Friday, May 30, 2008

Birds and New Skill Training

Two mocking birds came after Chimi yesterday as he was relieving outside the children's home. I guess their nest was near by and they felt threatened by the presence of a dog . They kept diving at him and chattering about him. We had to travel around the corner before they left him alone.
I think the first new daily living skill that Chimi will master, to help me around the house, is picking up his toys and putting them back in the toy box when play time is over. Picking up laundry and putting it in the dirty clothes basket is a similar task. I started with the laundry but I was having trouble getting him to "give" items into the basket "Drop it" is a Safety / Correction command. So I just observed him at play time and praised him and reinforce the commands. It is funny but he will "give" a toy faster than a sock. In another future post I will break down the teaching of a new skills.
Chimi had company during play time yesterday. My friend Sue He loved the extra attention. This afternoon I talked to his Puppy Raiser in Iowa. I am delighte to stay in touch with her.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sweet Home Lousiana

As of today, Chimi and I have been home from KSDS for a month. We took our second shopping trip to Wal-Mart. The second trip was much easier than the first. Mike, a new friend from a near by town, transported us in his van. I am amazed by how quickly Chimi learns a new setting and behaves as if he has worked it all his life.
I am still trying to rearrange and organize the apartment to maximize a small space with a big dog. But tomorrow. U have got to work in my flower bed. The flowers are fading fast.

Monday, May 26, 2008

1st Bath, Lunch and a Movie

In honor of Chimi's working service dog status I want to pay tribute on this Memorial Day to all the Service men and women who have worked are working until death or peace in the fight for freedom all around the world.

I gave Chimi his first bath in his new home today I would wash and rinse one section of his body and all was wet and well, until I heard what sounded like a cat fight at the front door. Buddy had sneaked out when I took Chimi out for relief. So I told Chimi to stay and went to the door as fast as my crippled legs would go. As I let Buddy in, out went Sissy. I made the mistake of calling Sissy to come in. 1st all Sissy knows very well that she is a cat. She comes only when she wants to. Second, Chimi heard "Come!" He came barreling out of the bathtub through the bedroom and the kitchen into the living room shaking wet. We will have to wait for bath #2 to try the cream rinse!

Chimi visited a local barbecue place with me at lunch time today. Everyone was a little nervous at first and a little surprised that he did not even seem to notice the food. By the time we were leaving he was getting good behavior complements. We went to see Indiana Jones. Chimi alerted to the loud noises at first but then stretch out under me and settled down. He also maneuvered steps for me today without any problem. Sunday we struggled with steps. I was very proud to have Chimi with me today. He worked hard out on the town so when we came home we played hard too! He is resting beside the chair now.
What can I say about Indiana Jones, If you have seen one temple crumble you have seen them all Artifacts and aliens that is what you get when you combine the creative minds of Seven Spielberg and George Lucas. I also think Harrison Ford ages well!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Falling with Chimi

Another question I have been asked often recently is “Does the dog make you fall or “Do you fall more with the dog? The answer to both questions is “NO!” In the year 2007, I fell a total of 84 times. That is an average of 7 falls per month and 1.6 per week. I have failed to keep good records this year. However, past records indicate that I fall 3 times more often in private than I do in public. Most of my falls including those with Chimi are the result of my own hurried impatience and my own failure to pay attention to where I am going and how best to get there.

It may scare some of you, when you watch me fall sometimes; but falling is a fact of life for me most of the time. In order to truly live I have to live with No Fear of falling. If I was afraid, I would be down all the time.

One of the main reasons I applied for service dog training is because I realized that I could no longer get up by myself and that I needed help. Chimi is a God given gift. Chimi is an every present helper during those times that I fall and there is no one there to help me up. He is strong and steady and anxious to help me up when I fall. I do not have to scoot or crawl to pull up on something like I use to because he is right there on top of me ready and willing to help. This week he prevented 3 falls with in my apartment. Once he even left a toy and came to brace and balance me.

Before I could walk my orthopedic doctor told my grandmother that if she ever wanted me to learn to walk, she had to let me learn how to fall and get up on my own. Watching her granddaughter fall and doing nothing to help her up, was one of the most difficult things my grandmother ever had to do.

