In many religions (including my own) ravens mean transition, rebirth, and transformation. They are thought to be a creature of metamorphosis, as well as, a bearer of magic. Many believe them to be messengers of the Gods and Goddesses sent to guide those on Earth and that they know the future of those they guide and protect. Ravens are considered very lucky to have in your life and as your Spirit Guide.
I chose the name RAVEN for these exact reasons. She is my new beginning, my rebirth, my protector, my guide, and my bearer of magic as I reclaim my life back from my PTSD. I have no doubt that she was sent to me by my God and Goddess.
Raven and I began our journey together on June 21, 2015, when she was just 7 weeks old.
February 4, 2017
To say she is stunning would be an understatement. Then again, I am very bias.
A Girl & Her Dog
February 4, 2017
Lately, Reine has begun bonding to Raven more and more…..
Vet Check Up
We switched vets over the summer and Raven had her first check up with the new vet this week. Maxine came with me as Raven is still learning manners and anything can become a training session for her. We put Raven in her vest and she was trying so hard to be a service dog in training. But when 2 other dogs in the VERY small waiting room continuously tried to lunge at her in a 100% play stance, Raven could not contain herself. We (meaning Maxine) took Raven out of the waiting area and outside to work on leash walking and working off some of the energy when a 9 week old Shilo Shepard was brought into the vet without a collar or leash and just placed on the ground to roam free.
Raven did not go out of the vet’s office quietly and was considered “aggressive” by the other people in the waiting room. Yet, no hackles were raised, ears and tail were not in attack or standoffish mode. No matter how much I tried to explain that to those in the waiting room, it fell on deaf ears.
Maxine tired her out as much as she and the time before they were ready for Raven would allow. She weighed in at 87 lbs (Raven not Maxine). Once we were taken to the exam room the new vet checked her out. I was asked so many questions about why I chose this breed and about her demeanor. He was not sold on her being service trainable. The vet was waiting for her to be aggressive towards him I think. But the exact opposite occurred. She was just standoffish enough because he was new to her but responded to his commands and even went with him when he wanted to see how she would react to him instead of me. She went with him without questioning and followed his commands without falter. He brought her back into the room and continued on with the exam. The Doc and Maxine talked about her overall demeanor and what they both knew to be true about her breed and her service lineage. Both agreed that she will always need to be given a job to do or she will create her own job and that she will never be able to stop training. Service of some form or another is just in her blood. Her exam ended with several vaccines and on a high note. Teeth look amazing, perfect weight, and we got the Doc’s approval that she is the perfect fit for my needs. She just needs to learn manners.
July 28, 2016
If you follow the blog, you know that we decided to cut ties with our previous training facility. This was not an easy decision for us. However, driving an hour one way to train for an hour a week was not enough. Being left to deal with the day to day training on my own without any background in actual training was the worst thing we could have done. Between Reine’s autism and my PTSD, I was in over my head. The more I asked for help from the training facility, the more I did not get it. Recently the head trainer admitted that Raven and I fell through their cracks and then told me that Raven would never become a service dog. Nice huh?
By the end of our time with the previous trainer, I watched Raven slip from being a disciplined puppy into an unruly, obstinate, and honestly unbearable dog. I honestly began to question our decision in getting her. She stopped listening to everyone. I knew we were in trouble. Her behavior was not that of a service dog in training. I made the decision to remove her vest and pray that someone would be able to help us achieve what needed to be done to get us back on track. This meant finding a new trainer, new rules, undoing the 6+ months of training, and the very real possibility that she would not be a service dog. All the time and money would be for nothing on the service dog end if we failed. I was not ready to give up on her or me.
Maxine (from Barkbusters) stood in my home one weekday afternoon and silently observed everything so that she could access Raven and the family dynamics. There was no amount of prep that could prepare her for my daily, often chaotic, life. Reine’s back to back meltdowns, sibling arguments, Raven’s obstinance, my PTSD, the sink full of dishes, floors begging to be vacuumed, toys everywhere, dogs trying to establish the pack order, dinner prep that took 5x longer than it should have, all the phone calls at the wrong moments in time. She watched it all.
I was so afraid she was going to walk out my front door and say “I am sorry but I can’t help you.”. Instead, she waited for the calmest moment she could find and said let’s talk. Here is some of what she accessed in those couple of hours. (I am so paraphrasing right now by the way. She was less blunt than this)…
- I had lost my standing in Raven’s world.
