Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Growth Spurt

Wow, the Training Building & Visitors Center is finally finished. We held our first Guest Speaker Training Seminar last weekend - Kathy Sdao's Advanced Clicker Training. (see photo)

I hope each of you gets to come out and see us. Whether you're volunteering, attending a special event like our upcoming Haunted House or coming to a dog training seminar, it's a beautiful, fabulous building. We all love it!

As you walk in, the first thing you see is the huge mosaic Cafe Woof sign in the hospitality area. Ann Paclik, our Volunteer Coordinator made this sign. There is fresh coffee brewing and cookies, muffins, granola bars and even on some occasions donuts to welcome visitors.

As soon as we get some shelves, we'll have our gift shop loaded with t-shirts, plush dog toys modeled after 8 of our graduate dogs and other knick knacks to add some cheer to your or your dog's life.

Through the window and the lovely French doors, you can see trainers in the main training area working dogs. Several dogs watch on, tethered to posts and enjoying the air conditioning and sometimes a chew treat, while their buddies engage in a lively training session. They're all waiting their turn to have fun, but still being observed and rewarded for being calm and quiet. Yes, watching politely can be a trained behavior, too and worthy of reinforcement by an astute Trainer!

What you'll notice at you walk through those French doors is the care taken with the interior design. The walls are painted a soothing sage green from the floor halfway up the wall to a stained wooden panel that runs around the whole room. The top half of the walls are painted a relaxing soft white with a green undertone from the same harmonious color palette. The floor is a beautiful burnished copper and green pattern created by staining the concrete. It makes a great impression.

What is most striking are the six mosaic columns. Inspired by the architecture of Antoni Gaudi of Barcelona, Spain, where some of our staff has taught, these columns feature colorful, fanciful mosaics that delight the eye and tickle the imagination. Wow, is that a sea theme? Is that one a big tail or a question mark? Look at that one - it's got every color of the rainbow and even some tiny butterflies and hearts in it! That other one looks like the forest - rich greens and earth colors.

Who was the artist, or artists you ask? We did it! The staff of Texas Hearing & Service Dogs. When we had some time, we sat down on the floor, composed a design, slathered some goop on the column and started applying tiles. Sometimes one person would start a section and one or two more would finish it another day. Sometimes we drew out a design and sometimes we improvised based on what tiles we still had in the box. We found it to be relaxing and often on Friday afternoons, you'd find a few staff members intently creating their works of art on the columns. Shy about getting started at first, everyone pronounced it therapeutic and enjoyed getting creative - especially the ones who started out wanting everything to be symetrical and to match. How much fun to see them embrace letting that go and just putting up things that defied definition.

It's not your everyday industrial dog training warehouse. This is a piece of our hearts built with attention to individuality and warmth in addition to dimensions, air conditioning capacity and plumbing.

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