This is Loki, our St Bernard. He thinks he is as big as a Yorkie, but he is 160pds of love and joy. He is my breath.
We got Loki when we were engaged. This was a big change for me. I had not had a dog since I was a kid. I was the crazy cat lady. My cousin and I fostered cats for the local animal shelter. My husband is allergic to cats. At that time I had 4 of my own and then anywhere from 5 – 12 fosters at a time. At one point one family came in faster than the other family could leave – ok, quite a few families – and I had a total of 23 cats in the house, be it only 48hrs. (Warning, this can stop breathing for someone allergic to cats. We found this out when I went to a writing workshop and he decided to take care of cats for me that day.)
Before I had met my husband I had looked into getting an assist dog, but 1.5 years later it was not looking hopeful. I think they felt my “now to be husband” was supposed to assist. They first sent me a pretty standard application form and then they told me there would be a follow up visit. Not too long after they received the application a woman called to set the date for coming out with a dog to see how I walk with my crutches and how many different tasks the assist dog would have to perform to help me.
Nothing that day worked as it was supposed to, which ended up to be a wonderful Serendipity. The woman was held up first by an emergency call to a client, then traffic, and by the time they got here everyone was hungry and tired. When they walked in I was greeted by the most beautiful and wonderful Newfie I have ever met. He immediately slobbered all over me and I rewarded him with a hug, kiss and a treat. That seemed to be the right thing to have done because from then on I was not just seen as a “Cat Lady” and I saw this was something that would benefit me physically and fill my heart.
The day we went to look at the puppies we started out with my fiancé declaring that we were going to just look. By the time we got there my husband knew we were taking a puppy home. As I was looking over the puppies my husband had one clutched to his chest and I knew we had found our baby.
We started training in just a few months, just before he was 5months old. It was basic puppy training and he caught on well. We went through two more classes with the local pet store and reached their highest level of training. That trainer had also had training in working with Assist Dogs so she started seeing us privately after. We also at that time found a set of DVD’s on training your assist dog that taught us soo much.
Later on we went to a fully qualified trainer for Assist Dogs when Loki reached the age when it was appropriate. We studied with this woman for 2.5years and Loki made many strides. Unfortunately though, Loki is “too friendly” and even though he assists me at home, he cannot go out with me in public as he wants to say “Hi” to everyone. And I cannot fault him for that.
Loki does assist me much at home. He carries in the groceries, without eating them. He carries the laundry to the washer and loves to carry about anything I would ask him to. He is by my side 24/7 and does truly fill my heart.
This winter we noticed Loki was limping and starting to fall. At first we thought it was arthritis as he will be 7 this year. When he didn’t get any better with treatment we searched further and ended up at the college Vet clinic. When we first heard the words Neurological we were terrified. But now we have found out that is not such a bad diagnosis for a dog and many of them have good recovery. Fortunately, including our baby.
Loki had a Bulging disk that was operated on in April and he spent 4 days in the hospital. In that 4 days he made lots of friends and got along really well. He loved the extra attention and even learned to whine. After 60 – 75 days of bed rest where he was to be kept quiet and only taken out on leash, we started physical therapy.
This is the tank where Loki is taken down a ramp to stand on a treadmill. Then the tank is filled with warm water up to about his shoulders and the treadmill is slowly started. At first Loki was terrified of the moving earth, but soon, through encouragement, he was walking the treadmill and enjoying himself. This treatment happens about once a week and is supplemented with two 10 minute walks a day and physical therapy exercises I do with him 2 – 3 times a day.
It is predicted that Loki will make a very good recovery. He will not be 100%, but I would say about 90%. We are more than pleased with his treatment and his recovery. All through his ordeal Loki never wanted to stop his “job” of taking care of me and helping out. He stayed by side. And even though through his recovery I have become his “Assist Person” at times, there is always the confusion of who really helps who. There is only Love.
Do you have an Assist Dog? Please tell me your experiences.
We just started Physical Therapy with him and not only does he love the ladies, but they love him.