This is a conceptual book of how walking the walk overrules and supersedes talking the talk. Showing, not telling, is the real master key to realistic learning. It is about how a young-at-heart and very creative single mom (Christina Virginia Freeman), and her two kids, (Cathy Anne, 16), and (Buddy, 15), that take over an animal shelter, with the help of her father (Joe Freeman), and family frient (Julia Roberts, 17). There, they all team-up and pursue every effort they can think of to help the dogs, cats, troubled kids, elders and all others that want to join in and become part of the modeling process. It is about the real magic that comes from giving.
Continued from 'Damage Control'.
Sally and Julia followed their two dogs around the last bend and walked along side the fenced-enclosed side-yard. Inside they saw Buddy coaxing a dog up the A-frame obstacle, one of the six training challenges in the Agility course that filled the Shelter’s entire yard. He was showing a young couple how to clicker train a German Shepard they were looking to adopt.
Ol’ Maude led Sally right to the post at the far end of an observation bench and started smelling it. Julia chuckled, “We’ve got P-Mail.” Sally laughed and they both sat down and watched Buddy tempt the Shepard up the step slope.
Julia was giving Lucky a hinny scratch with one hand and pointed to Buddy with her other. “See how he breaks up the whole process into little steps, one little cleat-step at a time, up one side and then down the other. In the beginning, each little step is an accomplishment, and each little accomplishment gets a click and a small treat. Then after the dog gets the hang of it, Buddy will eliminate some of the treats. He‘ll eventually end up just the clicking for each step up and down linking them all together into one continuous chain response. Then, at the bottom of the other side, the dog gets one big treat with a lot of praise and petting.”
“So what’s the clicker do?”
“The sound of the clicker means a treat is coming. That association of sound and treat becomes a positive and reinforcing reward for a job well done. The click becomes a conditioned sound reinforcer that means the same thing as the treat.”
Sally looked up and smiled, “Sorta like a sound that tastes good?”
Julia laughed aloud. “Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say!” She reached to her neck, pulled out her own clicker, and clicked it twice. “That was very perceptive Sally, and you get a double-treat for that just as soon as we get inside.”
Just then, a voice came from the little box that sat on top of Ol’ Maud’s post. “Hi Sally, this is Dr. Amy. I got back in town early and decided to come directly here to the shelter, for an extra long session with you, if you’re free.”
Sally looked at the box with surprise then to Julia.
Julia turned toward the shelter building and waved, “We’re on our way Amy,” she said then turned back. She smiled at the bewildered expression on Sally’s face, “Yep, around here we’re high-tech, at least when it comes to communication anyway.” Julia laughed and stood up. “Let’s go get you that double treat.”
The Observation Room resembled a large rectangular lunchroom. The entire west wall consisted of three huge picture windows that showed the entire side-yard where the agility-course obstacles were set up for exercise training. Underneath the viewing glass was a long Formica counter-top with ten barstools spaced out alongside. The counter top had sound dividers every three feet that raised or lowered for conversation privacy, and three speaker control boxes, one at each end and the middle.
Julia and Sally led their dogs inside and Julia unsnapped Ol’ Maude who went right to the water bowl then laid down on her padded cushion for some observation and a nap. She then put a short lanyard-lead on Lucky and hooked him near Ol’ Maude, with his own cushion.
Dr. Amy Baxter sat at the far left end of the counter and pushed her notes aside to greet Sally and Julia. “Hi girls, have a nice dog walk?
“Yes,” Sally said as she walked over and climbed up on a barstool next to Amy. “We walked the dogs all the way to the creek and Julia said maybe tomorrow we can go swinging from the Tarzan-rope and jump into the swim hole.”
“Wow! Now that sounds like fun. Do you know how to swim, Sally?”
“Not yet, but Julia’s going to teach me, right Julia?
“Yep, it’s as easy as floating in a bathtub,” she chuckled.
Julia went to the refrigerator and got a large pitcher of ice tea and filled their glasses then went to a cupboard and opened it, “And for Sally’s treat, we have Snickers, Butterfingers, or a sucker, or a cookie, umm… oatmeal, I think? Would you like something to snack on Amy?”
Sally piped up for a cookie and Dr. Amy asked if she might have an apple.
Julia gave Sally the cookie and sat the basket of apples on the counter. She then went to the cupboard above the leash rack and pulled out a box of clickers, “And for your second treat, you get your very own clicker. What’s your favorite color, Sally?”