- Raven is acting like a spoiled brat and is also a bully.
- Raven is not clear on what her job is within the dynamics of our home.
- She has NO manners at all.
- She was bored out of her skull.
Raven had to go back to ground zero. I was told it would not be easy as we had to undo all the previous training and start new with a dog that was now headstrong, 100% in charge, and over 6 months old. If I was up to challenge, so was she.
Talk about feeling defeated. We literally had to start back at day 1 when we had already been training for 6+ months. The first thing we did was confine Raven to inside the house. The thought with this was that if I could not “control” Raven inside, there was no way that I could “control” her outside where there were more stimuli. I would have to regain my power in Raven’s world before I could do any kind of true training with her. I was given an arsenal of things to begin our training once again.
Our previous training had been completely treat based. Meaning every “command” was followed by a treat when executed properly. Maxine had a different thought about treats. They were just that…a treat. You know something fun to give here and there. Because in the real world, I should not be reliant on Raven listening to me based on the treat in my hand or bag, but rather out of her respect for me.
My first thing I had to master with Raven was a strong command word. It would be a word that tells her NO, listen to me now, stop what you are doing, etc all at once. Enter the word BAH. I actually lost my voice when I was first learning it because I was starting it in my throat and not from my gut so to speak. It is a powerful word believe it or not. It sounds hysterical when you say it out loud.
Check Collar Please
Check collar is the name I have given this collar. It is actually just called a training collar. It reminds me of a very modified type of choke collar. It is nylon collar with a chain at the ends of both sides of it. It does not actually have the capability to choke the dog like traditional choke collars but it does tighten just ever so slightly. It is meant to be used with a flick and release motion that creates a zip or chink sound. This helps to stop the dog from pulling on the lead. When Raven hears the clink of the chain, that tells her she needs to pay attention to me immediately.
Chain bags are bags that contains bits of heavy duty metal chains in them. These are thrown on the ground or at the baseboards to get the dog’s attention. They are extremely effective in stopping a dog from barking or running towards you (especially when used with a great BAH). They are NEVER thrown at my dogs. Only at the ground.
Using water to train dogs has caused some serious controversy in the dog training world. Some view it as cruel and even a form of abuse. Some believe that it will “break” the dog and that the dogs will become terrified of all water and you. Others believe it is very effective if implemented with other training strategies. We chose to add water to our training and have seen no ill effects of it. Raven still LOVES LOVES LOVES water. Her pool and the hose is the highlight of summer for her. There is no love loss between her and I. As a matter of fact, she is snuggled up directly against me sleeping as I write this post. She sleeps with me in my bed, spooning me with her head on my hubby’s pillow, every morning when he leaves the bed. Water is not something that will be used permanently. It is only for our current training needs.
Water bombs are basically snack bags filled with water. These are used outside as a way to get the dog’s attention when they are not listening to you. Again, just like the chain bags, these are not meant to be thrown directly at the dog. These are thrown on the ground as a way to say I need your attention now, please.
Spray Bottles and Squeezable Sport Bottle
We use these when I need Raven to stop and look at me during heavy stimuli or excited moments inside of my home. I spray or mist her to get her attention or focus. Like the other things, it is used in conjunction with other things during training.
I can not speak for everyone’s pup, but Raven’s mind is always on the go. A bored Raven means everyone is miserable not just her. So, on top of the daily training we do, we also make sure she has a lot of fun toys.Her favorites are her Kong Wobbler, Game Changer (we own 2 of these), IQ Treat Ball, Kong Rambler Dog Toy, Kong Air Dog Tennis Balls (Raven’s absolute favorite thing ever!!), Kong Wubba Dog Toy, buffalo horns and her regular butcher bones.
Consistency and Tongue Licks
The key with Raven is a lot like Reine….consistency and routine. The more consistency and routine she has, the easier for her to see what her job is within the household. She is happier for it. When I give her commands, I am seeing a lot of quick tongue licks which is a sign of respect and acknowledgment.
7 Months Later
We are noticing a lot of changes with Raven since we began working with Maxine. She is no longer looking for a job to do within the household. She knows her job is me. Although Hubby is the highest in the hierarchy of Raven’s pack, I am now directly under him and above her. Although Raven does try to dominate me on a daily basis. I am learning what that entails with her and gaining my ground with her more and more every day. She is truly making progress on almost everything.
My biggest challenges are…
- All the entry doors in the house. She thinks that if they are opened, she should be allowed to race out them.
