Friday, February 27, 2009

Wonderful Post on Teaching Self Restraint to Dogs

In case any of you are wondering if I read the Blogs in my Blog Roll, I do! I would like to bring everyone's attention to a very succinct post on Restraint for dogs both mechanical and self (by the dog) imposed over at Smartdogs' Weblog.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

News: Assistance Dogs – For the Health of the Dog One Day Conference

Assistance Dogs – For the Health of the Dog
a One Day Conference
Saturday, June 27, 2009
8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
The INN at Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor, WA

The Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound welcomes you to a day of
discussion and the sharing of information. The conference will open
with a presentation on Canine Cancers , diagnosis and treatment
offered to us by Luminita Sarbu DVM. Afternoon presentations will
include discussions on Canine Nutrition presented by Jacqueline
Obando, DVM. Lunch will offer you an opportunity for small group
discussions on several different issues related to assistance dogs.

Tables for vendors will be available throughout the day as will
information related to assistance dogs.

  • Conference Fees (includes Continental Breakfast and Lunch)
$40 (club members)
$45 (non-club members)

9:00 – 11:30 Opening Session:
Canine Cancers, Diagnosis and Treatment Luminita Sarbu, D.V.M.

11:30 – 1:30 Lunch and Round Table Discussions

1:30- 4:00 Afternoon Sessions
Nutrition for the Health of Your Dog -Jacqueline Obando DVM

All registration forms must be submitted no later than June 1, 2009 .

Contact the Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound at for more information or to get registration forms.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shiloh Passed her Canine Good Citizen Test with Flying Colors!

Shiloh passed her Canine Good Citizen Test with flying colors tonight! She walked into the training center with 18 completely unknown dogs and their handlers and showed them what she was made of. The test took two hours to complete the way this tester chose to administer it. She really impressed everyone with her ability to retrieve her leash for me after the stay and recall exercises.

Sound Off Yahoo Answers Dogs be Required to be Certified

Join a very interesting discussion on Yahoo Answers about whether the U.S. should institute national and mandatory certification for service dogs. See my previous post What is the Purpose of a Service Dog? for information on current standards.

Book Review: This Month's Bark Magazine Discusses Service Dog Breeding Programs and More

This month's Bark Magazine features two articles on how dog's become service dogs offering a great deal of history on the Guide Dog shift to carefully managed breeding programs as the primary source for guide dog candidates and the life of a puppy raiser. The Making of a Guide Dog is available online. I found this article particularly poignant, because this week I have been reading Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution wherein the authors express very strong, though, not wholly unfounded opinions about the general shift by service dog programs to breeding programs. (I will post more on this book later). The second article Puppy Raisers Wanted shares about the role of puppy raisers in the lives of potential service dogs. Unfortunately, this article is not available. After having raised two puppies for service dog work, I want to say to all long term puppy raisers/walkers, thank you for all that you do!

Monday, February 23, 2009

News: Assistance Dog Club Program on Temperament this Weekend

If you are within a few hours drive of the Tacoma area TACID Center and are interested in learning about how programs go about selecting dogs to enter training as a service dog, attend this weekend's meeting of the Assistance Dog Club of the Puget Sound. The program will be presented by Sue Meinzinger of Summit Assistance Dogs. The Summit program uses dogs from a variety of sources including shelters, breeder donations, and their small in house breeding program. Shiloh and I will be there!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

News: 13 Annual PawsAbilities March14-15,2009

PawsAbilities, an annual event held by Susquehanna Service Dogs, features fun, learning and cool stuff for both dogs and their people. Admission for adults is $8. I hope any of you in and around the Harrisburg area will go. This event sound a lot like a Northwest event called Canine Fest, that unfortunately seem not to be scheduled yet this year.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Japan Service Dogs and Partners Meet the Prime Minister

Valentines Day brought the Japan Prime Minster, Taro Aso, puppy love from Elmo. Elmo is a service for Yoshitomo Kimura, Chairman of the Japanese Service Dog Users Association. Other news from the Japanese service dog movement earlier this year included providing dog guides for visually impaired people in Taiwan.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Book Review: New Blogs on Blog Roll

I believe that reading honest accounts of life with service dogs helps people decide whether adding a service dog to their lives and family is right for them.
New this month:
  • Charlie the North Star Dog-a tale of a a boy (with Autism), his mom, and a service dog in training. This blog shares the triumphs and challenges of tandem training a service dog with a program.
  • Emma and Mary the Service Dog Team- Emma is a mobility service dog partnered with Mary, who is living with Multiple Sclerosis. They have been partnered and blogging since 2005.
  • Suzy's Guide Dog-Follow Suzy and her guide Mirage from their team training in 2006 to present day.
There are many blogs list on the My Blog List on the right hand side of this blog. Happy reading!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three Months of Learning

