Wednesday 30 June 2021

Assistance Dog 101: Responsibility


With Henry comes responsibility for L. Henry isn't just an assistance dog, he is L's best fur friend and companion.

Henry assists L on a daily basis and while Henry is helping L, L is learning how to care for Henry.

L feeds Henry twice a day which is helping to strengthen the bond between the two of them. We have a relatively small backyard, so we take Henry on daily walks for exercise and to practice Henry's skills. Part of our daily walks involves giving Henry some off leash down time to just be a puppy - he really is just a great big goofball when not in his jacket. L brushes and washes Henry every week, under supervision of course by myself or Daddy superhero.

All of these things for L will help to strengthen the bond between L and Henry. At the moment, Henry looks to me as his pack leader because of the training that I did during our placement week with him. We're gradually transferring some of that leadership to L. And all of the jobs that L completes while caring for Henry assists to further develop L's find motor skills and life skills that he can take with him as he grows older.
This morning was brushing time, Henry sat there ever so patient waiting for L to finish brushing him ❤

Saturday 26 June 2021

Assistance Dogs 101: Tracking!

L taking off has always been a worry for us, especially since he started hiding and not answering when his name is called. Knowing that Henry can track L is a huge sense of relief as he's that extra pair of eyes, ears and nose.

L doesn't run off deliberately, it is a natural response (think fight, flight, freeze response) when he is overwhelmed by his emotions or by sensory input.

During placement week we learnt how to play hide and seek - which is the beginning of Henry being able to track L when he runs off due to being overloaded by sensory input or his emotions.
It's called hide and seek, and practised as hide and seek, so as not to encourage L to run away just so that Henry will find him, which makes sense.
On our first day of tracking, Henry and L did amazing. Three attempts, three successful seeks.
I on the other hand need to remember...
1. Use the retractable lead when we're outdoors practising hide and seek.
2. Once Henry is in track mode, he is very fast and very powerful. When given the command to find L, Henry is a dog on a mission.
3. When Henry runs off to find L, if we're using his regular lead, I need to let go of the lead otherwise I'll end up face first into the ground.
4. Falling onto sand after being pulled by a powerful and determined Labrador is not fun and it hurts!! I'm still finding sand in places sand just shouldn't be 不不不不
Oh and Henry must have realised that I was no longer attached to the end of his lead because he did a lap of the playground to come back and check on where I was before he located L 不不不

It's now been roughly four weeks into Henry being with us, and Henry has put his tracking training into action for real. Twice.

The first being inside the house when I couldn't find L. The doors were closed so I knew that he was in the house. Henry found him in our bedroom hiding within a matter of seconds of being given the command to find L.

The second was out the front door of our house. Both little superheroes wanted to watch the recent lunar eclipse so I said to them let's go out the back to look at the moon. When O and I went out the back door, I didn't realise that L had decided to go out the front. When I came back inside to find L, Henry was on high alert facing the front door and the front door was open. He tracked L to out the front of our place.

So in the last four and a bit weeks we've played hide and seek 12 times, with every seek being successful. And two real deals, both successful. Watching Henry track for real and not knowing where L was, wow, Henry is amazing.

Henry is a true life saver and deserved the high reward treats when he found L both times ❤❤

Oh and I've found a new way to get L out of bed in the mornings when he doesn't want to get up for school .... send Henry up to "find" L. I know where L is, Henry doesn't so it's a great opportunity to practice hide and seek, and it gets L up out of bed!!

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Introducing Henry! Henry and O


Henry has been with our family for a little over four weeks and has settled in beautifully. Henry and L are inseparable which is awesome to see. But Henry has also taken a liking to O as well which is also great to see.

At home, Henry will seek O out for cuddles and pats and if he senses that O is struggling with anxiety or emotions, he will go over and nudge O's legs gently.

One afternoon while we were at the park after doing our hide and seek training, O ran ahead and was very happy flappy. Henry watched O very closely and looked at me for reassurance that O was okay. It was as though he could sense that he may need to track O too.

Eventually, Henry will be able to pick up on O's cues that O needs assistance with anxiety and he will be able to help O too.

Friday 18 June 2021

Assistance Dog 101: Saying Thank you


Day four of placement week, we said thank you and goodbye to our amazing trainer, Patricia.

Patricia founded Smart Pups after realising the need for Assistance Dogs trainers when she was asked to train a dog for a child who was in a wheelchair. She completed an internship in the USA and when she returned to Australia, she founded Smart Pups.
We were very fortunate that Patricia chose Hendy to be her project for L. As she explained to me, she is more in the background administration, raising awareness of Smart Pups role rather than training the dogs as she has a team of trainers. Occasionally she chooses a pup to train, which was Henry, so that she is back in the role that began her passion - training assistance dogs.
The knowledge that Patricia passed onto myself during our placement week has been wonderful. I went into the week feeling a little apprehensive as learning how to handle an assistance dog is a little daunting.
I've come away with so much knowledge and the confidence that I am very capable of handling and guiding Henry to support L in any situation and environment that we encounter.

L is still amazed that it wasn't only Patricia and the Smart Pups team that trained Henry.
While Patricia was here with us, L said that he wanted to go and say thank you to the prisoners that looked after Henry as well as the school kids.
Ummmm, visit the prisoners to say thank you? No. But you can write them a letter. And that's exactly what he did.
A letter for Patricia, a letter for the prisoners and one for the school kids. Who said that Autistic children don't show empathy?? ❤❤

Thursday 17 June 2021

Introducing Henry! The Public Access Test!

We are certified!!!! The third day of our placement week began like every other day and when Patricia arrived at our place, she surprised us with the news that she thought we were ready to do our Public Access Test a day early. We passed with flying colours.