- Allowing our other dog to go to the bathroom unescorted. Because he is getting up there in age and may need help going to the bathroom.
- Allowing same said dog to come inside without being pounced on immediately.
- Listening to the other dog when he does not want to play. At 10 years old, Avalanche just wants calm.
- Our 3 cats that live in my Hubby’s man cave but desperately would love to live throughout the entire house. Raven thinks they are awesome to chase!
- Walking our outside steps. She enjoys attempting to pull us down a set of concrete steps. We, however, are not fond of this.
- Getting her out of my truck calmly. She gets SOOO excited by my truck.
On top of working with Raven on the above, we are also now moving towards the backyard for outside training as well as regular leash walking. She is learning to follow me for her directions.
My goal is to have her back in her vest by Fall of this year.
DISCLAIMER….I AM NOT AN AFFLILATE OF ANY OF THE COMPANIES LISTED IN THIS BLOG POST. I DID NOT RECIEVE ANY OF THE ITEMS AT A DISCOUNTED PRICE NOR WILL I RECIEVE ANY FORM OF COMPENSATION SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BUY ANYTHING FROM THE LINKS PROVIDED ABOVE.
I Do Not Want To “Adult” Anymore
Dec 18, 2015
My family and I had to make a very serious and very hard decision a couple of months ago. It was not done lightly, in haste, or in the heat of the moment. But it is a decision that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Mine especially.
Time for some back story….
Tsunami (Nami), my female husky, came into our life almost 9 years ago. I remember it as if it was yesterday. She was 6 months of age and we were to be her 7th home. My Mom and I drove about 5 hours (one way) to get her from someone that had her in a dilapidated kennel. The roof had fallen through to the floor of the kennel and took up almost all the space in the kennel. The kennel ground was a concrete slab. There was nothing else in it. The woman informed me that she truly disliked the pup but her husband wanted to keep her. She was doing the sale of the dog in secret. They also had had her brother in the kennel with her until about a week prior until they sold him. They had never been separated until that point. Aurora, as she was called then, had become more aggressive towards them. She was given one bowl of water per day and one bowl of dog food. I was informed that it was the cheapest food the woman could find because of her dislike of this husky. I was told not to get too close to her as she would bite me. I told the woman to release her from the kennel immediately anyway. My mom told the woman to give her a bucket of water as well. Nami looked me in the eyes and I knew she was mine and I was hers. There was an instant bond. Here was this BEAUTIFUL soul that had been lost in HELL. It was almost 100 degrees that day. We put her in my car and proceeded to start our 5-hour journey home. She stunk so bad! The windows rolled down did not do much to stifle the smell. We stopped off at McDonald’s and bought her some plain hamburgers as we knew she was starving. Her fur was slick and she had never been blown out. She did not travel well. She was car sick for most of the 5 hours. My Hubby made sure my kids were safe in another room when we entered the house. We had no idea how she would be with the rest of the family. It was apparent from the beginning that she was abused by at least one previous owner although we believe it to be from many of the previous owners. She coward at the sound of my Hubby’s most gentle Hello. She peed herself and began shaking uncontrollably. It took some time for Nami to be OK with my Hubby and to settle in with us. We had to learn that there are some things we can not do. Grabbing her collar or allowing her to sleep on any bed or furniture we soon learned were not good ideas.
The day we brought Raven home, Tsunami took to her like she was her mother. She taught her the rules and the manners she was supposed to have. Told her when she had played enough and it was time to rest. The bond between them was a strong one so we thought.
In October, we noticed that Tsunami was beginning to show some crankiness towards Raven. She would growl at her here and there. It started out when Raven REALLY wanted to play and Nami didn’t. Raven was and is relentless. She is always on the go. I reached out to the trainer we were using at the time to see if we should be concerned about it. We were told no. It was normal behavior and they would work it out. Leave them alone.
The first actual “attack” happened in my family room. Raven was laying on the dog bed eating one of about 10+ bones we have. Nami walked past her and then out of nowhere she turned around and was on top of Raven snarling, teeth fully exposed, biting and shaking her before my brain could register what it was seeing and hearing. I made loud and deliberate noises and movements to get her attention. It was enough that she released Raven and walked off. We kept the dogs separated for the rest of the day as Nami kept growling at Raven every time she saw her. I did not want a chance repeat to occur. The next day, it was if the attack the previous day had never occurred. I once again reached out to our trainer to see if we should be concerned and what I should be doing to stop these occurrences. I was once again told it would work itself out.
