Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

Hard at Work

Or at least they are trying to seem as though they are hard at work…

Rogue and aiden are lying under a table at Costco. Aiden is wearing his red and black mesh Autism dog Services vest with a black martingale and red leash. rogue is lying behind him in her navy blue harness, light blue collar and black leather braided leash.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had people come up to me and ask if the dogs are no longer on duty at times like this.

even though we are obviously still in a public place, where pets are not welcome, people seem to think that because the dogs are lying quietly while we eat or whatever, that they are no longer working and can be loved.

I am always willing to talk to people about the dogs and often allow people to talk to them while they’re chilling, but I also try to inform the public about the fact that even though it may not look as though they are actively working, the dogs are still on alert and ready to move when asked, so as long as their working gear is on, they are on duty.

On an aside, rogue found it really hard to stay hidden with aiden under the table as well. he’s a big boy, so takes up almost all of the room, but she made a good effort at staying out of the way. Maybe it was having aiden there, but Rogue also did really well at staying down when I asked her to.

Dr. Colleen Dell

Dr. Colleen Dell is the Research Chair in Substance Abuse at the University of Saskatchewan. Her work focuses on research, community outreach and training. Currently, Dr. Dell is working on a research project that incorporates therapy dogs into the field of addiction and substance abuse. another interesting research project she worked on involved horse assisted therapy for youth in treatment.

Rogue and I were invited to a meeting with Dr. dell and various dog-related organization heads on Friday afternoon. Dr. Dell and her therapy dog, Anna-Belle came to Hamilton to talk about her current project and to try and stir-up some interest among other people in the field.

There were about 12 people at the meeting including Huib (who came as my guide) and I. In addition to Rogue, there was Anna-Belle and then another service dog that I cannot remember the name of. He is a 10 year old whippet who helps a woman with mobility issues. It was surprising, but all of the dogs pretty much ignored one another – Good Girl Rogie!!

the meeting began with everyone introducing themselves and then everyone began asking Dr. Dell questions about her research and then asking for her opinion regarding issues they were encountering with their own programs. I really need to work on figuring out how I would like to introduce myself without making me sound unworthy of attending such events. I also need to do some research into the various people that attended the meeting because there are some pretty interesting programs in Hamilton.

In the evening Dr. Dell held a public discussion at an art gallery in downtown Hamilton. In order to make sure Dr. dell and Dr. James Gillett, a McMaster University professor I really want to work with knew I was serious about becoming involved in their research projects, Huib, rogue and I attended the talk. Like the earlier discussion, I found the public talk very informative. I wish I could have seen some of the pictures she showed from her various projects, but otherwise I enjoyed learning about her horse research and about her current research into using dogs in a therapeutic setting.

I will be meeting with Dr. James Gillett on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of assisting him in some service dog related projects he is considering – I’m SO excited!!

Remembering Endora

Once upon a time in the sunny state of California, there lived a little female yellow Labrador retriever named Endora. Like other dogs before her, this little lab was preparing to make a difference in the life of a blind individual. She studied tons. She worked hard. She knew there was someone out there who needed her, and she was determined to make her mark on the world.

In September of 2002 Endora waited patiently in the kennels of Guide Dogs for The blind to be given her assignment. She had been pulling all nighters, trying to get the commands firmly implanted in her memory, she knew her time had come. There had to be someone in this class that needed her expertise.

Meanwhile…

In Nova Scotia, a determined young woman named Lynette, was boarding a plane bound for California. Lynette’s first guide dog, Aries, was not cut out for the job, so after years of trying to make the partnership work, she made the tough decision to retire Aries and give her to her parents. She knew it wasn’t going to b easy getting a new dog, but she also knew Aries was happier as a pet, so off she went.

Like Cessna and I, Endora and Lynette were a match made in heaven. They were matched both in size and determination. They had their struggles, and they had their disagreements, but from the beginning it was hard to believe they had not always been a team. Lynette found it hard, at first, to put all of her trust in this little power house, but almost immediately Endora showed her how wonderful it could be to work with a guide dog. She guided Lynette with confidence, and with care. she took her job seriously, and glared at anyone who dared to try and distract her.

Unlike Aries, Endora took her responsibilities to heart – this was what she was meant to do.

I met Endora shortly after Lynette brought her home and almost immediately nicknamed her the little snobby American Princess. She had no qualms about coming up onto the couch and cuddling with me, but if I had something to say, there was no way she was going to listen. Endora made up for her small stature in attitude. If Endora didn’t want to do it, then she wasn’t going to do it.