“Red,” she said with a beaming smile.
“Then red it is.” Julia picked out a red one, walked back, and slipped the lanyard over Sally’s head. “Always keep it with you, and always be ready to click-and-treat, for any good behavior you see.”
Sally beamed a smile. “Thank you, Julia, and I‘m going to start looking around for good behavior right now.”
Julia smiled, “You’re welcome, Sally.”
Buddy was with the same couple now but started working with another one of the five dogs hooked to observation stakes scattered throughout the agility course. This dog resembled a cocker spaniel but had some terrier features mixed in and she seemed a little shy. Buddy was calmly going slow-and-easy here while charging up the clicker with a lot of small treats and praise. He was introducing the dog to the tunnel by shaping the pup’s curious nature as he went.
He led the dog completely around the tunnel then lifted the thin flexible plastic tubing up and sat it back down. He pushed it around and pulled it back and forth while gently shaking it. The dog cautiously approached and smelled it while it was fully stretched out and when Buddy began to collapse it shorter the dog barked at it. When he had it collapsed all the way, it resembled a big yellow tire and the dog pawed at it like a toy. Buddy then stretched it back out to its full ten foot length again and set it down. He went around to the front opening, got down on his hands and knees, and went in. The pup followed with excitement.
Amy smiled and tilted her head a little, “He’s really good with dogs, where did he learn how to do all that?”
Julia chuckled, “He’s a dog whisperer, ya know. He always has been ever since he was young; he just understands how dogs think. He said he use to be a dog in a previous lifetime.” Julia chuckled, “It could be true too because I use to be a horse!”
Sally choked up a bit on her cookies and laughed aloud. She reached to her neck and clicked her clicker. “That’s funny Julia.”
Julia chuckled again, “Well, thank you Sally.” She glanced at Amy with a smile then back to Sally, “So what do I get for a treat?”
Sally reached for an apple and gave it to Julia, “Here, this is good for you, one a day will keep the doctor away.”
Dr. Amy looked sternly into Sally’s eyes, “You are so wise, little one,” then took a huge bite out of her own apple.
Just then, Christina walked into the room with a young woman and a small boy that looked to be about ten. “Julia, could you help Judy and her son Ralphy look for a nice dog for his tenth birthday?”
“Sure,” she said as she stood up and raised the partition divider, giving Amy and Sally some privacy. She walked over, introduced herself, and shook hands with Ralph. “Happy birthday, Ralph.”
Christina handed Julia the clipboard, “They’ve looked at some of our dogs on the web site, but they want to walk around and see them in person.”
“Good, we have some special dogs around here, let’s go have a look-see,” she said as she turned towards the door. “What kind of dog are you looking for, Ralph?”
The mom said, “Something small that doesn’t shed, or bark, or bite or….
“Moooommmmm!!!” Ralph cut in. “You promised. I want a big dog, with lots of hair.”
Julia laughed, “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” she said as she opened the door and grabbed a leash off the hook, “Let’s go find your dog then we’ll go for a nice trail walk.”
Amy pulled her notes back out and gave a beaming smile to Sally. “Now, I have some good news. We just got the official okay for researching Experiential Learning Techniques. What that means is we are going to study and research all the various ways of how we think and learn things, through experience. And you, little one, will be our youngest study subject. What do you think of that?”
Sally paused at the sounds of all that techno talk and said, “I don’t know. I guess. But it doesn’t sound as fun as swinging in the creek.”
“Ah hah, but learning how to swim is a very important and powerful learning experience, don’t you think?
“Yes, but… Oh, I get it now, learning fun stuff.”
“Yes! Learning is fun, and that’s going to be our first lesson. One of the primary tools we will use is a writing-journal, similar to the private journal you started last week. Cathy Anne is setting up a blog for this now and we will publish a journal-entry every week describing your progress in all the various learning skills you experience. The students at the university will read these updates and interact with us with questions and ideas. You see, they too are learning, I am learning and you are learning, and the dogs too, we are all learning. Somebody will be working with you everyday on this journal project and it will be fun. So, what do you think?”
“You said it would be about swimming and training the dogs and stuff?”
“Yes. Plus all the other interesting things you will be doing and learning both here at the shelter and at the farm.”
“Okay, but I can’t write very fast.”
Amy smiled, “Not a problem.”