Posted by: anniewilson | September 23, 2009

The Star Pupil!

This is my pal, Payton. He’s a trained service dog and yesterday I took him into McDonald’s when I bought his lunch and he behaved perfectly.

Oddly, the PEOPLE weren’t so well behaved. I have a tag on him that clearly states that he is “working” and requests that he not be petted. It doesn’t bother me when people pet Payton but it does distract him and it can cause him to break a command. If I have him “waiting”, he should be waiting. If I have him “staying”, he should stay. And, whatever he’s doing, he needs to be paying attention to me.

His service training was faster and easier than most, according to the dude that trained him, because of the way I raised him. Also, since he was alerting me when I was about to have a seizure, it was pretty clear that he understood that I had a problem and that he was more than willing to proclaim himself my caretaker.

When I first got him, a bunch of people told me that I had no business with a dog that was obviously going to be very large. It was right after my divorce and while I was still emaciated from the parathyroid cancer. I weighed about 90 pounds and at 6 weeks old, Payton already weighed close to 20 pounds. Of course, I would have raised him to be a well behaved dog one way or another but I’d be lying if I said that the potential to be able to say, “I told you so!” didn’t play a small part in my doggie “parenting”.

I’ve been living alone for years (except for the occasional roommate nightmare) so Payton and I spent a LOT of evenings just playing and I took that time to teach him “tricks”. After he mastered one of them by voice command, I would choose a hand command to do when I gave him a voice command so that eventually I could have him do things without having to say a word.

We walk a lot as well and I taught him silly things like the difference between left and right. I can tell him to “Turn left.” or “Turn right.” and he’ll do it. We spend a LOT of time together and when I first began falling all the time, I taught him to stay with me and to brace himself so that I could pull on him to get up. He already knew “Back up.”, “Lie down.” and “Stay.” amongst other things so when he began training to be a service dog, it was much easier than training the usual puppy who hasn’t been taught anything yet.

The trainer dude said that I had already covered the fundamentals so Payton caught on quickly to the new tasks he had to learn.

As the MS progresses, Payton will adapt easily to new challenges but he won’t live forever. I can’t imagine life without him. I suppose I could get another dog but the chances of raising my own like I did with Payton are pretty slim.

Now…I must digress. I have a secret that I can’t reveal until sometime tomorrow. It’ll be later in the day before I write about it but be sure to check back in, I won’t be able to keep this one for long…it’s too good!

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