Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Service Dog

Over a year ago Kreed visited his O.T.'s farm and she had lab puppies. For the first time that I've ever seen Kreed was interested in an animal. Normally he just ignores them. So we got to thinking and researching. When it comes to Kreed if he is interested in anything we will make it happen. Service Dogs are expensive and a huge undertaking with wait lists and all kinds of things when going through a company. Also Kreed would not grow up with it, rather he would get it as an adult already and Kreed was actually afraid of larger dogs. 

After much consideration and research I realized basically they use applied behavior analysis to teach the dogs. Considering I was extremely proficient in these procedures, we decided perhaps I could do the bulk of the training and raise a service dog from a puppy. Pretty much after we made that decision, we took Kreed to the same place the O.T. had gotten her lab within the next week. We were lucky and she had just had a litter ready to go home. We took Kreed and she brought up the first few puppies and they were cute etc. Finally she brought up the last two puppies. And one was his. I knew it instantly. Kreed's mom Carie new it instantly. The puppy just looked up at us with his eyes making eye contact and holding our stare. And when he was put down, he instantly crawled onto Kreed's lap and Kreed started petting him. And so we knew. There was no other consideration. He was Kreed's. he knew it and we knew it. We did do some temperament testing that we had been instructed to do for future service dogs and he passed perfectly. So little puppy Cinna came home with us. We named the puppy Cinna after the Hunger Games character for the qualities we had hoped he would emulate. 

Ad so began Kreed's life with Cinna as a puppy to now adulthood. Kreed has never been afraid of dogs again since having Cinna in his life. Cinna grew up with Kreed and so all of his movements and sounds have never phased him in the least. Cinna has always seemed to understand Kreed was different. Cinna was never a hyper puppy and learned commands quickly and was growing into a fine young pup. The amazing thing is so many things Cinna does for Kreed he does without being told. Cinna will go to Kreed as soon as he hears him upset- never taught but reinforced definitely by us. He tries to stop Kreed from harming himself, he will bark if Kreed gets too intense and Kreed has understood that to mean he needs to calm down. Cinna will also apply pressure to Kreed when he is upset to calm him down. 

In fact the other day I was cleaning his bathroom and I heard Kreed upset but also heard Cinna. Apparently Kreed had gotten upset and Cinna went to take care of it himself- he had planted himself on Kreed's lap and wasn't going to budge so Kreed could not harm himself. Because Kreed was trying to get Cinna off etc, he was unable to harm himself!! It was awesome. Also anytime Kreed tried to bite, Cinna would nudge his arm and hand away from his mouth. It was so amazing to see Cinna doing all of this without being told. He recognized Kreed's increased anxiety and frustration and stopped a tantrum. I was so proud. 

I finally began to take Kreed on my store outings with Cinna to finish his training for Kreed's bolting. It went like a dream. The best was Kreed actually held onto Cinna's handle!!! Which kept him busy and focused. Ad when Kreed tried to bolt, Cinna held his ground and I'm teaching him to lay when he feels Kreed pull away. Kreed never tried to bolt the rest of the trip which is a rarity. I felt a lot safer with Cinna there working with Kreed and proud of Kreed for walking Cinna with the handle. 

All in all Cinna has added so much to our lives and Kreed. A few months after we got Cinna we also got another lab, this time a black girl lab. We did this for many reasons and its not always recommended to get two puppies at once but she has been great. Cinna loves and adores his sister and really seems to make him happy when he's not working. Kreed can get intense and having his sister Kindle allows him to just be a dog when he's not working and she also happens to be my awesome sporty lab who dock dives and does agility- my outlet haha. She also loves Kreed and wants to help him through tantrums but a much different temperament. Cinna is Kreed's soul dog ha. 

Do I recommend just anyone train their own service dog? Oh no! It is a lot of work and you have to be ready for it. When I'm not working or working with Kreed, I'm generally training Cinna. A lot of time has gone into making sure he developed correctly into the exact dog we needed for Kreed. I also have extensive, extensive background in behavior- both human and dog, which made me able to understand how to train Cinna correctly. I also reached out when I didn't know how to do something to learn how to do it. So you have to be ready for the time commitment and understanding the mechanics of training some complicated behaviors. For us it was the right decision, Kreed has made an incredible friend for life and Cinna has been invaluable in helping with Kreed. Their adventure is just beginning and I'm already so proud of both of them. I'm sure I'll have many tales to tell about these two. For now enjoy the pictures!!!

Erin, a.k.a. Kreed's best friend and teacher of everything ha.