Joker’s Journey — From Shelter Dog to Alert Service Dog in Training

joker

Hello humans!  I’m Joker (and more recently known as River), and I’m a 16 month old Lab/Border Collie mix.  I have a cool story to tell you about me and my journey from being at HSGKC to being an Alert Service Dog in Training.  My story starts back in July, when I was surrendered by my owner because of a real bad wound I had on my back (I had either a wound or a chemical burn that got infected), and they couldn’t afford to take care of me, so I came to HSGKC.

joker_before2joker_toyAfter my wound healed a bit, our humans started to let volunteers take me out in the yard to play and go on walks.  Well, one day, Pete was watching me play fetch with a volunteer (I LOVE playing fetch!), and when Pete  noticed how good I was at bringing the toy back to the volunteer over and over again, he saw something special in me.  He contacted his friend, Eliodora, who is a Canine Working Dog Recruiter (and she does a LOT of other really cool stuff, too) to come out to HSGKC and see me in action.  Eliodora also saw something special in me, and potential for me to go on to do something really cool because of my toy drive.  So, she showed Pete, Christine and Amber how to play with me to build up my stamina and keep me engaged with toys.

Pete, Christine and Amber worked with me for about a month, taking time everyday to play fetch with me!  I loved it!!  (On a funny note — one of the things they had to do to keep my energy up and positive was to yell funny stuff when I’d bring the toy back to them… Christine was the silliest ’cause she’d yell stuff like “all right, all right, all right!!!!” which I guess is from some movie she likes… anyways, I thought she was pretty amusing).

Me and Pete before I left for Indiana.

Anyway, they worked with me for about 2 months, everyday, and all the hard work we did (well, it wasn’t really “work” for me, it was FUN!) paid off. Eliodora came out to see me in action again, and thought I’d be well suited as a Diabetic Alert Dog.  She contacted a friend and colleague with Alert Service Dogs in Indiana… and I was accepted into their training program!!!  I went to Eliodora’s house on Tuesday, and Wednesday she took me out to different places to expose me to new situations (and I was on TV, too!) to prepare me for my plane trip and training. I left yesterday, and got to go on an airplane with Eliodora to Indiana!  I’m going to start training real soon, and after I finish training, I’ll be matched with a person who’s diabetic, and live with them.

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Me on the airplane with Eliodora. After we landed, she said I “ROCKED!”

I’ve heard our humans talking about different kinds of jobs dogs like me can do (I’m energetic, friendly with humans and other dogs, and I have a VERY high toy drive… meaning I LOVE my toys, like a LOT), from FEMA Search and Rescue, or Wildlife Search and Rescue to Diabetic Alert Dogs to Bomb/Drug Detection Dogs. We’re dogs who have “jobs” where we help humans. We’re the dogs who are in shelters, and will be adopted and sometimes returned because we’re too high energy, we bark a lot, and need a job to do.  Most dogs who do these types of jobs come from humans who breed “working” dogs, but what some humans don’t know is that some of us are in shelters, waiting for an opportunity like this, to go on and help humans. I was given an opportunity for a better life when I was taken in by HSGKC and received care to heal my wound, and now I can return the favor and help a human in need.   Us “shelter dogs” are just as awesome as dogs from breeders, and my journey is proof of that!

I’ll let you know how training goes for me!  I’m gonna work super hard to complete training so I can go on to be a Diabetic Alert Dog, companion, and best friend to someone who needs me as much as I need them.  Bye for now!

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