in a heartbeat.  The train-the-trainer course was about more than just dog training.  It was about self-exploration and personal growth.  It was about teamwork and friendship.  It was about giving this gift, these dogs that we've loved and poured our sweat and tears into, to somebody whose life will be changed because of it.  This experience was unforgettable, the people were unforgettable, and I am so lucky that this is not the end of my time at ECAD and that I got to wake up this morning (at 7am for kennel management) and get right back to it.  Thank you ECAD, Lu, and my fellow trainers for these 6 unforgettable weeks.

This is a slideshow of pictures chronicling the 6-week experience, including the final 2 with our clients.  I would also like to share Ben's speech, which he presented at graduation on behalf of all of us trainers, because I feel it truly encompasses what this course has been like for us.
"The first ECADs graduation I attended was back in November of 2009.  The young Phil  Bauer had just been paired with Reese.  Ace had just come in for Aries.  A Children’s Village graduate named Rashawn Plant came and spoke and said that ECADS had turned his life around.  “Lu and Barbara  may not give you what you want,” he said, “but they’ll give you what you need.”  When Lu took the podium after that she cried.  

      The tears were sweet, I thought, a sort of  Hallmark,  Disney,  affect    I attended a lot of boot camp graduations after that, and noticed that people often wept .  There was one  ceremony—also held in this building—at which every single speaker broke down.  One seven –year-old  autistic -syndrome boy was at his mother’s feet, when she began to sob. “Everybody’s  supposed  to cry,”  he said, as if it were one of those adult rules, he had no patience with.

      Still,  ECADS seemed too good to be true.   Outside of the crying, it looked as if everybody was having a good time.  Doing well while doing good.   And what I wanted to know, was why doesn’t everybody train his dog?

      When I signed up for the train-the-trainers program that began July 5th—a date I won’t soon forget—Lu told me it would be  difficult.   Boy, was it only July fifth?  Seems a long time ago.  Maybe 15 years.  Lu told me I’d be frustrated.  She said that  afterwards, “your dogs won’t recognize you.  Your wife will wonder what happened.”

        I ‘m not  going to break down  this minute, but I did some crying, and it wasn’t for affect.  I imagine you clients all know just what I’m  talking about here, as do all the other trainers.   

        There’s a reason everybody doesn’t train his dog.  Dog training is hard.  Even dog handling is hard.  It’s frustrating.  It’s humiliating.  And all the time  you’re struggling, you’ve got to be smiling too.  And I don’t mean smiling like a jack o lantern.  You have to actually radiate genuine good will.  When can you have negative emotions, one of our quizzes asks.  The answer: NEVER!

        Outside of the trillion tricks about dogs  that Lu and her staff have picked up, the main problem is something the text book  labels affective domain.   Guts is what they call it in the world . Guts, or character or spine.  You get to find out just how little of it you have.  Nor do you make this discovery alone.  Golden retrievers aren’t the only creatures around here who get corrections.  This old dog was corrected many times.  Corrected by Lu and Phil, and often sometimes by students just passing by.   And the corrections aren’t the hardest part of it.  The hardest part of the course  was  constantly failing to live up to Lu’s  impossible expectations.

       When the class first started, Tara told me to watch Lu closely.  

     “Because she’s a great trainer?” I asked.

      Tara nodded.  “Because she can motivate a butterfly.”

      “Nice phrase,”  I  thought.  Fact is, though, that I haven’t been feeling much like a butterfly.   You know those big fat, brown moths? 

      That’s what I’ve felt like.    I’ve felt like one of those moths that  flies into a candle and miraculously he survives.  Then the foolish moth turns around and flies back into the fire.

        Not that I regret it.   If a new class was starting tomorrow, I’d sign right up.  I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve suffered.   Not just about dog training, but about myself.  I’m a changed  man. 

I never felt entirely alone, but then I never felt that I was entirely a member of the pack either.  I went home at night.  I have a beloved wife, you see, two grown sons and dogs as well.  And they were just 25 minutes away.  My wife and one of my sons are in the audience.  Those of you who think I invented them in order to have an excuse to escape from time to time, might take a look.

