Monday, November 17, 2008

Updates and Good news!

Hi Everyone!
Well October and November have been very busy months for me and the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy! I have been blessed at St Francis of Assisi's Blessing of the Animals; I have met many new friends at GoFest; I have worn my very first halloween costume, and I have done lots of hiking in the beautiful fall colors around Chattanooga!
I am really excited to tell everyone about my first official television appearance here in Chattanooga. On Tuesday, 11/17, I will be on This and That, Channel 9 with Don Welch. Don and his cameraman Jeff have already been to Goodwill to get some good footage of me training and now I get to go on the show with my trainer and tell everyone about my new school, the Assistance Dog Academy! Also, stay tuned for an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about me and the program...coming very soon! Hope that you are all doing well and getting ready for the holiday season!
Woof, woof,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Introducing the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy's headmaster and official spokes dog, Will!

Well hello everyone! My name is Good Will and I am a five month old golden retriever puppy; my friends just call me Will. I moved to Chattanooga, TN from Walhalla, SC and have taken on a really big responsibility as being the official spokes dog for the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy. I have a tough job ahead of me as I will be going through service dog training and helping to raise funds for my new school that I am starting. My school will be based out of the Mckamey Animal Care and Adoption Center and will train rescued dogs to be assistance dogs for the disabled--how neat! You can check out the Mckamey Center at Training is serious business. I work really hard to learn all of my new commands. My trainer, Sarah, hopes that when we are done I will have mastered 90 different commands! Can you believe that? So far we have covered the basics like sit and stay, downs, and waits, but we tackle some tougher stuff too like light switches and opening drawers and doors. Some things are tricky but as long as she has a treat in her hand for me, I will usually give it a shot! I'll post some video of me practicing my training so that you can see me in action! Other than training, I am working really hard to tell everyone I know about the program. The Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy, like all Goodwill missions, aims to provide our assistance dogs FREE of charge to those in need, so we are trying to raise lots of money to get started. Did you all know that the typical cost of an assistance dog is about $25,000? Wow! No wonder only 1% of people who could benefit from an assistance dog can actually afford one! Hopefully, with lots of donations and support, we can train many dogs to help many people that otherwise would not have such a great opportunity. Cross your fingers--we have our work cut out for us!
Now for those of you who like following blogs, I promise to update mine and keep you posted on how my training is going AND where all I will be making appearances around Chattanooga. So far, I have been to the Tennessee Public Health Association conference in Nashville, TN, the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, TN, and the St Francis of Assisi's Blessing of the Animals in Ooltewah, TN--all this and I am just getting started!
Stay tuned and I promise to tell you what I'm up to!

Settled At Last!

Well hello out there!
After two full months of settling back into life in Tennessee, we are finally up and running at the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy! I have some very important introductions to make and many fun and exciting items to report as well. So without further ado...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Diplomas and Certificates....Almost Homeward Bound!

Greetings from CA on my final day of school! What an experience these past two weeks have truly been. I am finding it really hard to believe that these entire six weeks are drawing to an end. The past two weeks have been absolutely remarkable; seeing the fruits of our hard labor and conscientious learning in action has been a tremendous reward. I have had the great fortune to watch Kate with her new handler and though I will admit to tearing up on occasion, I can finally see the big picture: someone's life is changing right before my eyes. The "assistance" that Kate brings to Elyse lies far beyond retrieving a dropped wallet or switching on a light; in its purest form, their relationship is about love, each party serving as the perfect missing link in the day to day life of the other. It is a beautiful thing to watch and I cannot wait to give you all the opportunity to see for yourselves.
I am homeward bound this weekend and will continue to post once I am back in Chattanooga. My time here has been amazing but the true fun is just beginning! Isn't it about time for a puppy shower? I'm thinking baby blue for some reason!
Thank you all so very much for following along this summer...the best is yet to come!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vladdie Hits the Red Carpet

