Hachi's brain seems to have opened up to learning. Here's what we did this week.
We went to the vet hospital for a Happy Visit. Hachi was relaxed despite a big German Shepherd barking at him as we walked into the clinic. Hachi barely reacted to that dog's barking. Inside the exam room, we played games with him including asking him to do all his tricks, tossing treats all over the floor for him to clean up, playing "go say hi" where one of us sends him to touch the hand of the other one, and, of course, the bucket game. He had one vocalization at a loud voice outside the room but he was not reactive besides that. I am blown away by his progress.
Then, later in the week, our trainer worked with us. We moved our easier games to a smaller space in our house - a hallway with open areas at both ends of it. Hachi was happy despite the new location. We also had the trainer leave and return via the front door several times. She talked to Hachi, looked at Hachi, and switched between sitting and standing (when we started these games months ago, she never looked at Hachi, moved or spoke). None of these things bothered Hachi.
Then, we did the bucket game in our biggest room. We did it there because we knew that we wanted the trainer to move closer to him than ever before. It went superbly. The trainer was within 2' of him, sitting on the floor next to him. She'd say "hand" and then reach into the air near Hachi but didn't actually touch him. He didn't even give her side eye! Woo hoo!
I know that reading these reports is a little like reading about paint drying - slow progress. To be honest, I've stopped projecting into the future for Hachi. I don't think about goals on a regular basis. Rather, I look at what he can do *today*, and we work from that place. This non-goal-setting attitude is new for me, and I adopted it as a form of self-protection to avoid disappointment. Surprisingly, the change in attitude coincided with things going much better with Hachi. Perhaps it is a lesson in the power of focusing on Now.
We love our Hachi.