Sunday, August 2, 2009

Class Notes

Monday night class last week was enjoyable. We were able to talk more as a group, sharing stories & ideas about the training of our current dogs and stories of previous experiences we might have had. The theme of the discussion surrounded how Helping Paws' clients rely so strongly on the skills we teach the dogs, and the importance of having good, solid responses to the commands.

One of the trainers, Elaine Beckstrom, comes to us with a very different perspective than most trainers: her son, Jake (age 20), is a recipient of a service dog, Miles. Elaine relayed a story about Jake and Miles to the class and with her permission I am sharing it with you.

"I would like to add a personal story about the importance of retrieving.

"At college Jake often zooms between his dorm and the main campus without putting on a coat. He can't get it on and off by himself and he doesn't want to sit in class in a winter jacket. So in the winter he is often outside in his shirt sleeves. One time Miles' flexi leash became detached from Jake's wheelchair while they were outside. Jake's first concern was for Miles and him potentially chasing after a squirrel or running away to have some fun. This was a below zero day with the wind blowing fiercely as well. Both Jake and Miles were in a potentially dangerous situation with no other people around at the moment to help grab Miles.

Jake asked Miles to pick up his flexi - which he did. Then Jake asked Miles to carry the flexi while they traveled about 100 yards to get back to Jake's dorm room. Other than Miles' stopping one time for a potty break (Miles set down the flexi to potty and then picked it up again), he stayed by Jake's side and carried the flexi without hesitation. This is a pretty heavy flexi with a leash/reel system which includes a metal bar so it can be attached to the wheel chair - probably weighs a couple pounds.

Thank goodness Miles is such a well-trained dog! They were both able to get back to the dorm safely.

The retrieve skill is one of the biggest ways that Miles assists Jake. You never know what the dogs will be asked to pick up or where they may be, but when the time comes they need to do it! I know our puppies are a long way from mastering this skill, but thinking of this episode with Jake and Miles does remind me of the importance of practicing it."

There are countless stories such as this one that we hear of. It never ceases to amaze me that we, as trainers, can contribute to such positive life changes.

Have you made a difference in someone's life today?

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