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On The Light Side

  • Writer's pictureDebi Davis

Harry Potter, the Service Dog in Training

I had a young Papillon in training for service work a couple years ago, whose name is “Harry Potter.” At six months of age, I thought he was ready for a field trip to his first movie, and I chose to take him to see the new Harry Potter movie. I picked an afternoon show knowing it would not be packed with people.

We settled into the wheelchair section, and Harry did a nice down-stay on his mat next to my chair. I slipped his leash over my brake handle, and Harry went to sleep. I kept glancing at him, and he was quiet and fine. Then I became very involved with the movie and totally forgot about Harry.

I assumed he was still sleeping quietly on the floor, and knew I’d feel it if he moved.

The movie comes to a part where the kids go down in a dungeon, open up a locked door and out springs a three headed dog, each head growling and barking. From the front of the theatre, I hear a quiet “Yip! Yip!” and wonder who in the heck sneaked in their pet toy breed dog. I was so glad my little dog was soundly asleep at my side.

Each time the kids shout “Harry Potter!” in the movie, I hear another little “Yip Yip!” I can’t understand why the person up front in the theatre is allowing their little dog to bark, and decide to talk to them about sneaking in their obviously too-aroused dog into the theatre, where only service dogs, closely monitored by their responsible handlers, are allowed.

Soon, every time the kids on screen say, “Harry!” I hear that little “Yip Yip!” in response. I quickly look down at my side, but it’s too dark to see anything. So I feel for the leash, and I can’t feel it anywhere—not on my brake, where I’d left it, not on the floor, and the dog’s mat is empty. In horror, I realize the yipping dog down front belongs to me.

I’m mortified, and look down in front when the screen flashes light. There, in the middle of the aisle, wagging his tail in a down-stay, is my little Harry Potter, watching the movie and talking back to the three headed dog and the kids each time they shout his name.

I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to bring more attention to myself, so I don’t want to take my power chair down the aisle. Instead, I crawl out of it, and crawl all the way down the aisle on my belly, calling to my pup in a hushed whisper “Harry Potter, Harry Potter”. He does not come, until I reach him, grab his leash, and get slathered with kisses.

I crawl back up the aisle with Harry in tow, the leash held firmly between my teeth so I can use my hands to crawl, and Harry is walking beside me with his head turned around still watching the movie.

We finally get to my chair, and I decide Harry was certainly not ready for that particular challenge and that I’d made a very poor choice of movies for this first movie field trip. We zoom out of the theatre as soon and as quietly as possible, so people won’t be able to identify me as the totally irresponsible service dog trainer, who crawled down the aisle whispering the name of the movie.

Harry Potter the Papillon washed out of service dog training eventually, but he still likes to watch TV intently and talk back to the screen.

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