Certification Day

(On the opposite of her tag is emergency contact information, information about Fidos, her tattoo number, microchip number, etc.)

On Saturday, May 3rd, Fidos For Freedom held their annual certification day. It is a voluntary certification. Although currently the ADA does not require certification, the Department of Justice often considers requiring assistance dog teams to provide “proof of training” as the subject comes before them periodically.

Fidos is accredited with ADI (Assistance Dogs International) and IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners). As clients we must demonstrate our knowledge of the basic commands as well as those accompanying the specialized skills our dogs have been taught. The certification training team also notes how well we work together as a team, and we are evaluated on a number of “tests”. One test, is the written test (approximately 10-12 pages long), which covers all the information in our client handbook. Topics include communicating with your dog, “matching” and afterwards, the “30 Day” bonding period, your dog’s equipment, daily care of your dog, “time off”, public deportment, traveling with your dog, preventative health care, first aid, and emergencies, and “1 year Probationary Period” and beyond. Our dog is also weighed. Their overall appearance as well as the appearance of their equipment, is evaluated.

Chloe and I both passed! (I was hoping for a new picture… but they used my picture from last year when we were matched. I don’t have long hair anymore!)

We arrived at Fidos at 10:15 AM. Part of the certification training staff were in the parking lot. We were not allowed to unload our dogs without an evaluation. So I had to demonstrate my knowledge of Chloe’s seatbelt, “Chloe wait”, “Chloe OUT”, etc. Then I had to re-load her! “Chloe HUP!” “Chloe wait”, etc.

Next we checked in at registration. Here Chloe was weighed and her paws, nails, teeth, ears, eyes, etc., were checked. She weighed 59.2 pounds. (She was suppose to weigh under 62… all those walks have paid off!)

Gretchen S., (trainer and owner of Chinese Crested… she introduced my daughter Kyersten to the breeder from whom she received Peg, shown in the picture) followed me to the “Bottom Dollar” grocery store across the street. In the parking lot, we encountered two “strangers” who asked to pet Chloe, and asked to give her a treat. (Both were sneaky “Fidos pests” stationed to see how we handled the requests). I was watched the entire time by Gretchen, as she made note on a clipboard how I handled the “pests”, crossed the street, walked on the sidewalk (with traffic “away” from my dog), entered the store, etc. I was instructed to purchase one item at the store. As I perused the isles, Gretchen “dropped grocery items” behind me, made a “ruckus”, etc. She then had me “accidentally drop my leash” to see how Chloe behaved and if she stayed in heel. I did a short “off leash” recall. She then observed my “check out”. (Where did I have my dog?, how did I handle progression through the line?, etc.) I was then observed taking Chloe back across the street to Fidos. (Chloe had to be in “place” for this in order to keep her away from the “street side” of the sidewalk… I’m glad we’ve been practicing this!)

When I arrived back at Fidos, I was taken to a room in order to take my written test. Sherri (another trainer), took Chloe from me. Chloe was evaluated on how she behaved when not with me… did she exhibit any anxiety due to being apart from me? was she under control?, etc. I was about 75% finished with my test, when I noticed movement at the door. I was really concentrating (the test was HARD!) so only looked up for a fraction of a second. I caught a glimpse of Sherri, so my head snapped back up to look at her. She was mouthing from the door, “sorry!” About that time, Chloe shot up from underneath the table right into my face! Scared me spitless! She licked my whole face and was practically in my lap! I had trouble calming her down because… well… I was SPITLESS! Sherri came over to me and told me she did great, and that there weren’t any problems. (I was thinking if this wiggling, licking, “thank goodness I found you, you were lost!” bundle of canine was “she did great and there weren’t any problems“, I was thankful I didn’t know what the reaction was when there WAS a problem!)