When Lynette texted me to say that Endora was not well, I was almost in tears. I couldn’t believe it was time for Endora to leave us. She was only 11 years old and still so full of life. But, I guess someone had other plans for our American Princess.

On March 19, 2012, Endora left this world to make her mark on another. From what the vet could determine, she was full of cancer. She had developed a lump around the bottom of her rib cage that was, at first, just a fatty tumour, but at some point it changed. Endora began licking and chewing at the lump, causing it to become severely infected and without immediate vet care, had gotten too out of hand for her poor body to handle. The vet thinks the infection is what caused her rapid decline, but that she had most likely developed the cancer months earlier. We’ll never really know if she could have been given a little bit longer, if it had not been for the infection, but I guess we should just try and be thankful for the time we had to spend with this amazing little yellow lab.

I will always miss her “bear rug imitation”.

When Endora was upset about something, she’d lie on the ground with her head lying flat between her paws, so it looked like she was a rug instead of a dog.

I will miss our games of tug.

Endora was an amazing tug of war player. She’d not only tug with all her might, but start growling and barking like she was about to eat the hand of whoever was on the other end. During one of our many games of tug, I actually had Aspen barking and growling at Endora because she was worried I was in danger lol! Aspen is such a big suck, but she will try her best to defend her family.

I do not normally develop such a strong bond with my friends’ guide dogs, but for some reason, Endora will always be special to me. Maybe it was her attitude that reminded me of myself. or maybe it was her fierce determination that inspired me. I’ll never know for certain why Endora left such a mark on my heart, but I do know that she will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace my little American Princess friend. Take care of Phoenix for me and remember that you guys will always be in my thoughts.

Emmett

“UNTIL ONE HAS LOVED AN ANIMAL, PART OF THEIR SOUL REMAINS UNAWAKENED”

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat
of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” –Unknown

Two weeks ago I received some very sad news. My friend Kelly’s Special Skills dog, Emmett, had passed away. Emmett was a four year old cream colour, standard poodle. He was raised by friends of mine and then ended up being placed with another friend of mine, Kelly.

Emmett was an amazing boy. He was smart. He was deviant. And he was an absolute sweetheart. He had had some issues with having to have his knees both replaced one year after the other, but he seemed to be healthy in all other ways.

Two weeks ago everything changed. He had gotten a cold which turned into pneumonia. For most dogs, this sort of thing wouldn’t be fatal, but unbeknownst to Kelly, Emmett had Addison’s Disease.

Since Emmett’s death, Kelly has begun to learn all she can about the disease and has joined an online support group. She hopes to educate others on Addison’s Disease and help save at least one dog’s life.

Emmett, you were one special dog. You were loved by many. And will be missed by all. I hope Phoenix and Cooper met you along your journey across the rainbow bridge and that together, you will all care for one another as we cared for you.

National Guide Dog Month – Should You Pet?

Sorry for slacking on these posts, but this weekend was pretty busy so I thought we’d just make it something that will happen each weekend this month – no “National Guide Dog Month” posts on weekends.

Today, Huib and I took Cessna and Rogue into town for a little sidewalk and intersection work. While walking the streets of Englehart, I heard a few people saying to their companions that they must not distract the working dogs. As I mentioned earlier in this post, we would actually like people to come up and ask to pet Rogue.

This got me thinking about all the service dog handlers who have a “absolutely no petting” policy, or who wish people would just stop asking.

Instead of taking the time to write a post about everything that has already been said by some other bloggers, I thought I’d just give links to their wonderful posts.

Teach Them Well by L^ & Jack

Don’t Pet by Nati & the Dogs

To Pet Or Not Pet A Guide Dog by Lynette & DeeDee

I am in the “ask, and I might let you pet my guide dog” camp.

I understand why some people have an “absolutely don’t pet my guide dog” policy.

And I understand why some get really annoyed by people constantly asking.

But, I have been blessed to have been matched with dogs who could care less about other people and their attempts at distracting them from their job.

I guess the bottom line is…to always ask someone before petting their dog, whether it’s a guide dog or pet. It’s just safer that way for everyone.

National Guide Dog Month – Psychiatric Service Dogs

Today I thought we’d look at the controversial psychiatric service dog. You’re probably wondering why I call them “controversial”, it’s because this type of service dog can be easily confused with the therapy dog or emotional support dog.

