I suppose the most amazing thing about the trainers at Fidos, is that they all volunteer. They Chloe at work with me
don’t get paid for what they do, and yet what they do certainly takes a great deal more time than what most of us consider a “community service”. The trainers volunteer so much time to Fidos, that for many it is like a part-time job without pay! For some it is likely a 2nd full-time job… only without pay.
When a Fidos dog is ready for their final phase of training, the trainer has already very likely been involved with this dog to some degree! The Puppy Raisers stay in close contact with the trainers about any questions or training tips they may have for the puppy they are raising. Two of the trainers at Fidos actually have “puppy classes” every week. They work one-on-one with with the Puppy Raisers. They help with mundane things like potty training, and the important teaching of basic commands, plus ways to expose the puppy to many different things and environments. My daughter attended some of the classes for awhile to socialize her own puppy, and was very impressed with the fun and innovative ways the trainers encouraged and equipped the Puppy Raisers and their Fido’s puppy.
In most states (if not all) the trainer is granted the same rights of access as a person with a disability. This is important, as they need to train with the dog in public. They go to the grocery store, on trips, restaurants, etc., with the dog during this phase of their training. At home, they practice the alerts and/or service commands with the dog. Most of the trainers have jobs, families, responsibilities and “a life”, prior to ever agreeing to this special investment of time.
I’ve been with Fidos for almost 2 years now. I have observed the trainers a great deal… mostly in “work mode” at the training facility, but also on “field trips” and outings with the clients. At first I thought that they must be motivated to do this because they love dogs so much. Dogs are easy to love, eager to please and they enjoy learning. Fidos dogs also love to work and are motivated to “do it right”. Although I still think the trainers all love dogs… I also know now that really deep down… they also love people with disabilities.
As a person with a disability, I can say that sometimes I can be a pain in the neck! Grin! Folks with hearing loss sometimes talk loudly, interrupt (as they fail to see that who they are talking to is ALREADY talking), and misinterpret what is said a great deal. We get tired, frustrated and impatient. The trainers have seen it all I’m sure! However, the trainers see the “big picture” that a client in training fails to see in their inexperience with assistance dogs. Sometimes the trainers have to use a little reality therapy (smile), and sometimes they just sit and listen. I think it helps them to get to know the clients as they learn what ways a dog might best help them simply by paying attention to what the client says. I’ve seen trainers “hug the neck” (as we say in the South), of a client that really needed it, and I’ve seen them take the time to really “hear” the heart of a person with a disability. They don’t hold clients at arm’s length… it’s quite the opposite really! They know that to really help the match succeed they need to know WHO this client really is, and what their needs are.
I have some balance issues, but depending on whatever weather fronts may have come into the area, I do have good days! My own trainer has really mastered observation. She has picked up little things that even I have not been aware of as it is simply the way I live life. For example, on my “good days”, I feel like I can move with relative ease without any wobbles. Yet as I was training with Chloe in the beginning, she continued to sense something and break a “heel” command. Pat didn’t even have to think about what the problem was, as she had already been observing us working together for some time. It seems even when I’m standing still, I “adjust” using the balls of my feet and my toes. She suggested standing with one foot slightly forward for better balance, and said that Chloe very likely could feel in the leash my “movement”. Now that Chloe is accustomed to my “moving while standing STILL” (tongue in cheek…) she stays in heel without any problem.
The trainers see the “end picture” that clients in training do not. They know and understand that a client in training, or a newly matched team will need to make adjustments for some time. Yet they know that in the end, the team will really KNOW each other and will work very effectively together.
My guess is that the dogs are easier to work with than the clients! SMILE! I’m a client, so I’m allowed to say that! However, I know these trainers MUST love people with disabilities as well as loving dogs. It must thrill their hearts to see a team graduating at the annual Fidos Tux and Tails Gala each year!
So on New Year’s Eve, I do pray a special blessing to those who have invested their lives, time and energy to Fidos as a trainer! May God richly bless you in the year to come!
From an appreciative client,
P.S. If you are a reader in my area, Fidos welcomes “trainer apprentices” and works hard to “train new trainers”. If you are interested, please contact me offsite and I will put you in touch with the training department at Fidos.
If you live in another area of the country and would like more information about assistance dogs, please check out Assistance Dogs International for a training facility near you!