So, this is awkward.
You may have followed the adventures of Mindy as she prepared to serve as a Guide Dog for the Blind, and her return to the GDB campus in early March. Then I stopped updating, at first because I was waiting for news and then because I had news and I was waiting for an outcome.
Apparently she was doing well, acing pretty much all the weird stuff they threw at her — all that socialization and practice paid off! — but then there was some sort of weird episode. It was observed and reported by a single volunteer, and not any of the training staff, so without any disrespect intended to the volunteer, I just don’t have all the details I want. But it put Mindy’s career in jeopardy. There are obviously very high standards which must be maintained when placing a dog in literal life-or-death service work. Continue reading
Today was the day. I delivered Mindy to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Mindy had done several kennel stays locally in the last two months, where I paid for extra playtime and stuffed Kongs and all the good things that would make her love staying in kennels, and indeed she was excited to enter the kennel lobby and trotted happily away with staff without ever looking back. This was important to me because I didn’t want her worrying about being left at GDB.
Just before turn-in.
It worked: today she sat for the GDB kennel worker to put on her leash, and then she went straight away with her, walking nicely, ears and tail up, sitting on cue. It was about as painless and stress-free as possible for her. (Me? I was doing fine until the GPS countdown hit single digits. Not gonna lie, I cried. But to be fair, I did more prep work for Mindy.)
Last November — yes, I’m more than a little behind on posting — Mindy took a trip with me down to my aunt’s ranch in Texas. I knew this would be an exciting trip for her for a variety of reasons, not least of which that the ranch is a seriously cool place for puppies to explore, with lizards, snakes, rabbits, deer, boar, turkeys, and many other things. (Some of these are fun to watch or even chase; some should be explored by sniffing their tracks only.)
The ranch is big, but not so big that a dog couldn’t find her way off it and get into local trouble. I would never have allowed Laev off-leash even for a moment there, if I’d ever taken her; Laev would have tangled with a rattlesnake and then chased a rabbit or deer straight off into a neighboring sheep ranch. There’s a ranch gate on the road which for years has been decorated with the hanging bodies of the latest coyotes or dogs which had been shot while hunting or harassing their stock. Continue reading
Today the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival goes live! And today I realize that probably the week before Christmas isn’t the ideal time. I heard from several people that they wanted to participate, but just hadn’t had time to get a post done and submitted.
But you know what? We’re all about accessibility and doing what you’re able here at the ADBC, and so we aren’t judging. If you get your posts to me later today or even later this week, I’ll just add them as they arrive. (And remember, you don’t have to be a service dog trainer or user to participate! All are welcome to share their thoughts and experiences.)
And this might be a good thing, because it lets me spotlight a very honest and thoughtful post from Jeremy Medlock, who is training his own dog to aid him. Service dog work isn’t all romantic key-fetching or traffic-stopping — sometimes it is doing what dogs do best, being quietly supportive and there for us, a bias-free slate. I encourage you to read this from someone who uses a dog for an “invisible” disability and is brave enough to discuss why. Continue reading
Hey, everyone! I know it’s busy, between holidays, and I know I’m several blog posts behind myself (I want to share posts with you about ignoring the vacuum cleaner and driving 2600 miles with a puppy), but just in case — the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival submission deadline has been extended.
The new date is December 16th, to allow more people to get their posts ready. You can see the guidelines here and remember, you need not be a user or trainer to participate! Any relevant post is welcome.
I look forward to seeing your work!
Don’t do this.
I stopped on my way into the shop to take a photo of the sign on their door. Then I went in, did my shopping, and then gently mentioned during checkout that they might want to revise the wording on their no-pets sign to be more accommodating (and legally acceptable). The shop owners, two women behind the counter, were not aware that their wording was exclusive to many users of service dogs and also not even feasible — there is no such thing as “ADA-certified” — and were eager to learn more. One took notes as I answered questions.
The clerk at a convenience store smiled as Mindy and I approached the counter to pay for my drink. “Your dog is cute, ” she said. “What exactly does she do for you?”
I explained that I was training Mindy, that she didn’t assist me or anyone yet, but that in general it was considered unmannerly to ask a user of a service dog about their medical issues. The young woman hadn’t realized the implication of her question and agreed that it could be invasive.
Most violations of service animal law are not intentional, or even from a position against service animals. Many people use “Seeing Eye dog” as a generic term, without realizing that the Seeing Eye is just one specific organization training dogs for just one specific disability. Saying “Seeing Eye dogs only” is like saying only persons with a specific brand of wheelchair may enter — but their intentions were probably friendly. Continue reading
I’ve been given the opportunity to host the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, a collection of relevant blog posts on the topic of service dogs and their people.
This edition of the ADBC will go live on December 16, 2014. This round’s theme is:
This is an official call for posts! If you’d like to participate, write a post on service dogs, interpreting the theme “perceive” in any way you like. Continue reading
Mindy joined me at Gen Con this year. Because you can’t buy that kind of socialization experience. What is Gen Con, you may ask? Well, “Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction and adventure game convention in North America. Gen Con, The Best Four Days In Gaming!™”
(Actually, I think it’s the world’s largest?)
Mindy wasn’t the only service dog at Gen Con. Here’s an assistance dog appearing as Sir Didymus (from Labyrinth).
It’s a gaming (and SFF, miniatures, film, etc.) convention which takes over much of Indianapolis each year. I posted on Facebook that Mindy wasn’t impressed by the 60,000 people, but that was an exaggeration; this year’s actual count was 56, 614 attendees. But of course, most of those people came more than one day, so turnstile attendance was 184,699. The con runs five days, but Mindy attended only three, including the two busiest. And she was a rock star. Rock star, I tell you. Continue reading
Bear spray (Photo credit: jkbrooks85)
I was listening to a short podcast with Seth Freeman on negotiation — “be hard on the problem, soft on the person” — and there was a moment that I just had to grab and share with you. Continue reading
Many clicker trainers are familiar with what is almost universally known by the ridiculously simple name of The Training Game. It’s a shaping game played among humans, and most often a learner is sent from the room while the group determines a (physically and socially safe) behavior to shape, and then a trainer shapes the learner with the clicker to perform the chosen behavior.
There are a number of variations on this game, many useful. The trainer (and observers) can learn a great deal by doing this! and it’s a great way to test various training concepts and approaches. There is a variation I have not used in nearly a decade, however, with good reason: It broke the learner.