|Garfunkel enjoys a beautiful day at the kennel.|
Happy National Cat Day! Yes, you read that right. Today, we’re celebrating cats! Specifically, we would like to celebrate two cats—Garfunkel and Vader. These two black cats live at the kennel and help us train our service dogs.
We make sure that all of our service dogs are okay around cats. While the dogs are in training, we never know who they’re going to be partnered with. We don’t know if that person will have cats or if they have friends or family who have cats. Plus, it’s always possible to come into contact with cats outside, and the dogs need to be able to ignore them and stay focused on their partner.
Every dog in our program meets Garfunkel and Vader at some point. In fact, it’s common for one or both of them to greet you when you arrive at the kennel. (They’ve also been known to stow away in people’s cars if they leave the windows open!) Many of our puppies in training see the cats when they arrive for puppy classes or when they have playdates in our fields.
We have also recruited Garfunkel and Vader to help the dogs practice recalls. In puppy class, we play our version of golf. The puppy raiser puts their dog in a down-stay or sit in one marked square, then walks 10 meters away to a second box. The raiser then calls their dog to come. Sounds pretty simple, but then we add some distractions, like kibble, tennis balls, or one of the cats. Garfunkel or Vader will be in a crate between the dog and their puppy raiser, and the dog must trot right over to their raiser without stopping to investigate the cat.
We also deliberately introduce the dogs to the cats during their one year evaluation to see how they do.
So our cats play a big role in our dogs’ training to help them become successful service dogs. And that’s why we’re celebrating cats today!