30 August 2007

The National Service Dog

A few years ago, while at a freeway service center, I noticed someone with a puppy at the food court. This puppy, although small, was wearing a jacket such as those worn by working guide dogs. I learned that this puppy was in training; becoming familiar with many indoor public locations in preparation for the full time training he would receive from professionals before becoming a full fledged service dog. The puppy raiser would only have the dog for just over a year, and several months later would be invited to attend it's graduation and meet the dog's new owner. I made a mental note at the time that puppy raising was something that I would like to do.

A couple of years later, my son and I attended an open house for Guide Dogs in Oakville, and learned more about this facinating service. Demonstrations were given to show what these fully trained dogs were capable of doing to assist their owner, be they blind, deaf, or quadraplegic. At the time, we did not have a suitable home for puppy raising, and so it remained a dream.

And then, a series of connected events occured over the summer; the dog show in July got me thinking of dogs again, a chance meeting with a guide dog owner in early August informed me of another service dog school which was closer to home, and wouldn't you know it, their annual open house was to be held the following weekend. Of course we went, and two days later we had our seven week old service puppy. Zephyr. A Labrador/Golden Retreiver cross. Cute, smart, and teething. And not house broken. We suddenly had our hands full.

The National Service Dog organization trains dogs to work with children with autism. Their dogs have been very successful in helping keep these children safe, as well as calming them, which allows them to focus in class, and to better interact with others. As a puppy raiser, I see that Zephyr gets out to lots of public venues, and experiences a wide range of things. I take him to obedience class taught through the organization, and follow up with daily practice. And for a little over a year, he is with us to enjoy. And paint. This painting was done from a picture taken the first day we got him.


Annie said...

Wow, Zephyr looks so much older than this now

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful painting of Zephyr....
We have one of his sibling s, a sister, Zandra, and she has been a joy to train and work with. She will make some wonderful child an amazing companion.