My Service Dog, Jade

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jade Gets Certified!!

Today, my Jade took her Certification Exam with the field trainer and the Head Trainer.  SHE PASSED!!! I knew she would; she's a great dog, and has come such a long way since beginning training!  She skipped the Level 1 beginning class, went into the Level II class, and acquired her Canine Good Citizen Certificate.

Soon after we started training; after her first class, she then skipped a class and went straight into service dog training. Once she got her CGC and headed off to service dog training she got her Blue Vest.  She began going everywhere with me in order to expose her to all kinds of environments, people, noises, sights, smells, etc.  She did great, but at this point still had an issue with loud noises making her very anxious and still was somewhat reactive when other dogs got in her face to sniff her.  I was discouraged about these two issues, as they were really her only issues.  Other than that, she was becoming a wonderful service dog and learning her tasks very well. If you've read my blog, you know how hard we worked on these two issues to get her where she is today.

She completed one service dog training class, skipped the Level II Service Dog class, and went straight into Field Training.   That's when she got her Red Vest.  This meant "Service Dog In Training" and stated so on the vest. We worked hard together, getting her past her issues with loud noises and getting her past her reactivity to other dogs who got in her face.  It's noteworthy to add here, that we soon learned that Jade's reactivity had a lot to do with her being viciously attacked by a roaming pit bull at the park, which she found very hard to get passed. We also learned that once she was passed it, I was not. Her reactivity was then a result of MY reaction when another dog got close to her or got in her face.  Once we had that down, it was a green light.  I began to change MY behavior in these situations, and hers followed.   It's also noteworthy to mention here that when a service dog is working (on duty) other dogs SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO GET IN HER FACE!! Nevertheless, there will ALWAYS be irresponsible and ignorant dog owners out there, who just either don't know what a service dog is, don't understand that letting their dog get in your service dog's face while its working is a complete and total distraction for the service dog, or simply don't care. I know this to be a FACT, because in the short amount of time that Jade's been a service dog, MANY dog owners have let their dogs approach her and get in her face, sniff her, etc.  I now use this as an opportunity to educate people, if I have time; otherwise, we turn around and leave.

My field trainer and I worked hard on her reactivity issue and mine as well, and soon she was working alongside another service dog, and with the field trainer's Rottweiler. Once this was going well, the field trainer informed me that she felt Jade was ready to take her certification exam.  A week later, that's what we did.  That was today.

 The test was pretty easy for Jade at this point, just because we'd worked so hard and pushed her far beyond what the test requires.  I thanked the field trainer for that, because it got her through today with flying colors! So Jade has now acquired her Teal/Green Vest, which states that she's now a Certified Service Dog.

The Head trainer accompanied us once we reached the exam destination, and the field trainer came along as well. The Head trainer carried her clipboard, and marked things off as we did them. Just the fact that the dog is able to maneuver through the establishment with the appropriate service dog etiquette is a major requirement. This means, the dog has to be next to the handler at all times, no sniffing merchandise or people, no soliciting pets from people, and the dog's focus must always be on the handler. This requirement is first and foremost. Then we went through the checklist, which included things like coping well with loud noises and being able to recover quickly, performing down/stay with handler in sight and out of sight, tolerating a step-over by a stranger, petting by children, sit/stay with other dogs walking past/getting close, handler recall off leash, performing a front/wait at the cash register, performing leave it when food is left on the floor, or dropped, performing a follow the handler (walking behind the handler when necessary in tight spaces), performing an under (quietly lying under the table while the handler sits/eats/talks, etc for at least 15 min), proper bathroom etiquette (sit and wait quietly) and of course performing her tasks when cued, or when not cued. There were some other things that I can't think of right now, as it's been a long day and I'm wiped out.  The entire exam took about 2 and 1/2 hours, but it was mentally exhausting, and for someone that is disabled and finds it difficult just to get out and around, it's tiring.

Jade was a SUPERSTAR!!! I am SO VERY proud of her for accomplishing what she has, and yeah, I'll say it....I'm proud of myself too for working so hard on this, and for training her so well.

