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Tag Archives: weekend

It’s my Birthday, Gonna party like it’s my Birthday!!!

Hi Friends –

As I often do, I wanted to share my weekend with all of you. This time our weekend started early mostly because Dad put off taking vacation time for a few reasons.  1. Mom doesn’t have as much time off as he does so he just goes to work. 2. He likes his job most days and forgets to take it. 3. He likes to save some days in case he gets sick. All of this makes me wonder what his problem is; humans are a strange breed. Take some advice from a working Dane: You should take more naps and play more! I’m only staying awake long enough to dictate this post. I’m tired! Why was I here? Ah yes, the weekend.

I have to say it started good. Dad rested in the morning before getting restless. If you know him this is an improvement because we don’t rest much. After we did get moving I helped him at the hardware store to pick up things he needed to fix a handrail that the human puppies helped to pull out from the wall. It took a couple trips because we didn’t check to see what was behind the drywall before we left so we bought anchors we didn’t need. (I know, I know an amazing amount about DIY work. That’s what happens when you are raised at SDP.) All is well though because we did get it right on the second trip and the rail is now safe again.  He says we need to make the handrail pretty now. I talked him down for the day and we just ran a few more errands and took it easy. The temporary rail and refinishing can wait. Dad seriously needs to learn to relax. We all spent a quiet evening at home

Saturday came and it was my birthday! (Mom made me wear the hat for the pupparazzi) I got a new toy and a new bag of food from my favorite store, Kibble-N-Stuff (It’s wonderful! We hit the door and the man inside smiles, puts a bag on his shoulder and gives me my food! He usually even carries it to the car, but this time mom didn’t let him because he had another customer.) after getting our morning fix of coffee (I only get sniffs, but I love me some coffee shop sniffs), of course (my family runs on Dunkin!). We just had to get out with such a clear beautiful fall day none of us felt chores were the priority. We talked it over in the truck with Mom and she was on board, so we decided to go for a short drive north and look at a piece of property that Mom & Dad fell in love with. To be clear, this is not something that we could decide is ours to move into tomorrow, but it is something that makes us feel good when we place ourselves there and imaging how it feels to live there. I feel good knowing that Dad can do this now. There was a time when he couldn’t allow himself to. It’s really good that he can be in the flow of the moment. This is something all your pets can teach you, by the way. If you don’t believe me, ask them two questions. 1. How much money do you have? 2. What time is it? If you tried it I bet they had no idea what money was or why people feel the need to accumulate it. (Dogs don’t worry our basic need can always be met) and as for time, their answer was simple: It’s now, the only time that matters. As you can see, I had to spend time training my person, it’s exhausting.

Looking back at it the next part of the day was just payback, a sort of train the trainer scenario. I didn’t see this coming. Mom said lets go for a walk. My tail wagged and Dad smiled so we did. Of all places we went to a cemetery. It was a beautiful 270 acre piece of land in the center of Hartford, called Cedar Hill Cemetery. I recommend it. If you’re not in the area you can see it online and from my Instagram feed.  As it turns out I was a little over anxious and pulled too much. This started Dad thinking, which is dangerous for sure. He thought: wait, no interruptions from admirers, plenty of space, this is a perfect place to work! I thought silly boy, there’s no wifi here…then we quickly started with the one step crawl. We one-stepped for the next half hour. Mom seemed to be so far away, and the only time we got close was when I walked with my ribs at his hip. I caught on quick and was happy when we loaded up in the truck. Oh great, Dad found a new place to train together. We were all tired after that but it was a satisfied tired.

