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  • Reyna Bradford

Another Step Forward (written 2/26/22)

Another step forward.


I thought Tassie was ready. I wasn't sure about Scotch. But I knew that I was ready, definitely ready to take this next, decisive leap.


This afternoon, these two dogs and I earned three Canine Good Citizen titles.


The Canine Good Citizen is a program pioneered by the American Kennel Club. There are technically three levels, and as of today, we have achieved two of them.


The basic Canine Good Citizen is the standard, first-faze, no-frills version. It's pretty bare bones. The dog demonstrates skills like walking on a loose leash, being comfortable in a small crowd, meeting a friendly stranger and a neutral dog, and a few other basic obedience exercises. The two other levels, community and urban CGC, are a little more advanced. The community test (or CGCA) evaluates more complex situations, such as a recall with a distraction, leaving food on the ground untouched, or a friendly stranger greeting the dog while carrying a satchel or backpack. It is administered out in the public, rather than in a ring setting, and it's meant to verify that the dog is okay with less predictable interactions and distractions.


Today, Tassie earned both the first-level CGC and the advanced-level CGCA titles. She can now proudly proclaim the letters CGCA after her registered name.


Scotch went as far as the CGC. I didn't ask him for more than that this time around. If we're being honest, I really wasn't sure he would pass even the basic test.


Scotch has come a long way. He is one of the most eager dogs that I have ever worked with. But, because of the COVID shutdown which slammed us right after I brought him home as a baby, he never did receive the early and intensive socialization that I strive to give my puppies. As a result, he still tends to be shy of new people in new surroundings.


So it was with some trepidation that I watched the evaluator approach us. I had Scotch in a good, solid sit, my left hand resting reassuringly on his back. I talked to him and encouraged him as she knelt down in front of him and said hello. And he sat like a champ. No shying away, no retreating, and definitely no hiding between mommy's legs the way he would have done a year ago.


And that was that. He passed the toughest part of the test with barely a blink, and the rest of it was a shoo-in.


By the end of the testing, I was in doggy planning overdrive. I literally lay wide awake for half an hour before falling asleep that night, roughing out our schedule of events for the rest of the year. We have a lot to put on the calendar now. Because the thing is, we're in. We've done a real barn hunt competition. We've been invited back to the practice shows at the Kansas City training club. And now we have three CGC titles to brag about.


CGC may be rudimentary, but it is, in point of fact, an obedience titling program. I haven't earned any new obedience titles, at any level, on any dog, for three or four years.


My motto for this year seems to be something to the effect of "You gotta start somewhere." I've said it. Our evaluator this afternoon said it. And I believe it. As basic and un-dazzling as a baby step might be, it will still take you somewhere. When you think about super high-level obedience titles -- like Utility Dog, and Utility Dog Excellent, and Obedience Trial Champion -- little old Canine Good Citizen titles don't really seem to mean much. But when you think about the disappointments and emptiness of lost months and lost years which those titles prove have been overcome, they can mean exponentially more.


My dogs and I are gaining momentum. We are digging in our heels and gaining ground. And we will get there. One step at a time. You do, after all, just gotta start somewhere. And we are well on our way.



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