My Service Dog, Jade

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jade And The Firemen Train At Home

Well, if you've been keeping up with my blog, you saw that Jade went to the firehouse to do a little bit of training with the firemen there, which went very well.  Jade has had some fear issues with men in uniform, so my trainer and I took Jade to the firehouse previously to help her get used to men in uniform.  We specifically chose the firehouse, because it's often the firemen and paramedics that show up at your house when you call for a medical emergency. That has been my main concern; I was afraid that if I have to call for help, as I've had to before, Jade would have problems with the firemen/paramedics entering our home to help me.  So, we started by taking her to the firehouse and letting her get used to these men and women in uniform, all their gear, and the noises.  Jade was very apprehensive at first and a bit fearful, but before long she was playing and engaging with the firemen as if they were her best friends.  I was very happy about how that went. My trainer asked the firemen if they'd be willing to come over to the house, as that would be the real test for Jade.  Whether or not she could handle them coming through the door is most important.  We were both pleasantly surprised at how responsive and willing the firemen were to help us with this training! They agreed to come over to my house and help out.

Currently Jade is trained to assist me in many ways.  There have been times where I suddenly have severe spasm and end up on the floor, unable to move for some time. Jade can now help me, by running to find my phone.  She brings my phone to me and lies down next to me and awaits help with me.  My fear was that I would call for help and the firemen/paramedics would have some real problems entering my house to help due to Jade's fearful response, and protective/defensive barking.

Yesterday, my trainer showed up around 2pm and we went over all the tasks that Jade performs to help me around the house.  The trainer was impressed to say the least! She was amazed that Jade hadn't been trained to do any of these tasks prior to our training with her organization.  She just couldn't believe how much Jade had learned in less than a year and how well she performed the tasks.  Some of them are opening/closing the sliding glass door, opening/closing the fridge, closing drawers and cabinets, retrieving my cane, phone and other items, getting the laundry in and out of the dryer, etc.

The firemen showed up at 2:30 pm just like they had told us they would!  We saw the firetruck pull up in front of my house and we were so happy they were able to make it! The night before I had baked them some cookies as a thank you, for them to take with them.

It was such a great experience! Jade barked and growled a bit at first, after all, this is her house. Once she sniffed the firemen, it was like a bell went off in her head, and she suddenly became her usual friendly self, still a bit apprehensive about the noises their hand-held radios made.  I gave Jade's treats to the firemen and things just started rolling from there.  Jade started handing things to the firemen, her leash, her toys, etc. and we all laughed. We stood around talking a while at first and letting Jade get used to their presence, then we performed a real-life reenactment of what would happen should I have to call for help.

The firemen went outside to wait, and Jade and I walked to the back bedroom, with the trainer lagging behind.  I faked a fall and told Jade to run and get the phone.  She sensed the urgency in my voice and ran for the phone in the living room.  She brought the phone to me, and laid down next to me waiting.  I acted like I was making a call, and told the trainer, "Ok, let them in."  The trainer let the firemen in, and I told Jade to stay with me.  The firemen reentered my house saying, "Fire department, we got a call someone needs assistance!" Jade wanted to run to the front door and bark, but she stayed next to me with her eyes on the bedroom door.  When the firemen walked into the room, Jade stayed put.  I could hardly believe it! They talked to me, and then said, "We're going to act like we're doing stuff to you to see how she reacts."  They started to touch me and move me around and Jade just sniffed their hands and looked from me to them and back again.  She was great! Then they helped me up, and Jade got up too.  She wagged her tail and sniffed their hands as they helped me up, but no growling, no barking, no fear.  I was impressed! We stood in the bedroom talking some more, and they played with Jade some more, letting her sniff their equipment, and they talked about other dogs they've had to deal with in these circumstances.

They said most dogs will bark at them, with their hackles up, but usually back away while they bark. They did say that they have dealt with aggressive dogs, and they usually put their bags in front of them and just "go for it," hoping that one of their men can get the dog and remove it to another room or outside.

The firemen told me about getting a lock box, and gave me some instructions on how to call for an emergency. They said to make sure that when you call, state that you have a service dog, what her name is, and that you have a lock box, and give the code.  Great ideas!!! Never thought of any of this, especially the lock box.  A lock box is a metal box with a code on it, that stores your house key so the emergency services don't have to break anything to get in.  They also said that if they know your dog's name, they will use it when they come in to help the dog relax a bit.  This will help tremendously! It will also help your dog if you let it get a sniff of the firemen/paramedics in your area so that your dog isn't totally caught off guard when something happens.

Once again, with all the excitement, the trainer and I forgot to ask them about coming to the training organization to give a small talk about how they deal with your service dog when they come to your house.  Also, to help service dog handlers know exactly what to do, and how to make these calls more effective for the emergency responders. So, after the firemen left, the trainer and I sat and talked a bit and I felt SO MUCH BETTER about this issue.  I certainly feel much more confident that Jade will be okay when they come to the house to help me.  I feel more relaxed now knowing that I can call for help and not have to worry about them having to hurt Jade, or remove her in order to help me. What a relief!!

The trainer gave me a couple of her cards, which I will take to the firehouse. I will ask them about the possibility of coming to the training organization for a brief class, talk, with the service dog teams. I really believe the teams would benefit GREATLY from this kind of an experience.  I know I did!

I gave the firemen the cookies I'd baked them, and YES, I was able to snap a few quick photos for you all.  Sorry for the long post and rambling on about this, but it's been a most exciting and informative experience!!! Thank you for reading!


  1. jade is such a beautiful gentle soul. i never tire at admiring her.

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn! My girl does have a sweet little face! :) I love this dog! She just turned 4 years old a couple of weeks ago, and I can't bear the thought of her getting older. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  2. You are breaking new ground here Jewel, this is just a wonderful idea!!!!!! I'm SO happy that this worked out so well for Jade. I can see this as a program for service dogs in many cities. GOOD WORK!

    1. Thank you, april 29. I'm hoping to start spreading the word on this, and getting the firemen to come down to the training organization, and then others around town. I'm thinking this is going to spread too. My trainer said that she thinks this is the start of something great. I agree! Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment!

  3. That's incredible. It's great that the fire department was willing to go the extra mile to help Jade get proper training. And it must be a huge relief for you knowing how Jade will react in a life or death situation.

  4. Hi Jim! Thanks for stopping by! Oh man, are you ever right! I never imagined in a million years that the firemen would be so generous with their time and so willing to help us the way that they did! They really are an important part of the community. It's funny how you don't think of these kinds of things until you're disabled, you know. I feel SO much better now, knowing that I can fully trust Jade to behave like the wonderful service dog that she is when one of these situations arises. What a true blessing this experience has been!! I plan to write the fire department a nice letter and card to give them the credit they deserve! Thanks for reading, Jim, and taking time to comment!

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