You Want Me to WHAT?
When I first started working with Chloe over two years ago, one of the first things my trainer told me was, “Chloe is to remain tethered to you at all times. Where you go, she goes… for 30 days”. She was to be at the end of my leash and if I needed my hands free, she had to be tethered to me. No one could pet her, feed her or interact with her but me for 30 days. (It almost killed my family!)
If I did laundry, Chloe did laundry. If I fixed supper, Chloe (on a longer leash and out of harm’s way from the stove) fixed supper. If I went to the bathroom, Chloe came to the bathroom in a stand/stay. (You don’t want a service dog laying or sitting on public bathroom floors – EWWW!). Needless to say, it was probably harder on me than it was her. She was trained to be with someone 24/7. I had to learn to be responsible for this canine at the end of a four foot leash.
It’s amazing how someone could overlook a dog the size of Chloe, but it does happen. People look over her head and come close to tromping on her at times. A friend of mine is training her Great Dane pup as a service dog. I would like to think that Kenai could not be overlooked even in a down/stay!
Now Over Two Years Later
Chloe is rarely out of sight. At home she doesn’t wear her vest, but I still rely on her “working”… her hearing alerts throughout the day. On a day like today (pouring down rain), I need her to retrieve things when I drop them too. I am almost to the point of believing Chloe actually knows to stay a little closer on a rainy day. You wouldn’t think a dog would pick up on that but you never know!
If Chloe loses track of me, for example a squirrel caught her attention outside so she stands to stare while I head downstairs to get a load of laundry in the dryer, she races to find me as soon as she realizes I’m gone. If a gate is up, or door closed she’ll howl her anxiety of the fact. It’s created a rather unique bond between she and I. Honestly, on the days she is in her crate and not at the end of a leash has me feeling like I’ve left my right foot at home by mistake. There are infrequent times that Chloe isn’t feeling well and if I find I have to leave home, she remains in her crate. There have been a few times that she had to stay at home when we were going someplace she could not go safely. (For example, a zoo!) When we are reunited, you would think it had been a month since she saw me last and not a couple of hours! The bond we share serves its purpose, for a service dog and partner should have a close bond in order to establish a healthy working relationship.
It wouldn’t work with people!
Perish the thought should a person have to be leashed to another person for a “30 day bonding period”! I’ve been married for 23 wonderful years to the same man. I wouldn’t dream of attaching myself to him and staying in his vicinity indefintely. We’d strangle each other! (grin) Dogs who have been trained to assist a partner in some fashion do not seem to mind the constant companionship. They thrive in this atmosphere. Perhaps this is why dogs make such terrific service animals… they love to be with their partners.
Two great organizations that you can find more information about assistance/service dogs are:
Assistance Dogs International: Click here
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners: Click here
What the ADA says about service dogs: Click here
© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal