Puppy Prepares for a Career in the Service Industry
Woodlands resident Ruth Pinney learns to train service dogs
Jackson Hunter is going to school and his favorite teacher is Nickolas Scott. Nick is highly qualified for the teaching position since he knows both English and International Sign Language. There’s nothing hugely impressive about this scenario until you learn Jackson is a 5-month-old labradoodle puppy and Nick is a 3-year-old goldendoodle.
Most people are familiar with guide dogs for the blind or assistance dogs for persons with physical disabilities. Ruth Pinney, who lives in The Woodlands, is learning to train service dogs and her particular interest is the assistance they can provide for disabilities that are not quite so apparent. Nick, for instance, can alert to seizures, high blood pressure and high or low blood sugar as well as perform his other duties. Nick is also a trainer dog for the service puppies. Jackson, the labradoodle puppy, is being trained for a paraplegic.
Both dogs are from My Service Dog Inc., a nonprofit organization established in 2004 and based in Montgomery, Texas, which trains Service Dogs, Assistance Dogs and Hearing Dogs. Doodles are perfect for the job since they are highly intelligent and have hair that is is non-shedding rather than fur which can cause allergy problems.
Young dogs learn from watching the pros perform such skills as carrying a leash, retrieving objects, helping remove shoes and coats, putting items in a grocery basket, turning off lights, getting water from the refrigerator, and putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.
“I am personally interested in helping veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. TBI and PTSD are types of invisible injuries that plague well over 150,000 veterans from the last two wars,” said Pinney. “Service dogs are an immense help to these veterans if they can obtain one. A service dog can be trained to alert to its handler’s fears and anxiety caused by triggers in everyday life. Dogs naturally have ways to comfort and support. Triggers or cues for veterans suffering from PTSD may include places, times of day, certain smells or noises, or any situation that evokes reminders of particular trauma.”
Under Federal and Texas state laws, a private business must permit people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in any area that customers are generally allowed.
“A critical component of service dog education might be called Sights, Sounds and Smells 101,” said Ruth. “Dogs in training are exposed to elevators, shopping carts, wheel chairs, fire truck sirens, small children, tempting food morsels, milling crowds, and parking lots. They learn to ignore distractions and stay focused on the job at hand.”
Jackson will receive another 12 months of training or more, and the young man who will receive him will be trained as well so they can become a team. Family members, friends, caretakers and teachers are also trained.
Jackson and Nick attend Lord of Life Lutheran Church in The Woodlands with Ruth. “The members have been very accepting and delighted to be a part of young Jackson’s training. He hasn’t been invited to join a committee or sing in the choir yet, but I’m sure it’s coming,” adds Pinney. “I am not sure how he knows when someone is praying, but Nick always stands for the hymns and prayers at church. I know he enjoys the music and it’s important for the dogs to go to a place of worship that is similar to the one their human partner will attend. And besides, the dogs like to be blessed too!”
More information about My Service Dog Inc. can be found at myservicedog.com, or by visiting Lord of Life Lutheran Church at 3801 S. Panther Creek Drive in The Woodlands and watch the polished Nickolas Scott and his student Jackson Hunter in action.