It’s a 1000+mile drive from our kennels to Orlando, Florida. By the end of the drive, we had two little girls who were road-hardened and savvy about truck stop “breaks.” These pups had no problem going on command in strange places, surrounded by roaring diesel truck sounds. Traveling with a pup might seem like an inconvenience to some, but we look at it as an unequaled training opportunity for our girls Ruby and Harley.
By the time we reached the Double Tree resort near Sea World, where the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) annual conference was being held, the girls were ready for anything. And they got just about everything in the way of experiences, too—sliding doors, elevators, bellboys with rolling carts, cleaning ladies with carts, rolling suitcases. You name it, they saw it. All their basic obedience training was now paying off, as they knew where to be in order to avoid getting into trouble. They just listened to the commands and life was good, since they got treats and praise.
One of their first experiences was in the hotel restaurant the day we arrived. Florida was considerably hotter than West Virginia, so the girls and their Uncle Gillie were panting a lot more than usual. Our waitress noticed the pups panting under our table and offered to bring a bowl of ice water for them. Harley politely drank a little and went back to her place to lie down. Ruby drank a little and then decided, in true Labrador fashion, that water is much better when you are in it. She tipped the bowl, getting the ceramic tile floor nice and wet with the cool water, then laid in it. I could hear the “ahhh, that’s better” sigh as she made a huge mess on the floor. I was glad we were outside!
Everywhere we went, the girls were a big hit. I think they knew they were ambassadors for the Chilbrook dogs as they seemed to have a certain air about them I hadn’t noticed before. There were hundreds of people around the hotel and conference, so they got a good dose of how to behave in a crowd. Since I was speaking for two sessions at the conference and Sam was busy manning our table selling books and sniffer supplies, I was concerned about the girls getting the attention they needed. Then it dawned on me—I was at a convention of professional dog trainers! Maybe one of my fellow IACP members wouldn’t mind taking a puppy for the day. I didn’t have to look far to find volunteers to nanny the girls for the days I was speaking. We caught glimpses of them shopping the vendors, trying out all the new toys, learning to walk on the doggie treadmills on display, and going to and from lecture rooms. Around dinner time, we managed to wrangle them back. By the end of the day, they were happy to go to their crates and crash.
I can’t count the number of photos people from the conference have sent me of Harley and Ruby. I know now that when they see a camera they just stop and smile. I guess that’s something I can add to the list of things they’ve learned but I’m not sure how that will enhance their résumés. On our last day at the resort, we happened to be in the room when the cleaning person stopped in. We learned quickly that she was terrified of dogs, so Sam and I decided to take the girls with their Uncle Gillie, who was also with us, to Sea World. Gillie would enjoy a chance to dive into one of the many pools there since he was affected by the increased heat as well. I think the girls were just happy to have all the attention of the crowds of people who couldn’t resist petting them.
If I didn’t know better, I would say their egos were pretty big by the end of the morning. Next stop, the South Eastern Guide Dog School in Palmetto, Florida.