Willow Goes Back to Training School



Willow Goes Back to Training School

October 2022



Where to start... The house is still filled with cardboard boxes after our move, and we are no closer to unpacking, as we need to renovate and adapt the house for our son Ted and. Willow is still barking at all the neighbours through the living room window; she's become quite the celebrity on our street as everyone knows who she is.

The barking has left the confines of our home and is now in full voice within a half-mile radius of our house; cue another desperate call to Kirsten Dillon, who came and met us in Marble Hill Park, St Margaret's, to assess the situation.

Typically, Willow must have sensed she was in the presence of greatness and was on her best behaviour throughout the afternoon. When I explained to Kirsten what was happening with Willow on the pavements when dogs were coming towards us, she knew exactly what the cause was and how to manage it. Basically, we discovered Willow was only doing it to small dogs that were either barking at her, or she sensed that they were about to, so she was telling them to be quiet. The trick was to stuff her face with food as they/we approached and lots of praise. Straightforward when it's just me, however, juggle a wheelchair, an 8-year-old and a moody teenager, and I end up looking like a frazzled octopus.

Luckily, she has significantly improved. Though she has the odd outburst, it's usually abated when I shove a portion of chicken in her mouth and give her something to carry, like a chew stick, which acts as a pacifier, and that tends to work a treat.

On the flip side, we've not had the best encounters recently with the public when we've been training in the shops with Willow in her training vest. I had one lady scream at me in the supermarket, saying she was terrified of dogs and what she was doing in the shop (she was lying down next to Ted's wheelchair and was paying no attention to this lady until she screamed!) Of course, everyone turned around, and it was so
embarrassing, especially for my other two children, who were mortified that we were the centre of attention and not in a good way. The supermarket were lovely and just let us carry on, but by that point, we just wanted to get out of there. So, we went to the station and then encountered a very aggressive lady and her very aggressive dog! Willow, of course, told the dog to be quiet, and the lady proceeded to tell me that she was a rubbish assistance dog and swore at Willow…cue another couple of mortified children.

We got on the train, Willow's first time, and she took it in her stride, sat with the wheelchair by the door, and we just went one stop to St Margaret's, nearly home, thank goodness...not quite, though.

When we got off the train, the disabled access wasn't working. We had to wait for someone to unlock the padlock to a fence to let us out onto the pavement down the side of the platform, and like a jailer with a million keys after the 15th attempt, we finally escaped.

Not one of the best days we've had, but I have learnt that for all the naysayers that we meet, there are a bunch of others who are really impressed with Willow and how well-behaved and well-trained she is (for the most part, anyway!) We've even got a handful of other dogs we've met onto Natural Instinct food because they remark on how healthy Willow's coat is and passed on Kirsten's details to a few others who wanted their dog to behave the same way Willow does. I guess we must be doing something right….right?

By Abigail Hutton-Tufano