Monday, August 26, 2013


One of the perks of our Canine Companions for Independence Chapter is that the littles 18 and under can go to a 4H class with their puppy (outside of a regular class made up of adults raisers). The 4H club is made of Puppy Raisers and Graduates of Canine Companions, the Co-Leaders are the Contract Trainer for our Region with her sister and brother-in-law. It is a fantastic set-up and the members and families are beyond incredible.
Seeing young Puppy Raisers mixing, and being friends with, and mentoring peers with, a variety of different learning or physical disabilities with their own Skilled Companions dog, is a life skill that truly warms my heart. My kids are very fortunate to experience this real life scenario and learn how to communicate and work with a wide variety of individuals. This is the second school year being involved with the 4H side of our Chapter.
However, this was Kolby's first time, and last time, at Fair as he will Turn In to Santa Rosa a week before Fair next year. Last year we experienced Fair with a 14 month highly trained, ready to go, Puppy in Training - Haddie. This year was a different experience with our 7 month old, getting-there, Puppy in Training. It was a great example of working hard, and not giving up for our children. 
In a nutshell, Kolby really did do fantastic. He was amazing on the bench, not only receiving a lot of oohs and aaahs over his big ears and pleading puppy eyes, but he handled the public, the smells, the fast pace, the noise, the long days (13 hours), and being surrounded by other pups in tight quarters - everything stimulation overload - Fabulously! Absolutely no complaints or concerns in regards to that area of Fair and Kolby. He rocked!!
The struggle came four times in the Show Ring when it was all about Showmanship. Those four moments seemed to last an eternity and made the weekend three times as long (heehee). Let's just say that Kolby is no model, and has no interest in showing his beauty. He hated (I really try hard not to use that word, but it truly is the best word) the show-collar; a very thin gold choke-chain attached high on his neck. Hated It. This meant that Kolby refused to walk into position, and stand appropriately. To the point where the Judge ( three out of the four times during the weekend) gave the kids a pass to "stop trying". Ha!
My only concern with this is if he Graduates and receives a Handler who has longed to join a mixed-breed confirmation class ... I will just nod and say, "Best of Luck". Otherwise, everything done in the Showmanship ring has no bearing on higher education at Canine Companions, whew, but for the sake of Kolby learning how to wear different collars and textures we will keep exposing him to the show collar before he leaves for California.
(Side note - both kids showed Kolby this weekend, which meant that he was worked twice as much as any of the other dogs. I think if I were to do a redo, we would have flipped a coin and decided which kiddo was going to show Kolby in which event. He was really worked hard for his age over the two days).  
When my kids showed Kolby, and although he was a pain, they kept their cool and demonstrated that they knew what they was doing; the questions posed by the Judge were answered correctly to receive high marks. However, my girl received Reserved Champion, and got to return to "do it all over again" with other Reserved Champions. Her first thought was, "Really? I gotta do this again?!"
Time had passed between the two showings, so she reviewed the errors she had made and was ready to try again. In the end, she got Kolby to stack for a good five seconds (HA!), just enough time for the Judge to see Kolby's beautify the way he should have done all along. She received high verbal praise from the Judge as The Most Improved and walked out as the Reserve Grand Champion!! Way to go - making your best better and not giving up!! She was beaming.
Now, for Kolby he LOVED to work anything that had to do with Canine Companions skills and expectations. He was in his element and showed that he had full concentration on his Handlers (my kiddos) for every command and situation. Control Training (Handler + Kolby in the ring + Judge = going through commands asked by the Judge through an obstacle course) received both of my kids high marks and Champion Ribbons. They did a fabulous job and it was fun to see the great Teamwork they had with Kolby. 
The Evaluation Course was another fun event where the Handler and Kolby walked a route through the Fairgrounds in a group of other 4H Canine Companions Members and two Judges - the kids were rated on their Handling Skills, and Kolby was rated for his skills as a Puppy in Training. This was our favorite part of the entire weekend. It is the real-deal for our Puppy Raising skills. The Judges are experienced Puppy Raisers hand picked by our Contract Trainer. They know their stuff, and so it is a great review from a well qualified Raiser as to what the kids are doing right, how the puppy is doing, and how they can improve. 
The kids did wonderful in this event too - receiving high marks and being awarded a Reserve Champion for my girl, and a Judge's Choice Award for my son. Both of my kids love working their puppy in public, and they do a wonderful job!! It is a thrill to watch them work. But my son loves working any puppy in public, and volunteered to work two other Canine Companion Puppies for adults who (obviously) are not part of 4H, but wanted their puppy to experience the Fair atmosphere for training reasons, and to have their puppy evaluated.
My son was in heaven - he thought it was the best thing ever. As a result, my son walked the Evaluation Course 3-times, each being about 30 to 40 minutes in length ... receiving the Judge's Choice Award for never giving up and taking on the extra responsibility.  
The additional events for the Fair included Agility (a for-fun event that another club sponsored), and Mixed Breed Confirmation; like Showmanship, but this time the scores are all about the dog, and nothing about the Handler. Needless to say, Kolby received the "Thanks for participating" Award ... insert grin. 
And saving a very special part for last - our dear friend who is Puppy Raising Helaine was asked to come to Sunday's Fair events (Evaluation, Control, Agility, Confirmation). Our Contract Trainer knew that she had years (decades perhaps) of 4H dog experience, Guide Dogs Puppy Raising experience, and now Canine Companions Puppy Raising experience ... and the point was for her to learn the ropes of Judging for the green light to Judge next year. 
The kids were so excited that Helaine was going to be on the bench on Sunday - in their care, and that my son was going to take Helaine on the Evaluation Course. Through the craziness of the morning my friend was quickly promoted to Evaluation Course Judge when the other judge never showed (turned-out to be running late), but our friend continued to hold title of Judge with the other Judge. Yay! 
While our friend didn't officially rate my kiddos, nor her own dog, she was there to observe and give unbiased attention. It was so fun to see her in action and we were so impressed with her Public Speaking skills to our 4H Club when it came time to hand out the awards. She is truly a Leader and we would be thrilled to have her officially part of our 4H Team. She is top notch and so much fun! 
Helaine did wonderful on the bench, cuddled with my son, received a lot of crowd attention at the Petting Bench with both my kids, received lots of laughs in the Agility Ring with my son (remember, most of Agility is foreign to our puppies, but they were sooooo cute they attracted a huge crowd!!), and overall she was a great addition to our day. We were so lucky to have her there, and our friend too!!
Fair was long, tiring, crazy-scheduled, never a dull moment, random eating schedules, late nights, early mornings ... but by far outweighed by life experiences, confidence building, teamwork, growth, friendships, encouragement, laughter, and lots of smiles. 
Quote by my girl driving away from the Fairgrounds at 10:45p last night ... "I was hesitant about my first Fair experience ~ not really wanting to go. Remember, you kinda forced me into this. But you were right - I fell in love with Fair. That was amazing." 


  1. Oh great last quote! Love 4-H and have such great memories both for me and our kids!

  2. I'm tired just reading your blog post about it....ZZZZZZzzzzz