Once, when I was about four years old and just learning to walk on my own, my grandmother and I went shopping in the mall. I fell down and my grandmother followed the doctor’s orders and did not help me up. A passer by became indignant and enraged at my grandmother and began blessing her out. When I finally got up I shook my fist at the lady and put my hands on my hips. (I was born with anger issues.) I yelled with a stutter, “Stop yelling my memaw! Her help me, by letting me do it my own!”

So if you see me fall with Chimi, the greatest help you can give me is to watch and wait. If I really need help, I will ask. Chimi and I need to learn to walk and fall together. We are still practicing and polishing our six step dance. We are partners and we will get it together.

One more thing if Chimi gets the leash and starts grumbling, do not be alarmed. He has a habit of talking with his mouth full. He likes to tell you that he has got it on hold. He is communicating that his leader and the keep of the leash has fallen; and that he will help her up.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chimi Reminds me off....

This may sound lame to some but I figure out who Chimi reminds me of. I went to see Prince Caspian today and I connected to the mental image that my mind has been trying to recall since the first time Chimi interacted with me in a cuddly, lovable, playful, hugable way. Being with Chimi reminds me of the sense were Aslan is affectionately talking with Lucy. I know Chimi is a dog and Aslan is a lion but that does not matter in my mind. Chimi has been a great comfort for my need to be hugged.
Several people have comment that committing to a service dog partnership sounds a lot like getting married or having a toddler. Their comment reminds me of some sticky notes an old LC friend of mine use to have that said, "I do not need a man, I have a dog!" My partnership with Chimi is practice for future relationships.
I know that animals do not go to heaven when they die. But when Jesus returns from heaven to rule on earth, I hope animals can talk. I also hope that I have all kinds of animal friends .
I did not take Chimi to the movie because supervising a MCH youth requires my undivided attention. The youth however did an excellent job of ignoring Chimi while we hung out at the apartment before the movie.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Living, Laughing and Working together

I rejoiced earlier this week when I realize that Chimi, the cats, and myself are adjusting to living together. I was relieved to hear myself laugh out loud. Chimi and the cats are sharing space well enough for the cats to play. So I decided to see if Buddy would play fetch because I wanted to see how Chimi would react. I found Buddy's favorite toy mouse and I directed Chimi to a controlled position down under the table and told him to stay. Then I threw the mouse and told Buddy to get it. Buddy gave me this look that seem to say "The dog is watching and I an'nt moving!" So I turned my back and watched Chimi out of the corner of my eye. He crept out from under the table remaining in a downward position until he was out of my line of sight and then he bolted for the cat toy and came back to me grinning! I looked back at Buddy, his looks seem to say, "If he wants it that bad he can have it!" So cat toys have become an area for distraction work.
In order to have more space I donated my love seat and the table that was built for my first classroom to the local thrift store. Having space for the my adult trike and scooter chair and space for me to work with Chimi is more important.

Chimi and I are working out how to do my routine house chores as a team. This week also starts a much slower paced summer schedule. We will not be coming and going to as many activities; but, I think the one on one time at home will strengthen our partnership. I have got to write out a summer schedule for his routine and complete my first monthly report for KSDS. I also need to give Chimi his first bath in his new home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Chimi do for you?

Chimi is my mobility assistant.

1. He serves as an extra stable counter balance when I am walking.

2. He braces against me to prevent falls when I am walking.

3. He provides stable support for me to brace on when getting up from the floor after a fall.

4. He picks up my cane, laundry, and other things that I drop

5. He carries things for me.

6. He gives me support and stability to mange steps and curbs

7. He braces my transition in and out of the bathtub

8. Braces for transition from sitting to standing when in a chair

8. He provides extra support when I vacuum.

What other new skills will he learn with continued training?

1. Retrieving my walker

2. Tapping my emergency button

3. Retrieving the phone and the remote

4. Tugging open the refrigerator; closing the front door.

5. Turning on and of lights

6. Finding my keys and things

7. Pushing my Trike

How should I act around Chimi?


