Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Blue, the Gray, and a Dog: Irwin Visits Gettysburg

They said "sit." So Irwin sat.

July 1-3 marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle is commonly considered a turning point in the American Civil War, ultimately leading to a Union victory. It was also the bloodiest battle of the war, with over 46,000 men killed, wounded, or missing.

The year after the battle, parts of the battlefield were preserved as a memorial to the Union Army, and by 1895, it became a National Military Park and memorial to the Union and Confederate armies. Northern and Southern states and regiments erected monuments to commemorate their part in the battle. The public began visiting the battlefield, and today, approximately 1.7 million people visit each year.

For the 150th anniversary, reenactors set up camp and reenacted the battle for thousands of people—and SSD Irwin.

Donna and Jim took Irwin with them when they visited Gettsyburg. Visiting the town and battlefield put Irwin to the test. They walked through Union and Confederate encampments. The woods were full of tents and soldiers. There were hundreds of campfires, the smell of wood smoke mingling with food. Several hospital sites were set up, with fake arms and legs piled everywhere. Irwin got plenty of leave it practice.

With a reenactment comes gunfire and cannon fire, and the loud noises can be very scary for dogs. Irwin, however, did great. At one point, he was lying next to Donna, about the fall asleep, when gunfire rattled through the air. But Irwin merely lifted his head and pricked up his ears. He did a little bit of air sniffing when he caught another dog’s scent, but he stayed relatively relaxed and kept his focus. 

Almost asleep...

What's that sound?
During some of the evening reenactments, Donna took the opportunity to practice Irwin’s “sit” skills. In puppy class, we’ve been having our raisers give the dogs basic cues while they’re doing something other than standing in front of the dog. That way, the dogs will get used to performing behaviors regardless of the position of their handler. For many dogs, the position of the handler can make a huge difference in whether or not they will give a behavior, so it’s important to practice. At Gettysburg, Donna sat on the ground and cued Irwin to “down.” He did it!

All of the practice Donna and Jim have been doing with Irwin to get him to stay tucked in close when he’s in a sit or down has paid off. In the crowds at Gettysburg, Irwin stayed nice and close rather than sprawling out where he might get stepped on.

While they sat on the ground, the people around them asked questions about SSD. Irwin did many greetings with people. He even greeted a Union soldier!

It was a wonderful trip, and to top it all off, they saw a double rainbow! A storm was blowing in, although it waited to rain until the program was over. Irwin stayed calm and focused.

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