Chloe and I then met up with Judy to do our skills test. I brought my alarm clock, cell phone, kitchen timer, keys, etc., thinking we were to be tested on every skill. However, we only had to demonstrate two to pass, and then a “name call” alert. I chose “dropped item” (keys) and the kitchen timer.

I walked with Chloe in heel and “accidentally” dropped my keys. Chloe is to do an “immediate retrieve”. This alerts me to an item I dropped. She retrieved the keys immediately and handed them back to me with a look like, “Denise? You sure drop your keys a lot, but I don’t mind gettin’ them for ya!”

Judy set the kitchen timer and then hid it amongst some training equipment at the side. I walked with Chloe in a small circle in heel while she did this. When the timer went off, Chloe immediately stopped and cocked her head. (At least I’m assuming it went off… I can only gauge this by her reaction!) She bumped my hand with her nose and made eye contact. I said, “What is it, Chloe? Show me!” She immediately took me to the area where the timer was, and then stopped and cocked her head again to listen. When she located that it was up high, she stood up on her hind feet to locate where it was at on the box. After she “placed” where it was positioned, she jumped up with her front feet on the box in the location of where she saw the timer. She was unable to “bump” it with her nose as it was just out of reach. Instead, she laid her head down on the box and stared right at the timer. It was so cute, I almost forgot to praise her!

Next we did the “name call alert”. Every client with a hearing dog at Fidos must pass this. I was a little bit worried, because I’ve been told that Judy has a very low and soft voice. Judy started calling my name like an alert. (Denise! Denise! Denise! – about every 5 seconds) At first Chloe didn’t react, but then she froze and cocked her head to listen. Her head whipped around to where Judy was, and she stopped to listen again. She licked/bumped my hand, and trotted towards Judy. She sat right in front of her and looked from me to Judy, and repeated this. (It looked like she was watching a tennis match actually!) She passed all of the skill’s section with “flying colors”!

We then went to the obedience skills, and temperament testing. Pam (another trainer) met me inside a large sectioned off area of the training floor. I was instructed to “drop” Chloe’s leash when I came into the area. A plate of food was in the middle of the floor. I instructed Chloe that it was “stolen! Leave it!” Chloe walked around it, but gave it about a 5 foot berth. Her nose kept sniffing towards the food, but when she’d catch my eye, she’d whip her head around and pretend interest in the pictures on the wall. She can really be a “hoot”! I was instructed to put her in a down/stay right in front of the food. She stared at me the whole time. I caught her looking sideways at the food under her nose one time, but she immediately jerked her attention back to me. (I think she was hoping I’d say, “Chloe! Paid for!”)

Pam removed the food, and had a volunteer come up and pet Chloe, and then step over her. Chloe remained in a down/stay with her attention on me. Then Pam had me release Chloe, and she brought out a squeaky toy. Chloe having been told “free”, was immediately all “a wag”! Pam told me that she was going to play with Chloe for a couple of minutes, and then I was to call Chloe back to me. The “test” was to see how quickly she settled down and how immediate was her response to a command given by me. Pam started squeaking the toy and tried to get Chloe all excited. Chloe only 1/2 played with her! She continued to come over to me with a look like, “Is this all right, mom? Is this ok? Can I be playing? You don’t need me do you?” Pam had to keep getting her attention to come back and play! (Chloe’s all time favorite toy is a “squeaky” toy! I was floored that she was more concerned about not being by my side!) Finally I was given my “cue” to call her back. Chloe seemed so relieved! Her response was immediate!