1. Do not distract Chimi.

2. Do not interact with Chimi

3. Do not make eye contact with Chimi

4. Do not talk to Chimi – do not greet him, do not call out to him by name, and do not puppy talk..

5. Do not give Chimi commands, correction, or praise.

6. Do not touch him – Do not ask to touch him. The answer is “No”

7. Do not help me with him unless I ask you to.

8. When I fall, remain calm and quite and do not move.

9. Turn to the side away from him when he attempts to sniff and greet you or get your attention.

10. Do not be alarmed when I correct him in public.

11. Do not give him food or treats.

12. Do not tease him with toys, food, or other objects.


  1. Ignore Chimi
  2. Watch Chimi work.
  3. Talk to me about Chimi.
  4. Hug me.
  5. Offer to provide Chimi and me transportation

Why can’t other people interact with him?

Chimi is a working dog. He is my mobility assistant and I am his person and his leader. He was trained specifically to brace and balance me when I am walking. He is a living, breathing, certified, four legged cane. He also helps me get up when I fall. Interacting with other people causes him to take his focus off me. Distractions are dangerous because I fall and get hurt when Chimi is distracted. If Chimi interacts too much with other people, he looses interest in working for me. If he stops working he is retire or returned to KSDS.

What is Chimi not allowed to do in public?

  1. Scratch
  2. Sniff
  3. Shake
  4. Bark
  5. Lick
  6. Eat people food
  7. Greet people
  8. Interact with other dogs in public

Why are Chimi’s, dog like, behaviors so restricted?

Chimi and I have been trained and certified by KSDS Inc. an accredited assistance dog training facility. Chimi has legal access to public facilities such as restaurants where dog like behavior is inappropriate and disruptive. Chimi was breed, born, raised, and trained to be a service dog. He has had these boundaries all his life. For Chimi these guidelines are not restrictive because they provided him with structure and security.

Why must Chimi be corrected? Because Chimi works in public places were inappropriate behavior is disruptive and not tolerated. He can be denied access if his behavior is not controlled. Dogs do not generalize. Chimi needs structured, consistent training, commands, and correction from one new setting to the next, in order to maintain the skills he learned in training. Chimi is an intelligent dog who challenges my leadership. As our bond grows stronger and as we establish routine there will be less need for correction. I must be a firm leader and make work fun so that Chimi stays focused. He is wants to obey when he knows who is in charge and what to expect.

How do I exercise Chimi? He trots beside my scooter chair as I ride.

When does Chimi get to act like a dog?Chimi has a very structured daily schedule with activities designed to relieve work stress.

Play time –Chimi has a toy box full of balls, bones and stuff animals to chew on, tug at, and run and roll around with. He is learning to pick up his toys and put them in his toy box when play time is over. We have even begun outside play time!

Grooming – His hair care and health care is out of harness time. He loves to hold the grooming tools in his mouth.

Cuddle time – He lies in my lap and I lavish affection on him.

Puppy Massage – I massage his muscles and work his joints.

Kennel time – This is quite time away from it all – Just him, his travel bed and his bone in his kennel.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Living with Two Cats and a Service Dog

Several friends have asked me how the cats are adjusting. For about the first week Sissy and Buddy either climb high or hid low. They were quick to learn that kennel time is cat time. Chimi has good house manners. He was quick to learn his boundaries. The cat climbing corner in the living room, the cat toy box in the bed room the cat feeding tray in the kitchen and the litter closet are "Leave it" areas. Chimi respects the cats space and they respect his. He does not move when in a down position at my feet and the cat are curious enough to sniff his tail or feet. Chimi keeps all four on the floor most of the time. This gives the cats high advantage. Buddy's blanket is still on the bed and Sissy's rocking chair is still at the foot of the bed. The kennel is to the left side of the head of the bed. We all sleep peacefully in the same room. All three of them and me were happier when I finally quit moving the bedroom furniture. Rearranging furniture gave them some common ground. I am the middle woman. Each animal has one on one time and space with me. Wherever I am, a cat or cats is on one side with the dog on the other There is very little face to face interaction. This eliminates the need for catty hissy fit behaviors. For the most part the cats are just glad I am home again and they have accepted that the dog is here to stay. They are still eating and purring and seeking my attention and affection. Sissy still thinks I am Queen Mother and she is Princess and 1st pet. She eats first and is petted first and groomed first. Grooming is how she first got the courage up to get close to Chimi. They both loved to be groomed. She playfully tries to get Chimi's attention but he pays her no mind. Buddy is still my first Buddy. He still sleeps with me and watches over me in all his usual spots except the bathroom. (I think in time he will come in there too. He is already watching Chimi from the door way.) This week the cats have even begin play behaviors again. Although, Buddy and I have not played fetch. Oddly enough, Chimi will retrieve anything when he is working but he resist playing fetch at playtime. He prefers to victory parade with his toy as if it were a trophy. He loves to "get" but hates to "give" Alerting barking is our only problem. (The sudden sound scares the cats.) The barking has decreased with time, bonding and leadership.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Minding Our Business - Shopping Schooling Banking

