Thursday, November 6, 2008

Patty-cake Man

Another school program for Finn today. Preschool, actually, this time. I expect I won't be getting thank-you notes this time, as the children are only three to five years of age. However, I consider myself well-repaid by Finn's delight in the event.

This is what I love about this dog. A stockdog he will never be, but he's a wonderful pet, and he is SO stable in temperament. He's also goofy and hilarious, and really quite beautiful (or so think the good people at Brown Trout, who have chosen him for two more calendars this year, including his second stint as cover-boy.) He's an honest dog, too, one whose entire soul is in his eyes, right there for anyone to see. There isn't a sly bone in his body. What you see, when you look into his eyes, is what you get.

Our program started with me going in and talking to our twelve or so preschoolers about what a vet is and what a vet does. (I never bring the dog in right off the bat, because the minute I do I become pretty much invisible and chaos reigns.) So I sat on a little bitty chair while the kids clustered at my feet in a solemn little circle. One little boy, crying after having fallen down, sniffled and hiccupped and scrubbed at his little eyes while I talked about what a vet does. One little girl asked me if I ever treated bears.

"Well, no - I could, if one came in, but not very many people have bears for pets," I tell them. "Mostly if you see a bear, you should stay away from it, even if you ARE a doctor." This is the kind of thing that makes the grade-schoolers laugh uproariously (although I'm not quite sure why), but my little circle of preschoolers nods earnestly. We talked about shots and check-ups and surgery and X-rays. Some of the children talk about their dogs who have been sick, or (in one sad case) run away.

After a few minutes it's time to bring in Finn. When we enter the building, the lunch-worker (busy in the kitchen making snacks) makes a beeline out of the kitchen, cooing in delight. Finn, however, knows there are children nearby, and can't be still. After a perfunctory greeting he almost completely ignores her, casting about, nose twitching, leaning on the leash, a big grin on his face. I allow him to tow me into the classroom, where he is greeted with squeals of glee from some children and doubtful looks from others - he's 43#, leggy and tall, and he probably looks pretty big to some of them. I park him at the foot of my chair, but he is too excited to sit still; he sits up on his haunches and does his two-handed patty-cake wave at the children, who giggle and point and chirp with delight. The little crying boy stops rubbing his eyes and starts to smile a little. Finn eels his way between the children, who are starting to crowd closer. He licks the little crying boy, who starts to essay watery giggles. He reaches out one of his paws and pats a little girl, who squeals with delight and replies by patting him (rather hard) on the top of his head. Finn squints through this, but his tail never stops wagging, and he wriggles closer so she can hug him. One little boy squeals (with every evidence of delight) "He attacked me with his tail!" as if this is the most exciting thing that has happened to him all year. (In all fairness, Finn's tail is extremely luxuriant, and is just about the perfect height to smack a sitting 4-year-old directly in the head. It probably IS like being attacked.) Several of the children are trying to hug Finn at once. He leans into their encircling arms, licking those he can reach, pawing gently at others. Several of them grab his paws - something many dogs would take immediate offense to - but Finn does not care. He lays on his side so they can cluster around him and rub his belly, joyfully patty-caking a bit more. He leaps to his feet so he can squirm amongst other children, hanging back. The teacher has to send some children back to their own class; apparently drawn by the excitement and the mysterious power of dog vibes to penetrate through the closed door, some of them have left their own classroom and happily inserted themselves into the small swarm of children milling around Finn.

After a few minutes of complete dog pandemonium, I corral him back to my feet and show the children how I do a physical exam. I show them Finn's broken canine tooth (root-canalled by my own dentist, since we lacked the equipment). I find Finn's heart with the stethoscope and let the children try it on to listen to his heart, racing with excitement. Soon it is time to leave, but it is difficult to get out of the room - the children don't want to see Finn go, and they cluster around him, giving him "just one more hug", trailing along with him, petting him on the back, running their fingers over his glossy black coat, stroking his silky ears. Finn abets their efforts, hanging back, or spinning on his leash as we head to the door, looking back at the little throng of children, now waving bye-bye at him.

At last we make it to the door. Finn is disappointed, but accepts this loss of congress with his little friends philosophically, now making time for the lunch lady as we depart. Outside it's a mild morning, low 20's and slightly overcast, and ravens are wheeling overhead. Finn hops into my truck, still smiling. I'm smiling a bit myself.

I can think of worse ways to spend a morning.


MaskedMan said...

Days like this, it rocks to be you, doesn't it?

AKDD said...

Kinda does.

goatgirl said...

I found your blog when someone on my blog left a comment sending me here. I had a made reference to the smell of a buck so they wanted me to read your last post.
I enjoyed this one too since I work with children and I train dogs. I have brought my dogs to school on occaision and the kids love it. And since just about every other kid wants to be a vet they must have loved you...and your beautiful dog.
I'll be back and is it ok if I send some of my readers over? They love to read about animals.

AKDD said...

By all means, send 'em on over! The more, the merrier. I'm glad you enjoy my little stories, and flattered you think others would like them too.

The kids DO love the dog - although the minute he comes in, I am of only minimal interest! :D And you're right - a lot of kids want to be vets when they grow up. I did, certainly. (And look what happened!) :D

How cool that you have a job where you get to take your dog in. Don'tcha kind of wish that applied to *everywhere*?

Love your avatar pic - and thanks for reading!