Under a mountain – and then on top of one…

There are (at least) two big things happening here at once for us in Colorado Springs. We have to get used to handling Tracy both as a come-with-us-everywhere service dog AND as an allergen detection dog.  So, we alternate between doing “hides” for detecting allergens with a number of trips and tasks with the dog just to make sure that we’re all comfortable with obedience expectations in Wal-Mart, under the table in a restaurant, on a tour to the Air Force Academy Chapel, etc.  And some of the time includes “mixed” trips – like Monday morning when we went to the new Brunswick bowling alley and arcade to encounter a tremendously over-stimulating environment, where we did some practice “hides” in the black light of the Lazer Tag room after bowling.  Wow!  That’s a lot of smells/sights/distractions, and Tracy is a pro on both her behavior and her detection.  I’ll write more about “hides” and the detection work in a later post …

One of the biggest things that showed how well Tracy is fitting in was our Father’s Day trip on Sunday.  Benjamin and I went with part of the group to a nearby cave – Cave of the Winds.  A cave tour could be very difficult for a service dog, but Tracy was totally nonplussed by walking into a dark place where the lighting was poor, that was underground, and where you weren’t allowed to touch the walls.  She went up and down narrow steps without much issue or even command.  She hesitated just once at one particularly steep and narrow metal staircase, but when coaxed just a little she did great.  And all this was without me holding the leash once; Benjamin handled her the entire time.

For lunch we went to a restaurant in Manitou Springs that had an old stagecoach out front.  She was willing to get into the stagecoach and let the kids rock her up and down like it was bumping along on the old West jutted trails.  She didn’t look especially thrilled about it, so I did invite her down to stand by me before we went to eat.  🙂 She then “downed” under the table at lunch very nicely and didn’t disturb anyone.

After our late lunch, Benjamin and I hiked up the Manitou Incline with a couple of friends.  This is a famous spot here – because it has a straight-up hike up an old cog-railway trail near Pike’s Peak, in what is already a pretty high-altitude environment.  The Incline has a vertical rise of about 2100 feet in about a 1.0 or 1.1 mile span.  So it averages a 40% rise on the hike, and one source says the rise is 67% at one point! (There’s no actual scrambling or rock climbing, just navigating up and around old railroad ties.)  To hike down we used the Barr Trail, which winds down the backside on more of a traditional switchback style at a more moderate slope, and therefore a longer mileage down.  Tracy loved the hike.  We joked that she might be part mountain goat, since she could handle the hiking even better than we did.  She was actually better off-leash hiking, because she was so willing to go just a bit ahead of us and run right back … and everytime we paused to get a drink (often on the way up!) she came to me and wanted to be re-leashed to sit comfortably with us.

I got home on Father’s Day evening with a tired but very happy 13 year old – and a happy dog.  If we can spend a day trekking in caves under a mountain and then hiking up the steep incline of a mountain and down again, then yes, we’re gaining confidence that she’ll be able to “hang” with Benjamin … just like we want.

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