Untold Stories

As a service dog handler, I cannot count the number of times people have said to me, “Wow, your dog is so well behaved! Mine could never be like that!” While I appreciate the compliment, it sometimes frustrates me, because the way DeeDee acts is the result of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hours of training. In fact, she had nearly 200 hours of public access training alone before graduating to full service dog status. People often find it hard to believe that DeeDee came to me as somewhat of a fireball. But she did. I thought I might share some of DeeDee’s untold stories so people can see that, while not all dogs have what it takes to become service dogs, almost every dog can learn to be well behaved. 

Let’s start with day one - the day we brought her home. One of the things I foolishly did was to give DeeDee a rawhide bone to chew on. After about an hour, it became necessary to take it away from her. I don’t know where my brain was, but it had clearly taken an unannounced vacation. One of the number one rules with dogs is never attempt to take a high value treat from a dog you don’t know well. Sure enough, when I reached for the bone, DeeDee growled and snapped at my hand. She didn’t bite me, which means she didn’t intend to bite me (a dog who wants to bite almost never misses), but still, it was a clear and scary warning. Eventually I got the bone away by trading it for a treat, and training against resource guarding moved to the top of our training list. Today, not only can anybody remove a treat DeeDee’s eating from under her nose, she will actually bring me any treat she is working on and place it in my hand on command. Did she just automatically learn this? Of course not. It took time and training. 

(Time to reflect on days gone by…)

Another issue she had was wanting to get to our food while we ate. My husband and I frequently ate on the floor, watching movies and using a foot stool for a table. The first time we tried this with DeeDee nearby, I had to repeatedly wrestle her away from us and the food. DeeDee was the most determined dog I’d ever seen in this area. She would gladly attempt to push me aside all night long if it meant a chance at my food. So I trained her, using her love of food to my advantage. I placed her dog bed near where we sat, and began tossing pieces of kibble to her as long as she stayed on it. At first she got kibble every couple of seconds, but eventually I weaned her off of needing it completely. Nowadays, I can confidently leave DeeDee alone in a room with extremely tantalizing food right at nose level, and she won’t so much as look at it. Again, she didn’t arrive this way. It took training. 

Another issue common to dogs that DeeDee had was snapping at fingers when offered treats. She was so horrible about this that at our very first greyhound meet and greet, the man handing out dog treats, who was used to greyhounds and their strong affinity for food, gave up trying to feed her and handed me the treats to try at my own risk away from the other dogs. So I trained her. Today we actually have the opposite problem - DeeDee takes treats so cautiously they often fall to the ground because she doesn’t grip tightly enough. 

Moving on, prior to adopting DeeDee, my husband had decided he didn’t want her on the bed. Apparently nobody told DeeDee that. She repeatedly jumped onto the bed her first two nights at home, forcing my husband to literally drag/push her off time and time again. DeeDee had huge crate issues from being kenneled 23 hours a day at the track (she came to us with yellow, urine stained fur that wouldn’t wash out from being forced to lie in her own urine), so that was out. Once again I resorted to rewarding her for remaining on her bed next to ours at night. After just a few nights, the problem was gone. A few months later DeeDee won my husband over enough for him to want her on the bed, but to this day she pauses with her head resting on the edge of the bed, asking permission before coming up. 

(DeeDee in a no pull harness, shortly after we adopted her.) 

Another huge issue DeeDee had was her prey drive. While she was relatively okay indoors around small animals (with the occasional reminder not to give chase), outdoors she would leap and lunge and whine at the end of her leash every time a cat, rabbit, or squirrel was in sight. It looked horrible, and I was afraid she’d hurt her neck, so I temporarily switched to a no pull harness (which, of course, she pulled in). I then taught her the command “watch me” indoors, away from distractions. Once she had it down, we began practicing it randomly while on walks outdoors. When I was confident she had that down, I began to give the command the instant I saw a small animal. Each time she’d turn away from a small animal to glance at me, even for a split second, I put on my super excited happy voice and gave a bunch of treats at once. Nowadays, if DeeDee sees a small furry, even if it’s running from us full speed she refuses to chase after it. But again, it took training. 

