Audi passes a test – Arkansas Online
I can exhale. Audi made it.
She passed her certification test Saturday morning and now she’s a therapy dog. Or at least she will be after we send in the paperwork to Therapy Dogs International (tdi-dog.org). Which we’ll do next week–I have to take a head and shoulders photo of her, get our wonderful vet to swear that she’s had all her shots, and scrape together $40. We’ll get a red bandana and an ID badge in exchange (though the main benefit the organization supplies is liability insurance). Then our little terrier will be able to visit nursing homes and hospitals, to go wherever therapy dogs go.
I didn’t get to see her go through the test — we guessed it might have been distracting to have me in the room. But Karen reports Audi did great and the only hiccough was that she wanted to go all the way down to the floor when commanded to “sit.” (Our bad, we hadn’t stressed the difference between the commands.)
The training wasn’t arduous. For nine weeks we met with other dogs and their “handlers” on Wednesday evenings in Martin Hall (the gymnasium) at Trinity United Methodist Church. There, for an hour, our instructor Mimi Wilson led us through the various phases of the test. While Audi learned some basic commands during these lessons–sit, down, stay, leave it– probably the most important part of the training was the exposure to other dogs and people. (If you’re interested in signing up for these classes, usually held twice each year, you can contact Mimi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don’t contact the church.)
When walking with us down Kavanaugh Boulevard in the late afternoons, Audi is always in the company of her adoptive older sisters Paris and Dublin (who are litter mates). When they go to the dog park they generally keep to themselves, and any interaction any one of them has with another dog is closely watched by the other two. They are a tightly bonded pack; kind of a closed system.
So it was different taking Audi off to school alone; upon her return Paris and Dublin interrogated her with much snuffling around and eye-rolling. Audi seemed pleased to have a special thing.
And it is a special thing. Much as I love the other dogs, neither of them seems well-suited to the demands of providing calm comfort. Dublin is too protective (of her house, her yard, her sisters, her neighborhood) while Paris (only protective of her place in the kitchen) might be a little too self-interested. While they all have fine temperaments and are gentle with children, Audi loves two-leggers beyond reason. She will crawl into anyone’s lap and beam up at them with her black eyes, her truncated tail oscillating.
It seemed a shame not to share her, so we decided we would try.
We weren’t looking for a dog when she found us; we’d just come out of a period where we’d lost three older dogs and were happy to have two low-maintenance Schnauzer mixes. I’d had a mild prejudice against smaller dogs. I’d thought they were nervous and yappy and doubted they could be as intelligent as larger breeds. Paris and Dublin changed my thinking. And having two sisters, who were always agreeable and in sync with one another, made our lives so easy.
Audi showed up in May 2012; we suspect she was dumped near our house. She was a few months old. Someone had tried to crop her ears and botched the job. (Audi could be a pure-bred Schnauzer, but we’re not going to test her DNA to find out.) She ran up to a neighbor and licked his knee; he thought she was Dublin. (A reasonable mistake. Audi is predominately black with cream accents, just like Dub.) So the neighbor brought her to our house and, finding no one at home, left her in the care of another neighbor, who also thought she might be Dublin.
And that neighbor called Karen to tell her that maybe one of our dogs had gotten out. Karen raced home, verified it wasn’t Dublin and–in gratitude for our neighbors having looked out for us–volunteered to take in the dog who would become Audi and spearhead a search for the owner we all knew would just be frantic at having lost such a sweet, affectionate animal.
After a week of posting photos and notifying various groups and agencies, we realized no one was looking for Audi. So we got her microchipped and fixed and found her a home in northwest Arkansas. For we already had two perfect dogs; to take a third just seemed selfish. (And we also knew that while, in many ways, two dogs are as easy and sometimes easier to handle than one dog, three dogs can be complicated. Especially when the pair is as tightly bonded as Paris and Dublin.)
But that didn’t work out, so Audi was returned to us a few weeks later. We had another home lined up for her. But we just couldn’t let her go again.
Now she’s got a credential and we can take her out into the world and let her do what she was made to do: love people.
I do not know why Audi is the way she is, but she has been this way from the moment we first met her. While I do not ascribe to other species the qualities of my own kind, I cannot imagine it is simply some evolutionary survival strategy. Karen says it is obvious that no one has ever hurt Audi. But someone let her go or shooed her off. Someone left her to find her own way in the world. Someone betrayed her.
A few years ago a thoughtful person who’d read my columns about my dogs sent us a pair of polished steel tags each engraved with the word “rescued.” The note said I should put them on Paris’ and Dublin’s collars.
I didn’t. I put them on simple chains. I’m wearing one around my neck.
Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at email@example.com and read his blog at blooddirtandangels.com.
Editorial on 06/28/2016