Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Secondhand Dogs at your Service

They say you only get once chance to make a first impression. When Snickers, a chocolate Pomeranian mix, and Milo, a cream poodle mix, first arrived at DPVHS, they didn't do a good job of endearing themselves. Marni Edelhart, DPVHS's Behavior & Training Coordinator says of Snickers, "When Snickers first walked into the adoption center he was not selling himself very well. He darted hither and thither on his leash barking at everything that moved, humping me, and peeing on stuff." Doesn't sound like a dog people would line up to take home.

"Milo, on the other hand," states Marni, "came in very subdued and quiet until he got into a kennel where he let his voice be heard, barking whenever anyone entered the room. Like Snickers, he had a history of bad behavior with other dogs when on leash. In our evaluation here he did a lot of barking when he met another dog, but seemed more anxious than threatening."

Enter the good folks at New England Assistance Dog Services, or NEADS. NEADS provides trained dogs to assist people who are deaf or who have disabilities. They are the oldest hearing assistance dog provider in the country and the only organization of their type in New England. With headquarters in Princeton, Massachusetts, NEADS reaches out to animal adoption centers to find sheltered dogs with the qualities to make a great service dog. Diamonds in the ruff, so to speak.

Marni worked with NEADS evaluators to help Snickers and Milo get a second chance. She says, "NEADS has very high behavioral standards for their service dogs; there can be no evidence or history of aggression, and the dog has to be friendly with people of all ages and other animals. Additionally, hearing dogs (which is what both Snickers and Milo are training to become) should be highly energetic, motivated by both play and treats, and sound-sensitive. The more interest they show in novel sounds the better. Both Snickers and Milo had a physical appeal that sparked interest from adopters who wanted fluffy cuddlebugs. Their personalities, however, are much better suited to work than to snuggling. Although they are both social they prefer chasing a ball or following a scent to sitting quietly to be petted."

Snickers, the dog who paced frantically and loudly on the end of a leash, did great during his NEADS evaluation. "Once in a quiet room," Marni said, "some of his sweeter qualities became apparent and after a couple of days in a regular routine here he was a much more pleasant companion. The one concern in placing him with NEADS was his loudmouth behavior on leash when he saw other dogs. Fortunately he was barking out of love and interacted very nicely with dogs once he was close enough to smell them." Snickers won a recruitment slot. He began training as a hearing assistance dog with NEADS on December 21st.

Milo, although only about 25lbs, was surrendered because he was too much for his guardian to keep up with. According to Marni, "Unlike Snickers, when NEADS came to meet him he showed off as though he had prepped for the exam. With each new sound he calmly looked up and went over to investigate. He walked nicely on a leash for them and when he met the Labrador that they brought along he was a little over-eager, but perfectly friendly. NEADS was very happy to get such a promising assistance dog candidate and after watching him in their evaluation I felt even more sure that life as an assistance dog (always having a job to do) would suit Milo perfectly." Milo began his training on January 4th.

We are proud to send two DPVHS "alumni" to NEADS for their "graduate work." And even prouder that these two dogs will help a person with a disability navigate the world while providing them companionship. Congratulations, Snickers and Milo!

For more information about NEADS, visit www.neads.org.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great story, I love seeing NEADS articles! I raise Service Puppies (different than the hearing dogs) on the weekends with NEADS' Prison Pup Program.