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Vote Now! Vote Often! 15 June 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Bond, Going Places, Partnership, Service Dogs.
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Suzan, of A Service Dog’s Journey. wants to take Logan for a Doggie Spa adventure!!

Vote HERE for Logan to win the contest!!

And maybe, just maybe, when my Woof comes, I can take him for a doggie spa adventure, too!

Nothing much – 17 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Bond, Exercise, Service Dogs.
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A slow day – the kind of day when Woof and I would doze from time to time, and then go outside and I’d toss balls and frisbees for him to catch and retrieve. He would spend most of the day with no vest on. Just a lazy day at Haus von Riggs.

I did do a good bit of work on some deposition questions, and some work on an interesting case from another state. I’m pretty much caught up, and feeling quite virtuous. On a day like this, Woof and I would play a great deal. Much bonding and lots of slobbery woobies!

Happy-Happy! Joy-Joy!

Another Service Dog Bolts – 6 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Behavior, Bond, Discipline, Responsibility, Team.
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I just saw another article about a new service dog that got free and bolted within 48 hours of placement in the new partner’s home. Wow. That must be soooo scary and disappointing for the new partner!!

How can I prevent this when Woof comes? First, For the first several weeks, Woof won’t go anywhere off-leash, period. Until Woof is totally used to us and to our backyard and to our neighborhood and how to get home from around the neighborhood, he will not be permitted off-lead except inside the house. When he needs to “go out” to “do his duty,” he will go out on-lead, but without vest. When an outside door opens, either he will be in “sit” or “down,” or will be on lead until he is comfortable with me and feels that our home is his home.

The two weeks training period we will have on-site at the training facility will help tremendously with Woof’s bond to me. But that bond will not be complete at the end of that 2 weeks. It will take another month or two for Woof to get completely bonded to me.

This bond will be something we will have to work at every day. We will do that by working – by going through our tasks, by training, by practicing the tasks Woof needs to do for me. Woof will be rewarded appropriately and when no working I will play with him. My husband will NOT give Woof any attention or correction or rewards or even pats. All of that will come through me. If he thinks correction is necessary, he will tell me, and if I agree, I will correct. It may involve a bit of a delay, but that’s the way it will have to be. I will be Woof’s Alpha, Woof’s “pack leader,” if you will.

Each time we work together, our bond will get better and stronger. Each time we go for a walk, our bond will get stronger. Each time we play together, our bond will get stronger and better.

I will be the only one who feeds and waters her – at least at first. Even on “bad” days, at first I must be the one who feeds and waters her. The time may come that I will need more frequent or even total help with feeding and watering, but at first, I must be the one who actually does the feeding and watering. With an animal, this is an important part of the bonding part.

Treats are a bit of a conflict here at Haus Von Riggs about treats. I believe in giving treats. The Ol’ Curmudgeon does not. We have agreed, however, to abide by the advice of the trainers on that topic. I think the Ol’ Curmudgeon is worried I will try to use treats to bond with the Woof or to spoil the Woof. We’ll talk to the trainers about these concerns and get their advice. Then we will work on practicing it.

Any interaction with Woof will act as bonding, especially for the first several weeks. But during those first few days, Woof will be a bit “off balance,” and not sure of things. He will have left his home and his family to go be with me at my home. Of course, he will be weirded out! I will help him by letting him sleep near me, by feeding him, by spending a lot of time with him, working with him. While he will never forget his puppy raiser and his trainers, he will bond with me in a month or so, and we will become a team!

OK – it’s begging time! Happy Dollar Eyes!Please don’t forget to support the organization supplying my service dog: PAALS is working to find the puppy that will “match” me, and will grow up to become my “Woof.” This is time-consuming and expensive. We are working to get our share together, and need some help. Any help you can give us will be greatly appreciated! And PAALS will appreciate it tremendously. PAALS needs all the help they can get because they are a new and struggling organization. They have experienced people organizing, administering and working there, but the organization itself is new. New organizations need extra support, so I’m asking you, within your ability, of course, to give PAALS that extra support. Thanks!!

Deaf for a day – – 29 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Bond, Disability, Hearing Ear, Mobility, Service Dogs.
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One of the blogs I read regularly, Hearing Elmo, is by a teacher who lost most of her hearing as an adult. She has a wonderful mixed-breed hearing assistance dog named Chloe. One of the exercises she puts her hearing students through is “Deaf for a Day,” wherein they block their hearing as much as possible in order to experience deafness. Today she described a recent class experience and the frustrations it brought.