Sunday came and I was convinced it was still my birthday, so I woke Dad for the morning walk and breakfast. I was so happy that he didn’t bother to correct me. We did get some of those chores done early that we put off but the fun was not over. The best part of the weekend was still to come. I love birthday surprises. What was to come was pretty amazing. We loaded up for another short ride, but this time it had nothing to with training and everything to do with FUN. You all remember my story that was on the news and blogs surrounding it? Well, as it turns out because of that Mom connected with Kristina, who read the blog. She has a Dane named Hiccup, from a breeder in Maine who donates some of her dogs to WALK and who is training with them to be a therapy dog. Dad drove us down to meet him. We could hardly contain ourselves from our cars. We were driving slowly on back roads so I convinced Dad to put the window down so we could track each other.  When we got to the park we exchanged barks to let each other know we’d protect our cars and people. As soon as we got out though the greeting was smooth and simple. We figured WALK and SDP are like family so maybe we are too. I can tell you this much,  when we were let off lead to play and run it surely was a happy time. We ran, jumped and played until we were exhausted. Hiccup is a little younger than me so I shared some service secrets, but we decided quickly it was time to play some more. We shared three or four long rounds of play.  Of course we kept checking back to ensure our people were getting along as well as we were.  I was so happy to find them bonding as well. There really should be no doubt, Dane people are Dane people, and we know how to pick good ones.  It’s still good to make sure. After we loaded up and napped (with doors & windows open) our people kept talking and promise to keep in touch. I’m really excited to have a new friend and can’t wait to play again soon. I slept all the way home. Another day of satisfied tired. I’m sure my humans are catching on to how abundant we all are. Let’s just call it another service this Dane provides for the small price of love and kibble.

written by DFS
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PSA Monday: Do you have what it takes?

We had a few very INTENSE training opportunities this weekend for us and for Casper. I am sure later this week Casper will give you his own input about how things went down. We had a couple of successes and a lot of failures. It’s fine… those failures are learning experiences for us all and worth a LOT more than any success is. However, it is exhausting and frustrating for all those involved. For my part I have decided to write about what it really takes to be a service dog because I don’t think people have any clue, even people who know a lot about these dogs. I want to put us all in their place and imagine working under the same circumstances these dogs do. First I will let you know about our greatest issue this weekend so that you understand what is prompting this post.

We went to Salem, MA this weekend. We LOVE Salem! Casper has been there before during the off-season. We go a few times a year. Usually the first 2 weekends in October are busy, but manageable so we thought we would give it a shot. Of course, the gorgeous weather turned to drizzle by the time we got there and there was traffic so we were already in kind of poor spirits, but we soldiered on. As I think about the things we encountered I think it might be best to just make a list, so here we go:

1. Due to the government shut down the Visitor’s Center was closed which is where the best public bathrooms are. This means that the place was full-out port-o-johns instead. Try imagining getting a Dane in one of those. Most shops do not have restrooms for patrons and restaurants require you to purchase to use one. AND…those places are TINY and hard to navigate. We know of a large and very convenient bathroom in a cafe we frequent. The patio was full of yipping dogs that made Casper pull Dan down and then he was turned away from the restroom for not being a patron. (One a side note…as we left that day the Salem Fire Department, right next to where we were parked, let Dan and Casper use their restroom.)

2. The place always has lots of dogs. At least half of the dogs there this day were very poorly behaved and should not have been allowed in a crowd like this.

3. Kids are everywhere. You know Casper loves human puppies!

4. People are wearing weird costumes and masks.

5. Shops are TINY and hard to navigate and no one wants to step aside and let Casper get by. Yet, he is a pro in these tiny spaces and manuevers so amazingly. Never knocks something over. (Tiny hallways are different. They make him nervous and usually we can’t go down them. For example, to go to the bathroom at the back of some places.)

6. He apparently does NOT like voodoo dolls. You know, Salem in October. We found some at a shop and he would NOT move forward. Honestly, I can’t blame him.

7. Big booming drums and “here ye, here ye” makes him shake as badly as bagpipes.

8. No one seems to know (especially adults) that you DO NOT just pet someone’s dog. Service dog aside, you don’t just pet a person’s dog without asking. And you DO NOT go at their face squealing. Again, adults were doing this. Some were asked more than once as they approached to please not pet because he was working and they still advanced. One squealed and rushed at Casper (who was already nervous, see number 7) and I almost clocked him with the bag in my hand. This was the first time I actually yelled at someone for trying to pet him. We try so hard to be polite, but give me a freaking break!!!!

9. If you see a dog who is excited about another dog (service dog or not) and his owners are trying to hold him back that does not mean “he needs to learn how to do his job better.” That means that he was already beyond distracted and doing his job was next to impossible at that exact moment. You try doing you job in the same circumstances, lady!