Jade is completely Certified now, but the training doesn't stop. It never stops.  A service dog must always be up to the standard that it can always pass the Certification exam.  So, her certification will expire in one year and at that time, she will take the test again. AFter that, it will expire after 2 years, and at that time, she will take the test once again.  This is done to ensure that the service dog team doesn't start slacking on the dog's requirements, and behavior/etiquette, etc.  I think this is great! It's important to make sure that the service dog teams out there are always being monitored.

The agency we Certified with told me that the ADA requirements may change soon, and that Certification by a professional trainer or agency may soon be a requirement for all service dogs. Frankly, I hope that's the case, because in my opinion, there are far too many service dogs out there that are NOT up to par, and could never pass the public access test, even though they're out there in the public all the time.

Jade now has her Teal/Green Vest, is a completely Certified Service Dog, and will also soon be issued an I.D. card with our photo and names on it.  I couldn't be happier, or more proud of her!


Jade at 11 weeks, when I first brought her home. 

Jade at work in her Blue Vest
Pretty girl!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jade Has Playtime With Pals

Jade's been in some heavy duty training now for almost a year now, every single week, sometimes twice a week, to become the bomb-proof, solid Service Dog that she is.  We're getting ready to take the Certification exam any time now.  In fact, next week, our trainer is taking us to where we will be taking the exam to run through a few practice exams.  We also went through it once this week at the pet store, which isn't easy.  If you've ever taken your dog to a pet store, you know how difficult it can be for your dog to focus, with all the smells, sights, sounds, and other dogs.  Jade is doing amazing! Our trainer has been bringing her dog with her every week, a 150 lb Rottweiler, to train with us.  He's a wonderful dog, so mellow and gentle.  Jade and the Rottie have become working pals, and are on duty together every week now, for several weeks in a row.  That has been going very well, and we've been practicing the Certification exam at the pet store with the trainer's Rottie.  We are almost there.

Jade has been having more and more experiences with other dogs, and is doing amazing! I'm so proud of her. She's really become a very different dog over the past year.  She knows exactly what it means to help me, she knows when that vest goes on, playtime is over and it's time to work. She helps me so much at home too, and she's always willing to jump up and do what she's told, whether it's getting me a drink from the fridge, pulling the laundry basket into the laundry room, getting the clothes out of the dryer, fetching my cane, or my phone....or whatever else I need from her. It's so amazing having my own little helper, especially since she's been my best friend when I first brought her home at 11 weeks old.  She's really developed into the most amazing dog!

She's been fortunate enough to have some special play times as well with other dogs she's meeting at the park, when we're out for our walks.  The first one was with a little Chihuahua/Pomeranian Mix we met at the park. It was actually off leash and so was Jade, because we were playing fetch at the time. Just can't play fetch on a leash.  So we were playing, and Jade was running for the ball and bringing it right back to me and dropping it right in my hand, like a champ, when this little dog comes running across the field to meet Jade. Right as I threw the ball, and Jade went galloping after it, the little dog was right behind Jade running for the ball with her. Jade got there first of course, but they played and chased each other, sniffed each other and had a great time for the next 30 minutes or so.  The little dog's owner and I talked and Jade got to meet her too. The owner talked about how she'd just rescued the little dog a week or so ago from the shelter, as it was going to be euthanized. While Jade was meeting the owner, the little dog barked at her and nipped her in the butt, and we laughed as Jade tucked her butt and ran from the little dog.  It was hysterical and so wonderful to see Jade having such a great time playing with this little dog!

Yesterday, we met another Lab at the park.  A big, beautiful male Lab. He was only 11 months old and was as big as Jade.  He was gorgeous!  He came up and sniffed Jade, so I let her have some playtime with him.  They ran around in circles around me and the other dog's owners. We talked while they played.  I told them about Jade's pit bull attack and they agreed that pit bulls are very dangerous dogs.  Most people agree with that, except pit owners.  Everyone I've ever talked to about pit bulls say the same thing, unless of course, they own a pit bull.  Anyway...Jade had a nice play time with the other dog for a good 20 minutes or so and we took off on the scooter to finish our park time. I'm really proud of how well she's doing with other dogs, and with performing her duties!