Every service dog, regardless of if they are a Guide Dog, Autism Assistance, seizure alert, diabetes dog and so on, must pass the public access test to be able to operate without a trainer present.
The test is mostly about how the dog behaves in public, but also about the handler being able to control the dog - how does the dog react walking past other dogs, being approached by strangers, how is the dog around children it doesn't know, walking past food on the ground and ignoring said food, can the handler give the dog directions while the dog is not being held on lead, does the dog follow those directions and many other elements.

If a potential assistance dog does not pass even one element of the public access test, then it must continue in training mode until the trainer and handler feel confident.

So our team, Team Henry, is now certified and able to operate on our own. This also means that Henry is able to go everywhere with us. The only places that Henry (and other assistance dogs) can't go is into a commercial kitchen and into sterile places like operating theatres.
One of our "strangers" to approach us during our public access test, was a colleague from my work and his client. While L wasn't keen to sit and talk, he started entering into sensory overload, Henry was amazing and did exactly what he's trained to do - a lap lay to calm L ❤❤

While on his under (laying under the table in the food court,) Henry fell asleep and didn't miss a beat when a toddler spotted him and started squealing in excitement, and then almost sat on him when she ran over to pat Henry.

The next step is to keep practicing all of Henry's skills and to train Daddy Superhero so that he too can be certified as a handler.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Introducing Henry! Fun Facts


Henry is a pretty amazing dog - he is L's best fur friend and assistance dog all in one.

During our placement week, Patricia, our trainer told us a few facts about Henry, so I thought I would pass them onto yourselves!

He turned 1 on the 20th of May 2021 so he was a Covid19 baby!!! He was from the H litter (each of the Smart Pups litters are named from a letter of the alphabet,) hence the name Henry and his dad is one of the preferred breeding dogs for Guide Dogs Queensland.

During his Smart Pups training Henry did two stints in prison (the first for basic obedience and the second to hone his skills needed to work with L,) as well as a six week block at a school in a classroom where he practised his skills, listened to reading, went to assemblies and everything in between.

Henry learnt his cockroach trick in prison! He was meant to learn "go to sleep," which is laying still on one side, but he rolled over too far when first learning that trick. The prisoners training him thought that looking like a cockroach was funnier than pretending to go to sleep, so they kept practising the cockroach. And they named the trick. When working, if Henry forgets a command or just does the wrong thing, his go to response is to drop and roll into cockroach!!

These next few facts are M rated, so if you don't like to read M rated facts, stop reading here!

His nickname in prison was "One Nut" and "Humpy Henry!"

Why? Because only one of Henry's testicles descended 不不

Smart Pups and the Vet held off on his desexing in the hope that the other would descend. But it didn't. So he became a little humpy 不

The vets then had to do a little exploratory surgery when Henry was desexed to locate the undescended testicle.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Introducing Henry!


Placement Day. 17th of May 2021.

Placement day is a day that we had all been eagerly waiting for, especially L. And the day was definitely worth the wait. We were given the news in April that Henry was due to be placed in mid May, so L had been literally counting down the days on his Smart Pups calendar!

I met Henry and our Trainer Patricia, who just happens to be the founder of Smart Pups, at our place. I spent the day learning how to handle Henry, practicing all of his commands and the do and don'ts of owning an assistance dog.

We went to a shopping centre where we practiced every element of the public access test that every potential assistance dog and their handler must pass before being certified to operate without a trainer.

Prior to the end of the school day, we collected L early from school so that he could meet his pup without the busyness of school ending for the day.

I'm pretty sure that as soon as L laid eyes on Henry, it was love at first sight. Lots of puppy cuddles and kisses ❤

Henry is a beautiful, gentle soul, who turned one during placement week ❤❤ As Patricia said, Henry is one of the few Smart Pups who has passed every element of the Assistance Dogs training and placement before they turned 1.
And L is in love with his pup ❤❤
Thank you to every person who has helped us on this journey, we are so very appreciative of your assistance ❤

Sunday 13 June 2021

Just for fun Memes

Everybody needs a laugh, so here a few of the just-for-fun memes that I've created for our social media sites!

Monday 7 June 2021

Making yourself redundant!

As I mentioned in a previous post, last year brought many changes to many households across the world, and ours was no exception. For the last 20 odd years I have been working with children in various capacities and while I absolutely love working with children, I decided that I needed a change in career. So I took the leap into the disability sector as a support worked. And between you and me, I'm loving my new role.

When I first started, the general manager said something to me that I've really taken on board ..... as a support worker, you need to make yourself redundant when working with clients, and it's so true.

My goal as a support worker is to assist individuals, regardless of what their disability is, to become as independent as possible and to do that, I have to make myself redundant to them. I need to assist an individual to learn new skills to the point that they don't need my assistance any more. Then once they've mastered a new skill, we work on another skill or another area until I'm redundant and so on.

This is what all support workers should be doing. Some individuals will need more support than others, but ultimately the support worker needs to make themselves redundant! Assist your client with developing strengths and learning new skills, to the point that the client no longer requires your support.

It's the same with both of my little superheroes, we want them both to become as independent as possible and to do that we need to make ourselves redundant when they are learning new skills. As their parents, Daddy superhero and I will always be in the background for both little superheroes to provide support and unconditional love, but we're constantly building on their strengths and developing new skills so that they're not completely dependant on us later in life. And if for some reason later in life, the little superheroes are still dependant on us, we'll be both be there for them.

Oh and excuse the dodgy pic, I went playground exploring on one of my shifts with a client and just had to have a go on the slide 云云

Tuesday 1 June 2021

You know you need more coffee memes!!

Yep, it's the that time of the blog when I publish more coffee memes. If you hadn't guessed by now, I do like my coffee. A few of these memes were created last year, but never late than never!