Sunday, May 29, 2022

Canine Merry Maids

We have 2 dogs here with us. Zoe, our 6 year old Yellow Lab and Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle. While both are great dogs, each definitely has their own personality and agenda. 

I like dogs and I like training them to do odd jobs for me and feel like they are contributing to the household. Dogs are awesome companions for most any person that is willing to take one in and feed and care for it. Dogs have that unconditional love for their human that in my opinion outshines many people’s love and respect for their fellow humans. 

We have had many dogs over the years and every one had a certain job they did for us. Whether it was doing rounds down at the barn and henhouse or chasing after the kids when they went hiking by the river and out in the woods, all of our dogs learned what they were needed for at a really early age.

I guess over the years there have maybe been favorite dogs we have had. The ones that got a little deeper into our hearts than some of the others. For my Best Half it was definitely, Rainey, his Aussie, that was also his ears for about 10 years. She was a gentle soul that eagerly helped him through parking lots with cars coming up behind him that he couldn’t hear. She was a one in a million dog.

I have had a few dogs that have left their paw print on my heart over the years too, but I have to say, the 2 we have right now are in the top running for best dogs ever. And both couldn’t be further apart in personality and learning.

When I got Zoe 6 years ago, the plan was that she would help me with some of the things that I wasn’t fond of doing, the things that hurt my back. Mostly it was the laundry and picking stuff up off the floor. Being a Lab, she was all about retrieving any and everything she would find. And so I put her retriever brain to work at doing the laundry with me. From the time she was big enough to put her paws up and stand against the washing machine, she was grabbing the dirty laundry from the floor and putting it in the washer. For her it was a never ending game that she loved to do. When the dryer would shut off, she would reach into the dryer and get all the clothes out for me and either give them to me or drop them in the laundry basket. She was like having a Merry Maid at the house, only she just was paid in scruffs and a piece of salami here and there.

She also learned how to open the fridge door and fetch bottled water for me. I had a rope tied to the fridge door and she would put it with her mouth and tug on it until it opened and then grab the bottled water off the shelf. I eventually had to put the kibosh on her fridge skills as she started bringing me the salami for her treat. She was taking it upon herself to surf the fridge for any snack that seemed appealing to her at the moment. And as we all know, there isn’t much a Lab won’t eat.

Zoe still helps with the housework, she will pick up toys left by the grandkids, and every morning will bring us her and Max’s bowl after she eats. But lately, since Rainey is no longer with us, she has taken it upon herself to be at my Best Half’s side all the time. She will sleep on the floor right next to him if he is out at the kitchen table, waiting for him to make a move so she can 

follow him. At night when we are kicked back watching TV, she will place her head on his lap and doze off while he strokes her soft velvety head. They have developed quite a relationship the past few months. 

While never being specifically trained like Rainey was to be a hearing dog, Zoe has picked up where Rainey had left off. At times, I think Rainey and Zoe worked out a deal that Zoe would take over once Rainey was gone from us. It was almost immediately after Rainey was gone that Zoe picked up the job and became a new support for my Best Half. After 6 years of having Zoe more or less as my dog, she decided to join allegiance with my Better Half. A concern we had when Rainey left us was who would be his ears when I wasn’t with him was fixed by Zoe taking on the role. So I am OK with her doing that. She just intuitively knows to alert him when someone is calling his name. Or turn around when there is a car behind them in a parking lot. The same things we had spent teaching Rainey to do. While I could feel a bit sad handing Zoe off to work for someone besides me, I have Max. For good or for bad I have Max.

Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle, came to us when he was about 12 weeks old. I had been looking at Goldendoodles and Labradoodles for a few months and was planning to get one eventually to train as a hearing dog as Rainey was getting older and possibly would be retiring as age was starting to show. The plan was that it would take about 3 years to train a new hearing dog and by that time Rainey would be close to 11 and probably ready to kick back into retirement.

It became pretty clear that after we had Max for about 6 months he was not hearing dog material. For a dog to be a hearing dog, it must be able to react to sounds quickly and consistently. Max had a thought process that seemed to be slow at best when asked to do basic stuff like sit. He would look at you with his head tilted to the side, then look beyond the person making the request to see if there were any better offers out there. After about 5 seconds he would comply and do what was being asked of him. Max is just a really laid-back dog. So much so that even when he is getting clipped and groomed, he will fall asleep and I will have to lift him and move him around like a rag doll in order to get the other side of him clipped. Because of Max’s extreme calmness…or laziness (I haven’t figured out which) we disqualified him as a hearing dog candidate. We figured by the time he saw a car in the parking lot coming his way,and figured out what to do, it would plow the two of them over. Max just doesn’t have the quick decision making ability needed for a hearing dog.

So Zoe is now officially teamed up with my Best Half and they continue to work together with the hearing and her alerting him. And that leaves Max to be teamed up with me as my partner. While he is slow moving to process things in his brain, he is an incredible dog and actually pretty smart. He is about 75 lbs of muscle and has begun bracing his long tall body to help me up off the floor. I call him my “Help, Ive fallen and can’t get up” dog. Whenever I am down on the floor doing something like picking up or rearranging a bottom shelf, Max will stand next to me the whole time waiting for me to pull myself up with him. He is solid and strong and when I put my arm around him he will walk backwards and assist me up to standing. His one command that he doesn’t have to process for any length of time. I just say “brace” And he gets in position. He is constantly by my side. He knows how much I hate picking stuff off the floor because of my back and balance, so he will bring me anything I point to. There may be a few seconds process delay, but he always comes through. So while he would have made a terrible hearing dog, Max is an awesome Merry Maid housekeeper helping around the house with those things that are hard for me to do. He earns his keep right along with Zoe.

While we have always had a few dogs around the house, Max and Zoe seem to be the ones that have found it in themselves to help take care of us. They have unconditional love for both of us, while at the same time bonded to one they want to assist. They are always willing to help us out. Now if I could just get them to team up and do the snowplowing and empty the dishwasher and vacuum.

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