I saw this video first as a commercial on TV for moments.org. The veteran also has a brain injury and faces many of the same problems I have. Her service dog changed her life. My hope is that Riley will one day do the same for me.
Riley is doing great in his training. He is ready to take his Canine Good Citizen test. He is working hard on his public access manners.
Last Friday, I visited him and the training team. I started to learn how to do basic trimming and grooming of his coat. We then worked on walking together and practiced the access test. He has to learn me as a handler. Then, connect me with the rest of his task training.
He started to learn a couple of his tasks last month. Right now, he is working on recognizing and responding to auditory overload, bracing, and standing between me and people who are crowding or upsetting me. He demonstrated his progress last Friday.
I was recently diagnosed with a seizure disorder. My friend, Carol, drove me to see Riley last Friday. Riley was practicing responding to my cue for sensory overload. I clamp my hands to my ears. He was not consistently understanding the cue from me, as I am a bit different from his trainer. He’s also in the starting stages of,learning the task. Carol made the suggestion they couple a loud noise with the task. Loud noise means Riley “checks in” with me to see if I am managing. To demonstrate what happens, she suddenly clapped her hands sharply. My hands went to my ears and I stepped backwards. Riley stepped in between me and Carol. Then, he looked up at me. He performed a task in a real situation, without prompting.
That is one of the many challenges of being a service dog. Riley had to choose between two tasks. He did both. However, he will eventually have to know what task to do, when. He will have to make independent decisions about my welfare and what he needs to do. In addition, he can’t become “alpha” in the partnership. He still has to defer leadership to me in most situations. Thus, the long period of training before a dog earns the title “service dog.”