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Maxine Weber, volunteer and guest blogger, shares her thoughtful and often humorous observations from inside the WDC.

From the time my son was strong enough to stand, he periodically did something that my sister-in-law dubbed “the happy dance”. Pure joy radiated from his little round face and spread through the rest of his body. He would hoist himself up, holding onto the nearest piece of furniture, get up on his tip toes and step excited back and forth, wagging his rear end and shriek with glee. The happy dance could be brought on by just about any joyous occasion such as me coming home from work, seeing a chocolate chip cookie or playing peek a boo with his Elmo doll. The simple joys of life.

Now that my son is a teenager, he rarely does the happy dance. I was bit sad to think the happy dance was a thing of the past. However, just the other day, I was volunteering at the Working Dog Center and I saw the happy dance! In fact it took a moment to register that I had seen it many times at the center. Many of the dogs do the canine version of the happy dance. Like my son, the happy dance can be brought on by the sight of a favorite trainer, the whiff of a hot dog or the sight of a favorite toy. I have to whisper when I say this, but the sight of a tennis ball (shhh) can send a dignified, highly trained dog into fits of dancing glee.

One has to be particularly vigilant when walking dogs near the training yard or the search building because the sight of either of those can also send the dogs into the happy dance… a wiggling, swaying, prancing, bum wagging “I’ll do anything for a tennis ball” happy dance. Trainers routinely hide tennis balls in only their right pants pocket so the ball is not in the line of sight for the dog (who is trained to always walk on the left side of the handler). There is something profoundly touching about seeing the joy of a dog, playing with his tennis ball after a training session. And even more touching is how the dog’s joy brings a smile to the face of the trainer. Makes me want to do the happy dance.

Photo by Tracy Darling
Patterson, one of Zzisa’s puppies, does the happy dance in anticipation of getting to work.