Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For the record...

Just to set the record straight...while I do help John get the laundry out of the basket and the machines...I do not fold, iron, or put laundry away!

I am a dog of many talents...but mom says I folded her shirts wrong...so I'm not allowed to handle that aspect of the laundry anymore!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Out in Public...

One of the great things about being a Service Dog is that I get to go everywhere with my human partner, John. That means, as a trained SD, I am allowed to go most places that John can go into. You notice that I say "most" places. There are a few places where I am not invited, or can be denied access...more about that later. Service Dogs are considered adaptive devices, just like John's scooter, or someone's hearing aid. Just as John can't be told to leave his scooter outside, he can't be told to leave me outside. Under the law, John has the right to take me with him everywhere he goes...he cannot be denied access with me by his side. I do not have the right to go in with him...he has the right to bring me in. Service Dogs are specially trained to be unobtrusive when out in public, and we are trained to behave well in any situation.

I have been on the job a little over a year, and I have been to some great places. Some really cool places I have been to are: The National Zoo in Washington, DC; the Maryland Wine Festival; The Children's Museum of Indianapolis; The Indiana State Museum and The Baltimore Aquarium. I got to see elephants, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), monkeys, and more incredible animals at the zoo. I was really not impressed, and just stood around waiting for something to do...even though the monkeys were screaming at me. All of the people around us were excited because the animals were coming out of their hidey-holes, but it was pretty standard procedure for me...heeling, downs, sits, etc.

On a regular basis, I go out shopping and to restaurants with John. I love going to malls...they're so busy. I duck behind John's scooter when it's really crowded and walk along behind him...people are surprised when they see my head pop around to see if it's clear. John and mom like to go shopping, so I get to shop a lot too. They also go out to eat quite a bit...which is a good chance for me to catch up on my sleep. As trained, I go under the table (so I'm out of the way) and take a snooze. I do wake up to pick up John's napkin (he's always dropping it right on me!), but I drop back off to sleep quickly. It's always fun when we leave the restaurant, and I come out from under the table...people always exclaim, "I didn't know there was a dog under there!" I know how to do my job right!
No one can deny John access, though some have tried. It's good to have a partner who is outspoken about his rights. One of the most common complaints is that I'll get hair all over the food...or that someone might have allergies. They still have to let us in though...it's the law. We try to educate, rather than argue though...I usually show off a skill, and John has new SD cards that explain what I do for him, and has the ADA law listed, as well as a number to call for more information. These are available from sitstay.com

There are a few places that we can be denied access. One is a private residence...if someone wants to invite John over for a party, but doesn't want me along...they can do that. (of course John better not go!) Another place is the ICU in a hospital, and another place is certain areas of the zoo (sometimes they don't want a dog in where animals are loose in a large building...like an aviary-though the National Zoo was very kind and let us go everywhere!)

It is fun to be a Service Dog and get to go into so many places...but it is hard work, and requires a lot of training. Being so good is not always easy!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Therapy Dog Day

As I mentioned before, I am a Therapy Dog as well as a Service Dog. It's nice to be able to do both jobs. It definitely keeps me busy.

Today I went with John to the school reading program we participate in (DEAR-Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers). A third-grade boy reads to me while I sit quietly and listen. Usually my brothers, Ripley and Xander do the program, but Ripley is out with a bad tooth. So I get to take over for him until he feels better. I love helping kids read, and I love the treats I get at the end of the session. Sometimes the books they read are really funny. John reported to mom today that I kept wagging my nubby tail during the entire session. (It was a good book!)

Since John is in a scooter, he can't get on the floor like the other teams...so I sit in a chair right next to our reader. This works well, as he can pet me and read at the same time, and I get to relax up off of that cold floor!

After the reading, I showed off some of my skills by picking up my leash on command. I'm really looking forward to filling in for Ripley in the next few weeks.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I do for John...

Whenever we are out, people want to know what I do for John. If he has time, he'll show off some skill for them. Usually he'll have me retrieve something off the floor...his keys, cell phone or whatever he's got in his hands at the moment. That's an easy one to show off for curious folks...and I enjoy it immensely. People are usually very impressed.

But that is not all that I do for him. I have many skills that
come in handy around the house and out in public, and I'm always learning new ones.

I can pick up almost any object for John, as I mentioned, his keys and phone are common for him to drop (and not always for the purpose of "showing off"...he usually just accidentally drops them). I bring him his clothes and shoes at home, so he can get dressed. I can pick up dropped pieces of paper, loose change, water bottles and utensils...just to name a few things. I can carry/drag heavy items like mom's training bag. ;) Mom is working on getting me better at laundry...but I think
John is more of the problem there.


I like doing laundry!

One skill that definitely comes in handy in many different ways is the Tug. I can use tugging to open the refrigerator door, or to open cabinets and drawers. I use tugging to help John get his clothes off at home, and his jacket off in public.

I also use tugging to help John get into bed. At home it's not a big deal, but sometimes if we're traveling for flyball, we stay in motels. Many motels tuck their sheets and blankets in really tight, and John can't get them pulled out enough to get under them! That's where I come in. I tug the blankets and sheets until they're loose enough for John to get in bed easily.

Something else I do at home is: I carry object back and forth from John and mom...phones, notes, water bottles anything mom's too lazy to go get from John. (just kidding mom!) And something else I do in public is I hit door buttons for John...I just put my paws up and hit those automatic door buttons.

I'm also learning new skills such as putting my paws up on counters to hand stuff to people, like
money or credit cards. I love to learn new things! I have the best job ever!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Me? Exploited?

