The TBI really changed my life. My health care provider recommends I get a service dog to help with some of the symptoms. She thinks a service dog can help improve my life by providing assistance with things like the startle response and sensory overload. Having a dog with me would help with safety and the dog can also make sure I’m in a good location if I “shut down.” I’m excited about it!
The local VA provided me with contact information for the Walla Walla Penitentiary dog training program. Shirley partners with the local Humane Society to get dogs into the program. The dogs are trained by inmates in the minimum security unit. They learn advanced obedience skills and can also have some of the service dog specific tasks trained. Shirley has experience with service dogs and said she can help with some of the more advanced tasks.
I met with Shirley and Precious last week. Shirley interviewed me about what my needs were in regards to a dog. We talked about energy level, my current fur-family, running, etc. We met at a local park and Precious accompanied Shirely. Precious is a two year old Pit Bull mix. She is a sweet dog and will make an excellent companion for someone. She is a terrier, and a bit stubborn. I didn’t see her as fitting into the family. But, if you’re looking for a lovable, loyal, friendly dog for a family pet, Precious may be the dog for you!
After work today, Carol and I went past the Humane Society. I met Scout and Tony. Scout is an 8 month old black lab mix. He is a bundle of energy! Scout learned to sit for a treat within a few minutes and is a bright boy. He is very people-oriented but loves his food. However, he has a very gentle mouth when taking treats, which is a good quality.
Tony is a 6 month old Rottweiler mix. He is scrawny and underweight right now. He just came to the Humane Society as a stray a little over a week ago. He didn’t fair well on his own. He seems to be a calm boy, until it suits his purposes not to be. More about that later. He learned how to sit quickly and takes treats like a gentleman. Tony is also focused on humans and enjoyed a good scratch. I ran a little with him and he was a gentleman on the leash. No tugging. We visited about dinner time but he was more focused on spending time outside with us than the feeding taking place inside. When we took him inside, he demonstrated his puppy abilities. His collar was too loose. He slipped the collar as we were putting him back into the pen. He trotted around the area, inciting the other dogs into a barking frenzy! Carol finally corralled him. Stupid humans. We put the collar back on him, over his head. Um. Like that will work. No, he slipped the leash a second time. Mind you, a full dish of food was in his pen but he wanted to be with us, not back in the pen! He trotted around, clearly keeping us in sight, but as a playful, not fearful action. He came around to the pen. I got his attention with a treat and tossed it in. He’s a hungry puppy. Treats rule. I closed him in and took one final look at his soulful face. I think he’d fit in. Just like my ferrets. Little escape artist with a sense of humor! My friend was taking this picture and somehow got the camera unto video, so it’s like a 3 second clip.
I’m conflicted. I really like both Scout and Tony. They’re wonderful dogs and both can be very successful in the training and a great addition to the family. Part of me leans towards Tony. He’s had a rough go but still retained a gentle nature.
What happens next. After I decide, the dog will be sent to prison! He’ll go to the “care camp” until the next round of training sessions start in four weeks. They’ll start socializing him and getting his weight back on. Then, the training is anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks more. During this time, he’ll have a few weekend “furloughs” to come home. Shirley will observe and work with me to help any problems in the house. If any further training needs to happen, the inmates will be told, so they can work with him. After he graduates, he comes home. At that point, we start with some of the more advanced service dog activities, such as getting him used to being in stores and crowds of people. I have a service dog check-list for him to get the certification he needs.