The Adventures of Jaba

Location: San Jose, California, United States

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Holiday Happenings

Well, Jaba and I have been really busy. The closing of the fall college semester was a buzz of activity for us. But after that, the fun began. We attended a local parade where there was a group of CCI dogs entered. I believe there was about 20 dogs representing CCI. Each one was dressed up somehow. Jaba had a Santa hat and a collar with a bell attached. We won the award for the best animal entry.....for the second year in a row!
Then Jaba and I attended a school Christmas party. I love taking Jaba places because he always seems to be the center of attention. It's amazing to see a dog so well-behaved. That's just a testament of the great breeding and training he's had. In a room crowded with people, Jaba laid calmly at my feet until it was time to mingle. Then he got up and went around the room with me. He didn't even give the food a glance and the family dog at this house didn't phase him either. I was so proud of my handsome date with a eye-catching red scarf.
Our next activity was a trip to Utah the week before Christmas to visit my sister. The temperature hovered between 15 and 45 degrees. Jaba didn't seem to mind that. The snow wasn't a problem either. Everyone he met on the trip was impressed with Jaba. I even met a flight attendant who is a puppy raiser! I always seem to meet people who have some connection with CCI. Puppy raisers, financial donors, families of people with service dogs......everyone. I love it.
Back at home for Christmas, Jaba has become a fully integrated part of the family. Even though he is my dog. He had his own stocking with a Black Lab head attached. He got some gifts as well.......Squeaky toys, his favorite!! A friend of mine even included him when she gave me a gift. He got a cute little brush in the shape of a puppy paw! How thoughtful that friends even would think about him.
My wonderful pup is so incredibly mellow. I kept him up on New Year's until 5:30am while talking with my best friend, who came over to bring in the New Year with me. I'm sure my friend wasn't the only one to be glad to hear that it was finally time to get to bed. Jaba had no problem going into his crate and resting. Thankfully, I think he's getting used to his Mom's ability to participate in marathon talking events.
I am so thankful for my four-legged friend. He has been such a blessing to me. I can't imagine life without him now.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Jaba's Job Description

Name: Jaba "the Hutt" Anderson
Age: 2 1/2 years
Sex: Male
Breed: Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix
Title: Service Dog and Faithful Companion

Background/Credentials: Was trained by several qualified individuals for two years before being appointed to his current position. Received basic training until he was 18 months and then went to advance "puppy college" training until he was two years. He was a great student, completing all work and passing all exams with flying colors. At the end of his courses, he was approved to advance to full-time work.

Responsibilities: This talented gentleman has quite the work load. He is on-call 24 hours a day. His duties include helping his boss pick up things that she drops, conserving energy by turning lights on and off, giving her opportunities by opening doors for her (and shutting them when necessary) and giving her a hand by carrying things. He saves the strength of his boss by pulling her around at times. He also handles many of her financial transations. His biggest responsibility, though, is to maintain a continual alertness so as to be ready to help his boss in whatever way she asks.

Benefits: Jaba gets free room and board in a two-story house. He also has all medical expenses paid for. He gets to travel wherever and whenever his boss does. All travel costs are taken care of. His work hours are flexible, though he does work weekends. Though the details aren't ironed out completely, his retirement plans are secure. He knows his boss will set something up that will give him the best possible life.

Special talents: Jaba is a natural clown. He can easily make people laugh. He naturally draws people to himself. He helps his boss connect with others. He aims to please. He'll cuddle for as long as his boss will let him. His ability to change roles at one word is incredible. When necessary, he's able to keep his instincts in-check. He also watches out for his boss. He's taken on a role not in his responsibilities. He alerts his boss if something drops without her knowing. He's saved her lunch several times with this skill. One talent he thinks he possesses is mind-reading. He tries to anticipate what will be asked of him, but this has gotten him into trouble a few times.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Our Mountain Adventure

This past Labor Day weekend, my family and I went up to our cabin get-away near Sonora in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We don't get up there as often as we'd like, but we do on occasion. We were up there from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday morning. This trip was easier than going to Minnesota. This time, I had an idea of what I needed to bring for Jaba and I knew how easily he adjusted to new environments. On Sunday we had a picnic with other people that live near us up there. Jaba was content to lay at my feet the whole time.
Monday we had a fun adventure. We went to the Big Tree National Park. The beauty of the park was amazing. These huge Sequoia trees were sometimes over 300 feet tall, more than 30 feet in diameter and often, several thousand years old. We walked through the trunk of one and my Dad was able to stand fully upright in the hollowed-out trunk of another. It was such a great experience. I really think Jaba loves being outside. He always is eager to check out things. He gets very excited. And the size of the trees didn't bother him at all. I enjoyed experiencing this place with him.
In other news, Jaba is adjusting to my school routine very well. My classmates and professors enjoy him very much, but are respectful of the need for the hands-off policy. I have the best friends and professors. I couldn't ask for a better group to learn with. Jaba has been helpful on several occasions where I've dropped things or otherwise needed something.
I am continually impressed with how well received we are in the community. Store owners and workers are always excited to have a dog come in and help me. They love learning about what Jaba does for me. And many restaraunts have also gone above and beyond what is required by offering water for Jaba and making sure he gets as much as he wants and needs. I appreciate their kindness.
These pictures are of our trip.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What is a service dog????