I was googling blogs written by other Service animals today, and ran across a blog that was up-in-arms about the exploitation of Assistance Dogs.


I am here to tell you-I am not being exploited!

Being a Service Dog has given my life meaning. I am one of those dogs who hates being left out of the loop (mom calls me "nosy" and "annoying"), and hates to be left behind. Having a job where I get to go everywhere with my partner is the best job ever! Now I'm not sure certain breeds would enjoy it, but being an Aussie...I love to go-go-go. I can't imagine sitting home all day waiting for my owner's return. B-oring!

Now being a Service Dog is not for everydog, I know that. My mom works as a volunteer trainer with Fidos For Freedom, raising and training dogs to become Service or Hearing Dogs. We have a lot of dogs coming in and out of the program...some make it, some don't. A dog that is not enjoying the work will find a new home, and a new job-even if that job is being a good house dog. No dog is forced to work, that wouldn't be happy or healthy for the dog. I had a foster brother for a while, a big standard poodle named Hogan (pic on the left). He was going to be a Service Dog too. But while he enjoyed working on his skills at home, he was severely unhappy when he had to go out in public. He got taken out of the program, and is a house-dog for a wonderful family...who just adores him! We keep the dogs that mentally and physically want to do this job...otherwise it won't be helpful to the human partner. What person wants a dog that is unwilling or reluctant to work?

Just like pet dogs, there are going to be some people who don't treat their Service Dog as well as I think they should. I am a pampered pooch, I can tell you that. I have every luxury known to dogs...of course I have to share some things with my siblings, but that's okay. Dog beds in every room; good quality food (and lots of fabulous treats); fresh, filtered in my bowl everyday; a warm (stylish) coat for cold months...that's just the tip of the iceberg. My human partner, John, watches everything I do...which is usually pretty easy for him because I'm always right there (if he's watching TV, I'm right there on the couch with him)...and knows if something isn't right. Sure, in Fidos, AD program, we don't allow the puppies to climb on the furniture unless asked...but once they get matched with a human partner, all bets are off! And I know plenty of people who don't allow their pet dogs on the furniture. It's not a basic doggy right to have free range of the house. My mom says it's a privilege, not a right.

Before I go...mom says I should also comment on the moving dogs around part of the AD programs. Our puppies come in to our organization at a young age (from rescues or breeders). They get placed with a Puppy Raiser locally or in our Prison Puppy Program-there they learn all of their basic skills/manners. They stay with these people from 6-12 months before moving on to another Raiser or to a Trainer. Once with a Trainer, they learn specialized skills for their type of work...hearing alerts, balancing and retrieving for Hearing Dogs and retrieving, tugging, balancing for Service Dogs. Then once fully trained, they get matched with a human partner. They will live and bond with this partner for years...until too old to work any longer. Most of our humans keep us around and make us pets. Sometimes they are placed in another home if we have trouble with the new upstart (replacement dog). I have never seen a dog not be able to bond quickly with their new person. Remember...these are not dogs with emotional baggage (mom adopts dogs like this...so we know what we're talking about here). These are hand-picked, temperament tested dogs that are chosen for their good-nature, adaptability and mental stability.

Most people would not refer to me as "Exploited"...most people call me "Spoiled". That's okay, I know that I'm needed.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Day

We got a lot of snow today, for the first time all winter. Mom took us all outside to play, but I'm a big wimp and I don't like to play outside in the cold. I played a little bit, but then went and scratched at the door to be let back in. I curled up next to John on the couch and watched him play Halo 3. It was warm and dry on the couch.

Good times.

Mom promises she'll get some pics up this weekend of the play session in the snow.


My first post!

Hello everybody! I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Sawyer, and I am a three year old Australian shepherd, or "Aussie". Color? Red, tan and white-most commonly referred to as "red tri". Aussies are energetic, enthusiastic herding dogs that need a job. Since I don't live on a sheep farm or cattle ranch, I had to find a non-herding job. I decided to be a
Service Dog.

A little about my background. I was found wandering the streets of St. Louis, MO back in 2005. A very kind woman found me and took me to the vet clinic where she worked. I was with her for six weeks before my mom found my picture on a rescue website. She fell in love at first sight. Trouble was, she lives in Maryland...how was she to get me out there? A friend living in MO found out about our plight, and offered to drive me to my new mom. She drove all the way to MD just to drop me off! She is a truly wonderful person...and she still follows up on what I'm doing all of the time!

Once I got to MD, I started learning some basic obedience, and quickly got into flyball also. (Flyball is our most favorite sport in our house! My mom's a Flyball Mom instead of a Soccer Mom) Then mom got the idea to start teaching me some Service Dog skills. She works with a non-profit organization that trains Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities. She taught my brothers some skills too. I really, really liked it though...and couldn't get enough of it. I learned to retrieve objects, how to tug open doors/cabinets, to tug off clothing and more. It was so much fun! But it was still just a game.

Then, mom's friend moved in as a roommate. His name is John and he has a disability called Muscular Dystrophy. He has trouble walking so he rides in a scooter. He also has trouble with picking things up off of the floor, and opening doors. Everything that I'm good at! John's former Service Dog had retired, and then died at the grand old age of 13. He was looking for a new Service Dog, and I was looking for an employment opportunity! It was fate! I took to the job like I was born for it. I love going out in public, and I love working for John. For my birthday last year, I got a new cape (purple) that says "Working, please ask before petting" and "Service Dog".

My hopes for this blog are to educate people about Service Dogs in general...and to show what we SDs do for our partners. Hope you enjoy!