DeeDee also came to us with a severe case of separation anxiety. It was so bad the adoption group actually asked us to consider returning her and getting a different dog. It took a solid six months, but eventually DeeDee got to the place where she’d curl up and sleep when we left. Talk about a long six months! 

DeeDee definitely had issues when we first brought her home. In fact, had I known I would be needing a service dog, I wouldn’t have chosen her. But I did, and with a lot of time, work, and patience, she became the well trained companion I now trust with my life on a daily basis. There are some dogs who will always have issues, but the vast majority of dogs can overcome them with proper diet, training, and exercise. I truly believe having a well behaved, closely bonded dog is one of life’s greatest joys. 

(DeeDee, without a care in the world.) 

bittensky asked:

I would just like to say that I think you're a wonderful person and I hope you and DeeDee are doing alright.

Aww, thank you! That’s so sweet! DeeDee and I are doing okay. Definitely hanging in there. She’s still sweet as can be, and absolutely adores being asked to help out. Her excitement is contagious, so I often end up asking her to do extra things just because we’re having so much fun! Not too much is new around here. I do have a couple of posts in mind, I just need the energy to write them! Thanks again for checking in and for your kind words! 


Some of you who’ve read here awhile will remember a post mentioning a National Geographic book featuring stories of outstanding dogs around the world - including our very own DeeDee. Guess what? The book is officially out today! I received my advance copy a couple weeks ago, and let me tell you, this is a fun read!

The title of the book is “Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs,” by Rebecca Ascher Walsh. It is available in both print and e-book formats. Also available is an enhanced digital “iBook” version with links to videos, photos, and other extras about each dog for owners of iPads, iPods, and iPod touches.

The dogs in this book are truly extraordinary. Some you will doubtless have heard of, others will be new to you. Each story is several pages long and enhanced with gorgeous photographs and fun facts related to the story. This is a book for dog lovers of all ages. Consider reading it with your children at night (or having them read it to you!), or sharing a copy with your local school library. The dogs in this book will inspire readers to do more with their own pets, to find their dog’s calling in life, and to enhance their bond with these amazing animals. Stories told include tales of service dogs, therapy dogs, surfboarding dogs, scuba diving dogs, and much, much more! Never say never when it comes to a dog’s ability to adapt to the human lifestyle!

DeeDee wonders if she can negotiate a pay raise now that she’s famous…

One thing I feel I must mention: the fact checker for this book spent quite awhile on the phone with me going over the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs, so I had high hopes that for once, the media would get it right. And for the most part, she did. However, in one case the book mistakenly refers to a court house dog (who provides comfort to victims of rape, etc while they testify against perpetrators) as an “assistance dog.” This is incorrect. Even though the dog in question was trained by a service dog organization, she washed out of service dog work and found her true calling in therapy dog work. While this does not subtract from the overall enjoyment derived from reading the book, I cannot in good conscience recommend any book with misinformation on this topic without clearing it up - even if that book includes my own dog’s story.

Remember, service dogs are dogs who are specifically trained in tasks to help *one* disabled handler wherever he or she goes. Therapy dogs are trained to provide emotional support or comfort to multiple people in settings where permission has been given by the owner or manager of the property (usually nursing homes, hospices, schools, etc, and in some cases even court houses). Therapy dog handlers do not have the right to take their dogs into public with them unless permission has been given by the property owner (and never where food is sold). Service dog handlers have the right to take their dogs with them anywhere the public is allowed, with very few exceptions.

That said, this is still a wonderful book full of heartwarming stories of heroic and inspiring dogs. To see DeeDee included among the ranks of dogs such as these is a truly humbling experience. I hope you will pick up a copy from Amazon (link: http://amzn.com/B00C8RZHM4) or wherever books are sold (Nat Geo link: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/books/new-books/devoted) and share it with family, friends, kids, grand kids, your local library, and anyone else who might enjoy it. Thank you!

DeeDee and I say, “Thanks for reading, and enjoy the book!”

