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New breed of assistance dogs hone skills, including ‘scent-abilities’ 29 July 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Disability, Mobility, Partnership, Seizure-alert, Service Dogs, Tasks, Training.
5 comments

Posted by Kathleen Longcore | The Grand Rapids Press July 29, 2008 05:51AM

GRAND RAPIDS – Eight-year-old Cieran Boyle is about to get his first friend, a sturdy pointer assistance dog named Denver.

But Denver won’t be helping him cross streets, open doors or turn the lights off, as do many service dogs. He’ll be detecting subtle changes in Cieran’s body odor that predict he is about to have a seizure.

Denver’s training is an example of how today’s service dogs are being prepared in new ways to assist people.

Some organizations train dogs to help children who have autism. The dog can be tethered to a child, preventing the child from wandering or getting into harm’s way.

Other organizations train seizure response dogs, who get help when someone has had a seizure.

Some dogs, including some hounds and pointers, have very heightened “scent ability,” said Liz North, a master instructor at Pawsabilities Unleashed.

[– MORE –]

Actually, seizure-alert dogs are not new, but this method of training them is relatively new. There are also dogs (and cats!) which can detect when a diabetic is going into either INSULIN shock or diabetic coma (the two opposites that are so dangerous for diabetics).

It looks to me as if some of the assistance dog organizations are beginning to “specialize” in certain types of dogs – mobility, seizure-alert, hearing, seeing, autism, etc. Some lean more toward children, others toward adults. Most are still very general, however, and may offer several different kinds of assistance animals. They may offer both therapy and assistance animals, and may offer both in-home assistance animals and therapy sessions on their site with, perhaps, larger animals, such as horses or even dolphins.

There are also cancer-detection dogs which are offering a different kind of service. They are not “personal” assistance dogs, however. I perceive them eventually being in many oncologist’s (cancer specialist’s) offices, working in conjunction with them to detect cancer in it’s earliest stages.

My “Woof” will be a mobility assistance dog, and will assist me with getting up and down from chairs and the toilet, as well as helping me with balance. He will help me by picking up things (especially my cane, which I seem to drop frequently), and to carry some of the things I need to carry to my client’s offices (a few files). He will help drag the laundry basket to the laundry room, help remove laundry from the washer and then from the dryer, and then drag eht laundry basket back to the bedroom. He will be able to pick up bits of paper from the floor and put them in the trash. He will be able to use a “tug” to open doors at the store for me. This will be more and more important as I will need to move to a wheelchair more in the future. He will be able to bring me my cellphone which I am constantly leaving all over the house, and go get my beloved Ol’ Curmudgeon. Most importantly, should I fall getting in or out of the tub or fall in the house, the dog will be able to go to a special 911 phone and push a big button which will alert the 911 service in our county. They will know that I have a service dog and that he is trained to do this, so they will know where to come and how to access the house. They will know my daughter’s phone number and my son’s phone number and my husband’s phone number at work so the closest one can come over to let them in and take care of “Woof.”

So I’m looking forward to my “Woof,” and I’m very happy that Cieran Boyle is going to get his friend. Sounds like he’s a little boy who really needs one – and his family could use the relief, too! A win-win situation all the way around.

= = = = =

[NOTE: Waiting for the Woof ended 10/2/08. Living with the Woof picks up with the addition of Emmy to our lives! Please join me at: Living With the Woof for the ongoing saga of the Woof! Our adventures and our foibles will be chronicled there.]

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Who Can Service Dogs Help?? 15 July 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Partnership, Service Dogs, Tasks.
3 comments

For months now, I’ve been blithely writing about service dogs and how my Woof will help me when it gets here. But a friend asked me (in person, rather than commenting on this site) what service dogs really can do for people.

Wow! I was stumped for a minute – not to explain to her what a service dog CAN do, but to not “over do” my enthusiasm!

According to the Delta Society “Service dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

We tend to think in terms of service dogs doing specific tasks – in my case, picking up my cane when I drop it, providing balance, dragging the laundry basket through the house. But there is this to consider, also – will taking care of the service dog use up too much of my all-too-minimal energy stores? OR, will the service dog actually help conserve my energy by performing some of the tasks that take a lot of my energy to do?