        Not that these sumptuous dorms tempted me.  But I do regret not having connected more deeply with the rest of my pack.   I’m sorry I didn’t  get to know Adam better.   He’s tough as nails, and smart and courteous too. And as for Lia, I don’t  know that anyone would have made it without Lia.    Lia’s not happy until she’s got her own job done, and part of somebody else’s too.  Hana?    Hana was  all about kindness.   Hana injected  the humanity into the group.  Hana, an actress,  acted out the feelings  that all the trainers were having.    As for J.P.—well J.P.  has a touch of Lu’s disease. The guy can’t  figure out the meaning of the word “impossible.”

        Not that the trainers matter all that much.  It’s not about the dogs either.   Although I do still  have a yearning for Garrison.  But then I  know where Garrison is going and I approve.  He’s going to Elena.   God bless them both. And this program, as Lu has always said is about the clients, before its about anyone else.  Ultimately it’s about Elena and Greg, about Heather,  Elizabeth and  Aileen.      

       It’s about  people who can now be more  independent from this day forward, more themselves. 
       They were brave to come here, and they too must have felt more like moths than butterflies .   Moths, or butterflies, they all got off the ground.  They  all were moving toward independence, out of darkness and into  light  Can’t do any better than that in this world."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Train-the-Trainer: Week 5

Week 5 of Train-the-Trainer has presented some interesting challenges and learning experiences.  The clients arrived on Monday and my fellow students-turned-trainers and I have switched gears into "teaching" mode.  We have been responsible for running the day-to-day activities with the 5 clients, writing and presenting lectures, giving and grading quizzes, and putting out fires left and right.  Having only learned this information over the past month, it is a challenge to convey confidence and authority to the clients and to gain their trust.  One of the most important lessons that we learned this week was that being too nice isn't going to get ourselves or our clients anywhere.  As Lu says, whatever you give them on the first day, they will accept.  This means that if we had been demanding and challenging and tough the first day, we could have been demanding and challenging and tough from that point forward.  Unfortunately, none of us (and I will take a lot of the blame since I was in charge the first day) were tough enough on Day 1.  We couldn't get harsher from there, so we essentially set the bar too low and had nowhere to go.  Our bad.

All of us have been working our butts off this week.  There have been days when we started at 7am and ended at 10pm.  I think it's paying off, though, and I'd rather work a 15-hour day at ECAD than an 8 hour day anywhere else.  Today was the first day when we really saw that the clients and their dogs were bonding, and that people seemed to be having success utilizing their dog for its intended purpose.  I cannot tell you how many tears I've seen over the past week as we've pushed people to their limits.  It feels like as soon as I get one situation under control, another one is starting right back up.  From what I've heard, this is always true in team training.  We don't call it bootcamp for nothing.  I owe you pictures... stay tuned.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Train-the-Trainer: Week 4

I have been putting off this blog post because I'm struggling with how it could possibly have only been 4 weeks since we began this whole thing.  It feels simultaneously like it's been 4 years and 4 days.  As we transition into the arrival of our clients, I find myself thinking about all that has happened in the past 4 weeks.  I have learned so much from Lu about dog training, people training, and the intricacies of running an organization like ECAD.  I have gained amazing, life-long friends in my classmates and in the staff members at ECAD.  I have worked with three very different dogs who have each taught me so much and helped me expand my skills as a dog trainer.  For anybody who knows the ECAD dogs, going from Joplin to Crisco to Cocoa is covering a lot of ground in 4 short weeks.

Tonight our dogs will spend their last night in the kennel, no longer sleeping in our bedrooms to help sever the bond we've worked so hard to form.  From this point forward, we are no longer allowed to even look at "our" dogs, as they must re-attach themselves to their lifelong partners.  At 9:30 tomorrow morning, we will meet our 5 clients, officially changing out of our student hats and putting on our teacher hats.  My fellow train-the-trainer students and I are responsible for the operations of this boot camp.  We have written our lectures, made our quizzes, and are eager to impart the wisdom we have acquired on the people whose lives will be changed because of the amazing dogs we're giving them.  It is with excitement and apprehension that we begin the next and final weeks of this experience.
With that, I hope you'll enjoy some of my favorite photos from the past week:
Hana gives Tom Cat some lovin'

Ben and Honey working on "light"


My Cocoa-Bean

Don't tell Pauly, but mommy let Reese into her bed

Sprinkles does an "Up, Stay" Photo credit: JP

Garrison and Sprinkles Photo Credit: JP

Cocoa and Garrison holding each other's heads up asleep in the back of the car

Monday, July 25, 2011

Train-the-Trainer: Week 3

Cocoa is a superb shopper!
Yes, I know, I'm a day late with the update on week 3 of train-the-trainer.  It's just that, well, there is so. much. to. do.  We only have one week until the clients arrive for boot camp, so we are working ourselves and our dogs through the final push in preparation of the clients' arrival.  We started week 3 with our first public outing to the Danbury mall.  For many of my classmates, this was their first public outing with a dog and everybody was pretty nervous.  That being said, everybody did great.  Since then, we've been back to two different malls, gone to restaurants for lunch three times, visited the supermarket, and done numerous other public outings.  Having to go to the mall for work is taking a serious toll on my wallet!

