Service dog in the making

 Sheppelley, service dog in the making.

Sheppelley, service dog in the making.

I was excited to see her again. It had been 5 months since I first looked into those dreamy eyes. Just a week ago I spoke to this gorgeous girls breeder about seeing some of the puppies that I had temperament tested back in May and she told me about Sheppeley and Lindsey.

In April I had contacted Craig and Laura of Poodle Store about their beautiful puppies. We chatted back and forth about health and temperament testing and they asked me to come and temperament test their litter in May. I was thrilled, temperament testing is my favorite part of being a dog trainer. Spending a couple of hours with 7 week old puppies is never a bad thing. So in May I head to their home to test 9 seven week old puppies.

I love temperament testing; it is such a fascinating and enlightening test. Each puppy is brought out alone to a stranger (me) in an environment that they have never been before. They are put through a number of tests to see who they are and what sort of family they would best thrive in. After doing the whole litter I exclaimed “really nice litter.” Of course when I’m testing a litter I usually fall for one or two of the puppies myself. In this litter I had a favorite in the the girls and the boys. But the little brown and white girl with the beautiful eyes really stole my heart.

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Now I found myself meeting Sheppeley (Claire when I first met her), the little girl who had stolen my heart so many months before. It was at Sheppeley’s new home where I met her human; the one who chose her to be her service dog. Sitting down in their backyard, I watched. And what I was witnessing was pure magic. I have never seen such a devoted 7 month old. She watched her guardian like a dog much older than her age; and had a calm about her that made me wish I had brought her home with me when I met her.

After meeting Lindsey and seeing the amazing connection they have at only five months into their relationship; I was happy that I had not brought her home with me. Here is where she was meant to be and I have never observed such a kismet moment.

Lindsey is a phenomenal woman. At 26 years of age she has been diagnosed with Dissociative Disorder, Social Phobia, Bipolar and Rheumatoid arthritis. Sheppeley will be Lindsey’s psychological service dog; and the human/canine team are already extraordinary to watch. It is almost unbelievable to see Sheppeley at work at only 7 months old. Her job is all about watching her charge and learning to sit still.

As I listened and watched, Lindsey told me about her search for a service dog. At every turn she was brought to the Standard Poodle. Once she’d decided on the breed she searched for a breeder and was turned away many times because of her list of diagnosis. That is until she found Craig and Laura. She explained her situation fully to them and not only did they not turn her away; but they offered to pick her up and bring her to see the litter on a day when she was having severe driving phobia. They helped her pick out the right dog for her and have continued to stay in touch. Great folks going above and beyond.

Lindsey and I sat and talked for an hour and a half. Sheppeley was so well behaved for the entirety of our discussion. She had one little puppy moment of wanting to eat a leaf but other than that she was watching Lindsey and responding to anything she thought she might need to alert.

Sheppeley is learning her life tasks which will include:

  • finding exits in a building for Lindsey.

  • forward momentum pull, to ground Lindsey and get her moving.

  • physical support.

  • DPT - deep pressure therapy. DPT involves a dog using its weight and sometimes warmth to mitigate a psychiatric symptom, often either as a calming strategy or to minimize disengagement from the world. ... Large dogs can be trained to provide DPT by lying on the person's lap or chest when the handler is sitting or lying down. (taken from psychdogpartners.org)

  • cover, standing in front of Lindsey to get her needed space.

  • block, standing behind Lindsey to get her needed space.

  • corner check, checking areas where Lindsey feels insecure or paranoid about going in. Sheppeley will check it out before Lindsey goes in.

  • alerting Lindsey to her mood changes and anxiety.

  • bring Lindsey her medications.

Lindsey

Lindsey is a naturally amazing dog trainer. Not only does she need a service dog to help support her but she is training Sheppelley herself. Lindsey credits her earlier years with horses plus her good friend and dog trainer Charlie Ridge for producing her intuitiveness in training. Charlie’s unconditional support has given Lindsey her true passion for dog training and that passion emanates from her.

As we sat and talked, Lindsey’s attention never left her duty to Sheppelley. She is quick to give feedback and get Sheppelley on the right tract. After about an hour of watching them work together I said “you are always in trainer mode.” “Yep” she replied. So for now while Sheppelley is in training; if Lindsey is hit with anxiety or a mood change, she needs to be working through it while teaching Sheppelley, which is a huge challenge.

Lindsey told me that she was overwhelmed when she first brought Sheppelley home by the sheer magnitude of what lay head. She has since set to task for what needs to be done; knowing that in the near future she will benefit from her hard work and dedication. She has a lot of work ahead of her and has already run into some obstacles. She told me that because she is not in a wheelchair or visibly handicapped she has been judged about having a service dog. Especially now because there are so many fraudulent service dogs out there in public. But her attitude is to take the high road and try to educate when she can. I know I learned a great deal from her and much appreciate her candor in telling her story.

Being that I have lived with Standard Poodles for over 33 year I was curious about Sheppelley’s grooming. When I asked Lindsey about Sheppelley not looking “poodley” she stated that because she knows she may be judged for needing a service dog; she wants Sheppelley to look as much like a “working dog” as she can. Although from where I sat there was no doubt that they are working and extremely serious.

service dog

Sheppelley

Sheppelley is an extraordinary little lady. At seven weeks of age when I first locked eyes with her, I knew that she was special. She was a little pistol with something extra. She had that something that you can’t put a finger on, but know that it is there. At 7 month old now she is incredible and her dedication to her human, fascinating.

When I temperament tested this little girl; her eye contact was what drew me in. I love eye contact and she offered an abundance of it. She came readily and was very happy to meet me, a big plus. Sheppelley had little startle visually and offered more eye contact during the restraint test. Aside from a nice temperament test; she had that something extra that made me think she was going to be a very special dog for someone. I was not wrong.

Sheppelley will have a big job to do and I know that she is up for it. Seeing her sit and watch Lindsey’s every move at just 7 months of age gave me a glimpse of what she is capable of. Sheppelley’s natural ability to watch and respond to her humans needs are impressive to watch. It seems like she was born to do this job and is very happy doing it.

When Sheppelley is working she wears her Service Jacket. When she is not required to work she has it off and can do as she pleases. Her jacket specifies that she is in training and that you should not touch her. This is very important as she goes through her training and learning to pay strict attention to Lindsey. Sheppelley is well on her way to becoming a phenomenal service dogs, thanks to Lindsey’s need for her and natural talent for training.

Sheppelley will not only help Lindsey once she is trained; but already helps by simply being Sheppelley. Her need for around the clock canine daily care gives Lindsey a job that needs doing. Lindsey states that her life is fulfilled with Sheppelley in it. The two are quite clearly unstoppable and will make a mark on this world of ours.

Sheppelley is already alerting about 15 times a day for Lindsey. She is learning what needs to be alerted on and what doesn’t. Their partnership and connection is new but intense. I have rarely seen such a bond between new guardian and puppy at this age.

I want to thank Lindsey for sharing her story with me and Sheppelley for being the missing piece of the puzzle in Lindsey’s life. I would also like to thank Craig and Laura from Poodlestore for being wonderful breeders and humans. I feel honored to have met all these wonderful humans and Sheppelley.

You can follow Lindsey and Sheppelley on instagram at Simply_Sheppelley

Psychiatric Service Dog partners

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