A service dog may help a person who is quite immobile to get more physical exercise and thereby increase their stamina. For some people, the service dog would provide a distraction from focusing on their pain and disability – they may find it easier to be more social. The service dog also can reduce the concerns of his partner’s family members and close friends in terms of worrying about safety issues and the well-being of his partner. After all, his partner may be eating better because the service dog is carrying the food from the refrigerator for him!

So it isn’t “just” the business of leading a visually impaired person around objects, or alerting someone with hearing deficits to the sounds of the telephone ringing or the doorbell ringing, or someone coming up behind her or calling her name. It isn’t “just” pulling a laundry basket from room to room or picking up objects and putting them in drawers or in the trash. It is a relationship, companionship, friendship.

Any person with a physical or mention problem that limits their life activities in a major way might be a candidate for a service dog. But some people might not be candidates. If caring for the service dog will be too strenuous, and there is no one to help, then a service dog may not be a good choice. A pet cat or other small animal that requires less grooming for maintaining command proficiency and for going out into the community may be a better choice.

For me, a service dog is the best answer, and I’m working very hard to find ways to raise funds without wiping out my stamina!

So that’s what I told my friend. And now I’ve told you! Any questions??

Vote Now! Vote Often! 15 June 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Bond, Going Places, Partnership, Service Dogs.
2 comments

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!

Having a Hard Time 27 May 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Partnership, Service Dogs, Tasks.
2 comments

But I’m working on my attitude as much as I can.

Woof, I need you! Let’s go for a walk! Outside, Out the side door, arond the drive way, 3 or 4 times. Then send you down to the mail box to get the mail, put it in a little wheeled cart and drag it back up the hill to me. Then around the drive way a few more times, and then back inside.

I think I’ll do that now (without the mail aspect) so I can start getting ready for you!

A Reply to DeniseP! 10 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Cats, Love, Magnus, Mobility, Needs, Partnership.
2 comments

DeniseP of Hearing Elmo left a fun comment on my post about Magnus the Magnifi-cat, and rather than leave a long comment in reply, I thought I’d post it here. My mind is kind of blank today, anyway! 🙂

Yes, Magnus definitely has a personality. Trying to get a picture of him is a study in frustration. When he isn’t sleeping, he’s in motion – a blur. Even at near 12 years old! He’s black – with white “pits and pubes” – and getting a few white hairs here and there as he gets older. I considered plucking them, but decided against it – they will make him look distinguished – a real senior citizen – as he gets older! LOL!

Magnus is very interested in the squirrels and rabbits in the yard, but since he has no claws on his front feet, we don’t let him out. This is the way he came to us, but since we have a waterbed (needed for my arthritis and the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s back problems – it works nicely, won’t even discuss something else) clawless cats are necessary. Pirate made that most evident with an earlier water mattress – we had to put about 20 patches on it in about 2 months before we had her declawed. Boy! was she ticked off!

We are realistic – Magnus will leave us grief-stricken in the next few years – he has FLUTD, and it is amazing he has lived this long – he’s had 3 major attacks of blockage – nearly died once, and we caught the second and third attacks quickly. I will admit that we coddle and spoil him, but he deserves being coddled and spoiled for all the joy he brings us!

When he leaves us, we will grieve for several months, then we will obtain 2 FEMALE kitens and teach them (hopefully) to use the toilet. Maybe they will even learn to flush it! If that doesn’t work, maybe the Cat Genie will be up to par (we tried it and in our opinions it “isn’t ready for prime time”) and we can use that. Cats are great – but they do have their drawbacks!!

We did specify to the people from my service dog organization that my Woof would have to get along with cats. I am and always will be a cat person. I like dogs, but I am a “cat person.” The Ol’ Curmudgeon, on the other hand, is a “dog person.” This is one of the reasons that we, the two of us, will have to work very, very hard to be sure I am the person the Woof “looks to” as his Alpha.

The training will only start the process. It will be up to us to continue it. And Magnus will help, I hope.

fgghgvgjhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Just as he helped me write this! LOL!

