Well, here we go! I am doing this at the suggestion of a good friend and former high school classmate, Rich Bolton. Rich is an avid dog foster parent for neglected and abused dogs. He loves what he does (I think). He is a great encourager. Well that’s how this blog started, but let me back up and tell you about what this blog will be. Like Rich, Sue and I both love dogs and have had a Golden Retriever (Honey Bear) and a Yellow Lab (Sunny)…both having lived to the ripe old age of 15 years! Sunny died about 2 years ago and we have been “dogless” since. Then came the fateful day that Sue was shopping at Ross and along came a Service Dog. Sue casually inquired how you get to train one of these sweet things. She was told there is a real shortage of trainers and Sue was given the name of SD organization. We looked up their website and applied. Weeks went by before we heard anything. I actually began to think that they considered us too old to do this, but then we got a full-fledged welcoming letter telling us what we needed to attend to qualify for a puppy. Losing no time, we attended the first classes that were available…Puppy Orientation Class, Clicker Class and Puppy Class. The first class was just that…Puppy Orientation…it oriented us to what is involved and the commitment required to training a service dog. The Clicker Class introduced us to “clicker” training (Check out this site for a clicker training overview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC367wKGi4M)…and we actually got to use it with already trained dogs. The “clickering” really never stops…it is a powerful reinforcement. The Puppy Class was actual puppy training where we got to see the dogs interact with each other and show off their skills. That was a lot of fun. The last hurdle was a home visit to assess your abode and your commitment to training.
With all of that under our belts, now what! We are awaiting a litter of puppies to grow up and be placed. We may or may not get a puppy from this litter, but we are patient and will get the puppy that God intends for us to get. If we get one from the current litter, we will have a puppy just before Christmas…that would be exciting (I think)!
We must always keep in mind that this is NOT a pet. We have the dog for 18 months and will have trained him or her in all of the obedience basics. Then the tears flow and we release our friend to a “Client” for a match. When the match is found, advanced training begins with a fulltime advanced trainer for those specific tasks that the client may need. That is another 6 months of training, 5 days a week…we have the option of “sitting” our pup on weekends during those 6 months which I think we would gladly do. Then our service dog goes onto his/her lifelong work. If the pup “washes out” (and 50% of them do), we have the first option to keep it as a pet. They wash out for a myriad of issues…medical, physiological, temperament, etc. Some can be redirected into a different service such a working with the police. If there is a dog available that we have not trained, we can purchase it for $800.
Lastly, you might wonder who service dogs help and what they do. Our organization trains for almost anything except Seeing Eye. Examples…persons with limited mobility, amputees, hearing impaired, persons needing emotional support, persons prone to seizures, persons with balance issues, persons with mental illnesses such as autism, etc. There is a great need and it is quite a privilege to be a part of meeting those needs. We are grateful for the opportunity.
We invite you to vicariously join us in our journey. Make comments, ask questions, give advice, be an encourager…we are looking forward to your participation. More to come…