Ah, you’ve heard those words before, but this time I’m referring to drafting.
The Draft Workshop was offered for the first time during the BMDCA National Specialty held in Gettysburg. Here are a few of the very positive results.
I received a call from Gwen many months prior to the entry date for the workshops, asking whether she could enter the beginner workshop. I couldn’t figure out why she thought she had to ask until I talked with her for a bit and learned that her dog was deaf. The dog was not deaf at birth: rather, it had happened a few years ago. Clarice, the dog Gwen wanted to enter, was now 5 years old.
All of our instructors are great, but I mentally went through the list, trying to decide who would be good to work with Gwen and keep her calm so that she and Clarice could work as a team and gain success. I decided that Jim Durrance would be ideal to work with this team. His experience as a Director working with people to train dogs for the blind would be a perfect match, and I had watched Jim many times when he was working with drafting teams. Jim is an amazing instructor to observe. He is extremely calm and helps the team to succeed and feel comfortable with the step they are working on before moving on to the next step. I sent a quick e-mail to Jim, asking whether he would be the instructor for Gwen and Clarice. I received an immediate yes, with a request to start working on some hand signals through e-mail with Gwen. Hand signals were already being used, but more would be needed for draft work.
The morning came for the workshop, and Gwen was excited, as was Clarice. I didn’t have time to follow this team, but at the end of that morning, when we were packing up, we looked up to see Gwen with Clarice in the shafts and pulling the cart. Jim was behind them with a big grin on his face, and I asked him where he had been working. Jim pointed to a place down the hill a bit and said, “Clarice was going through the narrows I had set up down there, and she was also backing up.” We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open. Gwen was so excited that she was crying and laughing at the same time. This was a dog that had no draft training but was going through narrows, which are difficult, backing up, which is also difficult, and following other commands. That morning was worth all our effort and work, and we all knew it. I have since heard from Gwen, and she and Clarice are entering many parades and such. What a joy to hear of this success!
( This article appeared in “The Alpenhorn”, February, 2006