Posts Tagged 'service dog pictures'

With a New Service Dog the “Moments” Are Many, Stark, and Blended

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival graphic. A square graphic, with a lavender background. A leggy purple dog of unidentifiable breed, with floppy ears and a curly tail, in silhouette, is in the center. Words are in dark blue, a font that looks like it's dancing a bit.

These Are the Moments

It’s Assistance Dog Blog Carnival time again, and from the moment Martha posted her call for entries, I knew what I wanted to blog about. The problem was that I’d just written that post at the beginning of the month — before I knew that would be the #ADBC theme.

What I immediately thought of are the moments that occur now, sporadically but frequently, when I think some version of, “Hey, Barnum is actually acting like a service dog now. He is actually making my life easier.” So, yes, I have written about this before, especially lately, but that’s the thing about these moments — they occur frequently, and each one is a little bit different.

Because I have a new camera that’s easier for me to use than my old one — and which can take multiple images in one second, so I can get several pics of Barnum when he’s moving fast — I thought it would be fun to “capture these moments on film.” All the pics in this post were taken within about five minutes tonight.

Sometimes these moments are sit-up-and-take-notice moments, when I am surprised to discover that Barnum knows something I didn’t think he did. Usually that’s a moment when I realize, “He actually knows this cue!” For example, now he will turn on or off the hallway light pretty consistently on the single cue, “Light!” Even with my back to him and me moving away from him. This is noteworthy because he has trained and used this cue mostly in my bedroom and bathroom, so this shows that he’s beginning to generalize the idea and he will look up high on walls now when I say, “Light!” To figure out what I might be talking about.

Barnum standing on hind legs, left front paw planted on the wall, nose on switch plate. Because he has to fit between the powerchair and the wall, he is at an angle, coming to the switch from his right.

When I am done taking pics, I ask him to turn off the light.

Sometimes it’s when I’ve been taking a skill or achievement for granted because I’m used to our level of fluency but someone else sees it in action for the first time. Last week I asked Barnum to open my bedroom door when Betsy was in the room with me, and he ran over and opened it. Betsy said, “Hey! He did that on the first try!” I was surprised because he has been very fluent in that skill for a long time. He almost never needs to make more than one attempt; I didn’t realize she didn’t know. (Such as in the video below, posted four months ago. I decided against making videos tonight; they take too much time. I just wanted to focus on individual moments!)

Similarly, a few days ago Barnum removed my socks when one of my PCAs was here. She smiled and said it was the first time she’d seen him do that. Again, I was surprised. She said she knew he could do it and she’d seen us train it, but she hadn’t seen the whole behavior as a complete working skill before that. I tried to capture the sock removal process on film, but Barnum was so quick, I couldn’t keep him in the frame to take pictures fast enough.

With his front half on the bed, Barnum grabs the toe of the sock on Sharon's left foot.

Beginning with the left foot….

Now standing on the bed, Barnum pulls the toe of the sock on Sharon's right foot. (Her left foot is now bare.)

Moving on to the right foot…

Speaking of socks, another moment is when I realize Barnum is more helpful (easier, faster, more pleasant, whatever) with a task than a human would be. (Please note, humans reading this who sometimes assist me, that this is not any sort of slight against you.) When Barnum takes off my socks, he grabs the toe and pulls until it’s off and then hands it to me; it’s pretty fast and painless.

Barnum pulls the right sock by turning his head and body so the sock is now stretching as it's pulled off.

And twist and puuuuuulllll!

Barnum is now turned diagonal to finish pulling off the very long sock (about two feet long).

And puuuuuuullllll!

An extreme closeup of Barnum's snout -- just part of his nose and the front of his mouth visible with the sock -- tan, red, and blue wool stripes -- protruding from his mouth.

Here ya go!

People, on the other hand, often make quite a meal of sock removal because they are trying to be careful and gentle. I’m in pain a lot, so they are worried about hurting me. I have big, sweaty feet, so removing my socks can be quite a chore, as it’s hard to find socks big enough.

Human assistants often try to loosen the sock, roll it down from the top, ease over my ankle or heel, tug here and there — all out of a desire to be gentle and caring. Unfortunately the process takes too long, which causes me more pain and exhaustion than I want to deal with. Barnum is not thinking about my pain or exhaustion. To him, sock removal is a fun game that might earn him a treat, so it goes fast!

Likewise, I’ve started having Barnum help me off with my long-sleeved tops (something I do several times a day due to fluctuations in temperature and to get to my PICC line).

Barnum is lying on the bed near Sharon's bare feet and pulling on a white long sleeve.

It’s like a sock — for your arm!

I didn’t used to ask him to do this because I thought calling him, getting him in position, and polishing the skill would be more trouble than it’s worth. But I realized last night that actually he can do it quickly and easily, making it less painful than doing it myself or with human help.

I focus my training on the skills I need when I can’t do them alone. When no human assistant is here. When I’d be stuck without Barnum’s assistance. It often seems like overtraining and sometimes I question that choice — until one of those days happen when I really do need that help. But more often I find that I ask him to perform a skill just because he enjoys it, I enjoy it, and it’s easier and more fun than relying on a person. And sometimes because he actually does a better job.

Often it just comes down to attitude or communication. It’s not that people in my life have “an attitude” about helping me, but if Barnum’s in my room, and my PCA is in another part of the house, it’s just more enjoyable and less emotionally tiring to have Barnum help me, which he finds thrilling, than to — for example — pull my PCA away from making my food or doing my laundry — to come over and do something as simple as shut a door or turn off a light or pull down my covers.

