The first question I am normally asked is, “Why do you have 2 service dogs?”

There isn’t a quick answer, so here goes. When we first started our search for a DAD, my wife and I, being big animal rescue people (don’t shop, adopt!) thought it would be amazing to just go pick a dog out at the shelter and find someone to train it. That proved to be a very naive thought. We initially had trouble even finding a service dog trainer willing to listen to us! When we finally came across Canine Hope, they were willing to listen, but gave us a new option. Crystal, the head of the organization and also a trainer, told us that the only way this would work was if she scoured the shelters looking for the right type of dog. You see, with service dogs, there is so much money and time invested in training that there is a few things that need to be assured. First, that the dog is young and healthy. If you are already going to be spending 1-2 years training, and then want to have the dog work for 10 years, you need to start out young. Secondly, and one of the biggest issues with pound puppies, is it’s critical to know the background of the dog. These dogs go everywhere with us, so you need to know whether the dog will freak out if a boy in a grey hoodie goes by, or if it hates men in uniforms, things like that. And third, if it comes from a legitimate breeder, the dog will have health guarantees, generally covering vision and hips.

Crystal wound up going through several dogs before she found a great fit. She was contacted by a gun dog trainer to come pick up a dog she was having no success with. Turns out the dog was abused, was severely under weight, lived in a guntruck cubby 23 hours a day, and was covered in it’s own feces and urine. But he was AKC registered, and Crystal knew of the breeder, and he had a very impressive pedigree. And viola! We got our Major!

Major was finally placed with us in October of 2011. He has become an amazing member of our family. But he has his quirks. He doesn’t alert at night, and he doesn’t alert in the car, most likely due to being forced to live in the dark on the gun truck. He shuts down in the car.  We initially thought with some more training that we would be able get at least the overnights working, but nothing has seemed to work.

Fast forward a year. Raven was another dog that was in the DAD program who also had some quirks. Raven doesn’t work well out in public, occasionally barks, and gets territorial of her space, making her a bad candidate for going to school or work with a diabetic.

But Raven works really well overnight. So we initially asked if we could borrow Raven in the hopes that she could help us train Major. We picked Raven up in early December, 2012, to begin that process. We learned really quickly that no amount of pushing on Major was going to make him a night alerter. In fact, it seemed the harder we pushed, the less he wanted to work. From his past abuse, he tends to be a very sensitive dog, so we have to be very careful with how much we push. I believe that being forced to live on the truck, in the dark, has contributed to his lack of night alerting.

We wound up working really hard to get Raven up to snuff, and she was turning out to be a wonderful addition. Based on her issues, our trainer was having a very hard time finding a home to place her in, and was considering washing her from the program. That would have been due to her limited working conditions. But in our home, she filled the two needs that we still had, and so when our trainer offered her to us, we jumped at the chance. Raven loves to work (as does Major) and it would have been a shame for her to not be able to work, or to go on to just be a pet (all though she would make an amazing pet). We get to keep her proud sense of purpose.

So basically, we have a day shift and a night shift. We refer to them often in pictures and on Instagram/Facebook as Team #blackdogsrule. They work tirelessly to assure that my daughter’s blood sugar levels remain in check regardless of the team. Is this an ideal situation? No. It is a lot of work/training/exercise/added expense/etc. But it works for our family. And basically, we tell everyone that we have a rescue and a salvage. And we our so proud of our team, and of all the support we get from Canine Hope and everyone associated with them.

And yes, they get along perfectly. Sometimes, they even hold hands 🙂

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  1. I love this post and will be keeping up with your blog.

  2. They are so darn cute! So meant to be! A perfect team!

  3. Awesome story Frank. I still want to cast my vote for you as father of the year.

  4. Pingback: Working Through Dog Issues | Black Dogs Rule