We’re Back & We Passed Our PAT!

26th June 2016

Hi everyone

Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last post, both my Person and I have been really busy.

Here’s a brief update of what’s happened in the last few months:

My Person and I are enjoying living in our new apartment, it’s nice to have the freedom. We haven’t had any problems so far, it’s been great.

My Person is doing a cert 3 in dog behaviour and training so that she can become a dog trainer in the future. She will also be starting a small business management course so that she will be able to start her own business.

That’s pretty much it. My Person has been studying and I have been training, I have competed in my first agility trial and I’ll be going in another in July.

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot has been going on but we just haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and post updates lately. Our deepest apologies.

Anyway,

Today was a very big day for my Person and I, over the past year we have been writing about my service dog training adventures and today I did my PAT (public access test).

I PASSED WITH FLYING COLOURS

The assessors were thrilled with my progress, and they thought it was really cute when I picked up my lead and carried it to my person while doing the recall.

Obviously my training won’t end here. There are still a lot of things I need to work on, like taking public transport and flying in an airplane. And I still get a little excited when I see other dogs, especially when they want to play with me, but I am a lot better and I’m getting better everyday.

So I will try to post more regular updates, on my training and my Person’s training.

Thanks 🙂

Halloween Fun

1st November

Halloween in Australia isn’t very big, and my family have never really celebrated it. But this year in our town a group who support people with disabilities put on a Zombie Walk. It was a fun afternoon at the race course with games, zombie movies and local bands, and everyone (around 600 people) went on a 6km walk through town to promote mental health awareness.

I went along with my Person, Little Sister, and my Person’s friend who we’ll call Geek-Friend. She is very nice and is very similar to my Person in as much as she suffers severe social anxiety, so she understands my Person’s situation very well. Geek-Friend, if you couldn’t guess, loves all sorts of geeky things and she comes over every week to watch shows like Star Wars and Futurama.

My Person dressed me up as a Houndour, which is a type of Pokemon. There were a few people who got my costume, but most people just thought I was a skeleton dog which was fine.

The people in charge of the event knew my Person and Little Sister from youth and disability groups, so they were very happy to see me accompanying my Person. Especially since I am primarily a psychiatric service dog and it was an event promoting mental health awareness.

However the security guards that worked at the race course who were there to make sure everyone was behaving themselves didn’t like having me there. We were expecting to have some access issues so my Person had brought along my coat and ID card. The first time my Person showed the security guard my ID it was clear the he was sceptical, but didn’t say anything and just walked off. When we came back from the Zombie Walk through town we stopped to talk to another friend and another security guard came over and asked to see the ID we had shown the other guy. We were very grateful when the friend we were talking to stepped in for us and reassured the guard that service dogs are allowed everywhere with their handler and that I was not a problem. The guard insisted that I take off my costume and put on my coat to “save all the confusion” the security guards were the only ones confused by this, no one else cared at all.

Apart from the anxiety and stress my Person had, caused by having to talk to big, scary security guards it was a very fun afternoon. I got lots of cuddles and pats, and everyone took photos of me. I didn’t even mind wearing my costume.

Hope everyone had a safe Halloween and got lots of yummy treats.

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Explaining My Absence

28th October

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, not a lot has happened since my Person has been busy with her exams. In Australia, New South Whales at least, high school students do their final exams after graduating. Makes a lot of sense, right?

Anyway she has been using the computer which means that I haven’t been able to post any updates recently. But now that her exams are all finished I’ll be able to get back to posting updates on my training.

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Service Dogs and Walkers

18th September

My Person and I were able to test out her new walker today (what exciting lives we do lead 🙂 ) when we went to Bunnings for cleaning supplies.

It’s great! Crutches are alright for most occasions but the walker is much better for long periods of walking and standing, which is difficult for people with chronic fatigue and pain. The walker is more stable and less dangerous on wet floors (it’s been raining up here the last few days) and it’s like a portable seat, so she can sit down whenever she needs it.

I handled the change in equipment very well, it does take a minute or two to adjust my pace to match that of my Person and I have to learn how to manoeuvre around the walker, boxes and members of the public all at the same time.

It’s funny seeing the way strangers interact with my Person based on the type of equipment she is using.

  • Service Dog Only: my Person must be training me for “some poor disabled person”
  • Crutches: people will clarify with my Person whether or not she is training me for someone else or if I belong to her
  • Walker: it’s strange to see such a young person with a walker, people will actively avoid looking at my Person because she must have a severe disability to need both a walker AND service dog

In Bunnings we saw a man carrying a little white poodle. We had no complaints because it was very well behaved, but it wasn’t a service dog. It is not the first time we have come across pet dogs in Bunnings, no one seems to mind as long as they are behaving themselves. Most people carry them or have them sitting in the trolley. I was very good with the other dog, mainly because it wasn’t barking or growling at me (which is a first!) and I walked right by it without any trouble.

It was a fun day and things are looking good for us 🙂

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Exciting Surprise When We Got Home

16th September

We had a nice surprise to come home to today, my Person’s new walker! I know, I know, it’s a little depressing to get excited about these sorts of things but this is the reality for people with chronic illnesses.

While my Person is capable on crutches they are not always appropriate, especially for a person who suffers chronic fatigue, so we have been trying to track down a four wheeled walker for a while now. And it has finally arrived! Hooray!

My Person and I are very excited, we’re looking forward to taking it for a test drive 🙂

Training Update

15th September

I have been working very hard lately, my Person and I have had some free time so we were learning some new tricks.

“REST” – this task is to help my Person when she is having a mild anxiety attack. I lay my head on her lap and stay there until she tells me to go back. There are some people who think that this is just something a dog does when they sense their handler is upset – but for most dogs it is not something they would think to do, or they do it for a second and move away when they are ready not when the handler is ready. So for most dogs it needs to be taught.

“HUG” – this task is to help my Person when she is having a major anxiety attack. I jump up and lay across her to perform deep pressure therapy.

Both these tasks were simple and easy to master but very useful when your handler has anxiety.

Since I am a big dog I take up a lot of space and end up blocking walkways and paths in shops when I lay down. So my Person taught me to crawl and lay under a chair, so that I am out of the way of other shoppers, or under her legs when there is no space under the chair.

I was a little scared of the confined space at first but when I realised that if I lay there I got a tasty treat I would happily crawl under the chair.

“DRINK” – this task is where I bring a small bag from the cupboard in the kitchen to my Person wherever she is. The bag has medication, a bottle of water and a small sugary snack. It has taken me a while to finally master this one since it is a very difficult task, but I am now able to reliably fetch the bag from another room and I can even go back and shut the cupboard door.

Another task my Person and I have just started learning is fetching the washing basket and helping her undress while in her wheelchair. I am only up to taking off socks and putting them in the basket but soon I’ll be able to move up to pants and long sleeved shirts.

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