A Day In the Life of…….
It was a normal Saturday morning at the agility trial – if any agility trial could be called normal. Undercover Special Agent Arkeo lay quietly in her crate – head on paws, listening to the frantic anticipatory barking of the other dogs – border collies, aussies, shelties and a variety of others. She lightly dozed, keeping her nose and ears on alert for any impending signs of danger.
Her principal charge – the Rev – walked up to the door of the crate bouncing nervously as she babbled about going out to “smoke” the other dogs. Special Agent Arkeo looked around, rose and stretched before exiting the crate. Rev hooked the leash on Special Agent (SA) Arkeo’s collar and they wove their way through the dogs, crates and people that were between them and the gate. On the way, SA Arkeo kept shifting her gaze checking for any intruders into their space.
The pair entered the ring and SA Arkeo sat up straight – an alarm sounding in her head. Something didn’t smell right. Rev gave her the signal to break and SA Arkeo took off over the first jump desperately trying to isolate the source of the smell at the same time. That’s it – coming from the Rev. It usually means she is in trouble and the Rev often doesn’t even notice it. Up the frame, through the tunnel – SA Arkeo knew she needed to get the Rev’s attention. Instinct takes over as SA Arkeo nips the Rev on the right calf below the knee. Danger – Danger – you must sit down!! But the Rev goes on – over the walk, through the tunnel, through the weaves. SA Arkeo nips her one more time and the Rev finally acknowledges the signal. End of the run – back to the crate.
From mild mannered agility dog to Special Agent Service Dog, Arkeo’s mind turns on a dime to transcend the space between playing Snakes and Ladders and stepping into Service Dog mode. Job well done Special Agent!!
Sound fanciful – it’s not. This scenario played itself out this past weekend at our last agility trial. I’m often asked, “What exactly does a Service Dog do?” It’s a complicated question because there are so many different things Service Dogs do – it is highly individualized according to the needs of their handlers. They can be used for mobility issues, guiding the blind, helping keep autistic children safe, bringing people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder back to reality from flashbacks of past traumas. Recognizing when my blood sugar is low or I am dehydrated is something Arkeo has learned to alert me about (even though I don’t always listen). And she will interrupt whatever she is doing to make sure I am safe.
We’ll look at other Service Dog issues as well as obedience, rally and just plain good manners in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for more adventures of Special Agent Arkeo. See you around the kennel.