A Kanuk, Alaska story (part 1)
By Voni Harris
Noah saw Miss Karen’s big Suburban pull up in front of his house, and that’s when he made his final decision.
He grabbed Yahtzee’s collar, snapped the puppy’s leash on, and he and the black lab went racing out the back door and through the salmonberry patch to the creek. Noah knew of a spot down by the ocean where they could hide. Miss Karen would never get Yahtzee! Never!
Hidden from sight of the road down a slope to the ocean among a bunch of huge spruce trees, Noah’s breathing gradually began to settle down, and Yahtzee was having fun exploring all the smells within leash length.
Miss Karen had been in Sunday School at Kanuk Community Church with Mama and Dad for awhile now. He liked Miss Karen. A lot. But that’s not why he wanted to sit with her during their church service. It was her dog, Elsie. Elsie was a Hearing Ear dog who helped Miss Karen because Miss Karen was deaf. That was okay though, because she learned how to talk in a special school, and she could read lips if you just made sure she could see your face.
Miss Karen was cool. Noah knew he wasn’t supposed to pet Elsie, since she was a service dog, but every once in a while during the church service, he would wait until no one was looking and sneak in a petting. Elsie deserved it, as much as she helped Miss Karen. Miss Karen always did notice the petting, but she just winked at him. And shook her head quietly to say, “That’s okay, but don’t do it again.” He loved to watch Miss Karen do sign language while the rest of the congregation sang worship songs. And she always let Noah play ball in the church gym after the service was over while she talked to her boyfriend, Ed, and to Noah’s Mom and Dad.
Noah thought of the day Miss Karen explained to him and his Mom and Dad that she was going to train a new puppies to be service dogs, but before they were ready to help someone, they had to learn their puppy manners.
Puppy manners. The very thought made Noah giggle. His Mom was always telling him about table manners and church manners and manners around old people.
“I’ve seen how Noah is around Elsie,” Karen had told his mom. “And 10 is a perfect age. We actually prefer our puppies to be around children from the start. So…Would you be willing to be puppy raisers for one of the pups? It would be for several months.”
He must’ve had a “please, please, please” look on his face, because his Mom took one look at him, then his Dad, then his Dad grinned and said they would do it.
Miss Karen had knelt in front of him, and said, "You must understand, Noah. This puppy will not be your dog. You will be helping her to learn to be a good dog and a good part of a family. There is a disabled person out there who needs the puppy’s help when it’s time. That’s the person whose dog this puppy will be."
"Yes, Miss Karen," he had answered quickly.
She had brought Yahtzee over that very afternoon. They would take her to the vet every month, since she was a Service Dog, not a regular dog. They had to feed her special food to make her especially strong. And Miss Karen brought him a clicker! She showed him how to teach the dog to sit by clicking the clicker whenever Yahtzee sat down, then giving her treat real quick. Yahtzee was a very smart pup, because Noah trained her to sit with the clicker in just a few minutes that afternoon with Miss Karen. He and his mom took Yahtzee to a puppy class at Miss Karen’s house every week, where each owner had a clicker. Now Yahtzee could sit, down, stay, walk nicely on a leash, touch a spot on the wall, and a bunch of other stuff. Noah had even trained the black lab to ring a bell whenever she needed to go out. The clicker made it easy.
He loved playing with her, and they took her everywhere, especially to the beach down at Kanuk Bay. She loved chasing Noah up and down the beach and retrieving sticks he threw into the ocean.
Tune in next Tuesday for the rest of Noah’s and Yahtzee’s story!
(And tomorrow for Word Nerd Wednesday)