November 11, 2012
Eight years and two months ago I was matched to Ryan, my hearing assistance dog - a beautiful, loving, sweet natured two year old yellow labrador. What a wonderful gift! I thought I knew what I was getting into - in fact I had no idea, I got SO much more! After nine months of training at Fidos I was ready to be matched. At the end of the announcement the words "now the real work starts" were added. It didn't take long to find out how true they were. I had been matched to a dog who had spent the first two years of his life in training to be a hearing assistance dog. We fell in love with each other quickly but Ryan held back - maybe I was another trainer, or a vacation home provider, how long would he be with me - I could practically read his mind as he looked at me from the other side of the couch or his bed. It took a year to finally convince him that he was home for good! In the meantime he was an amazing worker - alerting me to everything he had been trained to help me with - timers, alarm clocks, phone ringing, etc. but also to sounds he decided I should know about - electric kettle going off, toaster popping up, even when something boiled in a pan. It was amazing. After years of burning food, cookies, forgetting to turn the sprinkler off now all I had to do was set a timer and wait for Ryan to tell me when it went off - I could relax on my deck! I could sleep at night knowing Ryan would wake me when the alarm went off - especially important if we had to travel the next morning! In my efforts to make Ryan feel welcome in my home I was not a very good leader so he decided to take charge for a while. I would open the front door and he would charge out. Somebody would come and he would have his nose in the door crack waiting for me to open the door to greet the guest. Where was Fidos in all this? This is where Fidos truly shines! Every step of the way they were there to help me - train ME to work with Ryan, to become a true partnership. Ryan already had the training - he was waiting for me to become his leader. Once we got that straightened out we settled into a wonderful relationship. So many times he has amazed me in what he does for me. One experience we had (which has had many repeats in different settings) happened late one night in an underground parking garage. We had worked late in an office and were the last ones heading out. As we walked to the car Ryan suddenly stopped, jerking the leash. I couldn't imagine why but I remembered the words from training "listen to your dog" so I turned around - Ryan was picking up my keys which I had inadvertently dropped. It's hard to describe how I felt at that moment - I think my love and gratitude to Ryan probably quadrupled in that instant. Over and over again people tell me (at the grocery store, when we walk through airports, just about anywhere we go in public) that Ryan is always watching me, that he holds his head high and proud (obviously loves what he does). Apparently so do I! Ryan is now ten years old, he is slowing down but he still works and most of the time wants to go out in public. He is an excellent traveler - we have traveled to Peru 14 times together, twice to Alaska, to Canada, to England and Europe - he never ceases to amaze fellow travelers with his impeccable manners and sweet nature. For the first three years I had Ryan we lived fairly close to Fidos and would attend training sessions and demos whenever we could. After that we moved away but every year we have returned to Fidos to take the recertification exam. Ryan makes me proud as he shows off all his training as he completes each test. Fidos has very strict requirements about who they place their dogs with, when they feel a client is ready to be matched to a dog, which dog is right for the client, etc. As clients we are impatient to be matched quickly; looking back I realize how important that pre-match training time was. After you are matched you get months of personal one on one training with your dog learning how to go out in public together, how to take care of him/her, getting questions answered. When you finally get to take your dog home you are well prepared - you know the dog's language (commands). Actually sometimes you draw a blank as I did shortly after Ryan came home with me. Before Ryan was allowed to touch his food he needed to hear "paid for." One morning I could not remember the words. Poor Ryan was literally drooling into his food waiting for the command. I was at the point of calling his trainer when I finally remembered it!!!! Fidos has always been there for me. For a volunteer organization they do an amazing service to the community not only in training service and hearing assistance dogs but also with the extensive therapy dog program and educating the community. They definitely deserve to be at the top of the list of non-profit groups!
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MY ROLE:Client Served Review from Guidestar