BY ZIVA (The Wonder Dog)
Simply stated, my job is to make my person’s life easier by helping with daily tasks.
My training is extensive and I can help my person in many ways. I’m not as specialized as some of my peers, like seeing eye dogs or hearing specialists; however, my job is just as important. My duties involve helping with daily routine tasks such as:
- Mobility assistance – I walk alongside my person’s wheelchair and stay close when they are able to walk to help them balance.
- Alert function – I keep a watch for times my person seems anxious or has nightmares. While I don’t understand PTSD, I recognize the symptoms and help my person get through those feelings. I’m in-tune with my person’s emotions better than many people. I sense when things are not right, before the situation can get worse.
- Pick-up function – This may seem like nothing, but picking up things that fall or bringing things to my person is a big help and I do it well. I can open the refrigerator and bring a bottle of water. I can help get laundry out of the dryer and put it on the bed or where it’s convenient. I can open drawers and doors for my person. I help them get up and down out of chairs and their bed. I cover my person with their blanket at naptime or at night and then go to my bed close by.
- Asking for help – I’m trained to alert others when help is needed.
- As a service dog, I go wherever my person goes – it’s the law (federal, in fact). I help my person be independent. All someone can ask is whether I’m a service dog and what services I provide; my person doesn’t need to have any papers to prove it.
- I’m trained to stay focused on my person and the task at hand so that I can anticipate what my person needs and respond instantly. This was not easy to learn and I appreciate when we’re out that other people seem to know that I’m at work and don’t want to be petted or distracted.
- I was in training for two years so that I’m classified as a fully trained service dog.It cost about $25,000 for all that training.
- I learned not to be distracted by sudden noises and to keep my composure in any situation.
- I’m certified as an AKC Canine Good Citizen and have passed my Assistance Dogs International Public Access test.
As a Labrador Retriever, I’m one of the typical dog breeds suited to be a service dog. My Golden Retriever buddies are also good service dogs. Some of us are bred from birth for this line of work; however, some are rescue dogs that have the characteristics to make good service dogs. We all need to be:
- Calm natured (not easily distracted)
- Alert but not reactive (no running off after squirrels while on the job)
- Willing to please (I excel at pleasing my person; I hear it every day.)
- Need to be with my person – I stay close always – that’s my job
- Socialized – I can go with the flow with the best of them and adapt to any environment
- Trained easily and remember – once I learn something, it’s learned
I’m off duty when my harness and collar come off. I love to do things all dogs like:
- Fetch – gotta catch that ball and bring it back. I don’t think my person realizes what good exercise this is for them and for me; let’s keep this a secret, ok?
- Run – my yard is fenced so I can run, run, run all I want. I patrol the perimeter every chance I get to make sure no other animals invade my space. Believe me, they hear me coming when I decide to bark a warning.
- Chill – when I relax, I relax all over – nothing like a good long stretch. Give me my blanket or a soft pillow and I’m out for the count. My doggy dreams are fantastical escapades of daring and victorious adventures.