Chimi and I went on our first duo shopping trip to Waly World this past Monday. He did well; but, it was a new experience for me! Chimi's counter balance weight to the side of the buggy made pushing a loaded buggy harder and heavier. We went early in the morning to avoid a crowd. I thought this was a good idea until it was time to checkout. The self check and express lanes were open; but, when it comes to self check I am a snail and a klutz's especially when I am exhausted. My monthly buggy load obviously exceeded the 20 item limit for express lane. There was only one other checker open, A kind graying lady with an obsessive compulsive disorder- she has a logical but crazy making order for bagging groceries - heavy items first and double bagged and tied with all other like items grouped to follow. That sounds orderly and helpful unless you shop like me. The heavy stuff is in the very bottom of the buggy and everything else is thrown on top . To complicate matters further the checker was terrified of dogs and I was in line behind a women who shops weekly for a daycare! I think even the self check would have been less stressful. Then, as I am swiping my card to pay this lady who Chimi and I had seen shopping throughout the store snuk up behind me, knelt down and started petting Chimi! As I caught my fall in her direction, I heard my self say, "I said, Please do not Pet my Dog!" She hurried away with an "I am sorry" that really meant. "What is the big deal!" I should have fell on her but then she would have blamed Chimi. But the trip was not over yet. I still had to get a months worth of groceries and Chimi in the car. I had not thought of that but he just snuched down in the floor board of the passenger seat between my feet. I came home and got on the internet and ordered the biggest brightest "Do not Pet" warning patches I could find!
Several people have ask me if I have problems with children petting the dog. Adults are a bigger problem.
The next day Chimi and I went to another school for another IEP meeting. I do well in schools and so does Chimi. Today He went into his first Ruston bank! His puppy raiser worked in a bank. He did wag the tail well and even got his picture taken!
We have been working on "position" a right sided command opposite "heel. I have just been positioning myself in such away to block his moves to the left so that correction is not needed and I have been praising him for right moves! I am pleased at the progress. He is "positioning" much quicker now with less confusion. My being left handed and right eyed has been hard on him. All of his like he has been asked to go to the left for most everything and now I am "switching" not just sometime but most of the time. But we are hanging in there and moving forward.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

