I feel a mix of bitching and bragging coming on. Figured I would at least hop on and throw all of that into a blog post before the ridiculous amount of caffeine I have consumed today wears off and I end up with a full QWERTY keyboard on my face. Hell, QWERTY wasn't even a word until computers began to consume our lives...whoops, totally off topic.
So, today I trekked down to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in Northfield. I'm a volunteer field assistant for a field biology course at the junior college I attended before transferring to the U of M. It's exactly what it sounds like--checking out all the cool stuff Minnesota's natural landscape has to offer. I always, ALWAYS have fun helping out with these trips--this one in particular. I never thought that I would get a kick out of teaching, but I guess I have to do something with all this useless knowledge or my head is going to explode. My desire to help other students has its limits, though. I bet those of you who know me fairly well can see where this might be going.
Here is how this works:
The students prepare for the trip by researching a group of species in a list assigned to them by the course instructor. They are then supposed to create note cards for the species they are assigned; they should detail everything necessary to help them identify the species. It is strongly suggested that they draw themselves a picture. Yes, inevitably, one or two or seven students "forget" to complete their note cards and therefore know absolutely zip about what they are supposed to be identifying. No prob; shit happens, we get that, which is why we spend two or three hours doing the equivalent of a nature walk. I will point out the plant species they should know and ask them to identify it and explain the properties of the plant that helped them come to that conclusion. After that, the groups are mixed up so that there is at least one member representing each species set. They are then supposed to teach each other. This works best if every student is adequately prepared--meaning, done the proper research and created decent note cards. The little part of me that hasn't given up on humanity entirely and isn't permanently cynical also works best if everyone is adequately prepared. That part stops functioning when someone gets snotty about it. Oh, you're not prepared? You couldn't spare one whole hour out of your busy week? And then, OH, you're going to get testy with me and toss a smartass comment when I ask you a question! How delightful! You're on your own, buddy. This isn't public school--YOU (or your parents) are PAYING to be here! If you don't want to be here, we won't hold your hand and guide you back to reality; we are not going to sit and have a heart-to-heart complete with a demolished box of chocolates and six boxes of wet tissues. If you wish to separate from the group that actually wants to hear what I have to say, no problem. I won't chase you down. You don't care? Okay, then...NEXT!
I took little Sae Dee with me today. I was excited to see how she was going to do at the state park--LOTS of people, kids running around screaming, tons of other dogs, and stimuli everywhere. I found a little red bandana and used BRIGHT yellow puffy paint to stencil on the following sentence: Therapy Dog Evaluation In Progress -- Please Ask To Interact. I am looking for a very specific set of behaviors under a very specific set of circumstances. Part of my evaluation does include observing her reactions to other people, other dogs, and other unpredictable things that may be encountered. Several times, I would step aside into a clearing (off the trail) to observe her reaction to passers-by or to see if I could convince her to only focus on me. The back side of that bright red bandana with fluorescent writing was plainly visible. Most people were fairly good at asking if they could pet her; however, there were more of the type that would see what we were doing and holler out "awww, good girl! Good dog!" or talk in baby talk to her. AND...the one child that ran...yes, RAN...straight up to her and had the idea that giving her a pat meant smacking her right between her eyes. It wasn't hard, but ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH FOR F**K'S SAKE!! The parents did nothing and when I confronted them and advised that for safety's sake their children should always ask permission before petting someone else's dog, they acted like I had just asked them to light the kid on fire and make me some s'mores. I bit my tongue (yeah, amazing, I know) and just walked away. Hey, winner--if your kid had scared her enough to make her snap or bite, it would be all my fault, I'm sure. I don't mind the interaction; in fact, I WANT it, but because this was her very first evaluation I wanted those interactions to be as controlled as possible. I know, it's a stretch, and I did expect that kind of stuff, but that doesn't stop me from being annoyed. Then there was the jackass that brought his dog hiking with no leash. His very energetic, young dog that could not do a recall if his life depended on it. Sae Dee is a bit on the possessive side (something we need to work on), so the closer the dog came to us the more defensive she became. Not only is there a leash law in the state of MN--especially in state parks--but it's just good etiquette to leash your dog for everyone's safety, including his. I was sort of testy when I told him that his dog needed to be on a leash, and all he said was "oh, I'm sorry!" Took him and his girlfriend ~20 minutes to catch him and leash him. Part of the trail network cuts through an ecologically sensitive area that is the only home--anywhere--for an endangered species of lily. Guaranteed that his dog pissed all over the place, even though I didn't see it. Jackass.
Speaking of miss Sae Dee, she is doing VERY well. She is settled in and has definitely asserted herself as the boss of the 4-leggeds. Since she has now been well cared for and received adequate nutrition for almost five months, she is finally blowing her coat. Damn those double layered coats! I have her a very thorough brushing and imagine my surprise when the tiny bit of light brown-looking fur morphed into what might be tan (or even reddish) on all four legs, a bit of hue on her face, and a little on her belly. She is so fricken' cute!