The Adventures of Jaba

Location: San Jose, California, United States

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.