A Journey For Another Service Dog

Hello, Dog World! A quick recap for many who know and some who do not know. In December, Zues passed away. He was what I called the unofficial Athens Walmart mascot because when we were out, we always stopped into Walmart.

Meet Zoey. She is training to become my next service dog. It may surprise a lot of people that many have already met Zoey. She is the black and white dog on the Limestone Veterinarian commercial that we see when we go to the Athens Cinemagic Theater. That’s right, I adopted her from the pound. As far as I can tell, she has Border Collie and Blue Heeler mix. So why Zoey for my next service dog? Let me explain what, in my opinion, makes a good service dog (SD).

First, the person looking to get an SD must have a documented disability. I say documented because there are those who just want to take their dog into every place they can, so they tell people that their dog is an SD. In a lot of cases, these frauds cannot truly control their dog and the dog does what it wants, like barking at people or doing other things no one would see an SD do. An SD, a true SD, regardless whether they are in training or not will remain calm and not think everyone has to pay it attention. Zoey is in training, and I limit the attention that the public wishes to bestow on her. So, when I tell someone she is still training, I am not trying to be rude. I am trying to politely keep anyone from breaking her training that I have successfully built upon. Can an SD have a bad day and act like a regular dog? Yes, if the circumstances were just right. That is why, even after the SD completes their training, we always reinforce their training.

Now when looking for a service dog, always let the dog pick you. Zoey chose me, and I was not looking to find her. But that is how God works. Just because they are beautiful to look upon or cute does not necessarily make them the ideal SD. Unless someone is dealing with a reputable breeder that has the proven track record of producing an SD for their certain disability, I would always recommend meeting the potential SD and see if they choose you. Depending on your disability and need, always consider what your SD is needed to do. If they are for pre-seizure alert, they should have an outstanding sense of smell. A dog with a mashed in muzzle does not normally fit this criteria. Zoey, in my case, does because she has a long muzzle ideal for a strong sense of smell. She will be my next diabetic alert dog, and she will be able to alert me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour whether my sugar levels will be going high or low. She also carries my medicines, just as Zues did for me. Let me say that just because the dog has a mashed muzzle does not disqualify it as an SD. There are other disabilities that need an SD and do not require a strong sense of smell.

Secondly, federal law allows for anyone who is able and willing to train their own SD. Many of us do not want this headache, so we hire someone or we go to a private entity that charges a huge sum of money. If the option is to train your own SD, they must have basic obedience taught to them. After the basics are taught, we can build on what the SD knows and then get to the advanced levels of training which will lead to their SD training. If one decides to purchase an SD, investigate the company claiming to “certify” their training. The law states there is no certification; so be careful. Also, be aware of any contracts signed with the entity claiming to train your SD; many have a hidden clause stating that if the SD is not fully paid for by a certain date, the entity can take the SD back. I always recommend training the SD yourself because one can customize the training exactly as needed. Most companies or businesses that train SDs just train with a “cookie cutter” style of “one size fits all.”

Zoey has done her public access training and she has done well. She is now training for her diabetic alert abilities, and she has blossomed in this area with surprising speed. Her trainer has stated that she has caught on faster than expected. I cannot wait for her to finish training and watch her alert.

Again, everyone please welcome Zoey into our community, and when we are out, say a quick “Hello” but don’t cause Zoey to break her training because then I will correct her and she will learn. I hope this article helps everyone understand about SDs and if anyone has questions feel free to call me.

“Remember to love your dogs because they love you. Maybe not the way you want them to, like chewing up your favorite shoes or what not, but that is just love chewing. Be thankful for the time you have with them always.”
By: Joel and Zues Allen