Donny is an amazingly dedicated, confident dog handler who suffers from PTSD and TBI. He has done so much work with Max on his own, based upon his years of training his own personal dogs. From the first time I met them, I was already blown away by how much work he had done with Max. Donny followed all the training steps in the manual, and added his own training, which just enhanced Max’s already incredible abilities.

We took the Public Access Test at my favorite place to do them – the Bass Pro Shop. By now, I know just about every worker in the store – and they always greet each dog and handler with such compassion and kindness. They know to ask before petting, and all of them willingly participate in parts of the Public Access Test that require interactions with strangers.

We started from “unload”, then went to “controlled entry” (Max wasn’t even fazed by the rolling bars that let you in). We went all over the store, as I followed behind and let Donny know each command I had to see them do. Max scored an “Always” on every single part of the test. He adores children, and was gentle with each one that wanted to greet him as he stayed in a “sit” position. He was the same with male and female adults. I always add in some “extras” to the test, like showing Donny proper elevator entrance and exit with a Service Dog (Max loved the glass windows where he could see all the fish). We did fast heeling and slow heeling around corners and clothes racks, and when we did the “drop leash” command, Max stayed in a perfect heel far beyond what he was required to do! Donny and Max spend all their time together, so there is no doubt about how strong their bond is. Max loved the fish pond, and it was hilarious to see how he constantly cocked his head from side to side while watching the catfish swimming around! He didn’t attempt to jump in the pond, but I bet he would have loved to!

There were SO many people, including workers, who came up to us to express how beautiful Max was – and because he was so well-behaved, they asked for pointers for their own dogs! If the conversation went on a little bit too long, Max just laid down and rested. Max was SO intrigued by all the stuffed wild game they have there – Donny lives in an area where there are always deer in the front yard and even a small fox that visits – so Max would go right up to the huge stuffed deer and elk, sniff them, then look at Donny as if he was saying, “I don’t get it, dad – this LOOKS like a real animal, but it sure doesn’t smell like one!” Max’s face is so full of expression like that. Max didn’t really like the stuffed monkeys, because they are a bit scary looking, so when we went up to them, he did a back “cover” behind Donny as if he was saying “OK, that really freaks me out dad!”

We practiced slow walking on many of the different stair surfaces they have – “step, wait, step, wait”, and Max was perfect on each surface. He could sit/stay and down/stay with ease for as long as Donny wanted him to. Max was not fazed by shopping cars, people in motorized wheelchairs, crying babies (Max actually seems to really want to gravitate toward them as if to comfort them. There was even someone in the store with a very hyper puppy – and both the handler and Donny were hesitant to get them close – but I knew Max’s personality and told them to just relax and let the two dogs try and do a proper meet and greet – and they did! Max was gentle, and the little puppy quickly calmed down and they did the perfect “sniffing” pattern and became fast friends.

I am so, so very proud of this team. Donny said that Max always knows when Donny is having a difficult day, and comes to him instantly to give him comfort. Max’s recall is also profoundly good.

Well done, Donny and Max!!!!

P.S. – Check out Donny’s new Camaro!! A young couple visiting from Italy even came up to Donny and said, “How much for that Camaro? We’ll pay cash right now!” We all laughed and Max stuck his head out and said “No way, people – this is MY fancy car!”