The 2nd attack happened in my kitchen. My middle daughter was pinned against the sink unable to move to a safe area. This time, neither my nor my husband’s words or movements did anything to stop it. My Hubby had to throw our garbage can towards the two dogs. My daughter was not bitten and the dogs were once again separated. I emailed my trainer and this time, there was no response from them. I addressed the issue in class the following day and once again asked what we were supposed to be doing. I was told she would need to consult the head trainer at the facility. I never heard anything else about it. I did follow up in both person and email.
The 3rd attack was outside in my backyard.This time, I was the one pinned between the dogs literally. They were fighting each other around my legs. This was the first time that Raven was actually fighting back. I was able to break up the fight. I still have NO idea how I was able to do this. But something clicked with the dogs and they understood.
Each attack was started by Tsunami and always aimed at Raven. Never at Avalanche. Avalanche never joined in the attacks. There would be several days or a week or 2 in between the episodes. When the trainer did not respond back to me, I contacted our vet. Their thought was it had to be medical. Nami has thyroid issues and was an older dog. Even though Nami was on meds at this point for her thyroid and it was regulated. I was beginning to look back at Nami’s behavior over the last 9 years that we had had her.
The last attack was on Dec 10, 2015. It took place in the entryway of my home. The two dogs appeared to be completely fine with each other once again. However, Nami went after Raven after they had walked past each other. My 11-year-old was once again pinned in the attack. This time against a door. My words and gestures were once again useless. I attempted to use my dry mop to try and pry them apart and break up the fight. They actually bent and broke it in two. I then grabbed a kitchen chair and slammed it down on the floor beside them. They were oblivious to the chair. I was, however, able to slide them away just enough for my daughter to jump behind me and get to safety. She grabbed my youngest daughter and took her to another level of my home as the fight was now being moved to other areas of the home. I once again somehow got the attack to break up. Once again no human was bitten.
This time, though there was blood drawn and several injuries that would require emergency surgery. The amount of wounds that Raven sustained in the fight was unbelievable to us. So was the $900 vet bill we had to pay for the emergency surgery. Raven had a 3″ x 1″ gash on her leg that was so close to a main artery that the vet has some issues with closing the wound. There were also punctures and gashes behind both on her ears, along her nose, and on both of her front legs.
We were asked to wait 10 days to make sure any decision we made was not being done in haste. It was one of the longest 10 days of my life. We realized that Tsunami was and always had been what is referred to as female dominate and also we believe that she was in a lot of pain due to the possibility of arthritis setting in and also her thyroid condition. We were left with 2 options. The vet was in agreement that one of the options was not really a reality for us especially, after performing the surgery on Raven. We also switched trainers. The more the new trainer worked with us, the more the decision was becoming obvious. Our new trainer is an in home trainer. Meaning they come into our home and see it all. They have spent hours in my home working with us. We talked about the possibility of surrendering her to various organizations / rehoming her with massive restrictions or putting her to sleep. In the end, we decided that putting her sleep was the best option. With tears streaming down our faces we held her until her last breath left her body and thanked her for being such a major part of our lives. It has been 2 months since we put Tsunami down. It has been 2 months of grieving and healing. Especially Avalanche. He was hit the hardest by this. Raven has been the most confused by it all. It has been 2 months of putting our lives back together. We will miss her forever but I do not believe that we made the wrong decision.
Our biggest concern with Raven at this point is making sure she heals both physically and mentally from this. I can not have a service dog afraid of other dogs nor aggressive towards other dogs. With the new trainers help, I know we will be able to work through this. Raven will always have the scars on her nose to remind us of what happened, though. Together we will make it through it.
Back At The Beginning….
Dec 18, 2015
There are times in life when you have to hold up the white flag and surrender. What happens next is purely up to you. You can give up completely, try the same thing over again and hope for different results, or start with a fresh canvas and find a different way to accomplish your goals.
