Filthy weather here yesterday. So vile, in fact, that Grace and I did something we don’t normally do. We didn’t have ‘outdoor exercise’. Instead we went to Percy thrower’s Garden Centre and spent over an hour looking round all the different departments and practicing heelwork up and down the aisles between the Christmas decorations. We had fun!
Nothing fazed Grace – not even the automatic sliding doors, or a trolley being wheeled past within inches of her furry body. We had a brief moment of what can only be described as ‘startlement’ (yes, it is a word) when there was an ominous rattling and banging sound that was heading our way. Peering over the display of Wellington boots, I spotted the source of the noise.
“It’s just a trolley” I told Grace. She didn’t look convinced but then when the trolley finally revealed itself to her, I could see her relax. Her expression said it all ” Meh! Just a trolley – nothing to get worried about!”
This was outstanding progress and Grace’s focus immediately returned to me. With her little face turned to look up at me we continued with out heelwork, Grace stopping only to have a quick lick at a roasted bone that was too tempting to ignore…
The air conditioning unit that was making a loud whirring and buzzing noise was not frightening, indeed it was worthy of investigation. The large fan blasting warm air directly above one of the entrances into the gift department was also taken in her dainty stride – not so a few months earlier. Grace’s reaction then was to turn tail and run as though a fire breathing dragon was after her.
In every situation we tried out some heelwork and Grace was ready and willing as soon as I muttered the word ‘close’. Her focus and attention was incredible – I had to remind myself that she is barely 10 months old as we moved forward, backward and sideways in each direction with Grace taking her cue from my movements alone. No words needed, other than “Good girl! You are so clever!” and a gentle game with her tuggy rope that always finds its way into my pocket.
We also managed to practice some moves stood next to a portable CD player that was blasting out Christmas songs. Again Grace showed no fear as she concentrated on matching her movements to mine. This was also great progress as Grace is also terrified of music – anything with piano, strings, brass, woodwind… pretty much anything Classical, which is a problem. As soon as she hears a violin (or anything else) she starts to cry, scream and howl and with her ears flat on her head and her eyes darting round, and her hunched body, she is definitely frightened. Very frightened. At the moment, she has a real hatred of the Marks and Spencer TV advert music. As soon as it starts she screams and I have to grab the TV remote and turn the sound off. She just can’t take it.
Again we have spent hours working at not being afraid of music. We have some way to go, but again there is progress. If she is training with me, she is now able to focus more on what she is supposed to be doing rather than screaming her head off (and boy can she scream!). She has also learnt to grab a toy (if one is available) when scary music comes on, and she brings it to me for me to play with her.
If it’s not one thing it’s another… or everything all together. I have no real desire to ever attempt to compete with Grace, but if we ever did, just being able to walk into the building with all the people, dogs and loud music would be an achievement.
I am extraordinarily proud of Grace and how hard she has worked to try to overcome her fears. We have a long way to go but together, who knows what we may achieve?