Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day Nine: Test Prep

Mom's Take: Today we began practicing outright for our public certification test. Our trip to Polaris Fashion Mall allowed the the trainers a chance to see us work the dogs out in public and begin preparing us for the kinds of tasks the dogs will undertake. I'm having a hard time imagining myself walking through Fox River Mall with a dog, but guess what--it's gonna happen. And if nothing else, Jarod and I have to keep Flash up to date on his skills, so I might just HAVE to go shopping, right?  (Uh huh--bringing no money with me, mind you!) :)

We enjoyed a more leisurely lunch today before our work began at the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed an opportunity to learn more about some of the other people training for dogs from CCI. Teal, a graduate of Purdue, is planning to begin pursuing her masters degree in marriage and family therapy with service dog Philbert at her side. Sarah, a television/broadcast professional, is enjoying spending time with her mom (who was with her for the first week) and getting back to work with her new dog, Hepburn. I doubt Jarod realizes it, but these two ladies (like many of the other individuals in trainng right now), set such a positive example for families affected by disabilities. They don't let things stand in their way, and they make each moment of their lives count--what a wonderful message for ANY child, let alone those with disabilities.

Blessed...always blessed. What an opportunity.

But before we headed off to the mall, we did spend time at the center this morning working on some tasks and listening to a lecture on the public relations aspect of CCI. Last year the CCI completed hundreds of demonstrations for more than 75,000 people across the 14 state region that this center covers. These opportunities are so valuable because, in addition to educating people about the value of service dogs for individuals with disabilities, it provides the organization opportunities to continue fundraising. Since CCI does not accept government funding, all money for raising the dogs comes from private donors who understand and believe in the importance of service animals. As the dogs are worth $45,000 (yeah, you read that correctly) by the time they are fully trained, each dog requires quite a financial commitment, hence the fundraising.

And Lord knows I'm happy to do my part. :)

This morning's practice session allowed for some friendly competition with our dogs completing various tasks that, frankly, you wonder how it could be possible. The dogs passed items from dog to dog, around in a circle, without allowing items to touch the ground. They simultaneously retrieved items from tables, delivered goods to other tables, and navigated all of the ensuing chaos with an eye on completing the job and the "Good dog!" that comes with a job well done. These dogs never cease to amaze me.

The end of the day we found ourselves navigating the Polaris Fashion Mall practicing for our publc access certification test. We have to be able to prove we have complete control over the animal while out in public, including handling various distractions, food items, etc. Flash did very well today, pushing buttons when asked, ignoring distractions, letting strangers pet him when requested. I have a Thursday's test will go well.

Now I just have to study for the final written exam, Oof!

The absolute final stop on today's extravaganza was Petsmart where we picked up a few items, including a Kong toy (highly recommended), a large container of poop bags (in funky colors--ooh la la!) and a blue dog bone shaped tag engraved with Flash's name and our family info. I'm not putting it on him until Friday, but when I do, I'm never taking it off! Flash is a Falk--he fits right in. We are so lucky to have him coming to live with our (incredibly insane) family! :)

Hugs to all,

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