May has been a busy month for me, which means a busy month for Spike. Lots of planes, trains, and automobiles. Lots of special events, crowds, loud music and birthdays - all great experiences in getting Spike socialized.
We kicked things off at the end of April with a trip to California to visit my boyfriend Chris and his family in the San Francisco Bay Area. A cross-country plane ride is challenging enough for a 15-month old pup. On top of that our flight was delayed multiple times due to weather and airport congestion and so we all ended up being in that flying sardine can for just over eight hours. AND there was an emotional support dog in the row ahead of us, directly in front of Spike, which was very distracting for both of them!
There are more puppy raisers in the San Francisco area than here in New York, partly due to the fact the Canine Companions for Independence headquarters are in Santa Rosa, just north of the city. So we attended a training session with the East Bay volunteer chapter, which was great for me and Spike. Each local chapter does their training sessions differently, so it’s helpful to share tips with people you don’t normally train with.
We were home for two days before flying again, this time to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. We took Spike to Churchill Downs the day before the Derby for the Kentucky Oaks races, where he made a lot of new friends and learned how to place a bet (and shortly thereafter how to lose a bet).
The forecast for Derby day however looked terrible with hours of rain - and that would have been a miserable place for a pup in training.
One great thing about Canine Companions is that you have an instant family of puppy raisers and graduates, and many of us are on social media. So I posted on Facebook, asking if there were any puppy raisers in the Louisville area and instantly got a couple of responses.
Lexington puppy raiser Debra Gleason agreed to take Spike for the day, which was a huge relief. Yes, you can hire a dog walker in a pinch but it was a long day at the track and it’s always preferable to have someone who knows the program and the do’s and don’ts. It’s also good for Spike to do his commands with someone other than me. It’s best that he’s used to working with multiple people when he goes off to advanced training (ie college) in August.
Then the day after we came back to New York from Louisville, Spike and I went to a gala for Caron.org who have all sorts of programs for people struggling with addiction. They were honoring my dear friend Michael McDonald who has done so much in that field. It was a wonderful evening, capped by a special performance by Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human. Spike had to walk the red carpet - which was easy enough - but when I bent down to the floor to take a photo with him I hadn’t fully thought through my dress choice and nearly had a wardrobe malfunction. But he did great with the crowds, stayed under our table for the dinner, and happily watched as the band played, not at all phased by the volume.
The next day, AMC Network, home to shows like “The Walking Dead,” invited Spike and his Canine Companions friends to a “Yappy Hour” where they invited all their employees to spend time in the late afternoon with our pups-in-training and fully-trained service dogs. It was a great way for employees to get a puppy break and learn about service dog etiquette and all the great work they can do for their partners.
We left the next day for Washington, DC via the train. Spike and I went to the White House, where he tried to do his best John Roberts impersonation. We also visited our DC bureau which was full of producers, anchors and crew who really needed a furry friend on a late Friday night.
My good friend Dave from college also had his 50th birthday party that weekend in DC which was really challenging for Spike as there was a civilian dog at the party - Hobie - who was completely off leash and running around. Spike looked at him like “Dude! Are you not working?” He had to remain by my side, focused on me in spite of the highly-distracting golden retriever freely roaming about.
These two crazy weeks concluded with first a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and walk through Central Park (more horses!) and then a visit to a taping of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” at the historic Ed Sullivan theater in Manhattan. While Spike is no stranger to TV, he’s never been part of a live TV audience. We had to stand up and sit down quite a bit, and we worked on Spike staying mellow the whole time, even when the Korean boy band “BTS” played and the crowd wildly screamed through it all.
Spike handled everything like a champ. Everywhere we go, and every new experience he has, is great socialization for him. We have no idea who his future partner may be - so I want to expose him to as much as possible. I’m lucky to work in the news business and therefore get unique experiences. And only hope that he’ll be ready for whatever his partner wants to do.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go, Spike!