Raven and I have had to raise the white flag of surrender this week. It has been a BITTER pill to swallow. A domino effect was set in motion causing me to realize that I have set Raven and myself up for failure unknowingly. My trust was heavily placed in certain people that I thought would help us on our journey from beginning to end. I also put too much faith in those around me that said they would me with whatever I needed to train Raven. For me to ask for help is a HUGE thing and not something I do very often. So, when I needed help with Raven, I asked for it. However, I did not get it. This is not me being dramatic. I seriously asked friends, neighbors, and my family to help me with Raven’s training. Many said they would, however, no one did. It all fell on me and Raven. That is great until part of the training is how well the dog greets strangers and other dogs. It’s hard to stop a dog from jumping on people as they enter your home when no one comes to your home. It is hard to leave your dog with someone that is not yourself when you are the only one that is standing there with the dog. The list goes on and on. Yea, there was a breakdown. A lot was happening at home as well that I have no doubt added to our failures. Hubby and oldest daughter began working more hours and this included working later in the day than usual, my oldest was also preparing to visit another country. She had her own agenda of things that needed to be done.
Against my better judgment and at the insistence of the training facility we were using, I enrolled Raven in the Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) course. She had just turned 6 months old at the time. I had my doubts that she was ready for this course maturity wise. She was beginning to revert some and becoming rebellious (like any normal teenager). You tell her to sit and she would just stare at you like seriously? During this time we also had to have her spayed as per our agreement with the breeder so Raven would miss 2 of the 6 classes in the course. All of this was expressed to the trainer prior to enrolling in the CGC class. I was told to just attend the classes that Raven would be missing and work with her on the stuff on they were covering in class. So, I did this to the best of my abilities. We can’t forget about Turkey Day. It fell into the training schedule. By the time Raven was back physically in the classes, she had only been in 2 actual classes, then she had 3 weeks off (2 for her spay and 1 for Turkey Day). The week she returned to class, I was told to have a drink, food, and dog brush with me for the next class. The instructors were trying to figure out when to test us.
We walked into the next class and Raven was met at the door by one of 3 favorite classmates. This dog and another of Raven’s favorite training buddies instantly pounced on Raven. I was still trying to walk across the training room. I noticed the room was set up differently. Raven is now SUPER hyper and there is a LOT of barking and high energy everywhere. However, the owners all have a different look on their faces. As I am trying to put my things down, cleaning up a pee mess from Raven, and keep ahold of Raven who is still playing with the other two dogs, I am approached by the owner of one of the dogs playing with Raven. She has a clipboard and pen in her hand. I was told to fill out the paperwork on it and to return it to her as soon as possible. As I look at the form, I realize what the look is all about. We apparently were taking the CGC testing at that very moment.
As I am trying to get Raven to calm down and to focus, the next words I hear knock the freaking wind out of me….
ABSOLUTELY NO TREATS ARE TO BE USED AT ALL.
Are you freaking kidding me???????????
My dog is insane and I have no way to calm her down now? And the dog that started all the craziness with Raven as we walked into the class will not be testing as the tester is her owner.
The testing begins almost immediately. I know that she is not ready for this test. She is too crazy. She can not focus on me. All she can focus on is the two dogs that she played with HARD only minutes ago. To make matters worse, the same dog was actually brought over to Raven to play with her during the testing! I was like WTF??? I still do not know if is this part of the testing. However, this was only done with Raven. Finally, the owner of the dog told the person that was handling her dog to please take the dog out of the testing area. Raven was all over the place. I had NO WAY to bring her back to me. I was so frustrated at this point. During part of the testing, I had to leave Raven with someone for 3 mins and go out of site. Raven usually whines for a couple of seconds but that is about it. Today, she was losing her collective shit. It was during this time that I was told that 3 of the instructors were talking about Raven before we showed up. They were overheard saying that Raven was never expected to pass the CGC testing in the first place as she is too young and immature. The testing only went worse from there. At the end of the testing, we were given our results. Out of the 4 dogs in the class that took the CGC testing, only 1 passed both the CGC testing and the course. The testers dog will not doubt also pass the testing whenever she is given it. Raven and I were politely advised to not attend the field trip the rest of the class would be taking to a local nursing home. As we left the class, the instructor told me that I would need to retake the course again ($175 after my $50 discount because we were returning to the facility). I left the testing pissed off. I felt like we were singled out and set up from the beginning to fail. I am not saying that we would have passed the CGC if the testing had been done differently from the time I walked into the training facility that day. I am saying that we would not have bombed it that badly.
It was on my drive home that I was debating whether or not Raven and I needed to find another training facility. Within 4 days, there was no doubt in our minds that it was time to find a different trainer and to start back at the beginning…..
Sept 8, 2015
July 30, 2015, was Raven’s last Puppy K class. This post is my reflection of both the class, the training facility, and of Raven during that time.