I was then taken to another area of the facility where they had a make-shift “store” set up. Sarah, another trainer, was the shop’s “owner”. Chloe and I were denied access, and were given a “hard time” with all the usual statements given by store personnel. “You can’t bring that dog in here!” (“Oh, actually I can. She is an assistance dog, and my rights of access are guaranteed by the federal ADA law!) “Well, what if she makes a mess or tears up things in my store?” (“She won’t make a mess or tear things up. She’s been trained to never touch things without permission. Should she make a mess, I will clean it up as I carry everything I need with me. But I can assure you, she will not as she only goes when I give her leave to do so in a private OUTSIDE area!”) “Well, what if some of my customers are allergic to animals?” (“If I discover someone has an allergy to dogs, I will shop in another area of the store and do my best to stay away. However, unless their allergy is a disability, my right of access with my service animal supersedes their allergy to dogs”) “Well, I’ve never heard of this law! I’m going to call the cops!” (“I have a copy of the law right here. Please read it. If you feel you must, please feel free to call the authorities. They are required to uphold the federal law that protects my rights as a person with disabilities accompanied by an assistance animal”) “Is she certified? Let me see her papers!” (“Chloe IS certified, but actually all the law allows is for you to ask me what she does for me to assist me with my disability. Anyone can fake certification tags. It HELPS me for you to ask what the dog does for the person with a disability when you see someone trying to bring a dog into your store. I don’t want people claiming to have a service dog anymore than you want people coming in with “fake” working dogs!”) Combinations of, and part of each of these conversations took place during my “access” test. I tried to hand Sarah information about the training facility in which I am involved with, but she knew they were the older version. Sarah is legally blind, so I was amazed that she could tell by the feel of the brochures that they were the “old” ones. She showed me where the partnership seals at the bottom were slightly embossed. The new ones have 4 or 5 partnership seals, and the old ones only have two. (Sarah is AMAZING! She does a great job training the dogs as well!)

Next I stopped to see Pat, the director of training. (She was/is my individual trainer too! Chloe was glad to “sit” close to her as she spent a great amount of time in Pat’s home! I’m thankful to consider Pat a friend now too!) Pat went over the problems I missed on the test in order to explain “why”. One I disagreed with a little bit. The question was that the ADA protects my rights as an individual to have access with Chloe into any public building. I put “false” because my rights are not guaranteed in court houses, federal buildings, etc. I consider these places “public buildings”! Evidently, federal buildings are not considered “public buildings”, however. At least I’ll know the next time I take the test! I missed a couple of others… but I still passed!

I received my new certification tags, and we went to the foyer to wait for Pat. We had a “lunch date” and Chloe and I needed to wait for her to finish.

So? Should I say that Chloe and I are “certifiable” now? Perhaps I should just stick with that, “yes… she is certified!”

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

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4 thoughts on “Certification Day

  1. That is too cool! Besides the stress, it seems that that would almost be fun to do! I can’t believe that Chloe responded so well to the timer; I only see her in class where she takes a long time (of course she is sleeping AND their is a boy in the class but still… :D) Congratulations on getting re-certified!!! (I wonder what would happen if one of the testers was a man? Would she have been so obedient? :D)

  2. Yes, in class she is always asleep when the timer goes off. At home, she is rarely asleep when I’m needing the timer for something. She rarely hesitates more than a second when she is awake. (And YES… having YOU in the class once she IS awake is distracting for her!)

    There is one man who is a trainer, but he rarely interacts with Chloe.

    DeniseP

  3. Denise, that is just awesome — congratulations to you and Chloe! Your description of the process was really interesting — I had no idea you had to do so much to get certified. Way to go!!

    P.S. I am especially impressed with your ability to confront a hostile store owner. I am so non-confrontational that I’d be tempted to just leave without saying anything!

  4. Congrats! I remember your comment a while back about dealing with confronting a hostile store owner. This kind of “practice” in the certification process is just what you need to help you increase your assertiveness!! 😉
    Of course, Chloe did well with everything! She’s a wonderful partner for you. I’m not exactly looking forward to certification days when my turns come – mainly because my energy levels are sooooo low and I become fatigued sooooo rapidly. Seriously, I only have about a 4 hour “window” of opportunity in a day. Guess I’ll have to petition to take the written test on a different day.
    Well, it’s all moot until my Woof is matched with me. {{sigh!!}}
    Cheerio!
    Elizabeth

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