Shiloh (It has recently come to my attention I have been spelling it incorrectly, I hope she can forgive me.) and I have now been partnered for three months. I still feel I have much to learn about Shiloh, and I am positive that I regularly baffle her. As I write this she is sound asleep, snoring, on the chocolate brown corduroy dog bed behind my chair in the living room. Recently, I was working on the monthly progress report I must turn in to Summit and I realized just how far she and I have come together in such a short time span.
In the first month we went from complete strangers to companions with a lot to learn on both sides. I regularly confused her cues with those of my previous service dog, Bastien, leaving us both wearing puzzled looks. We conquered her uneasiness about skateboards. She learned to live with cats, though, the cats will tell you her idea of family fun leaves a little to be desired. She accompanied me through the loss of my job of the last four years, reminding me that there is much more to life than one's job.
In the second month we worked to gain a common language training everyday multiple times day. We went on outing several time a week, even if I had to invent a reason to go out. We spent a lot of time in coffee shops. I would sip my coffee or tea (depending upon my mood) while reading, studying for the GRE, and applying for jobs. It was during this month I discovered that Shiloh and I still needed to build trust. I took her out to a few after dark events and Shiloh, while she worked well, clearly showed she was uncomfortable being out after dark. We then had to plan regular outings where we were out after dark; fortunately, this is college town so there are a lot of evening events. I never expected to be out of work when I got my second service dog, as it turns out though, it has been helpful because I had the time to ease her into working and her new life at her pace. At the end of the second month, I finally felt I knew her well enough to introduce her to my favorite dog park. Shiloh LOVES the dog park. She likes to play with the dogs her size or smaller and run full speed. I am not sure there is a sight I love more than seeing her tear full speed across the park when I call her!Many other park goers are jealous of this sight as they chase their own dogs to go home.
The third month has been non stop. We started a new job working as an office assistant at the university for 12 hours a week. (I know not much, but it's better than nothing.) I decided to spread my hours across the week for the benefit of the office and Shiloh. We go to work four days a week for three hours. Most days after work we go to the dog park. This month we also went on our first trip (Christmas in Portland). She really loves to travel and it shows. We also went to the vet and our first Puget Sound Assistance Dog Club meeting. I have been a part of this club for nearly a decade now. I raised and trained my first service dog with the help of the members associated with this group at the time. I was ecstatic to see my friends and have them meet Shiloh. I am astounded at the progress Shiloh and I have made in such a short time! I look forwarded to the new experiences to come. The world and it's challenges provide us endless opportunity to practice and perfect the ballet of a well matched service dog team. I have seen this show many times in my years in the service dog world and look forward dancing with Shiloh for a very long time!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fundraising: Feel the Love February

Many of us are scrambling to choose the right cards, candy, or gifts for that special someone this Valentine's Day while feeling that the gestures are somewhat odd in this era of economic turn over. I encourage everyone to take that money you would have spent on cards and such to support a local service dog organization as many are struggle just to keep the doors open and the website up. Most organizations will allow donors to donate in the name of someone if they wish.
Organizations placing dogs around the Northwest:

To really show that someone special you care you can:
  • Make their favorite meal
  • Do that thing they have been asking you to do
  • Do their favorite activity
  • Spend one on one time

Local Event: Canaine Good Citizen Test Frebruary 24th

The Emerald Dog Obedience Club is offering the Canine Good Citizen Test on February 24, 2009. The Canine Good Citizen Test and the new STAR Puppy Puppy Program are a great minimum standard for potential service dogs in training as well as a check for dogs who may be getting on in their working years. Recently, the CGC has become internationally recognized as the standard for well trained, well loved pets.
Not in Oregon? Find a CGC Evaluator in your area.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

News: The Tax Man Cometh!

