Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cornell Companions

This weekend was screening weekend for Cornell Companions, a pet visitation program here in the Ithaca area. Volunteers visit various facilities with their animals (mostly dogs, but we do have cats, birds, and the occasional llama!)- nursing homes, correctional facilities, hospitals, centers for children with disabilities, etc.

I thought it would be awesome to participate with Winnie, since she's here with me now. The screening sessions took place over a span of two days- Saturday and Sunday. Incidentally, I also happen to be the administrative assistant of Cornell Companions. I recently got the job a couple weeks ago for some extra cash. It pays a decent amount (for a low-effort job, at least) and I only have to work a couple hours a week from my own computer. This weekend was awesome because I got paid for several hours' work even though I worked on my own homework most of the time! All I really did was greet people, check them in, and tell them what forms to fill out. Good stuff.

My work station this weekend. Excel sheet, forms, scientific papers for me to read (my homework), and dog treats for Winnie. Oh, and an apple.

Anyway, I was at the vet school checking people in from around 8am to 3pm both yesterday and today. Since I was also participating as a potential volunteer, I had to get Winnie screened as well. I brought her with me today and screened her in the morning- and she passed! The screening test is basically a more relaxed version of the AKC's Canine Good Citizen Test. Winnie did really well!

Since I couldn't exactly go back home during the screening session (I had to check people in as they came for their screening appointments) Winnie sat next to me the entire morning/afternoon and acted as the unofficial Cornell Companions Ambassador.

Winnie "guarding" the gates to the screening room.

I used this as a training opportunity. She has gotten incredibly good at her "Leave It" command over the past few weeks (living in an apartment gives more opportunity for barking). I worked on keeping her calm and ignoring the other dogs, which she did fantastically.

I was really pleased to see her relax and even fall asleep a bit in this new environment.

Although almost all of the screened animals were dogs, we did have one bird- a cute Senegal Parrot. While the parrot and her owner/handler were in the other room during the test, Winnie took the opportunity to sniff out the bird cage.

Since she's more of a high-activity dog, we got placed in the Lansing Residential Center and the MacCormack Center. A nursing home wouldn't be a very good fit for her, hah.

Lansing is a correctional facility for youth females who have committed less severe crimes, and MacCormack is a high-security correctional facility for youth males who have committed more serious crimes. I'm really looking forward to going to MacCormack because it's the only facility that allows the dogs and facility residents to interact and play off-leash.

With Winnie's previous reactivity issues, I never thought I'd be able to do something like this with her. She has improved so much over the past year or so, and although she is still a work in progress, we're definitely progressing.

I'm really looking forward to our first visit in a couple weeks! I'll be sure to take some pictures while I'm there.


Angela said...

That sounds like fun! I don't know if they have anything like that here in West Virginia??? Probably not...... Anyway, I'm not sure how my girl Jazz would do at something like that. We haven't ever had any training.


a corgi said...

sounds like a great program to be part of; sounds like a good fit where Winnie got placed too; I bet both of you will find it rewarding

good for Winnie for behaving so well too when she was helping you check in other pets :)


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Wow that sounds great! I bet you're so proud of Winnie!!!

Kelly said...

Wow, way to go Winnie!

JulieandCaleb said...

Hooray, Winnie! That's fantastic. You must be such a proud momma!

Jenna Z said...

Big congrats! Isn't it amazing to look back at a formerly reactive dog and see how far they've come?!