Magnus the Magnifi-cat is Up to Something! 8 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Cats, Dog, Magnus, Mobility, Partnership.
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Something has his tail in a wad. he is running from room to room, yowrling loudly, messing up the blinds in order to look outside. He’s following us around and pestering us – singly and together.

It isn’t his bladder – I’ve felt for it, it’s nice and empty, and it’s not tender. His kidneys are not enlarged. He’s making urine and feces as usual – no blood, no weird odors. Not spraying around the house. Hust going into his “crazy cat” routine!

I don’t know whether having a Woof in the house will be better or worse for poor ol’ Magnus. Will it help calm him down when he goes into “crazy cat,” or will they heterodyne off each other? Yellow labs, in particular, are what the Ol’ Curmudgeon calls, “enthusiastic, bullet-proof dogs made of mostly plastic materials.” I can just see Magnus and an enthusiastic yellow lab Woof not in vest bouncing all over the house together!! We’ve been that route before – before we had Magnus. We had a yellow lab bitch named Zoar. She used to enthusiastically run around the house with the cat we had at the time – Pirate. They eventually came to an uneasy truce, and actually played with each other.

So, maybe Magnus will help exercise the Woof, and the Woof will help exercise Magnus (who is getting a bit out of shape, but don’t tell him that).

Maybe having to exercise and groom the Woof will help me become more active, too! And maybe I will even lose a little weight, too! That would be soooooo good for preserving the joints in my hips, knees, ankles and feet! Won’t stop the arthritis or the fibro, but it will help me function with them better.

Woof, we will be “up to something,” when you get here! I can hardly wait!!

Letter to an Editor – – 1 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Behavior, Going Places, Law, PAALS, Partnership, Responsibility, Service Dogs, Support PAALS.
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I saw an interesting letter to the editor in the Pottsville PA newspaper, the Republican & Herald yesterday. (I have a Google search widget set to scan for service dog news and this came up.) A 4th grade class invited a blind man to come to school and show how his guide dog helps him. In response to a very positive experience, the man wrote a glowing  letter to the editor.

This gave me another great idea to add to my list of orientations. When my Woof gets here, I’ll write a letter to the various teachers in the Elementary and Middle Schools in our County, offering to come to their class and talk about service dogs and show how my Woof helps me. Of especial importance will be to explain that one must always ask before talking to or petting a working service dog. I will show the difference in my service dog’s personality with and without his vest. When he is working, he must not be played with, or he could become confused and not help me when I need to be helped.

People who have a service dog have responsibilities to their community – to educate people in their community about service dogs, and to help raise awareness and money for the organization that provided their dogs.

Oh, I will be a busy beaver!! But it will be well worth it! I will have a great purpose in life again! How wonderful! I can support PAALS and still be working with Woof!

A win/win/win idea 18 March 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Behavior, Cats, Disability, Going Places, Mobility, PAALS, Partnership, Puppy, Raising, Service Dogs, Sponsorship, Support PAALS, Team, Training.
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Therapist’s network uses inmates and dogs to help people with disabilities

By Abe Aamidor

After earning her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from Purdue University in 1990, Sally Irvin took a job at an in-patient youth psychiatric facility in Memphis, Tenn.
That lasted a year.

Later, she trained physicians at Community Health Network in the art of grief counseling.

In the back of her mind, though, were always the dogs. Irvin, 48, had loved dogs, and had always owned dogs, since her childhood in Albany, N.Y.

That led Irvin to start ICAN, the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, in 2001. The nonprofit organization teaches prison inmates to train service dogs, which in turn are provided to people with disabilities.

Irvin is a baby boomer making a difference, even though she resists that title.

“I’ve always thought of baby boomers as someone who’s 10 years older than me,” she said.

ICAN is a pee-wee among giants in the animal welfare as well as disability communities. The group employs three full-time staffers, including Irvin, and operates on a shoestring budget of $267,000. Offices are in donated space on the second floor of the Little Red Door Cancer Agency on North Meridian Street.

But its impact is real. To date, ICAN has trained 18 offenders at three Indiana facilities who have since been released from prison. Six of them have gone on to work with dogs or other animals. The group also has placed 46 service dogs with people who have disabilities. [–MORE–]

This is a fabulous article about service dogs. I was familiar with ICAN from watching Animal Planet. They broadcast a program about it fairly regularly. ICAN is almost as small as PAALS.