10. All of this happened within about 40 minutes. Dan was only pulled down once and Casper was immediately back in his control. Every incident that was less than acceptable on Casper’s part was 100% brought on by people who do not think at all about anyone but themselves.

Ok, so there you go. Again, Casper will tell you more detail, but you really needed to know this for what I have to say. And remember that this was just in 40 minutes of one day. We encounter some of these things and others daily. (For example grocery story freezers and fridges make a hum that makes him nervous, but we get past that. Or he sees a squirrel or something. You never know what might happen.)

Now bear with me while we explore most of these issues from a human stand point.

We will start with the bathrooms. Size is a huge issue. Dan has to use the handicapped bathroom with Casper. And even individual bathrooms might be too small, have a narrow hallway or even have a very strong air freshener that really bothers him and he won’t go in. Imagine you are with a friend. Maybe the friend needs you help because they sprained an ankle or something, who knows. That friend wants you to squeeze in a tiny bathroom, or worse, an outhouse. Would you be happy, or even willing, to go in there? Imagine if it smelled just HORRIBLE to you. Is if fair that you be forced to go in, especially if you could just go to a better bathroom down the street or on another floor? Not really. We don’t consider this to be a training issue. It is just not fair to require him to go in a tiny smelly space when it is just a little extra work to go elsewhere. (Another thing to keep in mind when you are wishing you could take your dog everywhere with you.)

Now imagine you are working, whatever you do whether it is in an office, a school, driving a truck, and throughout the day (or even just once) someone brings a dog in. Do you stay focused on your job? I know I wouldn’t. I would be pretty excited about playing with that dog!!! Or maybe it is a mean dog. This barking nasty dog comes in and is nipping at you. Do you stay calm? Probably not. So, then why would we assume a service dog should? (But you know, so many of them learn to work despite this and Casper is better everyday. I would never learn to not get excited about a dog!!!)

So, you are concentrating on your work and a parade of screaming, giggling, running kids surrounds you. Can you concentrate?

Is there something that scares you? Clowns? Chucky? Honey BooBoo? Try working with that popping in and out unexpectedly.

You are focused, really hyper into your work because you know someone is depending on you. Maybe your job, like mine, means you are trying to troubleshoot over the phone with someone. Or maybe you are giving a presentation. Suddenly a HUGE booming starts just by your head. How well are you concentrating now? Maybe its bagpipes. In fact, let’s think about this one. A dog has super hearing. I tried to imagine what these super loud to me noises sound like to him. My best comparison is my smoke detector. I HATE that sound. Imagine it is going off and it is RIGHT NEXT TO your ear. Do you jump? Does it hurt? Can you work effectively?

What would you do if a random stranger came up and started stroking your hair or just got right in your face? Working or not you probably would not react well. Or maybe it is someone you know well and it is a wonderful shoulder massage. Are you concentrating well during that? What if that stranger in your face seems threatening to you because of their approach? Yeah. Probably not doing your work ethic a lot of good.

Now let’s add another angle to this. You chose your job. Whether you like it or not you chose to do it. A service dog did not. He is born into it. And he does it because he loves his handler.When they are working they are happy. This is what they are made to do and they love their job and their handler. If they don’t feel well they still work. If they don’t want to be somewhere they still work. They work 24-7. It is like being a mom. You just don’t get to take vacation.

Almost everything I mentioned above is eventually overcome by a service dog after they reach a certain point in training. There is usually one or two issues they will always struggle with (often seeing other dogs or getting pet) but they are still doing better than I ever would. So when someone says he needs to learn how to do his job I get mad. Really mad. He is amazing for how young he is. He still has some room to grow and so do Dan and I, but how do we learn if we stay at home and worry about whether he will be perfect. If I was worried about perfect behavior we would never take the kids anywhere. Or me for that matter!!!

And here is out boy drinking from the water fountain in the middle of Salem. He was a photo op for a LOT of tourists!

I bet we could have trained him to step on the pedal himself if given time!!!

written by LJS