Therapy dogs are personal pets which have been put through vigorous tests in order to be registered to visit public places, such as hospitals, long-term care homes and schools.

In contrast, psychiatric service dogs are special canines who are trained to perform specific tasks which mitigate the psychiatric disabilities of their human partners, whereas emotional support dogs are solely there fore “support”.

Both emotional support and therapy dogs do not have any special privileges in Canada, so must ride in the cargo holds of planes, remain outside public places, and do not qualify for residency in “pet free” housing.

Some of the tasks which psychiatric service dogs can be trained to do are:

• Wake up their client;
• Remind client to take medications;
• Track/find lost items;
• Lead client to a safe place;
• Alert client to oncoming symptoms;
• Check a room before client enters;
• Make space for client in crowded places;
• Provide pressure therapy when their client is feeling anxious; and
• Interfere with repetitive or harmful behaviours.

This link, will take you to a paper which discusses the results of a survey that looked at how psychiatric service dogs have effected the well-being of their clients.

Unlike guide dogs for the blind or service dogs for people with physical disabilities, the psychiatric service dog is still quite uncommon, so their clients often run into issues regarding public access. This issue is compounded by the fact that most clients do not have anything visibly wrong and there is still a large stigma surrounding mental illness, so clients are often reluctant to disclose why they need the dog and what tasks are performed.

This link, will take you to an article about a woman who owns and runs a program based in Guelph which provides psychiatric service dogs. I briefly volunteered with K-9 Helpers and had a chance to meet D’fer and see the amazing work he does for Sue. I also had the opportunity to participate in their weekly client sessions and observe the process Sue goes through when choosing, and later training a service dog candidate.

Psychiatric service dogs may not currently be a well-known type of canine assistant, but with the well documented benefits they provide for their clients, I’m sure they will soon be a common sight on our streets.

If you are left with any questions regarding anything I’ve written about, please don’t hesitate to leave a paw print in the comments section of the particular entry.

National Guide Dog Month – Poor Dog…

This is harder than I thought it would be. It’s tough to think of topics to write about each day of the month. I’m only on like day four, and am already beginning to wonder if it is even worth my time. I like educating people about service dogs and dispelling some of the myths surrounding what the public thinks a service dog should be, but it’s really hard to think about what I should write that isn’t written somewhere else already.

If you have any questions for me or about service dogs in general please post them in the comments section and I’ll gladly take a moment to write about them.

So…now….what to write about today….

“Poor dog…”

The above comment is one I hear almost every day. It seems as though people think Cessna works day and night. It’s like they think she’s my slave.

In reality, Cessna works only in public places. And on average works less than 20 hours in a week.

Yes, there are weeks when I may need her to work more, but these are very rare. During those weeks, I spoil her with tasty treats and make sure to maximize the fun-factor during her “time off”.

Most days, Cessna is a couch potato.

She loves to get as much sleep as possible, even on days when she’s done nothing at all, you’ll be sure to find her curled up on our queen-sized pillow top mattress or sprawled out in the middle of the couch.

When she isn’t sleeping, Cessna loves to chase squirrels, birds, chipmunks and even Canyon when he’s retrieving a ball. I know guide dogs aren’t “supposed” to be chasing small critters, but Cessna isn’t your “typical” guide dog.

Cessna isn’t afraid to tell me when she needs a day off either. If she sees me getting ready to go somewhere, she’ll watch intently and if she isn’t in the mood, then I will usually find her pretending to nap on the bed. This is honestly a welcome change from the days I worked with Phoenix, because even if I wanted to leave him home, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Maybe there are service dogs out there who work non-stop, but this is definitely not Cessna.

Most times I will just ignore someone who makes the comment “poor dog…”, but on the rare occasion I have been known to stop and ask the commenter a few questions.

Me: “do you have a dog?”

Joe Public: “Yes.

Me: “May I ask where he or she is?”

Joe Public: “At home.”

Me: “Poor dog.”

Joe Public: “What do you mean?”

Me: “I feel bad for your dog having to sit home alone, while Cessna is out with me having a great time.”

At this point, the person usually just gives me a strange look (why do people give blind people dirty looks?) and walks away.

But, there are those, who will continue on trying to argue that their dogs are much happier than Cessna because they are not expected to “work all the time”.

