Service Dogs

My body just didn’t want to get up for a run this morning. I was exhausted. So I slept in another hour, and it felt goooooooood. I made myself a delicious pot of coffee, had bfast, and headed out the door.

When I got on the bus this morning I saw a friendly, familiar face. A very nice blind gentleman, accompanied by his guide dog, whom I’ve seen a few times before. So many things about this guy, his dog, and Boulder’s bus system amaze me. It’s so cool that this man can get around town via public transportation, confidently and safely. Bus drivers always have to announce what stop they’re approaching, so this man knew when to get off. His dog was gorgeous: a strong, attentive, engaged golden retriever. She didn’t flinch when new people got on the bus, she sat close to her owner, leaning into him to confirm his presence.

In college, a group of my friends and I were part of a program where we trained two service dogs, Rocko and Bebe. It was no easy task. They were being trained for companionship and assistance for people with degenerative disabilities or those in wheels chairs. We taught Rocko and Bebe basic things like sit, stay, heel, come, go, loose-leash walking, army crawl, and even tried to teach them how to open doors. We used clickers and dog food to reinforce positive behavior, and the dogs wore these adorable purple “service dog in training” vests whenever we went out in public. Clickers were all over our house and hands were always covered in dog slobber.

Rocko as a puppy
Taking Rocko out in public

We “fostered” the two dogs until they were about a year and a half old, then had to hand them back to the organization for intensive training. There, they learned the bigger stuff (pushing wheelchairs, calling 911, etc.) and were finally matched and integrated with their new owners.

Service dogs, in general, blow me away. I’m so lucky to have had that experience in college and to learn all the work that goes into training a service dog. Now, I can’t wait to get my own dog that I won’t have to say goodbye to after a year. Next August when my lease ends, I’m thinking of moving to a new place and adopting a puppy… can’t wait :)

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