Gwen Peterson: Service dog stuns with silly bag of tricks
April 5, 2016
My neighbor, Kim, named her Blue Heeler pup Einstein.
"He's so smart, I'm teaching him to be a service dog," she said.
"How so?" I asked.
"When I'm horseback, if I drop a glove or my hat blows off, Einstein brings it back to me. I don't even have to dismount. I just lean down from the saddle and take it from him."
“Instead of a roller mounted on the wall in my bathroom, I’ve one of those free-standing metal trees with an armature that holds the roll. I’ve taught Einstein to pat the roll with his paw to unwind a ribbon of tissue.”
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I had to admit Einstein excelled in intelligence. He followed Kim everywhere. Once, he crawled up the ladder to the loft in the barn.
Not a stepladder. No, this was the kind made from 2 by 4 cross pieces nailed to bare vertical studs. Einstein scaled it like a rock climber going up a cliff).
"And," Kim said, "I take him to the nursing home once a week. He visits every room and lets everyone pet him. Sometimes, if the resident is bedridden, he'll put his paws — carefully — on the edge of the bed and stand on his hind legs so the resident can pat him. They all love him."
"Is that what you mean when you say you're teaching him to be a service dog? "
"Partly," she said. "Einstein follows me around the house even into the bathroom."
"Really?" I asked. "What service does he do there?"
"He unrolls the toilet tissue."
"No joke," Kim said. "Instead of a roller mounted on the wall in my bathroom, I've one of those free-standing metal trees with an armature that holds the roll. I've taught Einstein to pat the roll with his paw to unwind a ribbon of tissue."
"How'd you get him to do that?"
Kim, oozing pride, said, "I showed him by taking his paw and patting the roll. Every time he succeeded in unraveling a length, I gave him a doggie treat."
"And," I questioned (somewhat sarcastically), "how is this a service dog activity precisely? Are you going to take him to the nursing home and assist oldsters in unrolling tissue rolls?"
"Probably not," Kim said. "I think I have to train him a bit more. Einstein has taken to visiting the bathroom on his own whether I'm with him or not. Twice he's managed to unroll an entire roll of tissue down to the cardboard core. Then he peeked out with that doggie expression asking, 'See what I did? Where's my treat?'
Last Thursday, in the nursing home, Einstein unraveled three different rolls in three different resident's bathrooms."
In case you're thinking this is an imaginary story, I hasten to assure you, it's ALL true. I suspect there will be more stories about Einstein. Kim is teaching him new tricks. She's grooming him to be a doggie performer on America's Got Talent TV show.❖