HA! I put Wounded Warrior, amazing Jamie, and her SDIT, Zulu, through the fun part of training today at Walmart! Zulu has been at Petsmart, HEB, and other stores, where he knows every command perfectly. He can walk tied to the shopping cart, do meet and greets, sit, down, sit/stay, down/stay, controlled entry and exit in and out of a car and building, heels perfectly – Jamie, still active duty – has done an AMAZING job with Zulu. It’s truly beyond belief. Either Zulu was trained in another life, or Jamie is just that good! As a team, they function perfectly. Covers, come, leave it – you name it, they can do it.
So this time, I rode into training in the motorized shopping carts to greet them at Walmart. Jamie laughed and Zulu’s huge beautiful ears perked up and he did that adorable “head tilt” he does when he is seeing something new and strange! We immediately started walking together, and Zulu wasn’t fazed by the electric cart. He was shaking a little bit because there were SO many people at this hour, but with constant reassurance from Jamie and I and treats when Zulu started to get acclimated, it was a breeze!
Of course, I made Jamie sit in the cart after Zulu got used to it, and she tied his leash at the perfect length so Zulu could heel safely. Zulu quickly adjusted to this new contraption – even when Jamie backed it up and it made that “beeping” noise. We navigated small aisles, and Zulu adjusted his body to the changes in direction and went through narrow spaces without hesitation. I created as many distractions as I could – bouncing balls, a hula-hoop, the large screen TVs, children’s toys, opening and closing the freezer doors with Zulu’s head close to the “whooshing” noise, etc. We did sit/stays and down/stays in the back, and even the Walmart employees were astounded! Zulu stays right by Jamie’s side off leash, and will “cover” naturally.
We finished by sitting at McDonald’s to see how Zulu would do with all the smells and people. He preferred to sit close to Jamie’s side, but away from any possible traffic.
The most beautiful thing happened, too. I was SO glad Jamie got to witness it. A couple came up to us with a little girl in the seat area of a shopping cart. They were watching the training, and asked if a Service Dog could help their adorable daughter, who was sadly born with a condition that left her with only half of her brain. The couple explained that she only responds to certain things and says minimal words – but she loved dogs. She kept holding her little arms out as if she wanted to touch Zulu, and she had the biggest smile on her face. With the parents’ permission, we had Zulu jump up to put his paws on the cart and let the little girl pet Zulu – and Zulu covered her with kisses!! We spent some time talking with them about how a Service Dog could help her, and they were so happy! At the end, the little girl actually said “doggie” the best way she could! It was a tear-jerking moment; one that had a tremendous effect on Jamie. Jamie will hopefully come onto our team as a trainer – she’s that good and has a heart of gold.
Oh – and Jamie will be attending a birthday party for her nephew who loves everything Ninja Turtle, so of course, we had to try on Ninja shirts on Zulu and even a turtle shell costume!!
We will be performing the Public Access Test next week!