Hi everyone. I gotta tell you, I had the greatest morning of my life yesterday, and I am so excited to be able to share it with all of you.
This is Blossom. Isn’t she beautiful? Blossom is one of the dogs that I got to meet yesterday at APAW (American Poodles At Work). Blossom is hopefully a mom to be right now, and hopefully she is carrying one of the puppies that we hope to bring home with us for Willy in a few months. But Blossom is so much more than just a dog. She is so smart and willing to teach those who are interested in learning about service dogs.
But I’m getting head of myself. Sometimes I feel like it’s best to start a story in the middle, rather than from the beginning, so let’s go back. Shall we?
I was interested in doing some community service, and since our application is active with APAW, I figured that was the best place to start. My mother and I took a ride to APAW yesterday morning to meet the owner and the dogs, but what we got was so much more than I ever anticipated.
As my mother and I were trying to find the entrance to the building, a boy was outside with us trying to do the same. Once we found our way to the waiting area, the same boy from before, his mom, and their dog (a shaggy, black poodle) made their way inside as well. We all took a seat in the waiting area, and I was already in awe of how this boy and his dog interacted. The dog immediately took a seat by his human, and had one paw on his foot. His mother noticed me watching them, and casually introduced herself to us. She introduced her son and his dog “Arwen” to me and my mother, and we were just in awe of this dog and what he does for his human.
The owner of APAW came over and greeted us all, and was thrilled that we all had already met. It was a wonderful coincidence that this family happened to be there exactly when we were, because this was the introduction that she was hoping for, for us.
As we spoke, Arwen casually walked around, going from person to person, sniffing them out, while frequently checking in with her human (the boy). And every time Arwen checked in with her human, he gave her a treat from a small bag that was clipped around his waist. He praised her with a “good girl, Arwen” and gave her a belly rub.
The boy and his mother told us all kinds of stories about what it’s like to have a service dog, and they were wonderful about answering all of our questions. As we were talking, the owner of APAW would bring out different dogs to show us, and had us watch various tasks that the dogs are able to do. It was brilliant!
This is Charley. Charlie is one of APAW’s breeding dogs. Isn’t he handsome?
But the best part of all, was when I got to ask the boy and his mom some important questions that had been on my mind. I asked him what his dog did for him when he was having a tough time when he was out in public with his family, and his answer was like music to my ears. The boy told me that when Arwen “senses” any kind of panic or anxiety, she immediately distracts him. She gives him a playful nudge or makes him walk her. And sometimes, she’ll put her head in his lap and apply some light pressure with head rolls, to show him that she’s there for him.
It took everything in my power not to cry right then and there.
The owner of APAW told us some of the amazing things that they also teach their dogs to do. For example, they train ALL of their dogs in “search and rescue.” For example, if Willy and I went for a hike in the woods and we got separated, all Willy would have to say is “go find mom!” And his dog would literally bring him to me. HOW COOL IS THAT?
They are also teaching their dogs how to apply the right amount of “pressure” when it comes to sensory overload. The dog will learn from their human what they need, how much and how often, and went to back off. I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was. Willy will also learn that HE is his dog’s human. Jason and I will play second fiddle in this dogs life, because this dog will be tailor trained for our boy!
The last question that I asked the boy, was one that I was going to ask at first, but then decided not to. But because this family was so warm and open with us, I decided to give it a go anyway. I asked the boy if he’s able to tell people, not to touch his dog when he’s out in public. And even though Arwen wears a service dog vest when she is out with her human, I could tell that, that was a tough question for the boy to answer. And he shyly answered with a “no.” This boy had a hard time making eye contact with me throughout our meeting, and I could tell that any kind of confrontation is tough for him, so I looked to his mom to see what she usually says when they’re out. She explained very nicely that people don’t realize that service dogs are “working” just about all the time, so they don’t think to ask if they can pet his dog, so the command that they use is (and I love it) is “NO soliciting” and immediately the dog stands at attention.
I thought that was the most brilliant thing that I’ve ever heard!!!! She told me that people usually back right off, and when her son feels more comfortable using that command, he will, but in the meantime, he looks to his mom for help.
In less than a year, this will be us! I can’t tell you how excited I am about the prospect of my son having his own service dog. He will have a four-legged companion, who will help him and be there for him, during every moment of his young life. His companion will learn to sense out Willy’s anxiety, help him to control his impulses, due to his ADHD, and help him find his way in the world that won’t bend for him, due to autism. This dog will be so important to/for us as a family, and now I know that it’s really going to happen.
Blossom, who is pictured above, is in heat and was mated twice this week. In two months time (hopefully) puppies will be born, and (hopefully) eight weeks after that, we’ll get to take one home with us. I’ve never been much of a praying person, but I am praying that Willy gets a puppy soon, and that he can start his journey just like the boy that we met yesterday.
Have a great day everyone.
Here’s the website for APAW http://www.americanpoodlesatwork.org