Anonymous asked:

How are you guys doing? It is really none of my business, but I am curious to know how you are feeling. I love Dee's videos. What you share is so special :)

Awww,thanks! Sweet of you to ask! We’re hanging in there. Same old, mostly. I’m rarely online and responding to people these days, so it’s sweet that you asked. No worries. I apologize for not being able to get back to people sooner, but my last post kind of answers that. I hope you have a great rest of the week!

Anonymous asked:

Hi there. Am amazed at what Dee Dee can do. I have Behcet's Disease and mobility problems too, I have 2 hounds. I wondered about my clever girl and whether she would be suitable, she was the right age but too underconfident in public. I then asked if my boy could be trained, he was confident but here he was just above the age limit for training. How old was Dee Dee when she first started her training, what's the age limit there? Did you have to pay? Now mine are companions to me which is ok.

Hi! Thanks for the question! I’m not sure where you live, but here in the US there is no age limit for service dogs to be trained. Typically, you want to start with a dog no older than 2ish, because you need to plan for approximately two years of training before the dog is fully reliable to work for you. It’s not really worth it to spend two years training and only get a couple years of reliable assistance.

It sounds like you are looking to acquire or train a dog through a program. I think this is a great idea for first time service dog owners who do not have excessive training experience. In the US, there is also the options of training your own dog, but it is a challenge and definitely not something to be taken on lightly. For those who do owner train, however, there is the additional consideration of needing to begin training a successor service dog approximately two years before you expect your current dog to retire. This is yet another reason people generally start with young dogs. Plus, while you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks, so to speak, dogs tend to learn more quickly at a young age.

To answer your questions about DeeDee, I adopted her when she was two years old and immediately began general training for therapy dog (*not* service dog) work. She learned solid obedience, manners, and how to work well in several public situations. (Therapy dogs are only allowed in settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, etc with explicit permission from the business owner and for the sole purpose of bringing joy and comfort to everyone there. This differs from service dogs, who are allowed anywhere the general public is allowed and whose sole purpose is to assist one disabled handler.)

As my health deteriorated, I began training DeeDee to help out around the house with directed retrieves, laundry, balance work, etc. Eventually I realized how much I needed her outside the home as my health deteriorated more and more. I did loads of research and in the end decided to owner train her. I had a lot of experience training dogs, or I would never have attempted this. Even so, it was a challenge - as it is for even the most experienced trainers, which is why I often recommend first time handlers either hire a professional trainer or acquire a dog through a program.

So while DeeDee did not begin her official service dog training until age four, she already knew several tasks, as well as basic etiquette in public by that point in time, which helped a lot. As far as what I paid for DeeDee, I paid her initial adoption fee from a greyhound rescue, well over $5,000 in training and care expenses her first year of service dog training, and a couple thousand dollars each year thereafter. Dogs aren’t cheap, as you know, but service dogs cost even more. As an owner trainer, I was responsible for all of the training equipment, gear, etc, in addition to extra vet visits (to make sure she remained in top condition) and top notch food, supplements, etc. Service dogs need (and deserve) the absolute best of care in every way, and that rarely comes cheap.

I hope this has answered your questions. Again, laws and regulations vary by country, so I can only speak for the situation here in the US. It sounds like you’re making the right decision looking at a program or professional trainer. I hope with their help you find the right dog for your needs soon! Good luck!

dragonsatmidnight asked:

About the fleas - When my dogs get fleas I give them a bath that also includes vinegar. Sometimes feeding your dog apple cider vinegar can help too, the fleas aren't super fond. It might also work on the kittens, if you can stand to bathe them. Bit of a natural remedy but it's always worked for me. Hope that helps. (p.s sorry to go through your blog, I just couldn't find the op's ask box)

Thanks for sharing! :-)

rollercoaster-thatgoes-up asked:

I have a huge problem and I need help. There's this feral cat that I've been caring for who had kittens and brought them into my house. Which is all fine and great except now we are being over ran by fleas. We can't flea bomb the house because of the kittens and now my SD is ripping out her fur do to her flea allergy and I am getting bitten too. Her flea meds haven't been working and I don't know what to do. I can't afford the expensive stuff or to buy any more right now, do you have any ideas?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I don’t have any experience dealing with flea infestations, but my recommendation would be to put your SD’s health first. Call the vet and ask about alternate means of dealing with a flea infestation, and also call the local shelter and explain your situation and ask if they could possibly take the kittens off your hands. Also, be sure not to work your SD until she is completely flea free (it sucks, but you really can’t take a flea-infested dog into restaurants, etc). If you can get the kittens out of your home, you can use conventional means to rid the house of fleas. Good luck, I hope it all clears up soon!

