Laurie had a beautiful training session with Lori, who unfortunately suffers from anxiety, depression, PTSD due to a recent sexual assault, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Fibromyalgia. She initially asked if I would like assess her 2 year-old rescue Boston Terrier for possible training as a Service Dog. Lori rescued her about a year and a half ago, and said that “Abbie” has basic training, is totally housebroken, knows basic commands and tries very hard to do what Lori requests of her. Abigail is very good with people, totally non-aggressive with other people and dogs, and up to date on shots and takes her heart worm preventative. Lori explained that she finds it difficult to go into public places (like a store, etc.) due to anxiety and hypervigilance. She sadly stated that she has lost all of her friends due to her disability, but Abbie’s socialization skills make it easier for Lori to interact with everyone. Lori has to take her extremely supportive and brilliant husband or another housemate with her to most shops and restaurants because of her anxiety. She would really like to honor her Marine uncle by visiting him at the Ft. Sam Houston Cemetery, but she has been unable to do so because cemeteries are a trigger for her. She explained that “Abbie’s presence would make me less reliant on her medications, as Abbie is a calming, protective force in her environment. She simply stated, “We are in love!”
I had to admit that prior to going to my first session with beautiful, compassionate, and highly intelligent Lori, I was doubtful about how much we could accomplish with a Boston Terrier, as they are usually a bit difficult to train and have traits that are not what you would automatically associate with difficult Service Dog work. BOY, was I WRONG!!!! From the first meeting with Lori and Abbie, I was simply blown away by how incredibly smart Abbie is, and how much training work Lori had done with her! I could not say whether Abbie was just an extraordinary Boston Terrier or if it was the brilliance and attention to detail that Lori had working with Abbie, but walking into that house was like walking into a calm, beautiful, serene environment that simply emanated from every part of the home and from Lori, Abbie, Lori’s husband, and their housemate. Even in the midst of renovating their home, their experience with interior decorating, the soothing colors they chose for their rooms, and their amazing energy in the home was riveting. Abbie reflected this very same demeanor. She knew to wait at the door, obeyed gentle commands, had an unbelievably loving bond with Lori, made superior eye contact, and could perform so many commands already that I think I wanted to go out and pair up every client with a Boston Terrier!
Lori, her husband and I talked a lot about Lori’s experiences, and all the terribly unfortunate experiences they had encountered despite their desire and passion to help others where they used to live (and where the sexual assault occurred). Lori had a beautiful room for her office where she had so many computer monitors set up for her extensive knowledge about technology, and her husband, a professor of Art History and Philosophy, shared how difficult it was for them when they moved away from San Antonio down to south Texas to try and work with the people there spreading their knowledge in such a charitable way. After the assault, they had to move back to San Antonio.
Lori put Abbie’s beautiful vest on, which had all the appropriate patches, her ID with medical information on the back, and Abbie went straight into “working” mode. Abbie thrived on Lori’s love, so constant treats were not necessary (although she didn’t mind the few I gave her!). We easily went over all the basic commands in the house, and Abbie maintained constant eye contact with Lori when she gave commands. She was rewarded with hugs and kisses that she reciprocated and obviously brought tremendous joy to Lori.
At our next session, we will venture out into public. I have no doubt that they will do spectacularly as a team. It was humbling to say the least to see someone who had been through so much show so much determination and dedication to making the Service Dog process work. I am truly honored to have met this amazing family!