Ginny Sleeping on the Couch

You can Teach an Old Human New Tricks

Since this site is pretty new, I thought I would talk about Ginny a little bit. Some of this is old news to anyone who was reading but with the potential of a new audience I thought I would give some background.

Ginny is a 14-year-old yellow lab. She is a retired Guide Dog since June of 2013. I trained with her out at Guide Dogs for the Blind in the Bay Area of California in July 2002. So I’ve had Ginny in my life since July 3, 2002.

I will write more about training with Ginny eventually as well as tell some other Ginny stories down the road. They all simply cannot be told at once because they’re too great and must be enjoyed individually. Like the time she got tired of me teasing her and kicked me in the balls.

Anyway, the most common question I get about Ginny now is in regard to her age. When I tell people she is 14 they always say “wow, she’s that old” and I tell them that she’ll be 15 in September. She’ll turn 15 on September 17. Generally speaking, Ginny is pretty healthy and always has good health. There have been times where her weight has gotten a bit out of hand but switching to a different type of food always has helped get it back to desirable levels.

Unfortunately, she has started to have more accidents on the carpet. This poses a problem for me because I have a bad sense of smell and don’t always discover them with that particular method. I’ve taken to shuffling my feet instead of walking normally around my apartment for this reason. But it is also a problem because I don’t have any kind of a gag reflex so it is a fight not to toss my last meal when I need to clean things up.
There are other issues that sometimes crop up that require that I get assistance from someone else on this task but I’ll spare you the details. The important thing is that making sure she gets outside a sufficient amount of times throughout the day is very important.

Enter the new system that has been developed recently for when Ginny wants to wake me up. Sometimes I sleep some pretty nontraditional hours. This happens for reasons that are best explained another day.
So Ginny and I have worked out a system for her to wake me up and tend to her needs, either to go out or sometimes to eat. She will get up off her dog bed which is in the corner of my bedroom or she will come into the bedroom from off the couch and she will proceed to get my attention.

She walks to whatever side of the bed I happen to be facing. She will rub her head along the side of the bed while thumping her tail against the matress. Since I sleep on my side, I often have a hand hanging over the edge of the bed. So she’ll put her head in my hand as she continues to rub both it and her tail against the matress. This is my signal to get up, get dressed and take her outside. Even if she also needs to be fed I take her out first.

Usually, after this is done I stay up for awhile but sometimes I come back in, get undressed and resume sleeping. Periodically, if Ginny didn’t actually take care of all her business outside, she will come and repeat the same method of grabbing my attention sometimes in less than 10 minutes from the first time. So I get out of bed, dress again and take her back outside.

So far, she hasn’t tried to abuse the system. Every time she’s tried to wake me up by this method it has been for a good reason. I wish she’d also wake me up when she needs to throw up but alas, she does not. Thankfully, this works because I am not a heavy sleeper. If I were still on Ambien like I was back in 2010-2012 things might be different.

Initially, when I decided to write about this I was going to point out how cool it was that Ginny had learned a new trick. Then last night I was struck with a horrifying but entirely truthful realization. In this scenario, I am the one who was trained! I didn’t teach Ginny how to wake me up using that method she found it on her own and like with a dog trying to learn a new trick, it took me awhile to figure out what this was supposed to mean.

So the saying: “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks”, may be true. However, you can teach an old human new tricks and I am the proof.