If you could read a puppy raiser’s mind, you’d likely hear “note-to-self; this needs work” or NTS/NW. Mikey is at a stage where that thought runs through my mind quite frequently. He knows the verbal and hand cues for all of his commands. Unique challenges out in the real world are a chance to test his skills. So when my niece informed me that she wanted Mikey to be the ring-bearer at her wedding I eagerly agreed. What a puppy raiser’s dream! He would be 8 months old by the time of her wedding with the manners and maturity needed to rise to the occasion. As the wedding drew nearer her grandmother laughed at the idea that this energetic, goof-ball would successfully get the rings where they needed to go. (NTS/NW, prove Nana wrong.)
By the end of the Friday night dress rehearsal, NTS/NW flooded my head. Mikey loves meeting people and was beside himself having to ignore the bridal party. How was I going to get him down the aisle once all those chairs were filled? We learned where we were to stand and got a sense of how long the ceremony would be. We also learned that the lawn of a vineyard in New York’s Finger Lakes Region is bug land. Gnats formed a gray cloud around Mikey, causing him to squirm beside me. Investigating the little buggers, he began licking down there. No, no, no. (NTS/NW, he needs to ignore the bugs.) We’d line-up at 5:30pm. The ceremony, dinner and dancing would add up to 4-5 hours that this puppy would have to manage his impulses and demonstrate the superb training BluePath Service Dogs are known for. (NTS/NW, make this fun for him.)
We arrived on Saturday ahead of time and gave Mikey a chance to just be a dog. We played fetch, tugged with a brand new toy, went for a walk where he sniffed to hearts content and said hello to dozens of visiting tourists. I waited until the very last minute to get him dressed and lined up for the procession. Walking down the aisle he was focused and relaxed. My gratitude and adoration for my 4-legged teammate pulsated down the leash with every ‘aw, how cute!’ from the wedding guests. The ceremony began with champagne toasts from the maid of honor and best man. Mikey’s ‘champagne’ was a chew toy stuffed with treats attached to a rope. Holding my champagne glass in one hand and hanging onto his toy with the other to prevent it from rolling out of his reach, he quietly paid no mind to the bugs.
Pictures followed, then inside for the reception. Mikey’s stamina was waning. He had a difficult time settling under the table. (NTS/NW, his endurance will get better as he gets older.) He was happy to jump into his crate in the car for a break during dinner. When the dancing started I brought him back in for his next training challenge. With dinner over it had become a different scene. He was completely at ease with the frenetic energy as we entered the room, but something else grabbed his attention. Popcorn and cake crumbs littered the floor. (NTS/NW, must practice dropping tidbits on the floor at home.) We moved beyond the food remnants and were swarmed as soon as we reached the dance floor. No worries, this is where Mikey excels. He looked at me for an ok to say hi and squirmed with joy as he greeted everyone.
I handed his leash to the bride, then the best man, then one guest after another. Each of them took him across the room to a new cluster of partyers where they in-turn were swarmed and Mikey was amazing. What they saw was a super cute, well-mannered puppy they could play with in the middle of a wedding reception. What I saw was a puppy in training practicing his future job of drawing people to the person on the other end of his leash.
When I made my rounds to say goodnight, Nana was pretty impressed with how well Mikey had done. (NTS/TY, remember to thank the bride for giving Mikey this excellent chance to further his training.) “Seeing is believing.” I said, “He’s on the right path.”