We took the dogs outside for a walk Tuesday, and it seemed pretty clear which one will be our preliminary match.
The day began with a lecture on canine motivators. Some of the ongoing things to remember are the importance of immediate correction and praise, and how Paige and I must be clear and authoritative with our commands in our role as facilitators.
J.P. also helped in class today. In order for the dog to recognize J.P. as the recipient, it’s important that he praise and love the dog, and he’ll take part in feedings and grooming.
WESH-TV was at Canine Companions for Independence for our morning mat session. That’s kind of a playtime where we all get on the floor and love on the dogs to see which one seems most engaged with the recipients.
I talked with Dave McDaniel about the things we hope the dog can do for J.P. and the role we hope it will play in our family.
For J.P., we hope the dog will be a friend to him and open him up to more social interaction. The dog should also be able to pick things up when they’re dropped, assist in our travels and cheer him up during hospital stays.
There was a surprise at lunch when the meal provider, Summit Greens Women Club, gave Canine Companions a $500 check to go toward raising puppies. They also provided a delicious meal for everyone.
During the afternoon session, we spent time learning how to walk the dog at the same time we’re pushing J.P.’s wheelchair. The trainers also did their best to distract the dog, which meant we had to correct the dog while trying to guide the chair at the same time.
This was the most amazing part of the day. It truly showed the extent of the training the dogs have received. More times than not, the dogs stayed on task or quickly got back on track even if they did momentarily fall for the distraction.
Hurry was the command of the day. That’s what you tell the dog when it’s time to toilet. The dog has the extent of their leash to get the job done and most did their business within just a few minutes.
We’ll learn our preliminary match at a mini-ceremony with staff in the morning. I would really be shocked if it’s not the dog we’ve worked with the most for the past two days. Things could still change after the pre-match before Thursday — and even again before the weekend — but the direction we’re heading seems pretty clear.
There’s one more thing I wanted to share that has been really cool this week. That is the other recipients and families we’ve meet who are going through the same thing right now as they prepare for a canine companion to enter their lives.
While their stories are varied, they have also been down similar paths as my family, especially those with medically fragile children. I hope the friendships that begin here will last for many years to come.
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