Sunday, February 6, 2011

How it all started

I have Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue syndrome and something else that makes me either pass out, or lose about 2 hrs at a time.  When I started school, the pain and fatigue of carrying books was too much.  When I talked to my provider she suggested a Service Dog.  So I went home and did research, told the school and looked over the dogs we had at home.

  • Max - shep/chow mix about 50 lbs, the old man of the family a TOTAL daddy's dog.
  • Jake - Shepard/Dane mix.  Great height, but complete basket case.
  • Then there was George.  I love my George.  I love his color, how he is built and his big old block head.  He had basic obedience and very tuned into me.  So I got him a pack and started taking him just to school with me while I searched for a trainer.

I found a wonderful woman who looked at me and shook her head.  She felt that George just wasn't going to work, but she sent me home with homework and we practiced our down-stays, leash work, etc.  And each week we got more homework.  I think we surprised her because we did it and I didn't question her.  Right before we did our final work with George she told me that while he loves me and works for me because he loves me, that at one point something might happen and he would "wash-out" so I had to be extra careful to help him, as much as he was helping me.  For some reason children loved him.

So George and I worked for 5 months together, at the barn (I teach and coach at shows) at school, around town, etc.  Due to his breeding (daddy was a Weimaraner and mom was some type of staffie mix) he had a very minimal coat.  The trainer talked me into dressing him.  I was all for solid colors (taupe gray/his coat color, neon-green/because he looked good in it and safety orange/because bright colors kept people from bumping into him), though she finally persuaded me into bold prints to make him look more “clownish” so people would go, “Awwwe look at that poor pittie! He must be a good guy/well trained if he puts up with that!”  But no matter how we dressed him, he was a Kid Magnet.

Now George didn’t mind kids, as long as they stayed away, or pet him under the chin.  Nope, at our PAT test at a mall & Rainforest café there was a kid who could not just stay away. He was at least 7-8, no idea where his mother was and in the end he grabbed his tail.  George turned and looked…looked at me and got a cookie.  There were a few other times when I didn’t catch the little buggers quick enough, normally they were making direct eye contact and coming straight for his head arms open.  One time they grabbed the harness, and then there was the time that his little mind “broke” for indoor work.

We were at WalMart and I was looking at a shelf, he was sitting looking up at me and he got blindsided by a little blond girl, who took him to the floor kissing his big old head.  I looked at the mom, who had this smug little smile on her face, “She just loves dogs!” with a ‘what can you expect’ shrug of her shoulders.  I was just about to lay into her when the little girl lifted her head and said “Mommy, we need a puppy just like THIS!” and that’s when the big old block head appeared next to her precious little darling, panting with stress (still in a down position).  The woman’s face went from indulgent to scared to hell.  “How dare you bring such a dangerous dog into a store! You must be a faker! Pit Bulls can’t be Service Dogs”  Then I laid into her, telling her that her daughter had a very dangerous habit and not cute at all.  She was very lucky that she pulled that stunt with George who had been temperament tested and trained for it.  I had seen labs attack children from their own household after doing something like that.  That she had better teach her daughter dog safety, before some dog did.

George finished out his day like a trooper.  Got extra yummy food that night, next day grabbed his gear to bring to me, got suited up, happy walk into the school doors and then he started trembling.  We had someone come up behind us and he whipped around nearly dumping me.  For the next week we did small quick trips, lots of treats, lots of praise and he tried so hard!! But I had to make the decision to give him a break from indoor work (he still loved barn & show work) and I called the trainer up.

I was lucky that the placement of Spirit hadn’t worked, the trainer couldn’t have him in her house because she had already taken another dog in to train…couldn’t I please take Spirit for a month and that might be enough of a break for George.

Three months later she offered me Spirit and I took it.  George had been alerting me to my "spells" of fatigue/passing out/memory loss but it was an "Oh crap! Mom get somewhere safe!!!!" and he would pin me down. Spirit's alert was better and more consistent.  He had stages that he went through depending how close one was....but that's another story.

1 comment:

  1. My first service dog was also a Weim/pittie mix, Sabrina-- and I am also now working with a poodle named Ollie! I found your blog looking for photos of light mobility harnesses, but this is the post that really got me since our dogs seem so similar.