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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Varah and Her New Partner

Varah’s new partner is working hard to establish a good relationship with Varah, and Varah is responding well. We’ve been doing daily home visits for them to learn to work together, with lots of bonding time.

Varah is a fully trained service dog who has done a fantastic job mitigating my disability during the time that she has worked for me, and very soon we will be training her to do diabetes alert for her intended new partner. I have no doubt that Varah will excel at that task because she already understands the concept of alerting to my medical condition (which is NOT diabetes) and also does well at the general scent discrimination training games that we play.

In the next day or so Varah is going to have her first overnight stay, and in the meantime her new partner is preparing the scent samples for Varah to train with.

It’s an exciting time for all of us!  🙂



Varah’s Vocabulary

This is a partial list of Varah’s Vocabulary that I am making for her new partner, and I thought that I would share it here. I will add more to it later, but right now we need to get ready to take Varah over for another in-home visit with her new partner, and today we plan to give them some alone time to get to know each other better, thus the need for a written list of the words that Varah knows and exactly what they mean to her.

Sit – Usual dog sit position

Lie – Usual dog lying down position. This is her default position for waiting under the table in a restaurant or to give her something to do if she is alerting or otherwise poking you, and you are already addressing the problem need a break from the “Touching”.

Touch – She pokes with her nose to get your attention to alert to your medical condition, but on her own she learned to do it to get my attention when she needs to go outside. If she wants to go outside, she will run toward the door and back to you between poking. It’s easy to tell the difference.

Stand – She rises to her feet to let you put on her Packs or to allow you to brace yourself on her shoulders to help you stand up.

Stay – Used to get her to hold a position such as Lie, Sit or Stand. Give command as: “Lie, Stay” or “Sit, Stay”

Heel – She should walk beside you, well focused on you, turning and stopping etc when you do. For myself, I do NOT require an automatic “Sit” when stopping, because lots of public places are dirty, or there may be water puddles or snow that I would rather she did not have to sit in…

Come – When you say “Come” she should present herself directly in front of you, making eye contact. For myself, I do NOT require a “sit” when she arrives.

Stand, Stay – She braces herself so that you can brace yourself on her to get up if you have fallen. Be sure to only put weight near her shoulders, above her front legs, and not lower on her back.

Take _______ – “Take” tells her to pick up something that is nearby and in sight, or has a permanent location. “Take Phone” “Take Socks” Etc.

Find _______ – “Find” tells her to go search for an item that is not nearby in sight, and which usually does not have permanent location. “Find dish” “Find ball”

Give – She will hand an object to you.

Tug – She takes an object in her mouth and pulls on it

Open – Usually by pulling on a cloth or rope tied to drawer or door that needs to be pulled open (she does however understand doors pretty well and knows that sometimes they open by pushing.

Shut – She pushes with her nose to Shut a door or drawer that is already open. She has generalized doors and drawers quite well and does cabinet doors and refrigerator doors as well as the ones that you walk through.

Go – Go directs her to walk. She will walk in the direction that you point.

Go In – “Go in” directs her to go into the space under a chair, table or bench or church pew to be out of the way, especially in a public place where she needs to wait. Also for crate or any other such area to which it would logically apply.

Up – Up tells her to go to a higher elevation, such as a couch or bed. “Go up”

Down – “Down” does not mean to assume a lying position, it directs her to go to a lower elevation if she is up on a bed or couch. You would say, “Go down”.

Paws Up – Directs her to put her paws up on something that you indicate.

That – “That” indicates an object for which you are not sure she knows the name. Point to an object and say, “Take That” to have her pick it up. Also, when teaching her a new object word, say, “That’s Monitor” for example, if you would like her to fetch your blood sugar monitor, (which I would recommend)   Then tell her “Touch Monitor” and “Take Monitor” until she learns the word. In the case of the monitor, find a good sturdy case with a handle on it to keep Monitor in, and keep an extra one in a permanent place that is easily accessible to her and teach her where it is.

Leave It – “Leave It” tells her not to touch or bother a certain thing.

Excuse Me – It means she is in the way and will move for you. It pays to be polite!

Rug – Can be a towel or blanket or an actual “rug” for her to lie on for a bed. It also provides a boundary that relieves stress if you need her to stay in one spot, but she doesn’t have to hold a certain position, only confine herself to the rug. It is like crating without the crate. Tell her “Lie on your Rug, Stay. Stay on your Rug”.

Wait – “Wait” is for when she needs to exercise some control, usually before she is about to do something that she knows you are going to ask or allow her to do, like not diving into the food before you put it down, or jumping in or out of a vehicle. However, she is trained to wait for your invitation before getting in or out of a vehicle, so it would be unlikely that you would need it for that situation at this point.

Flip Light – She uses her nose to turn on a light. If it is already on, “Flip Light” will get her to pull it down the other way, and she usually uses her front teeth for that. If the light is above her head you need to teach her the location and provide a chair or something for her to reach it.