I had no idea what to expect when we began this class with an 8-week old puppy. All I knew is that she loathed her kennel, was not housebroken in the least, loved to attack us with her razor sharp puppy teeth, a newly purchased laptop power cord was on it’s way (She ate the other one.), my family was out 5 pairs of earbuds, 4 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, 3 skirts, and 2 dresses, and the cat was soooooo not impressed with us.
To be honest, I had no idea why a service dog needed to be in training by no later than 8 weeks of age. Most “normal” dogs do not begin any kind of training until closer to 16 weeks. Anyone that knew us kept asking what the hell an 8-week old puppy is going to learn at that age. It did not take me long to understand exactly why she was supposed to be in training by 8 weeks of age. She took to the class immediately and we never looked back. I watched her come to life and thrive with the training. She learned the following commands….
- Stay (for a count of 10)
- Tunnels (including several tunnels linked and turned to create different shapes).
I began working with her every chance I got on the commands we were learning in class, in our everyday life. When she got crazy “playful” with us, especially Reine, I decided to put treats all over the house and make her concentrate on the training that we were learning in class instead.
Raven’s class did not have a set group of dogs in it. You never knew who was going to be there, what size, and age the dogs would be. This class exposed her to different dogs each week. Some weeks she was very confident with the other dogs, other weeks not so much. It was incredible to see her gain her confidence as the weeks went by. Raven was usually the youngest pup in her class.
On July 30, 2015, Raven graduated from Puppy K. She received a gift that would change our world once again. I asked the head trainer where we take Raven when Raven would be ready for her first vest. She told me that normally happens at 16 weeks of age. The class trainer we had been working with, told her that Raven was ready for the vest now. Between Raven’s size and all that she had accomplished, the trainer was in awe when she learned that Raven was only 12 weeks of age. Both trainers still agreed that Raven would receive her first vest that night as they both felt she was ready. There were tears flowing and hugs freely given.
Kennel Cough and Basic Manners
Sept 7, 2015
Raven is almost 26 weeks old now. We finished her 2nd training class (Basic Manners) on October 6 ~ sorta. She had to miss the last class of Basic Manners because she contracted a very mild case of Kennel Cough. We had to quarantine her to inside the house for 2 weeks. She did not get her certificate of completion for the class as a result. However, she will continue on to her next class anyway and then attend the last day of the new upcoming Basic Manners class to officially graduate it.
Raven has come a long way from the tiny puppy we got on June 21. At this time she now knows or we are working on the following….
- Stay (count of 40+), moving from side to side slowly and taking steps away from her
- Leave it
- Give it
- Walking and turning to the left and right
- Roll over (work in progress)
- Paw (work in progress)
- Chin (work in progress)
She now weighs in at just over 60 lbs and is taller than my 2 Siberian Huskies. We hear all the time that she is going to be a BIG dog. I have no doubt about that.
Raven’s one ear can not decide if it wants to stay up or flop down. This is apparently a normal thing in the realm of a teething German Shepherd Dog. Remember, she is our first German Shepherd Dog. She was been heavily teething. We keep getting glimpses of both ears popping up once again for short bursts. I am hoping we do not need to tape her ear.
When Raven came down with Kennel Cough, she became obnoxious. I really do mean O.B.N.O.X.I.O.U.S. Although she was vaccinated for Kennel Cough, she was still able to contract a mild case of it.
Raven’s behavior did not surprise me in the least, though. Her world was kinda flipped upside down on her and she let me know about it the only way a pup can….
- No bones
- No walks
- No hard foods or treats
- No playing in the backyard, the back deck, or being outside unless it is
- No training
- Mandatory rest
- No play with the other dogs
- No outings
- Avalanche (one of my dogs) was recovering from an eye infection and not allowed to play.
All of this left Raven with so much pent up energy and no way to release it. She began to rebel. She refused to train and decided to revert. She began peeing in the house, chewing on anything she wanted and not listening to anything we said. It was like I had a 7-week old puppy all over again, just in a larger body.
Once her quarantine was lifted, I started walking Raven 1-2 miles 5 days a week. These walks are nonworking walks. Meaning, no vest. She can sniff everything and usually does. She is allowed to be our puppy instead of our Service Dog In Training on these walks. We enjoy them. I am finding she is calmer throughout the day obviously and also is more eager to train.
She is also becoming more in-tune with Reine and I. Reine recently got a pretty nasty head cold and Raven did not leave her side while she was sick. When Reine has meltdowns, Raven tries to soothe her. She stays with me when I am having anxiety or panic attacks.