Ben and Honey lift onto the bus
This week we also had the opportunity to meet former ECAD clients who were returning to take their public access test.  The public access test is taken every year to ensure that the client and dog are maintaining their training.  Meeting the clients, hearing about their first year with their service dog, and troubleshooting their issues was a phenomenal learning experience.  I think it really brought home Lu's point that every one of our dogs needs to be at 150% when we place them, because the client will only be able to maintain a fraction of that training.  The clients that we met with were mostly kids and their determination, independence, and soaring spirits were remarkable.  Personally, I have also been amazed by the parents of these kids, watching them balance their desires to give their kids independence with their protective instinct.

Wish us luck as we embark on the final week of training before we welcome our clients to ECAD next week! If you're feeling extra generous, wish us some caffeine, too, because our coffee pot quit on us this morning (no doubt from exhaustion).   
Joplin and Cocoa enjoy their Sunday by the pool.  Cocoa enjoyed it a bit more than she should have!

Garrison being gentlemanly as ever.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Train-the-Trainer: Week 2

Visiting Pup Pups
6 5-week old Golden Retriever puppies spent the week with us at ECAD in order to teach us about the training that takes place at a very early age.  At 5-weeks old, the puppies are still nursing from mom, but also eating kibble.  They nibble and move around and play, but they are not yet the rambunctious, mouthy, squirmy 7-8 week old pups most people take home.  At this age, the puppies are starting to learn to "watch me", which means to focus on me and look into my eyes.  They are learning to trust humans by being asked to relax, even fall asleep, in people's arms.  Having the pup pups here was definitely the highlight of this week.

Public Outing #1
On Saturday, we all met at the Danbury Mall for our first field trip with the dogs.  The outing went very well, with all dogs and people behaving themselves.  At the beginning of the week, we rotated dogs because we don't want to form too much of a bond with each dog before giving them to the client in 2 weeks.  So for the past week, I've been working with Crisco, the most handsome dog in the kennel (I'm not biased, really!).  Crisco did very well in the mall yesterday, heeling nicely, pushing elevator buttons, carrying my glasses case and water bottle, and staying down through lunch. 
Crisco lookin' sly
Coming to Jesus
Also this week, many of us had, what Lu calls, a "coming to Jesus" meeting with our dogs.  I couldn't define it better than Urban Dictionary, so, at the risk of losing some readers, I'm going to reference the UD: 
Getting called on the carpet, dressed down, or otherwise chewed out in a severe manner. 
Crisco should have rented a conference room for all of his meetings on Friday.  On three separate occasions, Crisco completely shut down and challenged both Lu and I over picking up a dropped item.  If you've never seen a dog go head-to-head with a human in a full-on challenge, it's truly a battle of the wills.  Crisco's body language changes so severely as his tail drops, his eyes avert, and his body stiffens.  For a full ten minutes, first I and then Lu attempted to correct and motivate him to pick up a can.  For a full ten minutes, Crisco stood his ground.  For a full ten minutes, I don't think anybody in the training center breathed.  To be clear, it wouldn't have gone on this long if we were, say, training a household pet.  However, when your first priority is your client who has MS and Crisco refuses to pick up her dropped keys in the middle of the snow storm, you need to teach him that this command, to pick something up, is not really a request and he does not really have the option to refuse.  When it was clear that Crisco was not going to get out of his challenge head-place, Lu picked up the can and Crisco slowly opened his mouth to accept it.  This was as much of a win as we were going to get, so Crisco was sent to bed to think about what just happened and I was given orders to insist that he pick up the can upon being let out of his kennel.  When I went to my room two hours later, can in hand, in a fresh frame of mind, I placed the can on the floor, opened Crisco's kennel, told him to "look, get it, hold, bring it, and give" and he completed every single step flawlessly.  And then we celebrated like that damn can of peas was really the winning lottery ticket.