Potty – “Potty” is the area that you have designated for her to relieve herself in, not the act of doing it or the excrement itself.

Pee Pee – Urine. This tells her to relieve herself, and it’s a good idea before going somewhere to ask her to do that. She will usually ‘try’ and manage to do a little bit even if she has already done it  recently.

Poop – Feces. Like the above, it reminds her to get on with it if she has to ‘go’.

Socks – She recognizes socks and can find them if you send her on a search, or better yet, keep them in a specific place so that she can fetch you a clean pair when you’re ready to put on your shoes. (Unless you just want to play the “Find It” game, which she enjoys)

Kong – She loves her kong!

Ball – She likes balls of all sizes and will happily go find you one if you ask.

Dish – She recognizes all bowl shaped containers as “Dish” and will fetch it for you, and especially loves bringing you her own so you can put something in it.

Stuffy – A stuffed animal. We usually name them “Stuffy Bear” or “Stuffy Rabbit” to differentiate between them. She especially likes the ones with squeekers, but will randomly perform a ‘squeekectomy’ on them!

Phone – “Phone” refers more to the container that I keep the emergency phone in to protect the phone, rather than the phone itself.

There are more which I will add later…

Just Suppose…

Note: This post is mostly for those who do NOT have a disability. Those of you who do have such challenges are of course very well aware of the limitations and frustrations involved.

I usually advocate that people visualize only good and positive things for themselves, but for the sake of illustration I would like for you to imagine that YOU were to acquire a disability that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities. It would be impossible for me to provide a comprehensive list of examples, given the variety of unfortunate possiblities, but for our demonstration I will use some common disabilities that most people are familiar with.

Suppose that you could not hear. (That can occur for a variety of reasons, you don’t have to be born that way) You can learn sign language to communicate, but door bells, normal alarm clocks, and smoke alarms are useless to you. You cannot hear your child or spouse call your name, and you don’t know when someone rings the door bell.

What if you could hire an employee whose only job was to stay at your side and tell you when your baby cried or to warn you if the smoke alarm goes off, and to wake you in the morning when s/he hears the alarm clock?

Or suppose that you have diabetes. (That can happen unexpectedly too) You have to test your blood sugar level throughout the day and night, but sometimes the levels can still become unexpectedly high or low, even though the food that you have been eating seemed appropriate for the amount of insulin that you had. You can’t always tell when it is happening, and the situation can be life threatening.

What if you could hire an employee who had a “magical” ability to know when your blood sugar was rising or falling and could let you know precisely when it was at a level that is getting unsafe, but well before it is too late to do anything about it?

Suppose that you could not walk, (Yes, that too, could happen to YOU) or perhaps even if you can move yourself from place to place, it’s too painful for you to bend over and pick up an object from the floor. If you drop your pen in the middle of writing an important document and can’t otherwise get to another one, you have to hope that you don’t have a deadline, because it is just more than you can handle to get down there to get it.

What if you could hire an employee whose only focus is to wait upon you to the best of his or her ability, picking up what you drop, fetching items that you commonly use, helping you with some of your clothing, or bringing you a drink or snack?

Further suppose that this employee is completely non-judgmental, unobtrusive, dedicated and loyal, and loves you with all of his or her heart and their greatest joy in life is to be beside you serving you as best they can. You don’t have to feel guilty that they have devoted their lives to helping you live a more full and normal life. You love them too, and together you make a great team.

Yes, of course I’m talking about a Service Dog.  🙂

Service Dogs are excellent “employees” who do all of those things and more, enriching the lives of their “employers” and allowing a disabled person to overcome some of the difficulties of living with a disability.

Suppose again that you could not hire this employee because your income is limited by the very disability that you need the employee for…

One last supposition – Suppose that YOU could make a difference in the life of someone who lives with the reality of a disability such those just mentioned?

Here is your chance to help someone who can’t afford the cost of Service Dog Training.

We’d like to help as many people as possible who suffer from disabilities and who desire the Assistance of a Service Dog. If you qualify or know someone that does, you can help by referring them to us and/or make a donation by clicking the Donation button at the top of the page. Thank you in advance…..

Varah Has Found Her New Partner!

We have found Varah’s new partner!  I will now tailor Varah’s tasks to best meet her partner’s needs as we take the time to let them get to know each other and learn to work together. We will do this part of the process slowly so that Varah does not get confused or upset.

Some of you who did not originally train your own dog will probably remember fondly the beginning of the relationship when you first met and began to work with your dog. That is usually an exciting time for everyone!

When it is evident that Varah is comfortable with her new friend, and shows signs of attachment and works eagerly for her, then we will begin the final transfer which will consist of an intense couple of weeks that we all spend together as the human partner is leashed to her new service dog while I supervise and give instructions on all aspects of living with a service dog and utilizing the tasks that Varah is trained to do for her.

So far they are hitting it off well!  🙂



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