11 Weeks Old
July 21, 2015
July 21, 2015 (11 weeks old)
Had to share pics of Raven’s ears popping up as well as some cute pics of her this week. It won’t be long until this is a normal occurrence. For now, though, we get to smile at her cuteness.
10 Weeks Old
July 14, 2015
July 14, 2015 (10 weeks old)
Vet apt for more boosters. Raven is now 25.5 lbs. Once again she had what is considered an allergic reaction to her boosters. Ears are popping up more and more. She is in her 3rd week of training. She knows sit, down, here, and LOVES going through tunnels. We are working on bite inhibition. Damn are her teeth sharp.
7 and 8 Weeks Old
June 24, 2015 (7 weeks old)
First Vet Appointment
She is a HEALTHY pup weighing in at 17.10 pounds. She began her first full series of boosters she will need to be able to help her fight off anything that she comes into contact with. No deworming was needed at all. Shocked me and the vet’s office.
My Huskies (Avalanche and Tsunami) LOVE her for the most part. They are older (almost 10 and 9 yrs) so the CONSTANT chewing on them gets old sometimes.But she has brought back their playful side. When they are done, they let her know nicely.
My cat (Famine) on the other hand is a completely different story. She LOATHES Raven. It does not help that Raven is slightly bigger than her and thinks that she is a puppy too. Somehow, hissing, spitting, snarling (because we are now WAY past growling) and death glares have not detoured Raven from attempting to pull the cat’s tail to try to get her to play with her. Famine has figured out that she can torment Raven by teasing her up the stairs. Raven is just now learning to climb stairs. She is great at the climb up, but the climb down has NOT been attempted yet. So Famine gets Raven to climb to the top step and then races down past her and sits on the steps below her. Meowing and rubbing all over the steps tormenting Raven.
OH AND SHE IS NOT A FAN OF HER KENNEL AT ALL!!! LOL, thankfully it is only being used for when I go to sleep at night right now. We are working it out so that she is with me all the times to help with the imprinting.
June 30, 2015 (8 weeks old)
Vet apt for more boosters. She gained 3 lbs in a week. Weighing in at 20 lbs! Trying to get her ready for her first training class this week. Her ears are slowly trying to pop up. She had a slight mild reaction to the boosters (VERY sore hip!). Also tried Lavender Essential Oil on her bed in her crate. We will see what happens…..
July 2, 2015 (8 weeks old)
Raven went to her first training class tonight. We worked on going through tunnels, sit, down, and here. Lots happening.
Quoth The Raven “Nevermore” AKA RAVEN
June 24, 2016
Our search for a PTSD Service Dog for me has been an ongoing process for the past 2 years. This is not something we took lightly. I spent countless hours researching what exactly a PTSD Service Dog is supposed to do, the difference between an Emotional Support Dog versus a Service Dog. Which one would better suit my needs? What did I need the dog to do for me? What would my role be in the maintaining of the dog? How long would I have to wait until I received a dog if I qualified for one? Would bringing in a 2-year-old dog into my house be a good idea with Reine? Could we keep our other animals? Could this dog become a dual purpose Service Dog for both Reine and I? These were just some of the many questions that I researched.
I have contacted numerous organizations over the last 2 years. I was told the same thing over and over again.
- Because I am not a Military Vet, I did not meet the guidelines for more than 1/2 of the PTSD Service Dog Organizations.
- Many of organizations that I did meet the initial guidelines, would not allow us to have any other pets in the home, forcing us to surrender all our pets. I could not do that to my family.
- Other organizations that were fine with our pets were no longer taking applications as the wait for their dogs exceeded 4 years.
- Then there were the organizations that if I did meet ALL the criteria and would gladly give me a PTSD Service Dog provided we pay $20,000-$40,000 for the dog. This did not include other expenses . I would need to pay a nonrefundable application fee. Next, I would need to fly a representative to Maryland, pay for their room and board and all expenses while they were here doing a house check. This could take up to a week. Then I would need to secure a hefty deposit on a Service Dog. This way they knew I was serious about wanting one of their Service Dogs. After a 2-4 year wait list, I would then need to fly with a companion to the organization’s training facility for up to 4 weeks, where I would be responsible for airfare or gas, all lodging, food etc for 2 of us. Then I would meet the dog, imprint with it, learn the commands, hope I knew what I was doing with it and that Reine would accept it and it accept her.
None of these options were the best for us. I started to think outside of the box.
