Service dog training

August 23, 2012

Never Fear

I feel as though I’m cheating on my old girl, Elsie, when I leave her to go spend time with a younger dog: Sir Thomas. A thirteen-year-old border collie mix, Elsie is the first dog I’ve raised from puppyhood. She was full-grown the day she wagged to greet me as I returned home with my Parkinson’s diagnosis. Well into old age now, she still blinks open an eye (or two) each of the ridiculous number of times I wake during the night. On those nights, I give her extra neck scratches. On some of those nights, when the occasional meltdown renders me teary-eyed, Elsie is there, the lone guest at my pity parties. We’re both getting creaky. She a bit more so than I. Her time is limited. And while the yogi in me knows that all of us are here for a limited time, I’m acutely aware of her […]
August 24, 2012

His Gal, Friday

Took a break between Friday classes for a Sir Thomas fix. Dog hugs are good.
September 6, 2012

Human Resources

My previous canine family members have included working breeds – Shepard, Border Collie – but none of them actually had to work.  I required that each sit for a cookie. That maneuver was more about earning a treat – a kind of doggie ‘please’ – than about drawing on their skills. I did teach one dog to lie down and roll over when I pointed a trigger finger at him, a game many guests enjoyed. I’m learning that a working dog – such as a service dog –  doesn’t do tricks. A working dog does a job. And when that working dog is Sir Thomas, he look to me as his boss. When I think back on past jobs, my best bosses were the ones who made clear what was expected of me, let me know how well I performed, and offered guidance for new tasks.The least effective bosses played games, […]
September 11, 2012

Go for a Ride?

While we’ve a ways before officially graduating, Sir T and I have progressed to the next level: A  ride. Literally, he bounded into the back of my car eager for an outing. There’s something disconcerting having such a large being in the back. Please may there be no road-rage, drunken, texting, drivers out there while I am, I thought. I eased forward the way I did when we first placed our son in his car seat: slowly; aware of every oncoming, turning or backing up vehicle; frequently glancing in the rear  view mirror while talking, cooing, reassuring. We ventured up the street a half mile and back again. Figuratively, Sir T circled and settled in as soon as we left the driveway. He popped up to a sit, though, during my spectacularly slow 180. His head filled the entire rear view mirror. “Lie down,” I said to his reflection in my […]
September 13, 2012

First Kiss

Who can forget a first kiss? My very first: fifteen, at the beach. First with my husband: second date. First of a college roommate’s: she threw up on his shoes. Each memorable. Each pivotal as well, marking a turning point in the relationship. When Sir Thomas leaned in for a surprisingly delicate and unslobbery show of affection, I knew I wanted more time with him. He’ll soon be coming home with me. But not as insta-service dog, all programmed to my every need. No, like with any strong partnership, we’ll need time to begin the dance of making room for one other, disrupting routines that reveal our charming as well as annoying quirks. And just as best friends and lasting marriages, we’ll  gracefully step around toes and occasionally trip over feet. I’m sure we’ll face things we’ll need to work out. I can’t predict what they’ll all be. I’m pretty certain […]
September 17, 2012

Ready

_X_  Harness, with embroidered “Service Dog” patch   _X_  Collar (Red) _X_  Slip leads (2) _X_  Raised feeding stand with two bowls (Large) _X_  Love (Lots) Yep, we’re ready for moving-in day.        
September 20, 2012

My, What a Big Head You Have

Big Day: Tommy came over for a visit to meet Elsie and check out his future house and yard. He sniffed, sniffed some more. Big Hit: Elsie refrained from her usual Nice-To-Meet-You barking-while-running-in-increasingly-tighter-and-tighter circles. He strolled into the yard in a calm fashion, unfazed by the size of her visitor. Much sniffing ensued. Big Dog: Thought  I was getting used to the Great Dane size. Apparently not as I heard a little gasp escape from my throat when Sir Thomas stepped into the dining room and rested his chin on the table before sniffing in all those food smells. Big Hugs: Having Thomas in my home made it that much tougher to take him back to his doggie digs. I was sniffling as I drove away.      
September 23, 2012

Traveling Companion

I attended my grade school reunion last night. Interesting how this get-together reminiscing about old times marks a new time for me: This is my last unaccompanied trip. It ends up that, but for visiting with two dear friends — my best-of-best pals all through those years of wandering the instututional-green hallways — the event paled. On the plus side, the void gave me room to continue the thought chain that started linking together back at the start of my trip: How would my service dog fit into this travel scene? To the Airport: As I boarded the bus, a comfortable and convenient means to the airport, I determined that we’d need to climb the steps up single-file. Hmmm, who goes first? If I do, I can select a seat, but I can’t watch that he’s with me and not scarfing muffins from people’s laps. No, he goes first and I need to […]
September 28, 2012

You’re Welcome, Sir

Welcome home, that is! Sir Thomas has been home for 24 hours. We haven’t finished the training yet. We’ll simply commute in to class now that Tommy is in his off-campus housing. The photos say so much. I’ll fill in the details when the fur settles.            
September 29, 2012

Thank You Service-Dog Project

Dear Carlene, I’ve been enjoying the reports of the December calendar shot. I can picture the sleigh and eight Dane deer, Santa off-screen voicing her commands. To me, the scene sums up what the Service Dog project is all about. Danes, yes. Teamwork, yes. But beyond all the skilled trainers and trainees lies a bigger story. The real story of Rudolph. As a kid, Rudolph topped my list of TV Christmas specials, second only to the Grinch. Frosty had no real issues and the Peanuts gang aaw-shucked their way through life – not very realistic. But, despite the sometimes disturbing claymation expressions, I could relate to Rudolph. He was different. As an adult, however, the TV special has lost its ranking. Rudolph was different. So diifferent that others laughed and called him names. In fact, they bullied him. At one point, even Santa asked him to tone down that unfortunate […]