A Letter For My Readers

Dear Readers,

If you read here regularly, you’ve probably realized I’m not posting as often as I once did. I’ve thought about it, and while I fully intend to keep the focus of this blog on service dogs, I feel I owe you a heads up on my current situation.

As stated in the description of my blog, I currently live with severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (note: this is not at all the same as “CFS” - there’s a lot of mis-education going round about that topic). The M.E. that I have is progressive and deteriorating, and about a month ago a couple of doctors made the decision to put me in hospice care. Because of the severity of my condition, I am 99% bed bound and unable to safely leave my home, ever. So several times a week, hospice workers come into my home and deal out palliative care - primarily for pain.

For those who may not be familiar with the concept of hospice, a person is generally placed into hospice when a doctor determines they may have little time to live. In my case, hospice requires the doctor to state that you could die within the next six months prior to being admitted for care. Let me rush to say - this may or may not be the case with me. We know that my particular case of M.E. is terminal (all cases of M.E. take decades off a patient’s life, but some people lose more than others). What we don’t know is exactly how long it will take for the disease to play itself out. I could have hours, days, weeks, months, or even a couple years left. So many things are going wrong in my body that it really just depends on how much I rest versus exerting myself (which at this point includes every thought, movement, etc that I make throughout the day, as well as every sound, light, touch, and smell I am exposed to - all of which place strain upon my body).

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the illness here - as I said, this website is about service dogs, and my goal is to continue helping those who need them for as long as possible. If you want more information about M.E., the best place to look is The Hummingbirds’ Foundation for M.E.   or, if you prefer a book, check out Caring for the M.E. Patient, a compilation of the best articles from the HFME website, available in print or Kindle format.

Let me make it clear, I do not intend to change the focus of this website to make it about my health or about M.E. in general. If you have questions about M.E., feel free to ask me through this website and provide a way to reply to you in private. I’ll do my best to answer any questions that you have. The only reason I decided to share this information here at all is that I felt I owed my readers a heads up and a bit of explanation about what’s going on.

All that said, I will, of course, continue posting and answering questions to the best of my ability. DeeDee is still here and working hard as ever helping me at home. She continues to assist me with balance issues in getting to the restroom and back, as well as retrieving objects that I need, opening and closing the bedroom door as needed, etc. Just her company alone raises my quality of life tremendously. At a time when it is painful more days than not to be around people, DeeDee is a calm, constant, friendly presence. Because of her, I never have to feel alone. She has not only kept me alive, but given me a quality of life worth living for. She is and will always be my hero.

To those of you who have followed us along this journey, thank you. I value every person who reads here, whether I hear from you or not. I’ve met many amazing friends through this site and developed friendships I truly wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s been a great journey, and it’s not over yet. :-)

So keep reading, keep asking questions, and keep sharing your stories. If there’s anything service dog related you’d like to see more of here on Around With The Hound, please feel free to let me know. I love you guys. You rock!

Brooke and DeeDee


DeeDee loves to snuggle - and so do I!

Hey guys! A friend of mine runs a greyhound service dog program in Virginia. The dogs coming out of this program are retired racers trained to provide mobility and/or PTSD assistance to those in need. Most of these dogs go to veterans who are disabled as a result of their service to our country.

This program has been entered in a contest (click here for the link). If you would take two seconds to click on the link and vote for them, you could help make a world of difference in the life of a severely disabled veteran, not to mention that of a retired ex-racing greyhound who still has many years to live, love, and give to someone in need. It’s super easy - no registration is required, and you can vote up to once a day if you’re willing, though even one vote makes a difference.

Those of you who read here regularly know what amazing service dogs greyhounds can make. The dogs coming out of this program are top notch. Once placed, these dogs change their companion’s life forever. Thank you for being a part of this process. Please spread the word so others can help out too! Thank you!