About Puppity Mamas:
Puppity Mamas is the work of a disabled wife and wife team of service dog trainer/handlers who discovered a passion for making dog clothes. We’re discovering a lot of other things about dogs, service dogs, disability rights, keeping little fuzz butts warm, and making things, and this is the place where we share those things that we hope will be helpful, useful, amusing, or at least educational. Call us E and H.
About the Puppity service dogs:
Fruit Bat is a rat terrier who was rescued from a parking lot the day before Thanksgiving where her previous owners had dumped her off at two and a half months old. She was shy, clingy, and very nervous around food bowls. The humane society tried to find her previous owners, but with no chip and owners unlikely to show their faces, she soon came home with the Puppity Mamas and became Puppity #1.
Within days, Fruit Bat showed a striking ability to predict when E had a panic attack coming on, and we noticed that she would try everything she could think of to distract E. Unknowing that Fruit Bat was trying to help, E would push her away, not wanting to deal with a panic attack and an enthusiastic puppity.
Once we realized what Fruit Bat might be trying to do, we tried listening to her alerts and shaping her behavior into a warning E could recognize. This was the beginning of her service dog training. She is now trained to alert to panic attacks, prolonged breath holding, and increase in anxiety, allowing E to use rescue medicine and techniques early on, when they’re most likely to work. Fruit Bat is also trained to provide E an excuse to get away from situations that are overwhelming and to do deep pressure work for calming.
Ada Luna was dumped at the pound by a puppy mill because she was born with cataracts in both eyes, reducing her resale value as a teacup Chinese Crested-Yorkie “designer dog.” Fortunately, the ASPCALA took her in and set her up in one of their shelters for socialization and finding a forever home.
H had been looking for the right service dog training candidate for a few months, but had not found a dog with aptitude that impressed after getting to know Fruit Bat.
Something about Ada Luna’s mug shot spoke to us, so we rushed to the shelter after work to meet this little scruff muffin:
Of course, it’s only after Ada passed the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test with flying 3s and 4s and had started playing with Fruit Bat that the ASPCALA volunteer casually mentioned that this is the first time they’d seen Ada come out of her shell at all. Our confident, curious, exceedingly friendly little new friend was the shelter fraidy dog.
We soon found out that was because she’d spent her entire life in a cage up until that point and had no muscle tone at all. Instead of landing, she flopped. Instead of jumping, she fell. Her confidence with us was due largely to our understanding that you need to let the dog approach you. We’d made ourselves interesting and let her do the rest.
Like Fruit Bat, Ada Luna blossomed under the attention, socialization, and training, turning into a calm and focused companion. She’s learned to signal for breath holding, disassociation episodes, and increase in body tension. She’s also learned to do deep pressure work and to form a physical barrier when needed.
When it became clear that Ada Luna was not suited to a busy work environment because of her poor vision, she was prescribed Prozac (really!) by the vet for her fearfulness, and when it was successful, she went to work for a retired couple, using her deep pressure and calming tasks in a lower traffic environment. She sees, exercises with, and plays with Fruit Bat and Elsa several times a week.
Elsa the Terribull was temperament tested and adopted in December 2016 as a potential successor to Ada Luna, working for H. Elsa is a 13 pound Terribull, a terrier-pit bull cross with Dog knows what else mixed in, or, as H calls it, a “Los Angeles Pocket Dog.”
She watches, analyzes, and investigates everything, and has proven to be the fastest learner of the three. Because of her keen intelligence, Elsa needs lots of projects, training, chews, and attention so that she learns her work and tasks from us and doesn’t make them up as she goes along. (Collecting shoes under the bed is not a Mama-approved task.) She learned deep pressure, disassociation, and breathing work quickly, and when she reaches adulthood, will begin learning hearing tasks and combining her fetch and “up-up” talents into picking up dropped items for H.
When you’re training a service dog, it is ongoing training. They are always willing to learn new tasks to help you. And remember: if you don’t teach them, they figure out other things to amuse themselves with. Like your breakfast. Elsa likes breakfast.
Because of their small size, Fruit Bat and Ada Luna are both trained to work from within a bag or pouch, held in the arms, or riding on our shoulders. Elsa is big enough to work from the ground, but was so intrigued by the others riding shoulder, she learned her own way of balancing up there straight away and spends her working time divided between the shoulder, the bag she learned to love, and the ground.
Shoulder riding gets a lot of attention, but it’s the simplest way for us all to work in crowded environments. Ada, Elsa, and Fruit Bat have access to alert us easily, and we have our arms free without the encumbrance of carrying an extra bag. We won’t lie; it took a lot of practice for them and us for them to be so stable riding our shoulders, but since they seemed to enjoy the practice, the training has worked out well for everyone.
They also get to see more of the world up there.
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