Time to close out the books for 2008! People can deduct expenses for the cost of a service/hearing/guide dog as a medical expense;however, you can only deduct medical expenses if they meet (or exceed 7.5 percent of your adjust gross income. Consult Publication 502 from the IRS and knowledgeable tax professionals for more information.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

News: Dog Guides in Shanghai

Dog guides for people who are blind or severely visually impaired as ever so slowly making in roads in Shanghai. As with anything new China finds itself in uncharted territory and with only two working teams the necessary changes to laws and public opinion and understanding are slow.
Here are several stories detailing the dog guide movement in Shanghai:While it may be a while before other groups of people with disabilities can seek partnership with service dogs, the signs of change are there. Dogs guides, after all, are the ones that started it all historically.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Challenge: The City Bus

Yesterday Shiloh experienced the city bus for the first time! Eugene has two styles of city buses: the first is the solid, platform lift that doubles as the bottom stair; and the second is the fold out ramp kneeling bus. The weather was in our favor yesterday as, so I lent my roommate my van and decided Shiloh and I would hop the bus home. Shiloh has been on trains, planes, and cruise ships. I reasoned that after being partnered for nearly four months now was as good a time as any to experience the bus. Armed with plenty of cookies, confidence, previous positive experience traveling together, and time we set out.

The first bus that came along was the platform lift style bus. Shiloh showed a little hesitation at the sound of the bus hydraulics, so I decided to send her onto the lift ahead of me instead of having her come on behind me as I had trained Bastien from a very early age to do. Shiloh hesitantly walked onto the lift as directed with a look on her face saying "I don't know about this, but if you say so okay Mom." I shortened her leash to remind her to stay and prevent her from jumping off the lift. I made sure to have her sit-stay before I gave the driver the go ahead to start the lift. As the lift started I praised and rewards her for maintaining her position in spite of her obvious worry. (I should note that though I did shorten the leash length at no time did I force her to do anything. If it had become apparent to me she wasn't going to do this safely, I was prepared to call my roommate to pick us up.) She stay focused on me and when we reach the bus level I released her to go ahead. Once we were on the bus her previous experiences with travel kicked in and she settled right into the space in front of me in the wheelchair bay. I rewarded her with verbal praise, touch and cookies throughout the ride for signs of confidence, and relaxing. When we exited the bus 20 minutes later she happily followed me onto the lift and stayed of her own accord! I was so proud of her I could have burst! The bus driver even commented at how well she had done for her first time (as well as how beautiful she was).

We, then, had to wait for the second bus to go home. This second bus was the kneeling style. These buses make an obnoxious, high pitched beeping noise in conjunction with the hydraulics and the ramp folding out towards us. Shiloh did took two very small steps back. As the ramp hit the ground I said in a confident, happy voice, "Shiloh, Let's go!" She again gave me a look that said "If you say it's okay, then okay."

This whole wonderful experience caused me to call Summit and share our success. It also reminded me how important it is to respect where your dog is at and provide them with the time, space and experience to continually expand their repertoire. I could have had her go on the bus earlier, but the trust wasn't there and the experience would most likely have been a very different one from that we experienced.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Today as Shiloh were unloading to go into work a mother was also unloading her son, who attends the Head Start program in the building, all of the sudden I hear this tiny voice say "Hey, that dog looks like Balto!" I couldn't help but smile as I continued assembling my wheelchair. The mother continuing to free her children from their car seats said, "That's a working dog." He son in his continuing awe over Shiloh, "You know I don't have a dog like that." The mother, I am sure not wanting to open that can of worms, simply replied, "That's right you don't."

This scene is just one small example of how service dogs improve the lives of people with disabilities by changing how (or if) other people see and react to them. I know many people living with disabilities (including myself) who are outgoing, friendly, talented, intelligent, ect., yet, often find themselves feeling alone and invisible in the middle of a huge crowd. While this is not a trained task, being validated as existing by the people around you, goes a long way to improving how many people living with disabilities feel about themselves. Even in today's progressive society, I have experienced people actively avoiding me, pulling their children away, climbing over the top of me like a piece of furniture without so much as an excuse me, and more. Yet, the incident above and others like it since partnering with my first service dog, Bastien, give me faith that there are people who can treat people with respect and humanity.

I had another unforgettable,wonderful incident involving two children with Bastien, my first service dog. Bastien and I were coming out of a local Rite Aid and I had paused on the side walk to figure out what the shortest route to the bus home was. As we were sitting on the side walk, two children, a boy and a girl around 5 and 6 years old, came running up to us. They stopped as if someone had applied the brakes about a foot away from us. They, then, politely asked if they could pet my dog. Since I believe in rewarding children for asking before touching my service dog, I said yes. They both very gently stroked Bastien a few times. Then, these two beautiful children surprised me further by thanking me and gently kissing my cheek before running back to their mother who had by this time caught up to her little whirlwinds. I will never forget either of these two incidents.