Once aboard the plane I got her carrier all settled in (it was a pretty tight fit under the seat in front of me), slipped her a tasty chew treat, and settled in myself. Doni barely moved and didn’t make a peep the entire flight home. I was thinking “Wow! What a great little puppy!” Things could not have gone any better than how they went. The night before I had left, I set up an exercise pen for Doni with clean toys and a comfy bed so when we got home she was given a chance to potty and then ready to be placed in the pen in our living room. All the dogs were really excited when I walked in the door with the carrier. Ricki and Ozzy are very used to me bringing baby animals into the house randomly. Penny has only had two other experiences with baby animals. This would be Pixie’s first experience. So needless to say Penny and Pixie were very excited to see what was in the bag.
Both Pixie and Penny can get very excited when they meet other dogs so we kept their contact very controlled. Doni is so little we carried her in and out to go potty. She was given separate playtime by herself away from the other dogs. Pixie was probably the most disappointed about this as we discovered she loves little Doni. The first night we prepared to not get much sleep. Most of our puppies have rough first nights away from their litter. Being in the kennel and in a new environment for the first time is a lot. Doni was a rare exception. At bedtime she went out to potty and then she was placed in her kennel. We gave her a few toys as well as treated her. Then she settled right in. She watched us get ready for bed but didn’t make a peep. Once we turned out the lights she went right to sleep and didn’t make a sound until about 6am when she needed to go out to potty. We thought maybe the first night was a fluke and perhaps she was just tired from all the activity the day before. But the second night went exactly like the first night except this time Doni didn’t wake up until our alarm went off. Out of the 20+ puppies we had crate trained, Doni is definitely in the top 5 best pups… easy. Doni was just as good at being quiet and content in her exercise pen. She also was super eager to learn and earn food rewards. We started clicker training the second day we had her. She loved that game. We started with attention as behavior, name recognition, and walking calmly on a leash. She was a lot of fun to work with. For four days our schedule consisted of both Matt and I sharing dog duty as usual, but we both worked with Pixie and Doni one on one. It was pretty obvious when we were up in Washington getting feedback from Denise that Pixie was very focused and attached to me. She struggled sometimes to work with Matt. I have always been her primary handler and spent the most time with her so she naturally paid more attention to me. We wanted to make sure that Doni got used to being handled by more than one person right away as to prevent a similar scenario. Since we returned from Bellingham Matt has been working with Pixie more and it is really making an impact. Matt is reinforcing what I have been working on and it is helping her be more confident.
Doni was never meant to stay with us long term. Only a few days after she arrived Matt found a great way to get her up to Brigadoon. Tammy, one of Brigadoon’s volunteers, just happened to be in the Bay Area with another dog trainer attending a training seminar at the Marin County Humane Society. This is only about an hour from us. Matt reached out to Tammy and they were so kind to accept the mission to take Doni north. So Doni hitched a ride back to Washington and saved us the effort and cost. We are very appreciative of the support. As much as we wanted Doni to stay (I mean come on, she is super cute, super fun to work with, super sweet, and just a great little puppy) we needed to get back to focusing on Pixie and other duties. It is hard enough for us to balance work, home repairs, working with Pixie, making sure our other 3 dogs get enough attention, Matt being on the Brigadoon board, and moving forward with GUGP ideas. We really don’t have any spare time to train a second puppy.
It has has been three weeks since Doni arrived in Bellingham. She has quickly become a favorite according to Maria. She is learning skills from Denise that she needs to have the best chance possible to become a service dog. We are happy she is in the best hands possible. Moving forward it will be exciting to experiment with the media co-op and watch little Doni grow up. We encourage everyone to watch for her through the three organizations. She is a special little pup and we can’t wait to see what her future holds. Who knows, maybe we will help bring more co-op deliveries in the future? I always enjoy feeding my puppy fix.
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