I've encountered numerous questions in my few months of living with a service dog. Some people understand one aspect or another of what Jaba does for me. Many have never seen or heard of a service dog. So I've decided to give a little summary of what a service dog is and what Jaba does for me.
First off, let me tell what a service dog is not. A service dog is not the same as a guide dog. Guide dogs are typically for the visually impaired person. They aid a person in safely navigating out in public and around the home. Service dogs from the organization where I got Jaba are not mobility dogs. The service dogs are not trained to help someone walk by providing stability, though many other organizations do train dogs to help in mobility. These service dogs do, however, pull their handlers for short distances if necessary. Service dogs are not protecting dogs. They are bred to be very docile and friendly. This enables them to calmly enter any environment the handler is in. Service dogs are not your average house pet. Although they do get time to be dogs where they aren't working, their lives are primarily to serve their handler in order to allow the person to live as independently as possible. Their handler is responsible for caring for the dog and maintaining the health and training of the dog. Even when not working, there are rules of conduct for the dog. For the safety of the dog, I have to monitor the types of toys he plays with and the environment in which he plays. He is not allowed off-leash unless he is in an enclosed area where there are no dangers. But he does get time to run around and play. And it's fun to see how different he is when he knows he can play. He is a young, energetic dog. He loves to run around. And, yet, he settles down and is immediately ready to work when told play time is over.
So what does Jaba do for me? He picks things up and carries items. Jaba can pick up papers and even dimes. He can turn lights on and off. Opening and closing doors, drawers and closets is also in his job description. When out in the community shopping, he helps with transactions that need to be done. He can take money, including coins, put his front paws on the counter, give the money to the store worker, and then get the change and/or receipt. As mentioned earlier, he pulls me for short distances when I need it. Many of the commands Jaba knows help me get from one point to another. He can go out in front of me, get behind me, or go on either side of my wheelchair. Jaba also backs straight up. He can jump up on objects. He will get under objects such as tables, chairs, or benches. The object of having the dog is to make life easier for the handler. So, dogs eat and toilet on command. Dogs are not to bark or whine or make any noise, unless directed to bark. This is a command as a safety feature. If something happens and I'm unable to get to a phone to call for help, Jaba will bark and alert people that I need help. Of course, a big part of having a dog is the companionship. Dogs are great ice-breakers. People are naturally drawn to dogs and it is a great way for someone who may not get much social interaction to be accepted in communities. People are constantly coming up to me and asking questions or telling me stories of dogs they know that look like Jaba. And it's great security knowing I'm not alone.
Now that I've explained what I expect from my dog, let me explain what I ask of you, the public. Jaba is a working dog. His job is to help me go about my daily life. In order to do this job effectively, he needs to be able to focus on me. That is why there is a hands-off policy. Being pet by people walking by is really distracting. And it's disruptive if I'm trying to get him to do something for me. And since we're still getting use to each other, it is critical that he pays full attention to me and learns that he needs to be focused at all times, no matter what is happening around him. It would help us if you let us do our jobs of working together. I do welcome questions, though, so when you do approach us, try not to ooh and aah over Jaba. I know that's easier said than done. Even I have to be less affectionate with Jaba in public than I am at home. He gets really excited with attention and it will distract him, so I have to scale back on my praise for a job well-done. I can't get as excited as I would like. If possible, ignore the dog. He is basically just a resource for me to have more independence. As such, it is his job to do tasks that help me. It is his job now to pick up items for me. If the object is too big or heavy for him, I will still need assistance, but not unless I ask for help. When he's not needed, he is suppose to be as out-of-the-way as he can. And even when it looks like Jaba may be laying down on the job or sleeping, he is actually working and waiting for me to give the next command. The great thing about these dogs is that they love to work. There may be times when I will allow some interaction, but they will be few and far between. Thank you for your understanding.
I would love to answer any questions I didn't cover in this post.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Minnesota, August 2005

