The good folks at La Marque’s St. Michael’s Episcopal Church learned something that most professional service dog trainers have long known: Training the owner can be harder than teaching the dog.
Friendswood attorney John E. O’Brien will explain.
“Apple is our service dog and she attends St. Michael’s and also Good Shepherd Episcopal in Friendswood,” he said. “Apple is welcome at both and she has attended all sorts of sporting events, but her biggest challenge was the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens, where she encountered all sorts of animals. It was, especially those on the ground, which she was required to walk very close to. Being a hunting dog breed, that was extremely hard.”
Now to our lesson.
“Apple has caught two seizures my wife Sissy suffered during church,” O’Brien said. “She jumped up on my wife pinning her to the pew as she was taught to do. But I attempted to get the dog back under the pew, not realizing that a seizure was actually happening.”
Hence, our take-away: “The congregation commented that though Apple was well trained, sadly, I was not.”
Cathy Dorchuck, owner of Santa Fe’s A Pawsitive Approach dog training concern, is the reason that Apple was so well prepared. Dorchuck has spent long hours certifying and testing Apple under real-world conditions, like Sunday church.
Dorchuck has some advice for you, too.
“When you see a service dog team working in a store, church, mall or sidewalk, please smile and talk to the person holding the leash,” she said. “Some dog-and-person teams are welcoming to the public and want the social interaction. Others are trying to just get to their next destination with very little interaction. It is not appropriate for you to touch someone’s service dog without getting permission. Touching a diabetic alert dog or a seizure response dog can cause that dog to miss its owner’s biomedical cue and cause harm to the handler, so always be polite and respect the handler’s wishes.”
Landon Hoover, 9, attends League City’s Clear Creek Community Church on Sundays with Duke, his 2-year-old service dog. His mother Julie Hoover has praise for this place.
“The people at Clear Creek are wonderful,” she said. “They welcome Duke and Landon with open arms to give him the chance to learn about the good Lord.”
Landon has always had issues with crowds, loud noises and can become anxious if the lighting is either too bright or too dim, his mother explained.
“He also has a very hard time sitting still in his seat, he always has to be moving around,” she said. “Having Duke there, calms him. Duke helps Landon by applying pressure when he starts having an anxiety attack. He also helps by getting Landon’s attention if he starts moving around too much.”
As for Landon himself, he told us, “Duke is my best friend. He understands when I need help and when I feel sad. And I love teaching him new things so he is just the best. Duke makes me so happy and helps me not have a bad day.”
Julie Hoover refers to this good-looking black Labrador as a “gift from God” for their whole family.
“He has given me my life back by allowing me to go places with Landon and know we can get through a store without a meltdown,” she said. “And as for their bond, I have never seen a dog and child love each other so much. Like I said, Duke is a gift from God.”
Next week in Our Faith: Music Wars, Part 1 of 2.