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Life and Times of a Working Cowgirl

Merlin

Dear Friends, Family, Supporters and the oddly curious,

Many of you are aware Amelia, my oldest daughter has a Diabetic Alert Dog, Lou. Lou is eleven and going strong but we felt it was time to start training her replacement. We have found a suitable candidate and are beginning the long task of training him. I will be posting progress reports, pics and stories about Merlin for those interested in finding out what it takes to train a service dog.

Thanks again for your support and I hope you enjoy following Merlin.

Karen

Repost from Dog Goes To College

The magical Mr. Merlin

Mar 22, 2011

Yesterday morning I went to the doctor’s.  Or rather, me, Lou, mom, and Merlin went to the doctor’s.  My A1C’s were 6.5 (yay!  The benefits of an alert dog are again, very quantifiable) I got a couple more shots because my immunizations needed to be brought up to date, and I was deemed healthy as a horse.  Merlin got to ride the elevator twice (he’s not a fan, but learning quickly) sit quietly in the doctors office, practice “under” beneath mom’s chair and was exposed to more of Lou’s calm and controlled influence while working in public.  It was a successful outing for all.  Last night everybody slept in my room with Lou curled up behind my knees and him curled up on the floor at my head.

Today was a draft horse day at a local farm school, and of course I was involved.  Harry came up with the gal I’ll be working with this summer at ghost ranch and we were going to have a grand time.  Mom stopped me as I clipped Lou’s leash around my waist and shook her head. Leigh-Lou is seventy pounds of akita-collie cross, and can be distressing to prey animals who don’t know the most dangerous thing she will do is licking them on the nose.  Merlin, however is a slight little boarder collie, and pe

Eh. Goats. Merlin wouldn’t even lick ’em.

rceived as less  of a threat (to their credit, he won’t lick their noses, but really they’re both so harmless).  So Mr. Merlin got to accompany me for a training day at the school.  For once, when children ran up and asked if I was training the answer was “yes.”  It’s a very strange feeling.  Really, I’m always training Lou.  Every moment animals are learning, whether what they are learning is positive or negative (same applies to children it seems) and I am very conscious of that and am constantly enforcing positive learning in Lou. What I was doing with Merlin was really not that different, he just doesn’t have the calm experienced attitude yet. So I got to be a trainer for a day with a proper dog in training.  The best part was the goats.  There were little babies, and the kids (the human kids) insisted we hold a bunch of kids (goat kids).  Merlin showed no desire to be near them, but when I held one to him for him to examine he gave it a good sniff and determined that he was right that goats aren’t interesting.

After our farmyard adventures, we had an appointment with a trainer for Assistance Dogs of the West.  They do not yet have a diabetic alert dog program going, but today they were evaluating Merlin for us and telling us if we are a good fit for their owner training program, where they can teach us the strategies to scent train and ensure they are “bomb proof” for every aspect of public access, and then they receive a certification the same as if Assistance Dogs of the West had selected them as a puppy and program trained them.  Certification is not required in the U.S. but because they are accredited throughAssistance Dogs International, a certification from them actually has some serious weight and meaning.  If I were to decide to study abroad or if Merlin’s validity as a service dog was ever challenged in court, the backing of a certification through an Assistance Dogs International program would go miles in making my life easier with my owner trained dog.

So, today Merlin got to shine and impress.  He played “find the low blood sugar scent” (Lou, bless her heart was staring intently at it the whole time but did not twitch because I told her not to) and got to show off his public access skills with a walk to the nearby grocery store and was such a good boy.  He is going to go with mom to six to twelve weeks of private training sessions for the scent training and a full group owner-trainer public access course with the guidance of their professional trainer.  He will go through all the tests they put their program dogs through, and it already looks like he will train well and pass with flying colors.  He will be ready for sure by the time Lou is ready to retire, with all the bells and whistles.  Lou, of course, was a good girl, although when we walked in and she could smell the scent training things with high and low blood sugars and a couple dozen other dogs and god knows what else all over everything she had a little moment.  She was in fine form, though, and even when other dogs walked by whining and whimpering that “look at those two.  We don’t know those two. Can we say hi and play?” she was able to mostly keep her focus.

Merlin is on his way from being “service dog in training” to “service dog certified through an accredited school.”  Thats super.  I’m so excited, and I hope he can be a sort of poster child for the wonderful things that can come from adopting shelter dogs.  He and Lou both are.