At PAALS February was a great month. New volunteers, new events scheduled. And some of the dogs had some wonderful experiences.

Saying Hello -

These Two PAALS pups are
learning to say “hello” properly.

Gypsy at a Valentine Store

“Gypsy” visits a store for the Valentines
Day sale

You see, service dogs need to learn how to behave in as many different situations as possible. They will be exposed to hundreds of different places, situations, and people. Traffic, stores, offices, homes, bars, shops, malls, even, perhaps, jails and morgues and police stations. Hospitals, doctors offices, disasters, parks, funerals, weddings – you name it, service dogs will be exposed to them. Of course, each dog cannot be exposed to each possibility before being paired with their working partner, but they can learn “good manners” in as many new situations as possible so they will know to exhibit “good manners” no matter what.

My Woof will go to Red Hat Society functions where there is loud talking and lots of laughter. And will also have lots of time at home in my office being very quiet. There there is grocery day – when I do all the shopping for the week. There are family gatherings with an aunt with Parkinson’s and an uncle with mild dementia, and a sister-in-law who also has rheumatoid arthritis (only more severe than I have). Visits with grandsons from far away, one of whom is bi-polar/ADHD and another who is Autistic. Then there is the twice monthly Woodturning Club Meeting in our workshop – 30+ people devoted to woodturning. Visits to attorney offices, other professional offices.

Although I am mostly restricted to my home, Woof and I will go to a number of places together. Some places will not have had any experiences with service dogs before. It will be our responsibility to be “ambassadors” for service dogs in those locations. We will show that service dogs are very well behaved, have “good manners,” and we will demonstrate how helpful they can be – how helpful my Woof is for me. I will give out little “packets” with PAALS cards, brouchures, a copy of the ADA law and the GA ADA regulations. These will go a long way to help educate people. I hope we can help people accept service dogs and their partners.

Speaking of Assistance Animals, Magnus the Magnifi-Cat has entered the service animal arena. I’m having some mild incontinence problems (as do about 68% of the older female population “out there”). I had gone to the usual “Serenity” solution. But in the last couple of months Magnus has started pestering me – a lot. After a few days I figured I needed to pay attention to him. So I bestirred myself out of my chair and followed him – down the hall to the bathroom, where he rubbed against the toilet. OK, I used it. He shut up and left me along for another 5 hours! I started paying more attention. he would lead me to the bathroom. I’d use it. He’d shut up. I haven’t had incontinence in over a month. So I now have a service cat! It may not be a “spectacular” thing, but he knows and he lets me know when I don’t know. Mine not to reason why . . .

Please remember to tell your about PAALS and ask them to sponsor a dog or otherwise support us! Think of the specific good PAALS is doing for specific individuals. Do you know someone with mobility problems? Hearing problems? Vision problems? Communication problems? Autism? Cerebral Palsy? Did you know that service dogs help people with all of these problems and more? Please support PAALS!

Some Therapy and Service Dogs in the News! 15 March 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Needs, Partnership, Responsibility, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Working Dogs.
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Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City UT posted a lovely article about therapy and service dogs, focusing on a therapy dog named Factor. No pictures, unfortunately.

+ + + + + + +

In a sad-to-joy story – a missing service dog was found after being missing for 2 months!! This was a cautionary tale for us. In this instance, the Chow bolted when the car door opened when being brought home the first time! So we will be ultra cautious when we bring the Woof home the first time – we’ll come into the garage (which is in the basement of the house), close the garage door and THEN open the car door. That way, the Woof can’t run away if he is a little skittish.

+ + + + + + +

Are you surprised to hear that therapy dogs help college students deal with the stress of being away from home (and their pets) for the first time? Well, a Kent State professor is trying to put that on a scientific basis. She is bringing her therapy dogs onto campus. And, guess what? It works!

+ + + + + + +

If you watch Animal Planet on a regular basis, you know about several jail programs in which inmates train dogs for various purposes. At Camp LeJeune, NC, Marine inmates of the brig are training service dogs for their fallen comrades. This story went straight to my heart, as my husband was in the Marines.