I thought that you all might enjoy seeing my sweet Vladimir in NYC! After the Today Show appearance, the ADI clan set off for a series of press events for service animals as well as attending the Power of Paws launch party, a new, national initiative created to educate people about the mutual benefits of interacting with pets (think social/therapy). Here, Vladdie is pictured with Caridee English who is apparently the recent winner of the reality show America's Next Top Model. I will admit that I felt a bit betrayed; however, upon his return this week I couldn't help but to forgive him. Talk about a reunion!
Speaking of reunions, mine with the Southeast is rapidly approaching and I am ecstatic! Though I am weary of the return to heat and humidity, I am ready to see everyone and to get back to my own bed at last. One final week to go and what a big one it is sure to be...
Stay tuned!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Never fear, yes, I am still alive and going strong! Things here are intense to say the least. Our clients arrived on Monday and we have been nonstop ever since: early morning kennel duty at 7, client boot camp from 8-5, and then daily client progress evaluations over dinner and into the evening. I am exhausted yet finally beginning to see the big picture. I think I may finally understand what my yoga teacher has been telling us all along, i.e., it is only when you've begun to anxiously want to get out of a pose that you truly begin to experience it. Comfortable discomfort she calls it--I have an entirely new appreciation! This afternoon we will be finishing up a week of intense lecturing and command practice; tomorrow it will be off to the mall (yep, my favorite of course!) and will be working on escalators, elevators, fancy china shops, and restaurant all know the drill by now! I will try to post with more detail this weekend and get some pictures too. Until then, hope that you are all well and preparing for a fun weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pigs are Flying, Dogs Reading

The Assistance Dog Institute will clearly stop at nothing to showcase the unyielding intelligence of our four legged friends. After lectures on service animals for mobility impairments, guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs, search and rescue dogs, disaster relief dogs, critical care therapy dogs, specialty facility therapy dogs, and even courtroom therapy dogs, somehow we transitioned into what is known as the Reading Dog. Now some of you may think of a Reading Dog as I did: a therapy dog that visits with various libraries and schools to assist children with reading by creating a non-intimidating environment in which the child can relax, unencumbered by the pressure of peers. You and I would be about half correct on our assumptions. As you can see in the above picture, Noah is actually sitting based on the written (and NON-verbal) command that Bonnie, my classmate, is displaying. I'll be the first to admit to a blatant amount of skepticism; in fact, I'll even admit to having a bit of an out-of-body experience when the "Reading Dog" lecture began. It was one of those rare, extremely poignant times in life when one observes the space around himself and thinks, "just what in the hell is going on here!? Why does no one else seem to think this is odd!?" Fortunately, my twilight zone moment was fleeting as I began to listen to the instructor and understand that as with verbal commanding, the dogs can easily decipher patterns and thus associate letter patterns with standard commands that they already know. While I do find that to be fascinating, I couldn't help but to question the practical application of these skills. Would Will be able to check our emails at the office? Could he read a quick post-it on the door and know that Cyndee is in a meeting? Heehee. Well as it turns out, ADI is doing research on canine "reading" (if you're interested Dr. Bergin has published a book about it) but the cards that we were using are typically used on the library/school therapy visits so that the child reading can see that the dog also can read--helps to strengthen the bond between the two, often creating a more trustful environment and "two-way dialogue" if you will, for the session. Take it or leave it; I'm just passing it along!
I cannot believe that we are already in Week 4. The pace is truly reaching a crescendo as we begin to prepare for the Client Training next week. Dr. Bergin distributed the schedule today and we each have been assigned to team as well as individual tasks throughout the camp. In case I haven't been clear on what is happening, the final two weeks of our seminar involve the actual placement of service dog to client. At this point, it looks like we will be placing two service dogs, Kate and Noah, along with three social/therapy dogs. Clients will be arriving on Monday morning and will be starting an intensive two week boot camp leading up to graduation on Saturday 7/28. The boot camp will follow the exact format of our first two weeks at ADI: lectures, dog training, field trips, and of course umbilical cording! The only difference is that instead of the ADI staff and trainers running the show, we, the students, are responsible for each part of the two week itinerary. As you can imagine, we are all in extreme panic mode.
Now not to toot my own horn but I have to let you all in on a little secret, just because I know that a) you will be crossing your fingers for me and b) you will be so proud! The ADI staff selected each of our roles in the two week itinerary and I (along with many smaller tasks) have been chosen to lead our two biggest assignments: the Welcome Orientation Dinner on the first night of class (guess they've got a good eye for Southern hospitality) AND the Graduation ceremony's certificate presentation! Though I am a little nervous, I am really flattered and am glad to have the chance to put a little of my personal touch on things. Hands on experience is certainly the best way to learn so I'm excited to bring all of this back to Chattanooga in just two more weeks!
Hope that you all are well and not yet melting in the July heat.
Stay tuned...