Day 24

By now our schedule is pretty consistent.
I stay in bed until Jesse leaves for work, which is around 7:20am.
Then I get up and give Willy some love. Or should I say, Willy gives me some love. Either way, the loving is mutual. He does just as much for me as I do for him, and probably more.
Since I’ve been in this dog program, I’ve had three dogs :
Yahoo, a 8 year old Collie/Lab mix (pic)
Rolo, a 1 year old Jack Russell Rat Terrier mix. (pic)
And my absolute favorite, WILLY!
Every time I have to say goodbye to one of these incredible animals, they take a little piece of my heart with them. But in return, they fill that void with a piece of their heart. I continue to feel them long after they’re gone. So it leaves me to wonder…how long before my entire heart is transformed by the coming and going of dogs in my life? And with a newly transformed heart, is it possible to be as loving, and forgiving, and as generous as all the dogs that aided in my transformation? From what I’ve seen so far, the answer is yes!
There’s no doubt that dogs make me a better person.
”All dog handlers report to the gym! I repeat, ALL DOG HANDLERS REPORT TO THE GYM.” Says the PA system.
Sweet! Maybe today Willy will turn yellow. “Willy, come! Its time for doggy class.” I clip his leash to his collar, and we’re off to the gym.
This is the first class of the ten week session. So for the first 45 minutes, the head trainer goes over all the rules. But the gym is big and echoey. And there are two black labs that are barking up a storm. I can’t hear a word the trainer is saying. So Willy and I move in closer. Ahhh, much better.
After the rule ceremony, its time for assessments. And guess who gets called on first. Yep, the one who is already right there by the trainer, Willy.
“Show me what he’s got.” Says the head trainer.
”Alrighty.” I say with excitement. ”Willy, heel!”
And we’re off! Willy’s head stays by my left knee as I walk straight, then zig zag, then circle to the left, then to the right. I speed up, then slow down, no matter what I do Willy is right there. ”Good boy Willy” I say with lots of positive energy as I quickly pet his head. Then I abruptly stop. Willy stops and sits as he looks up at me for the next cue.
”Willy, stay!”
I drop his leash and walk away. Then I loop around behind him. He watches my every move, but never gets up. Not even with all the loud distractions. The labs are still whining and barking.
”Willy, come!” I shout from about ten yards away. Willy comes running as fast as he can. Most dogs casually trot to their handlers. I drop to my knees and open my arms. I hug Willy as I praise him over and over.
Then I stand up.
”Willy, sit.”
He does.
”Willy, back up.”
He does about five feet. I say it again and again,”back up, back up” until he’s about ten feet from me.
“Willy, down!”
He lays down.
“Willy, heel!”
He runs to me, then positions himself on my left side with his head by my knee.
“Willy, jump!”
He does.
As soon as he lands, ”Willy down.”
He lays down.
“Roll over,”
He quickly rolls over.
“Willy, heel!”
He trots to my left side and sits.
The entire gym starts to applaud.
”Willy, jump!”
I catch him in mid air as I hug him and burry my face in his soft neck. He tries to lick my face but I don’t let him. I set him down. ”Good boy, Willy,”
”Very nice!” Says the head trainer. ”Who wants to go next?”
Someone shouts out, ”No one after that performance!”
Laughter ensues.
By the end of class, three dogs got promoted to yellow, and two stayed in red.
Willy should’ve went straight to green! But yellow will do for now.
Willy is what we call a “push button” dog. Meaning he’s as easy to train as it is to push a button. There really is no challenge. Willy is a special dog.
Class is over.
”Willy, heel.” We walk from the gym back to the unit.
As Willy walks nicely by my side, I see other guys struggling to keep their dogs at a heel. I want to help. And later I will.
Willy and I walk into our cell. I take the red bandana off, and put the yellow one on. We are now allowed to hang out in the dayroom and socialize with other people.
I take Willy to the dayroom and spread good cheer and joy amongst the inmates. For the past 24 days, many of these guys have been itching to pet Willy and say, ”hi”. And now they can.