At this point, I will usually ask them what they think she does, when we’re at home.

This usually makes them think a moment, and I will continue on my way because I’m not interested in listening any more.

In an earlier post, I wrote about an article I had read regarding PETA and their feelings surrounding service dogs.

There are other interesting comments I’ve heard during my public excursions with Cessna, but I’ll keep those for future posting.

National Guide Dog Month – Seizure Response Dog

***This post was supposed to show up this morning, but since I saved it in drafts last night, it decided to post as another Monday post***

Yesterday, we looked at autism service dogs, so today I thought we’d look at another less common type of service dog, the seizure response dog.

According to Epilepsy Newfoundland And Labrador (2011):

• 300,000 Canadians have epilepsy.
• 1 in 2000 Canadians are diagnosed each year.
• 38 people on average are told they have epilepsy each day.
• 60% of these cases each year, are children or the elderly.

Even though some dogs have been known to detect seizures, it is not a skill which most possess. Therefore, guide dog programs such as The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, have taken it upon themselves to train dogs to respond to their client’s physical cues.

Similar to the application process for other service dogs, individuals must first decide whether they have the financial, emotional and physical ability to support a canine assistant. They must then go through a vigorous screening process to make sure they can provide a suitable environment for the dog to thrive, and to make sure they truly understand what skills a seizure response dog can perform.

Some of the skills which these special canines can be trained to do are:

• to stay beside their client during a seizure;
• bark for attention;
• fetch medications;
• get the telephone, or
• alert a caretaker.

In this article, you can read about how the media has created some unfortunate expectations surrounding the job of a seizure response dog.

Even though there are some limitations regarding the job of a seizure response dog, these special canines continue to bring happiness into the lives of their clients through providing them with a sense of safety and independence they did not formerly possess. This link will take you to the stories of four seizure response teams which were sponsored by a private registered charity called Care-Alive.

Please join me tomorrow, when I discuss another guide dog related subject.

If there is anything in particular you might want me to examine, please leave a comment.

National Guide Dog Month – Autism Service Dogs

September is National Guide Dog Month. I’m about five days behind, but since it seems to be mainly celebrated in the U.S., I thought my tardiness was acceptable.

Since this blog has been a little lacking in interesting and factual information, I thought I’d post some service dog related entries for the next25 days.

I began
my blogging journey during March of 2008, when we started fostering, Aiden,
for Autism Dog Services.

Here’s a picture of Aiden that was taken in Toronto in June of 2008.

Therefore, I think I will start my National Guide Dog Month entries, with a post on autism service dogs.

Autism service dogs perform a wide variety of tasks, such as help curb unwanted behaviours, encourage interaction with others, and provide independence. Unlike traditional service programs though, such as the ones which train guide dogs, there is a little less consistency surrounding the training of these special canines.

Some of the skills which they have been known to perform are:

• Act as an anchor to keep children from bolting into traffic;
• Alert their child’s guardian to harmful behaviour (such as an attempt to escape);
• Search for their child in the event of a successful escape;
• Help their child calm down and/or handle highly stimulating environments; and
• Provide a bridge for social interactions.

Even though there are many benefits to having an autism service dog, it is important to look at how a dog’s presence might change the family dynamics. Not every child will find a dog comforting. And not every family will find a service dog helpful. Some families will start the process of attaining a service dog, only to find out that the added responsibilities and public pressures are too much. They may also find that their child is disinterested in the dog and that the dog’s desire to be nearby is too overwhelming.

In this article from February of 2003, you will read about two boys (Scotty and Riley), who are learning about how different life can be with their autism service dogs.

In this second article, you will read about Aiden’s sister Amber, and the process Katie’s family went through to find out whether a dog was right for her.

Here’s a picture of Amber with her brother Aiden, that was taken in October of 2008 at the St. Jacob’s Market.

Currently, there are only four programs in Canada which provide autism service dogs.

National Service Dogs;
Autism Dog Services;
Dogs with Wings, and more recently,
The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.

With the seemingly endless requests for these special canines, I’m very certain that we will soon see more programs offering autism service dogs, and that it may become just as common to see one as it is to see guide dogs who assist the blind and visually impaired.

Come back tomorrow to learn more about our special canine helpers.

(Just a closing note, I got most of my information through a basic Google search, but also took some points from an article inspired by the book “Animal-Assisted Interventions For Individuals With Autism” by Merope Pavlides)