Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Trooper's first day

Laura and Trooper arrive in Evanston.
Taking it hour by hour . . . 

9 a.m. My new hearing dog arrives at the condo with trainers Laura and Jessica from Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point, Oregon. They had flown in the day before from Medford and Denver, and Laura reported that Trooper was a bit nervous on the first leg but slept at her feet all during the second. Troop greets me cautiously but is still friendly. In relative terms he is very small and I am very big, and right away I learn that I should avoid looming over him like a menacing mountain.

He looks like a shaggy black miniature schnauzer with a chocolate mustache and beard. The hair in his ears bespeak poodle, Laura says. “Schnoodle” seems to be a good name for his mixture.

We get to know each other.
9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. We all sit at the dining table reviewing paperwork, including his medical records and my rights as an assistance dog owner. (“Assistance dog” rather than the ADA-preferred “service dog” is the standard term at Dogs for the Deaf, as it is at many other such enterprises, although the phrases are interchangeable.) 

We review the further equipage we’ll need to get for him, including a small crate for long auto trips. Trooper is crate trained, Laura says. Dogs feel secure in dens. Sounds reasonable to me.

Our first walk.
11 a.m. to noon. Trooper and I go for our first walk, Laura supervising. “A watched dog never pees,” I say, but eventually Trooper complies. He is only 1 1/2 years old, and he pulls at the leash—a task we’ll have to work on when we start obedience training in January.

12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. We take a lunch break. Laura and Jessica leave for a while, leaving Trooper with his new family. Troop objects, but only a little, whining at the door for a minute or two.

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Laura and Jessica return, and we start “sound work.”  Some of it is a little complicated and I am the one who has to be trained. Trooper is trained to jump up and lead the client to the source of the sound—the phone, the doorbell, various timers including that for the dryer. I suggest we leave that last for the future. Debby demurs. She wants me to do my share of the laundry. I give in. I give in too easily.

Trooper works the sounds perfectly for Laura, but not for me. He does not yet understand that I’m now the main man, and that his skills have to be transferred to me and strengthened over the coming months. I am beginning to understand what Dogs for the Deaf has given me: a little black bundle of huge potential that I need to coax out into the light. I need to take over Laura’s tasks as trainer as well as client.

4 p.m. We call it a day, and Laura and Jessica go back to their hotel. Debby and I relax in the den while Trooper snuffles at the door for Laura. I manage to distract him by lying on the floor and giving him belly rubs. He likes that and comes to me whenever I lie down on the rug.

Already we have mastered "sit," "down" and "stay," followed by a treat, at least in the condo.

Trooper and I go out for a whiz but his little tank isn’t full enough.

5 p.m. Troop gets his supper, a third of a cup of kibble.

5:30 p.m. Out we go again. This time Troop cooperates, decorating a fire hydrant.

6 p.m. Debby and I have supper. Again Troop waits for Laura on the mat by the door.

6:30 p.m. Out again. Trooper is a good pooper.

6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. We flake out by the TV, Trooper alternating between us and the doormat. “Do you think Trooper would like Animal Planet?” Debby asks. I have no idea. More belly rubs. 

9:30 p.m. Last walk of the day for a quick whiz.

10 p.m. Bedtime. We shut the door to our bedroom and Trooper willingly takes up residence in the dog bed at my side. He sleeps all night without a break. He is exhausted. So are we.

I think this enterprise will be successful.


  1. I am following your dog journey closely - there may be one of these doggies in my future as well, and I'm fascinated to watch the process. :)

  2. I just loved reading about the first day. It'll take time. I hope you are easily trainable, Henry.

  3. Enjoyed this ongoing story about Trooper. Thanks for mentioning it on Facebook. Sounds like Debby will enjoy your doing the laundry now! Honestly sounds like a good bit of responsibility. Are there adoption papers involved? Always good to have a friend when it is time to whiz. Bet Trooper will solve the next Steve Martinez mystery. Carl Morrison

  4. I hope you don't mind me following your blog. I'm on the waiting list for an assistance dog from Dogs for the Deaf and came across your blog. It's so exciting to see what you are going through with Trooper! I'm wishing the best for you and your new dog!