1 Month Anniversary

One month ago today, Chimi and I began our partnership! Our song at graduation was Kenny Chesney's "You Had Me From Hello!" Chimi did. When he came bounding toward me, waving a happy tail with his mouth open wide as if he were smiling, I laughed and cried tears of joy. The thought that this golden creature was chosen for me made me feel blessed beyond measure. Hearing that song at graduation made me sob because not bonding with him was my greatest fear. I have an ambivalent attachment disorder that works well with cats but not dogs and people. Trusting love is hard for me. I am encouraged that Chimi is bonding with me more and more each day and I am learning and choosing to love him more and more each day too.
I have been asked the following questions since returning from training, "Is it harder than you thought?" "Is it what you expected?" "Do you regret receiving the dog?" My answers are, "Yes, no, and No!" The only analogy that seems close is, a new service dog is to a partner what a newborn is to a parent. The responsibilities and lifestyle changes are challenging and at times exhausting but the partnership is a commitment and the relationship reaps rewards.
I did not expect what would be required of me. Like a lot of people, I thought "No Assembly" or "Programing" would be required. I thought Chimi would just be able to do it all just because I told him to. I am learning that obedience is a trust built on time together. Obedience is also a relationship (a love language) that requires an unshakable bond. I also understand now that training is a circle that never ends. I have to work with Chimi to build on his foundational skills in order for him to be able to perform daily living skills for me. Right now Chimi does the following things for me: braces me when I transition from sitting to standing and braces me stair climbing, Counterbalances me when I walk and provides braced support for getting myself up of the floor when I fall. He also retrieves dropped items such as my cane. These skills in themselves are invaluable. With further time, training, adaptations. and modifications Chimi will retrieve specific household items for me such as the phone and my walker. He will also tug open doors and close doors for me like the refrigerator.
Yes, I still fall; but, Chimi is not the reason I fall; I am. I go fast and I tend to speed up when I am falling. Chimi has been taught to go slow and to stop when I become off balance not walk faster. My having to learn to slow down is a test of my patience. I am also insecure which Chimi can sense and my insecurity adds to his stress. His recent behavior of laying down while I am walking is not oppositional on his part. It is his calming "easy" signal He senses my unsteadiness and uneasiness so he takes a break from it to ease our stress. I purchased a more stable assistance dog harness from I think this will help alleviate the balance / falling anxiety problem.
The things I do for Chimi feeding, watering, grooming, exercising, providing stress relief, and health care are to be done with structure and consistency. This provide security for him and communicate love to him. What I do for him is nothing compared to what he does for me. Creating a knew "our " schedule certainly has changed and challenged "my" schedule. My little world has changed a lot but it is changing for the better!
My partnership with Chimi is training me for a better relationship with Christ in areas such as trust, obedience, patience, faithfulness and walking with the Lord at His side.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy 3rd Birthday to Chimi

Today, marked Chimi's 3rd birthday! He received a Pet Smart gift card from his puppy raiser family plus graduation pictures. In honor of Chimi's birthday I put the graduation pictures in his scrapbook. His puppy raisers made a scrapbook of his puppy days as a gift for me. It is a gift I will treasure and add too. I enjoy scrapbooking and Chimi does not seem to mind the scraps that fall on him beneath the table as I cut and paste. I purchased Chimi two more durable supposablely indestructible dog toy balls with the gift card. In honor of his birthday I also purchased some reading material recommended by my KSDS Trainer - The Dog Listener not The Dog Whisperer. I have a lot to learn about dogs. This material will reinforce my KSDS lectures and training. Reading is my favorite way to learn. After church I also gave Chimi an out of harness rest of the day rest. I think are bond is strengthening. His tail is high and waging more and his eyes have a light. He still gives me that "Lady, you are really confusing me!" look but not as often
We are working on fake, funny falls to get us both over the fear of falling together. It seems to be helping. I fell on him about a week or so ago and scared the snot out of both of us. I was afraid I had failed all our training already. My KSDS trainer a sured me I had not all I had to do was make falling exciting again so it would not be so scary. For those of you who have ever seen, heard, or read "The Fall of Anne" you know how ironic those instructions were!
Another wise friend, exhorted me to give Chimi as much focused attention as I expected from him and to stop worrying about what other people are thinking. Chimi and I do not have to be on stage for those around us. The more we are focused on each other the less we will be distracted by what other people see, say, do and think. And the more I focus on Chimi the more he will focus on me. With that noted I am signing out to spend some bonding time with Chimi. The cats are almost back to normal. Chimi and I have been making ourselves at home together for two weeks now.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Harness hassles and Hard Tests of Leadership

Chimi felt better today enough to test my leadership. Handling the harness did not help maters much. During training I was afraid that I would not be certified because I almost never got Chimi's harness on without twisting it, or having it to loose or to tight. The first time I tried to put the training harness on by my self, I pulled all the straps apart and could not put them back together So today when I tried to put Chimi's new harness on (It arrived in the mail yesterday.) I cried tears of frustration because I good not get it to fit right. I called my KSDS instructor for help. She told me how to ajdust it and make it larger. She told me to do one strap at a time so that I would not get it all undone and fall apart because I could not put back together. Chimi seems to pick and choose which commands to obey. He will "sit", "down" and "stay" but he will not "stand," "Let's go," "Come" or " here up" After talking to my instructor today who encouraged me to keep bonding with Chimi and establishing leadership, I felt better. So tonight when he began barking at outside noise and lunging for the door. I roared "NO!" and praised him and petted him for quite behavior. I did that several times but by the time it was time for his last relief of the night he was quite at my side looking up and making more and more eye contact. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Not Feeling Well

