Sunday, May 2, 2010

Service Dogs

Dakota went in and was neutered on Thursday. We did him early as the vet didn't want to risk the chance of his hormones kicking in and him not listening to me. I was very lucky and the Lion's Club in the area paid for Dakota's vet bill! I had applied for assistance but didn't find out until after the surgery so this was a nice surprise. In return, the vet is making a donation to the Lion's Club - awesome! Dakota and I seem to be touching lives everywhere here. The people at the bank went out and got a treat jar and treats just for Dakota. They surprised me when they offered me a treat to give to Dakota later :) They even commented on how far he has come in the last few months and are very impressed.

I am actually surprised at how well Dakota is being accepted here. This is a very small town and I expected some problems, but everyone has been very accepting and I haven't had one problem. Right now I am working on manners with Dakota, so that the public can pet him. The amazing thing is that people are eager to hear about my disorder and what they can expect from Dakota when he is alerting and how they can help.

I was thinking about it today and Dakota has honestly given me my life back. Yes, I am still severely disabled, but I feel more in control now thanks to him. I liken my sleep intrusions to petit mal seizures and it helps to explain to people what is occurring. The symptoms are very similar, as are the number of seizures/intrusions that you can get per day. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off me and I missed Dakota so much when he was at the vet. I really have come to depend on him to tell me where I am at. The number of alerts he gave per day were scary initially but now I really need Dakota to be there by my side.

I have also been working on trying to get him to settle once he alerts. Because there isn't much I can do to "make it better" there are times when Dakota will alert for hours on end. At home he is learning to settle and I will thank him for the alert and tell him to play with his teddy. When we are out he gets quite vigorous in his alert because he wants me home. The funny thing is that I initially was using the command "stop", which he wouldn't listen to. Now I use the command "settle" and he has taken to that. He knows what "stop" means, but refused to stop alerting.  I realized yesterday that Dakota doesn't play with me in the typical hyper puppy way. That is the way he alerts when I am out and he is adamant that I get home. To others it looks like he is playing but I know what he is telling me. This big boy was born just for this purpose and he won't give it up at all. I have definitely been blessed.

Dakota is labeled a "service dog" and he performs an invaluable service to me. He doesn't like being without me - the vet will tell you how much he misses his human :) I had to pick him up early because he was putting up such a ruckus. This morning he shocked me when I jokingly told him to put the pillow on the couch and he did it! So we did 3 other pillows (he knocks them off) and he picked up all of those as well - wow! I was astounded that he did this so easily and there is definite potential for a lot more for him to do. So now I clamp down on the obedience training and start putting him through his paces. I am eager to see where Dakota will take me.