I never imagined that Jade could or would do the things she's able to do now. She is just an amazing dog, wonderfully smart, and such a willing and loving helper.  She really understands when I don't feel well, and stays very close to me always.  She knows her job and loves doing it.  I couldn't have asked for a better buddy!

Here's Jade getting me a drink from the fridge.


Napping in the back yard, while I water the plants. She loves the grass!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A lot of people have asked about service dog etiquette.  How is a REAL service, a good service dog supposed to behave? What makes a REAL service dog's behavior different than that of a FAKE service dog? How do you know when a service dog is a fraud? You can usually tell by their behavior.  There are a few examples in the video below.

Good vs. Bad Service Dog Etiquette

I thought the letter below "To My Service Dog" was a good example of what service dogs mean to their handlers.

 A Letter To My Service Dog

Just a good video to celebrate service dogs.

A Tribute To Service Dogs

Jade learns to "get me a drink" from the fridge. (video)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs

I made this video in honor of all the victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs, because people need to see what these dogs are doing.  They need to see the impact that their pit bulls are having on families, and communities nationwide.  People need to be aware.

The pit bull zealots have for years refused to see the danger in having pit bulls as pets, and continue to refuse to this day; but just because they won't admit to the facts, doesn't make them untrue. Please watch this video and you would, please share it with as many people as you possibly can.....

Thank you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another Guide Dog Attacked By Pit Bulls,0,5844282.story

These stories are really becoming all too common.  Another Guide Dog attacked by pit bulls, while minding his own business and working with his trainer.  This dog is in training, still learning to perform his duties as a guide dog, although it's questionable now whether he will be able to perform those duties after being viciously attacked by the pit bullies.

There's someone or something attacked by these menacing type of dogs nearly every single day and it's time something is done about it! More and more cities are looking into some type of pit bull ordinance and although I think that's great, I think these dogs should just be banned nationwide.  They cause nothing but trouble.  They're constantly attacking and killing, children, other animals, even their owners, because they were bred to fight and to kill.  Why should we allow that type of dog in peoples' homes?

Pit bull owners keep saying that it's about the owners and they need to be more responsible.  Well, that's great, but it isn't happening is it?  If it was happening, the number and frequency of attacks would be going down, and instead they're going up.  I am sick and tired of seeing more and more of these attacks EVERY DAY by these types of dogs.  It's not necessary that we keep seeing this!

I don't think pit bull owners understand, nor do they care, about the time, money, blood, sweat and tears that go into training a service dog or guide dog. So many of them have been, and are being attacked by pit bulls, and a lot of times, these attacks either kill the service dog or force it into early retirement, as it's no longer able to perform its duties any longer out of fear, or defensiveness.

In my opinion, if pit bull owners can't learn to play nice with their pit bulls, they should have their pit bulls taken away! These dogs are nothing but a menace to society and a danger to the public!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Veterans Can Now Apply For Assistance With Service Dog Expenses

This is an important announcement in regards to Veterans of the Armed Forces that have service dogs, or may benefit from the use of a service dog.

There has been a push for the Department of Veterans' Affairs to be more "service dog friendly," as having a service dog is a great substitute for medications in a lot of cases where depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an issue. However, it's important to remember that a dog that is used to "make you feel better" is NOT considered a service dog; that is a therapy dog, and is not afforded the same public access rights as a service dog.  A service dog MUST be "individually trained to perform certain tasks for the benefit of the disabled person." So, just being there to make one feel good is not considered a task.  Just something to remember.

I think it is crucially important for the VA healthcare system to become more service dog friendly, and support Veterans that use service dogs. A lot of doctors continue to push medications for a lot of ailments, and sometimes, the use of a service dog can have a great impact on the amount of medication someone needs to take, but not always.

There are several articles online, such as the one above that discusses this fairly new benefit for Veterans. I think ALL Veterans that use service dogs, should apply for this benefit! This new benefit essentially provides some compensation for those Veterans that use service dogs, in helping with costs associated with keeping a service dog.

Please look into this, and if you are a Veteran with a service dog, please go to your nearest VA hospital and apply for this benefit.