Chimi was not suppose to go to the vet until Friday but I took him today because he would not let me put his harness on and he just laid down and would only move to retrieve a ball and then he just laid down instead of doing his victory lap and cheer. (He talks with stuff in his mouth!) I laid down with him and he and I slept most of the day until time for his appointment. The vet said he had a reaction to the heat that caused a skin rash and an ear infection. He got two allergy shots. He seems to be feeling much better. He is retrieving the cane and the leash again and bracing. We played tug. He won!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

First Sunday A day of rest and bonding

Chimi went to church with me this morning. He carried my bag as we walked from the sanctuary to the nursery. People think he was trained to do that. The do not know that carrying something in his mouth is in his blood. Last Wednesday, I had difficulty getting him to lay in the corner behind my chair. Today he went and laid down in that area without being told. I noticed similar situations in vehicles. Show Chimi were to get one time and he goes there without being told the next time!
After Church we had another bedroom ball bouncing playtime. After reading the online encyclopedia information about Golden Retrievers and learning more about their personality, I went for a ride in my scooter as he walked along side. Then I came home and rearranged the furniture in the bedroom so that none of my animals have to sleep in a separate room. Chimi and the cats all seem comfortable with the new arrangements. I spent time loving on Chimi as I watched extreme home makeovers. I have discovered that Chimi is very playful. I am even beginning to think that his reluctance to "come" or "give" is playfulness

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stressful Day

This afternoon I took Chimi to my church's spring picnic. We were not ready for that. He was overwhelmed by the multiple distractions plus the flies. I got fed up with people telling me how I aught to handle the dog even my one of my best friends does not understand that sniffing and such things can not be allowed in any setting outside of home when Chimi is in harness even if people are not offended or afraid of it. People want to see the "Super Dog" but then they think you are being cruel when you do not let him "just be a dog."And if he acts like just a dog they give you advice on how to train his behavior. I think it is a double slandered. Then there are people who go the other extreme and either talk to the dog and not to you or they avoid you all together to keep from distracting the dog.
When we got home we both needed a playtime. I have tried a play date and the flexi lead. I think our bond needs to be stronger before I involve other dogs, other people, or new environments in Chimi's playtime. So tonight I closed of my bedroom and tossed a rubber ball off the back wall. Chimi and I distressed playing fetch! I liked trowing and Chimi liked retrieving

Friday, May 2, 2008

First School Day, Distraction Practice, Dinning Out

Chimi and I attended our first Individualized Education Plan meeting today as a team. (I serve as a surrogate parent in my school district behalf of special education students who are in Office of Children's Service custody.) While we were at the meeting, the 5th grade Language Arts teacher shared that her class just finished reading a story about an assistance dog and asked if Chimi and I would be willing to visit her class after the meeting. I told her that we were not prepared for a program but we would gladly visit. We took a picture with the class and promised to come back in the fall to present a program.
Chimi and I also helped out at a garage sale. The sale was great distraction practice - sites, sounds, and smells - barking dogs in neighboring yards kids with toys and an impromptu fundamentals of baseball lesson. The baseball activity was the seemed to be the hardest for Chimi to ignore. A few times he tried to get involved but with persistent correction, redirection, and praise for the most part Chimi remained in a controlled down position as a spectator. I was a little surprised by a child that seemed to be teasing him with a toy. I could not see it but Chimi did and so did the child's mother. The little girl asked me why Chimi would not sit still and about that time the mother noticed the toy the child had and told her to leave the dog alone. I feel like some people either expect too much out of Chimi or treat him like a plain dog. They do not understand that it takes time for Chimi to trust and to transfer his training from his trainer to his partner.
After the garage sale we went to New Orleans themed restaurant for fish and fries. I picked the restaurant because I felt like we would not draw too much attention in it but then I fell coming in the door! Chimi had a busy day!