Where Were You? 16 February 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Aids, Disability, Here Fido!, Illness, Partnership, Tasks, Team, Training.
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I’ve been pretty sick for the last week – had to have emergency oral surgery after several days of major pain from a spreading abscess.

As I was on pain pills, I was even more teetery on my feet than usual, so I mainly stayed my chair except to visit “the little house behind the house to meditate.”

While Magnus the Magnifi-cat was a wonderful Purr-motor for me, but I felt really loopy from the pain meds. Wasn’t up to getting up to the kitchen to making meals for myself. I fed the cat, but couldn’t figure out much of anything I wanted to eat.

“What,” you might ask, “could an assistance dog do for you when you have an acute illness? An assistance dog is for mobility, or for psychological or therapeutic purposes.” Well, that defines what I needed last week! Mobility! Help walking from room to room, from house to daughter’s car, to dental office, to car, to house.

Help with my functioning even if I didn’t feel good. Help with making me move – there is something really therapeutic to knowing you HAVE to take the Woof out to poop and either work to exercise the doggie or get the grandkids over to exercise him and what not.

I’ve researched ways to exercise my Woof without my having to be very active – for those days I’m crashing. Found THIS

It’s called a Go Dog Go, and it’s an automatic (or as we say around here, an “automagic”) ball-thrower! Wonderful for the obsessive ball chasing/retrieving breeds (the retrievers! – go figure).

Go Dog Go

You fill up the bucket with tennis balls, set the electronic control for the frequency (7 or 15 seconds) you want it to throw a ball and how far (15 feet to 30 feet) and sit back and watch your dog have a “ball” chasing balls! You can even train your dog to refill the bucket for continuous, obsessive fun!

Go Dog Go   Go Dog Go Control

For those of us with energy and mobility problems, exercising the dog is no problem! And we can train the dog to refill the bucket. Do I want one when the Woof comes? O yeah! But I want neon pink tennis balls!

Back to my acute illness – This is the reason there is a “team” approach to assistance dogs. There must be a team at home. We have a team – my ol’ curmudgeon and me are the primary team members. But we have extended team members, too. Son #1 lives next door and his wife and sons are part of our extended team. They help with everything already, and are more than willing to help with the Woof. Daughter lives a few miles away, and she and her husband and son are involved and will help. Son #2 lives a bit too far away to be be involved on a daily basis, but will be involved in crises as needed. So that’s my “team.” And a great team it is!

How did it work for my acute problems with the tooth? Well, daughter (DD – dear daughter) took me to the dental surgeon for my surgery and stayed with me the rest of the day, bringing me little comfort things, and ensuring I did not fall when going to the bathroom and back. DIL (daughter-in-law) was in and out several times.

Woof would have helped. First, DD would not have had to stay with me. Second, DIL would not have had to come in and out. If “something had happened,” Woof could either have gone next door to get DIL, OR pressed the 911 button on the K-9 Rescue Phone we will have installed when Woof gets here.

K-9 Rescue Phone

It may not be cute or pretty – but it’s utilitarian! It’s also kinda expensive, so knowing the Ol’ Curmudgeon, we’ll probably have a home-made variety!! We are also in an area with weird 911 service. It’s available for medical but not for police services. We’ll have to work with the various services on how this will work in reality!

Where were you, Woof? I was sick and I needed you! Pass time, grow and develop Woof, learn Woof! Soon we’ll be together!

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.

Faith 19 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Disability, Partnership.
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This is a service dog with a young, emotionally disabled partner. What a wonderful story!

Service dogs are not just for the visual, hearing or mobility-impaired!

Trapped in a Box — 15 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Here Fido!, Mobility, Partnership, Service Dogs, Support PAALS.
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“I felt like I was trapped in a box … “

One recipient of an assistance dog said that he felt that way until he received his dog.

Until PAALS gets their videos made, I’m posting the videos from other, older, organizations. This one is from Dogs for the Disabled. But I’m still promoting support for PAALS!!

This is about 9 minutes and worth every second!! Enjoy!!

I’m still waiting!!

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.