“. . . Many think that becoming deaf means that voices are no longer heard. Certainly communication is one of the more frustrating things a late-deafened person experiences. And yet, so much in our world makes sound! Learning to live in an environment where everything is silent can be painful.”

Certainly, as the rheumatoid arthritis slowly and stealthily takes more of my mobility from me, there are times when, as others look at me with unveiled impatience, and even disbelief, I wish they could experience just a day of the pain, stiffness and difficulty with mobility that I do.

Just as Denise Portis, of Hearing Elmo, finds freedom through Chloe, I hope to find freedom through my “Woof.”

With eye upraised his master’s look to scan,
The joy, the solace, and the aid of man:
The rich man’s guardian and the poor man’s friend,
The only creature faithful to the end.

George Crabbe

How to Become a Service Dog – Part II 24 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Bond, Partnership, Puppy, Raising, Sponsorship, Support PAALS, Tasks, Training.
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Once a Puppy has been Sponsored and Raised, trained in basic obedience, it must learn all the special things it will need to do as a Service Dog. By this time, the Pup-o-lescent’s personality is pretty well formed, and the dog can be matched with a potential partner. The needs of that partner are determined, and the training of the dog begins in earnest.

Opening and closing drawers, doors, and cabinets. Pushing big buttons on command or in certain situations (emergency 911 button). Bracing to help someone get up out of or down into a chair. Retrieving objects from the floor, or another room. Picking up dropped objects. Going and getting someone. These tasks and more may be needed by the partner. Once the basic tasks are learned, it’s time to meet the partner!!

What a day! I look forward to that day with greatly suppressed excitement!! The day I actually meet my Woof!! When we begin to train together! When we begin bonding together! When I actually feel him or her lick my face and hands and nudge my arms and sides! When we walk together and I drop my cane and he picks it up for me for the first time! Oh what a joyful day that will be!! The first time he helps me get up from a chair. The first time he opens a heavy door for me, or retrieves a dropped can at the grocery store, or carries files in a little saddle bag into an attorney’s office for me! What a day!

Becoming a Service Dog is a series of joys – the joy of puppyhood, the joy of learning new things, the joy of meeting new people and the joy of bonding with a lifetime partner the joy of having jobs to do and playtimes with the partner.

Working dog breeds MUST have jobs to do in order to be happy. So Service Dogs, being working dogs, are happiest when doing jobs and playing. We are going to have a wonderful time. We will have the jobs that have been identified ahead of time, and then we will identify jobs for the dog to do that we didn’t realize I needed done. I’m also looking forward to playing get the ball and get the frisbee with the dog. Since PAALS uses Labrador Retrievers, they are obsessive about chasing balls and frisbees and truly enjoy playing chase and retrieve – after all, they are “Retrievers!” I can sit on the back porch and toss the frisbee or the ball. If I get to the point I can’t throw anymore, we can get a ball thrower machine, or the grandchildren can throw balls for me.

Another fun thing for Service Dogs is to go to the Dog Park and play with other dogs! I will have to be sure that the Woof’s immunizations for EVERYTHING are up-to-date, though. Don’t want him to catch anything that’s preventable!

And that’s how to become a Service Dog! Only very fortunate puppies can become Service Dogs. It takes a lot of people and a lot of money. It takes vet visits, behavioral assessments, x-rays, genetic testing, blood tests, the right diet, loving puppy raisers, talented trainers and a willing partner. It also takes people who are willing to contribute to the program. Either a lot of money from a few people, or a little money from a lot of people. PAALS subsists on tax-deductible contributions from individuals and businesses. Please help bring a lucky puppy and a lucky partner together by your contribution! No contribution too large or too small! If you wish to support my getting together with my “Woof,” please put my name on the check or on the credit card invoice. I’m shameless when it comes to getting my “Woof!” I need him and he needs me!

Lancelot picks up a fork!

This is a beautiful Service Dog from the Lancelot Foundation – she is not going to be my dog, and does not come from PAALS. She just picked up the fork her partner dropped! Look at her eyes – she is waiting for that “thank you” response from her partner. When she gets it, she will immediately have “happy eyes” and “happy ears” and her tail will wag all over the place! It takes little to make a Service Dog happy – just a “Good girl!” and a pat on the head. Love is what it’s all about – the love of the Service Dog for his partner, and the love of the partner for his Service Dog.

