Its been an honor and a privilege working with Rolo over the past 10 weeks. He taught me just as much as I taught him.
The graduation ceremony takes place in the visiting room. The center of the room is cleared out, and all the tables and chairs are set up around the perimeter.
As we enter, half the dogs and trainers split off to left and the other half splits off to the right. The audience applauds.
We circle around the room like two trains heading for a head on collision.
Right before impact, we strategically shift and intersect one another like race cars on a figure 8 racetrack.
Before you know it, we’re all circling in the same direction.
The assistant trainer (he’s an inmate) stands in the center with a microphone and gives a series of commands, such as: sit, down, stay, come, circle, reverse circle.
All the dogs perform beautifully.
Then we circle off the floor in a single file line.
A crew of handlers quickly set up an obstacle course. Rolo and I are last in line.
As we wait our turn I kneel down by Rolo and talk to him. I point to all the other dogs who are running the course. I whisper the commands as the dogs perform them. Rolo watches and listens.
Before we know it, the assistant trainer announces, “Up next is Steven and Rolo”!
“Rolo, heel!” I say as I lead him to the slinky tunnel. He cruises through with ease.
I lead him to a make shift door. “Rolo, sit!” I say as I give the hand signal. He sits like a champ. The door opens. “Rolo, heel!” He follows me to three steps that leads up to a ten foot plank.
All the other dogs conquer it in one continuous motion. I have Rolo sit and wait. Then I say, “okay, let’s go!” He jumps up and trots across. Before he jumps down, I tell him to sit. Then I say, “Dance pretty” as I guide him up on his hind legs and make him shift back and forth before he does a 360.”
This is all extra. All the other dogs ran through the course non-stop.
Next is the cone weave. Before he starts I say, “Rolo sit.” He does. “Rolo, focus.” He looks me in the eye and holds the stare until I say, “Lets go!” He quickly weaves in and out of the cones.
“Rolo, sit.” He does. “You did good! Give me five.” He does. Then we trot over to our seat.
After the obstacle course, its time to give an oral presentation introducing ourselves and the dogs.
This is my 2nd oral presentation. The audience consist of my peers, high ranking DOC staff, sponcers, volunteers, and members from the community.
I get up in front of the audience and say:
“Hello, my name is Steven. This is Dicky. And This is Rolo. Rolo is a Jack Russel Rat Terrier Mix. He was a stray that came to us through PAWS. When we first got Rolo he didn’t know any of his commands. Today he knows all of his commands. For more on Rolo, here’s Dicky.”
That’s it. Nice and easy. In and out!
After all the speeches, Dicky, Rolo, and I went to a table and met with an elderly lady who adopted Rolo. We gave her all the info we had on Rolo, which included a ten week journal of his progress.
Then it was time to say goodbye. A sad time…but a happy time too. Rolo found a good home and will be well cared for.
Now I’m just waiting for my next dog. Stay tuned.
Steven D. Jennings