Not a long post tonight, but it’s an announcement near and dear to my heart.
I got to meet five puppies last weekend. So adorable. Twenty paws scampering about a big yard sniffing everything in sight and wagging their tails at us. The three kids sat on the ground while the puppies came over and greeted them. The joy on their faces…amazing. I couldn’t help but snuggle a few of them. They are all Goldens and all girls. Two were a bit darker golden color and three very blond babies. So much energy in one place was a blast to watch. We were meeting the puppies to see if one of them would be a good match as a service dog for our foster daughter.
A few weeks ago we met with Kaarla Weston of Gilford’s Golden Guardians https://www.facebook.com/gilfords1golden1guardiansllc1/ to talk about service dogs and how they can help kids with disabilities. We have a friend who got a service dog for her son, Charlie. We have been blessed to see how her son has responded to his dog (Count Dooku aka “Dookie”). Dookie brings a calming presence in the midst of anxiety and meltdowns. He is able to search for Charlie, if needed, too.
Our foster daughter has built a great relationship with a friend’s dog, Rose. Our friend noticed that Rose responded to our daughter’s emotional state. When she was getting agitated, Rose would sit right next to her and lean on her. She calmed down and began to pet Rose. That is a completely different reaction than what we normally see when a meltdown approaches. The goal is to prevent the meltdowns and the influx of cortisol that causes a big fight or flight reaction. The less cortisol pumping through her, the better.
We have been researching service dogs and how they are trained for a bit now. Some programs introduce the child to a fully grown dog, but they require that the child and an adult travel to the training program for a two-week intensive stay. Those programs/animals are expensive and require one parent to be away from home (and the other kids) for two weeks. That sort of program doesn’t have the child and the puppy grow together for an extended period of time. It is certainly a quicker, easier way to go, but it seems to me that there may be a possibility that the animal and the child may not be a great match.
The program we are going to work with trains the puppy from the very beginning (8 weeks old) until the pup is approximately a year old. We will work the pup for at least an hour and a half a day and go to two sessions a month with Kaarla. These sessions will help our daughter and the pup learn how to work with each other. I am envisioning some amount of chaos. It is hard to keep our kiddo corralled in one place and listening for any more than a minute at a time. I suppose we are all going to learn some coping skills!
At the end of the training year (maybe a bit earlier if we are quick studies), there will be a test for us and the pup to pass so that she is a licensed, card-carrying, service dog. Between now and then we will be logging lots of hours in the community. We already have a little service dog vest for the pup to wear while we are out and about. The ladies in our local bank said the bank definitely constitutes a “community location” and invited us to spend as much time there as possible. We started reading the training book Kaarla gave us. Everyone in the family is going to learn a great deal about puppies and how to behave around them. I think the benefits will be far-reaching. We are looking forward to this experience and are praying that Logan is blessed beyond measure with her new service dog. I will keep you all posted about this big adventure.
Here is the link for our GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/adogforlogan