Laurie is training with dear Natalie, who suffers from multiple disabilities including extreme rheumatoid arthritis, heart conditions, has had over 20 surgeries in her young life for various conditions, and must use a cane, walker, or wheelchair even in the house. But she and her father, who himself suffers from deafness and early onset Alzheimer’s, have saved five dogs that have shown up over the years on their front steps – despite their fragile financial issues. They both often say that once the dogs are taken care of, whatever money is left, they use for food, to pay medical co-pays, and to keep their electricity on. It’s just a joy to be around people who care so deeply about all God’s creatures.
I initially went to their home to help train Natalie’s father’s little buddy to help with hearing as a Service Dog. But he saw how much Natalie was suffering just walking, and he suggested we focus on training Pearl, a gorgeous, gentle, and extremely intelligent Yellow Labrador for mobility for Natalie. I asked him many times if that was what he wanted – but he wanted his daughter taken care of first. Just beautiful people.
We have already had two sessions with Pearl. Our second session was at a very busy Walmart. Thanks to the generous donations of individuals through the GoFundMe account I set up for Natalie (she is too prideful to ask for help, so I did it for her!), Pearl now has a beautiful blue vest with a handle that Natalie can use to help stabilize herself if she needs extra help when her cane or walker are not readily available. Pearl did exquisitely!!!! Pearl just heels alongside Natalie no matter what assistive device she is using. Pearl never pulls, doesn’t react at all to distractions (created or accidental), keeps her focus on Natalie, is both treat and love-motivated, and does meets and greets with adult males and females and children in the most beautifully gentle way I could imagine. She will go into an automatic sit, and just let everyone love on her – and boy, do the people she meets get such joy from being able to hug her!!
After only two sessions, Pearl can “sit”, “down”, “sit/stay”, “down/stay”, “leave it”, “meet and greet”, “navigate through tight corners with Natalie’s walker”, walk in a perfect “heel” next to a shopping cart, will “leave” snacks set down before her when told to, “let another person take her as she heels”, do beautiful “meet and greets” with any other dog and remain completely non-reactive – it’s just amazing. I am so proud of both of them. The key to this amazing work is undoubtedly the love Pearl feels from Natalie. That’s the thing about rescue dogs – they are so grateful to have been saved – and if given the proper amount of bonding time and unconditional love, they will give back tenfold. That’s Pearl and Natalie.
Here are some pictures. I didn’t have my camera on me at the last session, but Natalie’s dad took some pictures yesterday with his shaky hands of the two of them – so although they are blurry, you can see the love. That’s all that matters.