Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Top Dog

Miss Dixie and her Mom, Debbie, are our newest therapy dog team!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Final Alert

Celebration was the order of the day. Our last puppy alerted to a change in his child's blood glucose level!!!! 

Now, mind you, the four Lab pups are only 4-1/2 months old and Miss Dot, our little mixed breed is around 5-1/2 months. These babies are soaking up knowledge at warp speed. For an hour and a half at the Cowboy Church this morning, all the dogs and puppies down stayed quietly. They were awakened briefly to be introduced to the congregation, then settled back down until the service was finished. How fabulous are these dogs?

A word about this group of young dog handlers. Each is diabetic. Each had a dog who was supposed to be their service dog but it didn't work out. They've dealt with the hope of freedom that a service dog can give, then had that hope dashed. They range in age from 6 to 15. Their parents show symptoms of PTSD. And yet they never give up. My hat is off to these families. The kids and the dogs are my heroes. 

On a lighter note, we had puppy races this afternoon. Liz held a pup at one side of the room, I held another at the other side. Their kids walked to the opposite side of the room from their puppies and called them. Each and every puppy went to his or her handler, running in opposite directions, passing each other in the middle - without changing course. No side trips, no going to play with other dogs. So cool!

It doesn't get any better than this.

Sunday in Sherman

The last several days have been chocked full of dogs with their kids, bonding like crazy. Puppies are alerting on diabetic lows and highs. Puppies are learning to lay quietly at their people's feet. Puppies are mastering obedience skills. Kids are becoming dog handlers.

Public access was the focus yesterday. The group was led through all aspects of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law that allows a service dog access with his handler to public buildings and events. It is clear that people will challenge this right, so families were presented with scenarios and given clear and concise responses to use when that challenge happens.

Mid-afternoon everyone loaded up and car caravanned to a park where the dogs and their people got to ride on a train with a very loud whistle and enjoy the coolest playground ever. Then it was off to Chili's for dinner with 16 people and eight service dogs. It was quite an adventure, with a pitcher of cold drinks hitting the floor (now there's a distraction), one of the puppies developing diarrhea, and young kids being young kids. Problems were addressed as they happened and everyone left the restaurant feeling good about the experience. 

Today, the dogs will get religion at the Cowboy Church. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 1 in Sherman, Texas

I arrived at the training site around noon. The meeting room at the local Gander Mountain was full of kids, their parents, and service dogs in training. Trainer Liz was working on walking weaves with one of the four-month-old Labs. 

This first day, a lot of time was spent teaching submissive behaviors (a dog walking through your legs is an example). It’s critical that a service dog understand that his or her handler is in charge. It’s the concept I teach everyone – when you ask for a behavior you MUST get it. With companion dogs it’s a great thing to have. With service dogs it’s an absolute. High value treats were discussed at length.

When the puppies passed out J, the kids got some free time and the adults gathered with the trainers for a lengthy discussion of scent theory, laws that apply to service animals, and alerts. More on all of this later, as day 2 is about to begin.