Adventures with Walla

I was feeling very discouraged yesterday. Today is better but felt the need to write so the next time I am discouraged I can read this and, hopefully, feel better!

Walla is now 5 months and weighs 46 pounds. I have to remind myself sometimes that she is still a puppy! She seems so big!

We’ve been having issues with her Gentle Leader (GL). In ways I like it – I commented recently that it is like power steering for a dog in that the level of control is way higher than on a flat collar. Unfortunately she does not like it. In spite of gentle and gradual introduction she …well an illustration makes this easier and explains my discouragement of yesterday.

At an appropriate time in our schedule, I got her leash and GL and put on my coat so we could go outdoors. When I went to get these off the hooks near the door she was by my side but when I turned around she had vanished. Now my studio is small so she did not go far but she went as far away as she could and was sitting facing away from me with her nose down and stuffed in the corner. I won’t fight her on this so I just sat down to wait. She did finally let me get her ready and we went outdoors. After we came back in I noticed that somewhere during this ‘fuss’ she had peed on her bed. Later in the afternoon I was occupied and she was sweetly laying at my feet. I do love these moments as well as our playtime! A short while later she made ‘I need to go out’ moves. While I fetched the GL, leash and my coat she dragged her blanket out of her kennel. I could hear her doing so and it is not unusual for her to drag the blanket out and play with it but the next sound I heard was her peeing in the kennel! Can you say discouraged? The rest of the day and evening continued in this sort of pattern….refusal, pee, go out anyway, cleanup. All this after it has been over a month since she has had any accident indoors and, of course, I can’t call this behavior ‘accidents’. I wondered if she might have a UTI but….

This morning has been a totally different story! She has not made any attempt to avoid  the GL and has even used the potty bells on the door to alert me to her need to go out. So where did yesterday’s dog go and where did this one come from? and PLEASE! stay! This one is so much nicer to have around!

So…chalk it up to PUPPY and just keep trucking.

Canine Companions for Independence

As I’ve begun to post pictures and talk about Walla my new puppy, folks have asked about Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).

First I would refer you to cci.org for the full story but in brief –

Canine Companions for Independence provides specially trained service dogs to persons who need them. Dogs are provided to applicants free of charge. These dogs have a variety of jobs depending on the need of the applicant. They may be hearing dogs, assist the disabled, facility dogs, etc. They are not guide dogs for the blind nor medic alert dogs but otherwise may do most any job. It costs $50,000 to provide a dog to an applicant. CCI accepts donations and depends on folks like me to raise the pups. In August of 2019 she will return to headquarters for professional training. Meanwhile I get to teach her basic puppy stuff and expose her to as many situations as possible to provide her with a ‘whatever just something new’ attitude to things she has not experienced.

Pups are bred specifically for the program and remain the property of CCI. They are tattooed as well as microchipped to positively identify the dog. Some folks ask why they don’t get dogs from shelters. Unfortunately early experiments along this line were not productive as the failure rate was very high. Dogs do fail training but the failure rate is low and is trending downwards as the breeding program improves. If a pup does fail they may go on to other jobs such as K9 corps with police, DEA, or military, therapy dogs or other jobs depending on the suitability of the dog. Some pass out of program because of medical issues too. Should Walla prove to not be suited to a placement she will come back to me to be my permanent pet. On day 4 I already love her so much but I hope she passes with flying colors when the time comes.

Questions I’ve been asked lately include ‘Tell me about CCI’ but the most frequent is ‘how can you give her up’ well I think about how much the dogs mean to the life of the person who receives them and content myself with being able to contribute to that.

I am always happy to answer questions.

In Service

Lots of years ago I met a service dog for the first time. I’d known for years about guide dogs but this was a hearing dog. Wow! I thought how wonderful! Over time I’ve met a number of service dogs:

  • PTSD dogs (not always true Service Dogs)
  • Medical Alert dogs
  • Assistants to the disabled

One of the most remarkable was a dog named Christopher who belonged to a lady named Chris! He helped her with many manual tasks she could not manage on her own including putting on her socks!

We had two medical alert dogs. There are stories elsewhere in my blogs about the instances when one or the other of these dogs saved my husband Glen’s life so I won’t repeat them here. Both of these started life as simple family pets but showed remarkable instincts so I added training and we were able to have both accepted as service dogs. This is NOT usual! Because of the unusual circumstances, we did not press issues of service dog acceptance. I did shop at least once with each and each did find themselves under a table in a restaurant on occasion but we respected the process and training of service dogs too much to ever press the issue. It was rare either one went someplace a pet dog would not be accepted. The best compliment ever was a day when one of our dogs was with me in a restaurant. On the way out the waitress said ‘Oh! I did not know you had a dog with you!’ Yup – that is a mark of a well trained service dog.

Lately it has become a ‘thing’ for folks to get a vest and claim they have a service dog or even skip the vest. There are companies that will sell you a ‘certificate’ that says your dog is a service dog without any knowledge of you or the dog just that you paid the fee. I admit both of ours had such documents. We got them when the letters from Glen’s doctor and our vet attesting to the service our dog provided was not sufficient for the apartment(s) we lived in. They insisted on seeing a document from a ‘registering agency’ and even told me were on the web to go to get one!  The action of the apartment management was not legal and showed a real lack of understanding of what a service dog truly is but it was easier to ‘fix’ the issue the way we did than fuss over it.

On the other hand, I strongly object to the fake service dogs that are roaming the world as well as the purse sized critters folks assume they can take anywhere they want. The ‘registering agency’ mentioned above and ones like it do NOT a service dog make! Unfortunately these businesses and the folks who stick a vest on their dog or say they must have the dog with them all the time but the dog is not actually a service dog are doing a terrible disservice to true service dogs. Because it is not legal to demand to see any kind of certificate they don’t get challenged. True service dogs are extensively trained on an ongoing basis.

Please note there is a difference between ‘dogs who provide a service’ and ‘service dogs’. We adore our companions and certainly the family pet gives love and company; they provide a service but are not service dogs. The cuddler who gives emotional support provides a service but is not a service dog.

One of the worst violations of the principle I’ve seen was a lady who insisted she had to have her dog with her at all times to support her emotional health. She held the dog on her lap at table and proceeded to feed it from her plate with a spoon! Not so gross but potentially damaging was the lady in the grocery store whose purse sized critter kept trying to leap out of the purse, snarling and snapping at every person who went by. The misbehavior of the fakes hurts acceptance of true service dogs.

To be defined as a service dog the dog has to do some action in support of a disabled person that they otherwise could not do. Well – that is the short version. Keyword – ‘for a disabled person’.

So why am I writing this? Please! do not go buy a ‘certificate’ from some ‘registering agency’ and/or a vest and claim you have a service dog! If I’d seen the epidemic of fakes coming I would have pushed the apartment management and NEVER gotten ‘certificates’ for either of our dogs. If the need for such things dries up hopefully the fake producers will vanish because there is no use for their business. We’d all be happier and service dogs would not be injured in the least but instead would be strengthened in their service.