Thursday, December 11, 2008

Service Dog Graduation

If you want to talk about a wildly emotional day, a KSDS graduation fits that bill to a tee!

After successfully completing the two-week course with our dogs --- me with Woody, Angie with Stealth, and Bridgid with Mercury --- graduation day was upon us.

I met Woody's puppy-raiser, Dianne. During our training I marveled at Woody's wonderful manners and gentle disposition. I credit much of that to Dianne. She did a fantastic job with the dog's early obedience training, and socialization getting him used to as many different sights and sounds and places as possible with an eye toward what he may encounter in his working life. She even entered him in an Agility class, just to sharpen his obendience and have some fun encountering different objects and obstacles. Without Dianne's love and guidance, I'm sure Woody wouldn't be quite the same wonderful canine partner I had gotten.

Just before graduation, Dianne presented me with a kennel blanket for Woody, as well as a beautiful scrapbook with pictures, and Canine Good Citizen certificate and other awards for different levels of obedience. She also saved and mounted Woody's puppy teeth, and told how he used to like to shred her socks---and, in case I'd have any doubts, she also put in a shredded sock! It was all so heart-warmingly wonderful, and I knew I'd have to stay in touch with her. After all, she had given this dog a very good solid beginning for his working life. Naturally, she'd be interested in how he was doing at his new "career."

During graduation, our class presented a poem I had written to the KSDS staff. If you want an overview of team training, bonding with a canine partner, and bonding with classmates all in a nutshell, this is it!

From York and Lawrence and Oakland we came,
to Washington, Kansas, to a school of good name
and great reputation in *A.D.I.
We were eager to work and ready to try.
Our expectations were anyone's guess,
but we started our training at KSDS.
We weren't too sure how much work it would take,
and one thought it would be "a real piece of cake!"
Monday, we all tried to bond as a class,
and psych ourselves up for each new thing to pass.
Tuesday was "D-Day." We got our dogs---Goody!
Their names were "Mercury," "Stealth," and "Woody."
"Three men for three ladies"-well, that's how Bill put it.
Let's see if it works. We asked ourselves, "Could it?"
Each dog had his habits, his traits and his quirks,
and a whole lotta fuzz-love (That's one of the perks!)
As we worked our obedience from "Stay" to "Recall,"
important lessons were in store for us all.
Angela's partner, a Goldy named "Stealth,"
had a few problems concerning his health.
Yet with ear infection and a sore on his chest,
he never ceased working and trying his best.
Sue's partner, "Woody," a big yellow Lab,
would pull her wheelchair when his harness she'd grab.
When he got ideas, he'd wrinkle his brow.
On tile he didn't like "Sit" but loved "Down."
And Mercury put Bridgid's patience asunder,
but they persisted - and mastered - "Down" and "Under."
Though picking up dog poop made Bridgid gag,
she put Mercury's "processed food" in a bag.
Woody learned a big lesson, thanks to Stealth:
2 dogs on a tug-toy is a hazard to health!
Though somewhat reluctant, if praise ran high,
there wasn't a task that "Merc-Man" wouldn't try.
Bridgid's confidence did a big climb
when Merc tugged a door open the very first time.
Stealth worked like a pro through every routine
but he disliked his first "Stay" on a small trampoline.
Woody liked "Let's Go" and "Forward" and "Leave It,"
but we needed more work to sharpen "Retrieve It."
Midwest Living reporters followed us 'round
and took pictures of us doing route work downtown.
Angela, Bridgid, and Susan were glad
for the chance to meet 2 KSDS grads.
Suzanne (with "Mozart") and Casey (with "Eleanor")
spoke of the real world, and what to watch out for.
(And Casey and Angela t.p.'d Mike's truck,
though the gravel was tricky, and Angie got stuck.
Outside and inside, they got the truck done.
Then Bill called his son -a cop!-just for fun!)
The KSDS staff treated us great!
Bill offered us back-up, to set people straight.
Bridgid and Karen developed rapport
as they worked to bring Mercury into top form.
Both "Orange" people, Angie and Mike
were looked on by Stealth as 2 strange little tykes.
Susan and Lori worked on the tools
to let Woody know what they want him to do.
Bridgid, Angela, and Susan agree
that with the help of Bill and Karen Acree,
Mike Renner and Lori Michaels, each of our teams
has made a great start towards achieving our dreams.
Our favorite thing about KSDS-
they help each team set itself up for success!
©1995 SKC

*ADI - Assistance Dogs International

©2008 SKC


Lisa and Ellie said...

Neat poem!

Lisa and Ellie said...

I tagged you in a post! Hope you have fun with it.

Anonymous said...


I recently interviewed a woman with dysautonomia about her dog alerting her. I thought you might have an interest in this and might be willing to post a link in your next blog post to the interview for your readers. It can be found here: