It is the morning before the service dog test, not sure what I feel but I know I’m nervous. Months before today we were concentrating on how to teach our dog; now we must show that we paid attention in class, listened and learned. Our dog is a black 35-pound mutt. We know this for a fact because we had a DNA test done.
Our search for a dog began almost a year ago when we decided that a medical-alert dog would be just what we needed. Mind you, we started this whole process with research. Don’t know what prompted us to make the first move but we did. Did lots of research on medical-alert sniffer dogs, then read the books about a dog’s nose and even bought a book on how to train a dog to sniff. Had to read that one a few times.
Did you know to buy a trained service dog you first have to fill out paperwork about your lifestyle to help them find a dog with the correct personality and then they tell you the cost and quickly provide information on how you can raise the $45,000? You get a call back in a few days to find out that a certain type of dog would be best for you. The waiting list is very long and it could be as long as five years or it could be as short as three. We were excited and depressed all at the same time. Inside my head I was yelling “do more research. Maybe you can find one cheaper.” My heart said, ‘“Just keep looking. You know there is a dog for you out there somewhere.” So, we started the search.
We spent months going to pounds looking for a medium-sized, short-hair dog, housebroken, active but not too much, a gentle sort of dog.
All of this was so new to us. We all know about seeing-eye dogs, police dogs and cadaver dogs but have you ever thought any farther than “wow that’s interesting”? We were in such awe and amazed at what a dog could do. They can smell things from across the room. They feel your moods; now that may not always be a good thing. Here we are finding out the capabilities of dogs, all kinds of dogs. So we narrowed our dog search to certain breeds such as cattle dogs or herding dogs, short-hair, female, around 35 pounds give or take a few, willing to work for us, not aggressive but playful.
We were now on the search for the perfect dog; they do not exist. We went to every pound, rescue center and household looking for the dog we could love and train. Keep in mind we know nothing about training a dog outside of what we did with our previous pets and the books we read.
We were confident and told everyone what we were looking for and why. Not one of them recommended a trainer until we went to a very small shelter in Apache Junction. The woman there was so helpful and recommended a nonprofit organization based in Apache Junction called Paws4Life. Her praise was so glowing that we called Tuni House, the trainer who runs this group; her phone number is 480-288-5174 in case you need doggie help. From the first phone conversation to present day each time we talked to Tuni she is a wealth of information which allayed our fears.
That first contact included questions from her about what we wanted the dog for and our willingness to work, did we want to get a puppy and go through the puppy stage i.e.: potty training, having things chewed up, if not then move on to an older dog. Our confidence grew as we narrowed down dog after dog. We knew we were on the right path. In September 2016 we found three dogs we liked. The phone call to Tuni helped us make the correct decision. Now Tuni never asked for money, never said you have to sign a contract and use her services. This impressed us a whole lot. The other trainers wanted us to pay them for the information and if they looked at a dog to evaluate it that would cost more. Paws4Life is there to train us to train our dog.
All of the trainers who volunteer their time and knowledge and lots of patience to put up with my tears, fears and all of my other emotions to teach me and that is the hardest part. Dogs love to learn, people like me rebel, grip and complain.
Many thanks are not even close to what I feel for Paws4Life and its trainers. Today we have a certified service dog, a loving companion and playmate. She is part of our family. Didn’t think this came without work. It is work but once you get those skills and into the routine you and your dog become one, a team. So now we have a wonderful, trained, happy, working pet added to our family.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Paws4Life.