Sunday, May 20, 2012
Hey all of you Sully supporters! I've got news. After almost exactly 2 years of training, the difficult decision was made to give Sully a "Career Change". Looking back, Sully was exhibiting signs of anxiety very early on - but I didn't realize it. After it was pointed out to me, well - frankly I wasn't wanting to see it! Darn it! I wanted this boy to be a service dog!! However, it became more and more obvious - and as much as I hated to admit it, I saw it too. While he was a champ at learning the tasks, he was really spotty on actually performing them. During training sessions at the Helping Paws Center, he would often show the most stress - head hung down, panting, backing to the end of his leash, and "checking out" (not doing anything I'd ask - even for really good treats!) The staff at Helping Paws tried everything. One of the trainers, Maureen, even took Sully to her house instead of evaluating him at the center. I was worried that it was something I had done (or not done!) But I was reassured that it wasn't a training issue - Sully can easily perform (almost) all of the tasks expected of a service dog. But some dogs just don't have the emotional fortitude to be a service dog. So, Sully has been adopted by our family. When I got the word that Sully was leaving the program, it was a bittersweet moment. Relief coupled with disappointment. I had SO wanted to see him walk across that stage with his graduate! What a handsome service dog he would have been! On the other hand, training for the last few months had been really tough - I couldn't escape the feeling that I was forcing a square peg into a round hole. His stress was getting worse. Getting him to jump into the car with his pack on was nearly impossible. At a time when we should have been backing off on training treats, I was having to increase the "tastiness" - relatively simple tasks needed cheese. Or bacon. Sully has acclimated nicely to being a pet. He's fairly certain his new bed is in the middle of ours. (Sorry, dude. Not true.) He's still not crazy about riding in the car, but he's more willing to get in, knowing his training days are behind him. Someday, I think we'll try training again - of a different kind. Sully's personality would be terrific for a therapy dog. He's a first-class snuggle bunny.I could totally see him snuggled up in a hospital bed with some kid recovering from surgery. Or letting a nursing home resident scratch his super-soft ears. We all have our strengths. Sully will find his. For now, we'll let him have a nice, long break! I can't say enough about how wonderful Helping Paws is! Through all of Sully's training, I have felt supported, encouraged and appreciated. This is a fabulous organization - filled with wonderful people. Thanks for reading my barely existant blog - (definitely NOT my strength!) Someday, I'll update when Sully finds his next career. For now, I will be spending my time making jewelry and supplying it to galleries. With a very happy dog at my feet!