My parents grew up in Northern Minnesota and they own a cabin there that we visit every summer. I was really excited to introduce my friends and relatives there to my new friend, Jaba. But at the same time, I was a little nervous about taking such a big trip with Jaba so soon after getting him. I shouldn't have worried. Jaba was a wonderful travel companion.
Jaba is a great traveler. He behaved perfectly on the two flights to Minnesota, wowing the flight crew and other passengers. He was a perfect gentleman in the hotel and had no problem sleeping on his fleece bed. The four-hour trip to our cabin north of Minneapolis was pretty uneventful for Jaba.
Jaba was very curious and interested when we arrived at our cabin. I put down his fleece bed and he felt right at home. He pretty much settled in easily. I think he liked the place which is great since we visit every year. He seemed very interested in the water. He always got excited on the dock, but was perfectly fine with lying next to me while I fished. He also didn't seem to mind our pontoon boat. He didn’t have any problems getting on or off. He seemed interested when one of us caught a fish. He'd watch while we took the fish off the hook and watched as we threw the fish back.
It's so fun. He is very attentive to me and is so eager to obey. At the same time, he's fine if a family member has to hold the leash temporarily. One night I called him off the boat while Mom held the leash. He came to me so quickly that Mom ended up falling and doing a summersault. Thankfully everyone was fine and we got a good laugh. He really seems to be attaching to me. He’s very alert and will pretty much pick up anything that I drop without me asking. And I’m using a little Tupperware dish for his food, which he picks up for me when he’s done eating. It’s so cute. He is so funny to watch with his toys. I had to get him a new squeaky toy because the old one got a hole in it. He is so proud of his new toy. It seems like he likes this one better.
As mellow as he is about just hanging out at the lake, he’s also happy to get out and go somewhere. We’ve been to a few malls and restaurants. He loves to work and get out with people. He’s dazzled so many people. I’ve also gotten to educate people who don’t know about service dogs.
We found a great fenced-in area for him to run. I love to watch this guy really move. He is such a happy dog. He’s enjoyed getting to meet my friends and family. And, of course, everyone loves him.
One thing I forgot to mention. Jaba likes the wildlife here, but not too much. We’ve got tons of birds, gophers and chipmunks. Last night he was relaxing in the middle of our lawn on his long leash while my parents and I ate. We feed the animals while here. We use sunflower seeds. There’s a stump in the middle of the yard where we dump some of the seeds. The other seeds are put on the porch. Well, Jaba was just a few feet away from the pile of seeds. He could have easily reached it if he wanted to. This one chipmunk came up to the stump and circled it a few times before settling down and picking up seeds. Jaba watched very intently and eagerly, but didn’t move until the chipmunk took off. I think that happened a few times. It was so funny to see the two animals so close to each other. Jaba was so cute, watching but not trying to attack. It was clear he was really excited and interested, but he was controlling himself. It was fun dinner entertainment for us.
Before leaving Minnesota, we made a stop at the Mall of America. It was fun, but pretty crowded. Despite this, Jaba was very attentive to me and helped me shop. He also was a great companion when I got temporarily separated from my family.
Jaba was also a comfort a few times at the cabin when I needed help. It was a relief to know that he was there and could bark for help if I needed him to, which I ended up not needing him to do. I was just grateful to have him there.
The trip home went just as well as the trip there. It was fun to see Jaba getting home and recognizing my room and the backyard and his crate. I know he'll also be happy to be back to "his" van. The rental van seemed less comfortable for him, though he never really complained. He settled back in so quickly that it's almost like we never left.
Now the next big thing is going back to school in a few weeks. I'm confident that he'll adjust to that routine without a problem.

Vacation Bible School July 2005

July was pretty low-key, except for the week of the 11th through the 15th. That was the week of my church's Vacation Bible School (VBS) where children come to learn about God and participate in lots of fun activities. The event was for children, ages 2 through entering sixth grade. I've helped with this week for several years. This year I was a leader for the preschool craft room. Every day, the children would come and create something that went along with the story for the day. I was a little unsure how it would work with Jaba, but everything went smoothly. I work with the preschool on Sundays, so most of the kids were familiar with Jaba. On the first day I explained to each class why he was there and what he does for me. I explained that they could help train him by leaving him alone and letting him listen to me and do his job. I think the kids were excited to be able to help me train him. Jaba behaved perfectly. At times I could tell he wanted to play with the kids, but he listened to my every word and held all his commands. I was so proud of him.
Most of the time, Jaba stayed under a table while I helped the kids do the craft. However, he helped me greet the kids every morning and say good-bye in the afternoon. And he quickly became a kind of celebrity. We leaders had a little snack break in the middle of the day. On the first day, I gave Jaba the job of carrying my water bottle from the snack room to the craft room. The lady in charge of the snack room always kept a bottle of water on the side so that Jaba could carry it for me rather than having to use a cup. It was fun to see Jaba when the water bottle came out. He knew what was coming and he got excited and looked so proud of himself.
The week went very well and I look forward to many more VBS's in the years to come. Once I get my pictures back from the week, I'll put a few up.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The first month