There is no denying that Service Dogs are expensive to train. The organizations have to pay for the pups (some are donated to the organizations for free or for a discounted price), all vet bills including all shots, boosters, heartworm, flea and tick preventatives, spay or neutering (some veterinarians will donate their services for a discount), foster care, INTENSE training, certifications, halters, collars, leads, and vests. Not all dogs will make the cut to be a Service Dog. Many fail the training within the first year.
But what would the price be if we decided to raise and train a Service Dog as a puppy ourselves with help from private trainers? Could this be done? Could the dog also be trained as an Autism Service Dog for Reine?
This led us onto a completely different path. I began contacting “local” trainers that specialized in Service Dogs. Local meaning within a 2-hour drive from our home. I was given name after name from different trainers. All agreed that what I was trying to do was VERY much something we could do. I just needed to find the right trainer that would be willing to work with me.
I was led to a “local” Not For Profit organization that decided I was worth helping. After lengthy emails back and forth, online reviews, and reference checking, we decided to go with them when time came. We agreed that a puppy was the best alternative for me. It would be able to be trained for both myself and for Reine. It would pull double duty. This is possible as Reine will be homeschooled and is with me all the time. Also, it would learn my PTSD inside and out . It would also learn Reine’s autism. Her meltdowns, her moods, her highs, and her lows. The imprint with me and Reine would be rock SOLID. We agreed to a price to cover only the training time.
I then contacted our veterinarian to find out the cost we would need for the first 6 months of care. This would include ALL boosters, shots, health checks, deworming, microchipping and spay or neutering. After the first 6 months, everything else would be routine check-ups.
Next, I began to research breeds. Shelter versus breeder. Mixed breed versus purebred. We opted to go purebred as I would be able to see parents, lineage, health checks, etc. Shelter dogs have close to 80% failure rate of becoming a Service Dog. Purebreds have about 25% failure rate. What breed would work best for us? We decided to go with either a Lab, Golden Retriever, or German Shepherd.
Breeders were my next subject for research. I wanted a reputable breeder not a puppy mill type breeder. I began contacting “local” breeders within a 5-hour drive from our home. This search went through multiple states. Let me be clear, I was NOT asking for them to donate a puppy to me. I was hoping that they would be able to offer me some kind of a discount, even if that meant a partial refund once the pup finally reached Service Dog status (which would be within 2 years). This would benefit both the breeder and myself. Being able to say that one of your pups is a trained Service Dog is a big selling point. The going price for a purebred in our area ranges from $2,500-$3,500. Most breeders were not willing to work with me at all. One breeder was nice enough to send my info to another breeder over 10 hours away. No sarcasm meant. It meant a lot to me that she actually took the time to do this for me. However, I did find a local breeder that was willing to work with me. They are a small local (3-hour drive) breeder.
We had a price down for training, vet care, and now the cost of the pup. How do we pay for it?
We set up a go fund me page. It was up for a couple of weeks and no one donated it. Only about 2 of my friends shared my page via any social media. It was clear to us that this was NOT the way to go. We opted to go a different route and took out a loan so that we could begin this journey.
Everything happened so quickly and in a reverse order to the way we thought it would happen. We got the trainer first, the vet estimates next, then the pup, and finally the money to pay for part of it.
We chose to go with a German Shepherd breeder in Virginia, Nordhausen Kennels. Her lines are Czech-Hungarian. It took her over 2 years to find the exact dogs they wanted to breed. Their dogs are bred specifically to be used for Service Dogs in temperament, health, and demeanor. This includes Search and Rescue, Police K-9, Psychiatric Service Dogs, and Special Needs Service Dogs. They only breed once a year and rotate between females so that their bodies are allowed to come back from being pregnant and to take a much-needed break. They are not in it for the money, but rather have a strong passion and love for the breed. It shows! To say I was impressed with them would be an understatement. They do not have a website but I hope that that is something that will change very soon. They have a waiting list for next year’s litter already.
We chose a female German Shepherd Dog just shy of turning 8 weeks old. Her official name (from when we registered her with the AKC) is Quoth The Raven “Nevermore”. It is my favorite poem. But we will call her Raven for short. I chose the name Raven because in many religions (my own included) they symbolize transition, rebirth, are messengers from the Gods and Goddesses, are thought to know the future, and overall are considered very lucky to have in your life. All of which I feel when I look into the eyes of this puppy. She is my blessing wrapped inside of a furry spirited little body.