So today was supposed to be the big Woods Walk with the puppies. Doug and I and the kids loaded 14 puppies in the car and headed out to the state park to meet Dave (who has been a huge part of these puppies’ lives, and took the picture above) and (yay!) Amanda, who is a blog reader who drove over an hour just to come play with puppies.
The grand plan was to take the puppies to the park, let them play for a little while, and then take out individual or small groups of puppies to see how they did on unfamiliar surfaces and in new places.
What ACTUALLY happened was that as soon as we let them out of their baskets they all ran around like maniacs and attracted quite a crowd, including this gentleman:
That, my friends, is taken with a regular camera lens (also by Dave), not a big zoom. He came flying in, sat about ten feet above our heads, and totally ignored us walking over, talking firmly to him, yelling, clapping, or sending four children to chase him off. He was pretty sure that the Lord had sent him the fattest, stupidest black-and-white rabbits EVER, and he was not going to be scared away.
So that was pretty much that for the walking bits. We gathered all the puppies and put them in the x-pen we had carried in, and did our best to discourage Mr. Red-tail as he did several alarmingly low fly-overs before settling in a different tree to see if we got foolish.
This all took quite a little while, so once they were tucked in we figured we should try some temperament testing exercises before we lost the light. Amanda worked as our “stranger,” and while I couldn’t exactly provide a completely distraction-free environment because I didn’t want to get so far away that the hawk had a chance to try a hail-mary, I could at least hang back far enough that puppies would see her first and not me.
The first exercise in traditional puppy testing is a simple one – a little baby recall. The tester calls a puppy and you score the responses based on whether the puppy comes with excitement, or willingly but with no excitement, or hesitantly, or (horrors) not at all.
I am not sure how to score it when a puppy is put down on the ground, looks at the friendly stranger who is coaxing him with a lovely voice, and then runs in an EXTREMELY excited way in the exact opposite direction. We watched the puppy disappear under a stand of peonies and said “Huh.” Went and fetched the puppy, put him down, the kind call was repeated, and he headed for the hills again.
I kind of swallowed hard – wow, I have never had a puppy just give me the finger on this exercise; they usually at least respond – so we put him back and got the next puppy. And here is their testing:
The best of all, however, was Bernard. We set him up, drew his attention to the lovely kind stranger, she called him. He cocked his head attentively and then incredibly slowly and majestically toppled over backwards into a ditch.
At this point we were laughing so hard that we were hiccuping and just had to stop. I am pretty sure the other puppies would have scored just as stellar reactions.