• Lauren Burke

Life with Latrell

Oh, the life of a foster.

Latrell alerting by climbing into my lap while wine tasting

As part of an Early Alert Canines' training, each dog goes through a handful of different foster homes with different diabetics to familiarize the dogs with different lifestyles and situations. For the last two weeks of my 6-week NorCal trip, I’ve had Latrell. He is a CCI career change dog, and made it all the way through his CCI training before being career changed to EAC. He is incredibly sweet, but can be a little head strong at times.

Needless to say, Ricki isn’t always very pleased that this other dog is staying here with us. Latrell is just over 70lbs, more than 10lbs heavier than Ricki, and he’s got a lot more energy than Ricki, being just about 2 years old (Ricki is 5). He destroys her toys, sleeps in her bed, drinks her water! She only likes having him here when she wants to play, but generally won’t play if he initiates it.

The one night Latrell was in the nicer bed, but Ricki wanted to be in the nicer bed. She came to me, gave me a sad look, looked over at him, then to the other bed, and then back to me. I apologized to her, but I wasn’t about to move him. Ricki decided to give him a little play bow, entice him into playing with her… he jumped up to play, she pounced once, then laid right down on the nice bed. You could almost see his jaw drop, as if he were saying, “What?! You wanted to play, but didn’t play, and then you took my bed?!” He glanced over at me with a little side-eye and flopped down on the smaller bed with a grand sigh.

Because he got all the way through his CCI training to be a wheelchair/disability assist dog, he knows a LOT of commands, and can do tricks like 'speak' and turning lights on and off. Ricki is very jealous that he knows all these commands, because I have such fun making him do things. Any time I would ask him to do something, Ricki would give me the paw (her alert), as if to say, “I can do a trick too!”

Latrell was a little rusty with his old tricks at first, you could tell he hadn’t practiced in a while, but once his memory had been refreshed, it was great! I would drop things and have him pick them up, or have him come into my lap for a hug. He is supposed to know how to pick up his leash and give it to the handler. We were leaving the training center one day, and I dropped his leash while reaching for the door. I asked him to get it for me, thinking how convenient it would be if Ricki could do that trick. He looked at me for a second, thinking, looked down at the floor around him, reached down and picked up the doorstop. He dropped the doorstop in my hand. I had a hard time keeping a straight face. I set it back down, pointed to his leash, and asked again. He gave me a look, bent down, grabbed the doorstop, and put it in my hand again. At this point I pulled out my phone and filmed him doing it a third time, with a look that said, “you idiot, I just gave it to you!” I’ve been working on it for a week and he still doesn’t quite grasp the leash concept, but nothing was quite as hilarious as him dropping the doorstop in my hand three times in a row.

Having another dog for any amount of time always reminds me of what a good dog Ricki is. She can be so feisty, stubborn, and sassy that I think she is just the worst dog, and then I handle a different dog… And realize what a perfect angel my Ricki Roo is. Granted, a lot of my struggles are just me being unfamiliar with the dog or it’s specific commands. Plus, Ricki and I know each other inside and out, so I can predict her next move and read her like a book. These new dogs come in here and aren’t bonded to me, so they don’t always listen to me. And then there, looking so sad, forlorn, and neglected behind this disobedient horrible dog, is my perfect Ricki.

© 2020 Lauren Burke

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