For those who just want the news, Murphy passed his IFT and went in for training. Whew! Wow! Yay Murphy!
You watch the IFT in a room on closed-circuit TV, and instructors and instructor assistants handle the dogs. I went down with Beth, who raised Maddox, Murphy's brother, in Maine.
There also were several other raisers who had come to see their dogs. And Cora, who is raising Wella, their mom, also came to see how her "grand-pups" were doing.
Beth and I were nervous wrecks, so we were glad that Murphy and Maddox were in the first group. We were a little concerned about them being in the group together, because they ALWAYS wanted to play and rough-house when they were together being raised. But they were in the same kennel, so perhaps they had gotten that out of their system.
The IFT basically tries to measure how the dog will react on stress. They do some sits & stays and downs, and then the big test comes when the trainer walks the dog past someone holding an umbrella, and they suddenly poof it open at the dog. What they're looking for is how the dog reacts. If he startles or is alarmed, then the question is whether he recovers and will investigate and settle.
Other parts of the IFT include seeing how the dogs react when a starter pistol goes off, and other distractions. Then later, the person with the umbrella comes back, with the umbrella rolled up, and they want to see whether the dog wants to look at it.
A yellow Lab named Aztec went first, and he did well. Then it was Maddox's turn. Unfortunately, he really freaked out at the umbrella. He got very scared and would not go back near it. I felt so badly for Beth. He did everything else well, but that was definitely a sign of concern.
Then it was Murphy's turn. I was biting my thumb and whispering to the TV, "C'mon boy, be brave, be strong." And he did great! He passed the umbrella just fine and kind of just flicked an ear at the starter pistol. (Living within hearing distance of the Gorham Police's firing range has paid off.)
Finally, they announced that Murphy and Aztec were in for training, and Maddox would be pending further evaluation, and the fourth dog, Navarro, was released. I was so relieved and psyched, but I tried to temper it, for Beth's feelings.
I did get to talk to Pamela, who handled Murphy, afterward. She said she thought he was a great dog, really smart and tuned in, and that his obedience had been great. I know that Bessie, our regional coordinator, has been concerned that Murphy is too "soft" and I asked her about that, but she said she didn't see that during the test, that he seemed pretty confident to her.
I did get to pet Murphy and hug him, but he was very distracted and seemed kind of confused, not sure if he should be paying attention to me or to Pamela. It was kind of bittersweet. It's a fine balancing act: You have to have a bond with the dog while you're raising him, but he can't be too dependent on you, or he won't succeed in training. I would say that I have accomplished that with Murphy. I always told people during training that he was not my dog, and I would have to say that he most definitely is not now.
We did get to meet almost all of Murphy's family. Cora, Wella's mom, is just delightful. We got to meet Wella, who is a gorgeous girl. We also got to see his brother Chipper go through the IFT; he passed. Mica and Morley, his two yellow brothers, had already passed IFT and were in the kennel.
Murphy is 70 pounds and Maddox is 50 and we had always wondered which one was more typical of the litter. It's definitely Maddox; Mica, Morley and Chipper were all about his size. I guess Murphy takes after his dad, Farrell. If you want to see a picture of Farrell, check on his friend Sarah's blog at http://sarahspups.blogspot.com/.
There were so many cute puppies to see! I almost wanted to take one home. But I need to chill and see what happens with my job, and with Murphy.
I will get monthly reports on Murphy, so we'll see how it goes. Only half of the dogs make it as guides... I hope he is one of them.