It's hard to believe I've had Jaba a month at home. We've done so much together. I'm off school now, so we've been going out and having fun. Jaba's so laid-back. Nothing really phases him. We've been to a few malls, a park, and several stores. We've also been to a few plays and musicals. He's been calm every place. Even when I took him to a gathering that was really busy with lots of activity, he was fine. At church he wows everyone. As much as he seems to want to play with the kids I work with, he remains very focused. He enjoys exploring new places. He gets this alert stance and he seems very excited. He really enjoyed when we went to the wharf several weeks ago. However, despite his eagerness about going out, he's fine with staying home on the days I have no plans. I really enjoy being out with him because everyone wants to talk about him. I've met several people who either know someone who raises puppies or has some other connection to Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). At an Art and Wine festival a few weeks ago, I even met a woman who use to work at CCI as a trainer. I've met people who have raised guide dogs as well and we've compared the jobs of the dogs. I'm surprised how many people I've met who think that my dog is a guide dog. It's not a bad thing, I just never expected that. So I've had several chances to explain the difference between the types of dogs.
I've only run into two people who have not wanted a dog in their store. Neither place was one I really wanted to be in, so i just left. Had I really wanted to be in that store, I would have taken the time to explain that he can go everywhere with me. Everyone is amazed at the things Jaba can do for me. And I've gotten comments on how amazingly well behaved he is for such a young dog (2 yrs.). I've thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with Jaba so far. He loves to work. Any time I ask him to do something for me, he stands tall and his tail starts wagging. I think he's proud of himself.
But he's not all work. When he's at home, he's mainly off-duty unless I ask him to do something. He loves his Squeaky toy and will get it to play as soon as I let him know he's not working. He loves to chase after it. I've also seen how much he loves to run. He and my other dog get along, I let Jaba out in the back to run and play. He is so funny trying to get the other dog to play. He also likes to lay on his back, legs splayed and his teeth showing in a grin that makes me laugh every time.
Well, that's a little about my new buddy. I'll write again as new things happen and I'll hopefully get pictures up in the next couple of weeks.

My Team Training Experience

My journey to getting a service dog started a few years ago with written applications, phone interviews and an in-person interview. Then I was put on a waiting list to get a dog and go to a two week Team Training (TT) in Santa Rosa. I got the call in March to let me know that there was an opening for me to come to TT in May. It was an honor to be chosen to come. Many hours and much money was put into the training and care of these dogs. At 8 weeks of age, the puppies are shipped to a person or family who raises, trains and cares for the puppy until he or she is 18 months. Then the puppy is shipped to the organization for advanced training which lasts about six months. I have many friends who have service dogs from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), so I had an idea of what to expect. Though it turned out to be easier than I thought it would.
I got there and immediately found that a friend of mine was at TT getting her second dog. There were ten people getting dogs. We were split into two classes. There were five in each. One class consisted of people getting a Skilled Companion dog, which is where the dog is given to a person, but a facilitator, usually a parent, is the one who cares for and handles the dog. The other class was for service teams, where it was just the recipient and the dog. During the two weeks, I became really good friends with many of the people there. By the end of the two weeks, it was like I was leaving family.
Each day consisted of lectures and hands-on practice of the commands and take-home quizzes. The first two days, we rotated dogs to find what would be the best match. Our instructors chose which dogs would be matched with which person based on need, life-style, personality, etc. The third day we were matched with a dog that probably worked, though we knew it could change. Thankfully we stayed with the dogs with which we were matched. After the first few days of basic commands and handling skills, we were ready to hit the real world. We went out in the community to practice our handling and commands. We went out to lunch, went to a hardware store, a pet store and a mall. At the end of the first week, we took our dogs to the dorm with us and were responsible for the complete care of the dog. The last two days consisted of taking a written exam, a public safety exam, going to a vet check and one-on-one appointments with our instructors. If both the written and public exams were passed, we were officially certified as a team.
We also got a chance to meet the person(s) who raised our dog from the age of 8 weeks to about 18 months. I really enjoyed meeting the people who worked with my dog, Jaba, as a puppy. These people were the ones who handed me the Jaba's leash at graduation, officially making him mine. That graduation experience was really special for all of us there.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at TT. All the staff at CCI were very friendly and eager about having a chance to meet people receiving dogs. All were willing to help make our stay at the CCI dorms as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. Our trainers were very helpful and fun. I enjoyed going to class and working with them, the dogs and my classmates. Although it was a little tiring at times, I felt the whole experience was set up well. I felt at home by the end of the two weeks and it was hard to say good-bye to the friends I had made. This website was designed as a way for us to keep in touch and let others see how Jaba and I are doing.

Monday, June 20, 2005

My First Post

This is a journal of the adventures of my service dog, Jaba, and I.