Hi everybody! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. It’s been awhile since we updated, it has been insanely busy here, and it’s not letting up yet. We had a wonderful Christmas, we have an extra visitor here for a week, (more on that later) and we have some family flying in from places much colder than here for a couple of days.
As a service dog handler, something I hear a lot is “that must be a rough life for a dog”, or “it seems like a cruel fate”, or even things like “how do you manage to not pet them, and only let your daughter interact with them?”
That last one is a myth that gets perpetuated either from the patches on their vests or from some bad trainers/service dog organizations. While it is true that when we are out and about I don’t want YOU touching or petting our DAD’s, the immediate family treats them like they are our pets. These DAD’s love to work for us, and often times, when we are out in public, at the grocery store, work or school, and the dog gets an alert, they are rewarded with affection and treats. If we let everyone pet and touch our dogs, the reward loses it’s effectiveness, and if the dog is seeking attention form others, he isn’t focusing on his job of protecting his person. There is a lot of new stimuli added to every public access event. New people, new smells, new sounds, all of which can be distractions. Our DAD’s have so much experience in these scenarios that they are able to focus on their task at hand, alerting us to blood sugar issues. But if they are subjected to constant hands thrust towards them, or forced to stop and start every time someone wants to say hi, the dog would never focus. But at home, surrounded by familiarity and their family, these dogs are perfectly capable of being petted, rubbed, groomed, engaged in a rousing game of X-Box, or playing fetch and then alerting to an issue.
And as for the rough life or the cruelty, well, we should all be as lucky as to have lives like these dogs do. While I admit this is not the life for every dog, as walking through Disneyland at Christmas time can be extremely stressful on the best of us, these dogs have been trained and temperament tested to be rock solid in stressful situations. Keep in mind, these dogs go everywhere with us. These dogs sleep inside, often in their persons bed. They are walked, exercised, trained, groomed, and played with, and all of those things are bonding sessions with these dogs, on a daily basis. These dogs aren’t left outside all day by themselves being bored.
Our family spends a lot of time with our dogs. As a matter of fact, Major is with me at work today while we have Raven, the kids, and our new house guest Able at home. Major is with me here working on placing under a desk for a day. I run with these dogs, I shoot pictures with these dogs, we do agility and rally with the dogs, we get together often with other families that have these dogs, these dogs have hit the lottery. There isn’t much more that a dog could possibly want then to have a job, be successful at it, and please his person. I think that may be the definition of “Labrador”. 🙂
My dogs are beautiful. They are fed fantastic food, groomed regularly, have fantastic, healthy, glossy coats, are exercised, and are in tip top shape. You should see them when I grab my running shoes. Raven actually yodels when she thinks we are heading out for a run at the lake. When we sleep in on the weekends, there are labs in our bed. Major sleeps with my daughter in her bed. There isn’t much more that irks me than suggesting one of 2 things. Either my daughter’s diabetes was caused by something we as parents could have prevented, or that my dogs live a horrible life.
Our organization, Canine Hope for Diabetics, from top to bottom is filled with dog lovers, from Crystal, the founder, down to all the puppy raisers, trainers, and families, these dogs are all well cared for. After all, we want these dogs with us for as long as possible.
Consider for a second that a paramedic, a Dr, a nurse, or a complete stranger off the street helped you save your child’s life. Would you form a connection with that person? A bond? An emotional attachment? Offer them a hug? Now consider they were there daily, always ready to offer you that service. That is what these dogs are to us. That is what the dogs mean to us. These dogs protect our children. They save lives. Some of them, in my case both Major and Raven, have already done that. These dogs will never, ever know a life where they aren’t valued members of our family.
Now, with that being said, these dogs DO lead a structured life. They need to be able to walk through a restaurant or a grocery store without eating stray food. They need to be quiet while working so we can take them to movies, libraries, the work place or school. They need to be able to maintain a down stay or “place” while under a table at a restaurant, under a desk at school, or in an office environment. There is a lot of continuous work and training that goes on in these dogs lives. But again, the dogs are working with their people, and the dogs are bonding and interacting. They aren’t out in the yard tied up to a tree. Doing training sessions with your dog, whether it is teaching them to sit/stay, heel, or locate a low blood sugar sample and grab a juice box out of the fridge, is a chance to bond with your dog. Time that is ALWAYS well spent for you and the dog.
And for the next week, we have a special house guest. Say hello to Able. Able is a Canine Hope DAD in training. He is in the “finished” dog program, and will be placed with his family sometime in the first half of 2014. He will be going into a home similar to ours, with a 12 year old type 1 boy. We have him so he can get some “real time” alert training, living with a young type 1, and being involved in all the day to day activities. He is a very good boy and is already alerting. We feel honored that we are trusted enough to have these dogs stay with us for awhile, and know that they will go off to their families to become amazing, life saving family members. I’m sure you will be seeing many more pictures of Able. After all, he is the right color 😉