Sometimes — usually on a day I’m doing badly — Barnum and I will work together without my really paying attention to how much he’s doing until the series of skills coalesce and I realize, “Hey! He’s making this day a lot more doable.” One realization usually starts that thought train going: “Huh, I only had to ask him that once. Hm, he will do this behavior in a chain with that one and I don’t have to reinforce them separately. . . .”

It took me a long time to get down to writing this post, and then it just flowed out of me, and I think the reason for both the procrastination and the ease is that the moments happen so often now, they are easy to miss. So, on one hand, it’s taken me a while to pick out what to write about, to remember, “What were our recent ‘moments’?” On the other hand, there are so many that once I call them forth I could write an endless post about this moment, then this moment, then this one.

But I don’t want to do that to you, readers. I might put you to sleep!

Barnum sleeping on the bed, Sharon's bare foot in the foreground.

Goodnight, everybody.

Besides, there are a lot of posts to read in this blog carnival, and I know you will want to get them all. I only wanted you to stop here for a moment.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

P.S. Guess who’s hosting the next #ADBC? Get ready!

Photo Essay: Barnum’s Service Skills

In honor of our Gotcha Day a few days ago — two years together — I took a bunch of pictures of Barnum doing stuff. The idea was to show all the things we’ve learned in the past two years. Of course, it didn’t show everything he’s learned, like not eating the furniture or pooping indoors or attacking people’s pants, etc.

We also didn’t take pictures of some of the skills we’ve been working on all along, and that I have blogged about before: sit, down, come, crate, go to mat, zen, etc. This does not mean we’re finished training these behaviors, but I thought it would be more fun (and we only had so much time and energy) to photograph the newer, flashier stuff.

It’s taken me till now to get the pictures uploaded, then downloaded, then captioned, etc., but here ’tis!

I didn’t know how to adjust the camera settings, and since these tended to be action shots, there are very few that are not artistically blurred. That’s right, it’s not a defect, it’s a feature. Thus, I now present . . .

The Post-Realist Photography Exhibit of Barnum at Year Two

Stand tall to turn on and off the lights!

Barnum standing on hind legs, front paws planted on the wall, nudging switch down with his nose. He's over 5 feet tall this way.

Turning off the lights!

Open the bedroom door….

Blurry picture of Barnum from behind, pulling purple tug cord on door handle.

First, grab the cord and pull back.

Step 2:

Another blurry picture of Barnum's furry butt. Wider stance, pulling back hard on the pull cord.

Aaaand pull BACK and DOWN!

Step 3:

Blurry picture from behind, bedroom door swinging open.

Eh viola! The door, she is open!

And then close it!

Barnum running to shove his nose behind the door which is open against the wall.

Get that nose behind it, and in one fluid motion, SLAM it shut!

Done!

Barnum is whirling from the door, which is now shut, toward Sharon sitting on the bed. He's moving so fast that he's a blur, with his left front and right rear legs just shadows of movement.

The second the door latches, whirl around to collect your treat!

Where’s the PCA?

Barnum sits on the floor watching Sharon who is sitting on her bed, signing (with hand and facial expression), "Where?" in ASL.

Sharon asks me "Where?" is the PCA?

I know! I’ll find her!

Barnum sits staring fixedly at a young woman standing in the kitchen.

I have found you. I am staring at you. Do you get the message?

When that doesn’t work. . . .

Barnum stands up and noses the hand of the woman who's standing in the kitchen.

Hello! I'm bopping your hand! Pay attention!

Since we’re in the kitchen, he might as well open the fridge. . . .

Barnum swinging into action, blurred hindquarters show movement as he grabs for the door pull on the refrigerator.

I got it!

Mmmf. Riss iss harder dan id loogs.

Barnum pulling straight back on a navy blue door pull attached to the refrigerator handle.

Puuuuuuull!

Persistence pays off!

Barnum stands back a few inches from the fridge door which is now open a few inches.

Okay, it's open! Can I close it now?

Yes! Shut the fridge!

Barnum stands in front of closed refrigerator door with his nose against it.

Shutting is more funner.

I’m a clumsy human, which  means a dog’s job is never done. First, the clicker I dropped accidentally. . .

Barnum crossing living room to pick up red clicker underneath an end table. His head is down and his mouth is open, even though he's at least a foot away still.

She's always dropping these clickers!

Then the pen I dropped on purpose.

Barnum is in a sit. A pen is on the floor about four feet away. Sharon's legs and wheels are visible in the background.

She made me sit so I wouldn't keep picking things up before they could manage to take the picture. Humans can be so slow.

Ah gah da peh im my ma-ow….

Barnum standing, with muzzle on the floor. The pen isn't visible under all his fur.

Mm-kay. I'b gedding ib.

I got it!

Barnum spinning toward Sharon. Pen is in his mouth, though we can't see it because his side is to the camera.

Ah brinnin eh peh...!

And now the retrieval of the “dropped” leash….

Barnum stands in front of Sharon. She's holding his leash and is about to clip it to his collar.

Why are you putting on my leash now?

You’re welcome. (By which I mean, “Where’s my treat?”)

Barnum has the leash clipped to his collar at one end. The other he is putting in Sharon's hand in her lap.

Honestly, you drop this thing so often it's like it's intentional. . . .

Two years ago he looked like this:

Baby Barnum, an adorable puppy that looks like a black teddy bear with a white chin. Sharon's hand is rubbing his chest. Her hand is bigger than his head!

What a face!

And now!…

Closeup of Barnum looking into the camera, smiling, very hairy, lying on Sharon's bed.

Look at me now, world!

Love from Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT


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