Bonding with Woof 4 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Bond, Partnership, Service Dogs.
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It is important – no, it is CRITICAL – that the human partner of an assistance dog be THE Alpha to that dog. Dogs are pack animals. They need to know who is the alpha of the pack – the leader. And that leadership must be asserted and reasserted in many ways on a daily basis. In an assistance dog partnership, the alpha role must be asserted in such a way that the loyalty of the dog is bound to that alpha in no uncertain terms. There must be no divided loyalties. The assistance dog must listen first to the partner and obey. Conflicting orders from others must be ignored. Distractions from others must be ignored.

What goes into making a good partnership bond?

First there is the personality “match.” This is facilitated by the staff, volunteers and trainers at the service dog organization. Some organizations match partners early on. Others wait until the dogs’ training is well advanced before attempting a partner match. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. These will not be dealt with here, as they are based in differing philosophies of puppy rearing and dog raising. Suffice it to say most pairing has traditionally been accomplished when the dog is approximately 1 1/2 to 2 years of age and about 3/4 trained. The dog’s responsiveness, general personality, “rambunctiousness level,” etc are all assessed and compared to the needs and preferences of the potential partner. In my case, with my sore muscles, the director of PAALS was concerned that a dog who “nudges” for attention or comfort might cause me discomfort. I assured her this was not a concern of mine! Besides, with my new medication for fibromyalgia, the pain level is much reduced. I’m very tolerant of doggie behavior.

Next, there is the task “match.” Some dogs do certain tasks better than others. A dog that doesn’t “get” grasping the lapel edge of my jacket and holding it so I can get my hand and arm into the sleeve won’t be of much help in dressing. On the other hand, at this point I am less needful of a dog who opens drawers and cabinet doors. But I do need a dog who “gets” opening heavy doors and holding them open, who “gets” bracing to help me up, etc.

Once the personality and task matches are made, the dog and human partners are brought together. Now the bonding process begins in earnest. The dog must identify the smell of the human partner. For that reason, I plan to get some cloth diapers, and put them against my body for a day or two at a time, then make them available to PAALS to put in the dog’s bed so he can get used to my scent. When we get together at training, it will be recommended that we sleep together for the first couple of weeks. Again, this is for bonding purposes. The dog will breathe in my scent and this will become imprinted on his brain as his pack leader.

Once we are together, it will take TIME and activity to make the bond complete. The more time we spend together, the more activities we share, the closer our bond will be. The activities will be not only work and play, but every-day activities like grooming, exercising, pottying and feeding.

At feeding time, I will need to do all the feeding and watering. I will do a good bit of hand feeding, and will “mess with” the dog’s food while he eats. This enforces that I am “in charge,” that I am “alpha.”

I will assume all care, grooming, exercising, commanding, etc, for the intensive time of the initial 2-week training camp. The dog and I will stay together 24-7. Although the Ol’ Curmudgeon will, of a matter of course, be there, too, he will have to be very restrained and hold back from being alpha for a while so the doggie won’t get confused. The dog MUST look to ME as his alpha, because he will be MY assistance dog – not the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s!! So the Ol’ Curmudgeon will have to help ME a great deal during that 2 week training camp. I will be exhausted, so he will have to be MY energy. He may even have to feed me some days. Certainly, he will have to help me dress and undress. Bless him!

Woof and I will be forging an exclusive relationship. One that some husbands or wives might even be jealous of. Fortunately, the Ol’ Curmudgeon is very knowledgeable about dogs and service dogs, and understands the bonds that must and will be forged. He and I have already discussed his dominant personality type and the fact that he will have to be very restrained and I will have to be much more assertive than usual. We realize that “living” this will be different from intellectually recognizing it, but recognizing it is the first step in “living” it.

Woof and I must be a working unit – to be “as one” when working together. And as a working unit, we will to a great extent exclude my husband. This is going to be a new way of “being” for me. My Ol’ Curmudgeon and I have been “joined at the hip” since we married over 30 years ago. We think and often act as one person. Now, Woof and I will act as one during working and training times, and we will exclude the Ol’ Curmudgeon at those times. It is something he and I will have to adjust to.

At the same time, the bond between Woof and me will have to be flexible enough for Woof to enlarge and include the Ol’ Curmudgeon for play, and to allow the Ol’ Curmudgeon and me our special bond and times, also. This will require some adjustment on the part of the Woof as well as for me.

But the bond between Woof and me must be strong and must hold through thick and thin.