A truly beautiful update from our trainer, Pat, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Mark, and his SDIT, Pongo!
“I had lesson #5 with Mark and Pongo today, and I want to say how thrilling it is to see this man push his personal limits to go out in public with his SDIT Pongo!! Mark is 100% disabled and suffers from PTSD and other serious conditions stemming from his military service during the late Vietnam era. Today was our first day working in a truly public setting (besides public parks), and it was Mark’s desire to go to the post office because he felt more secure there. So in the post office, we worked on sit/stay, down/stay, and – way more challenging for Mark – dealing with the public. We were in there for about 15 minutes, and Pongo was doing great, but I felt Mark was about to have a melt-down; so we went outside for a breather. Across the street was a hardware store that I “needed” to step into for something quickly, and gave Mark the option of tagging along or waiting outside. He chose to go with me, so in and out they followed while I ran my errand! Then, I suggested we go to a nearby feed store to look at dog food options for Pongo, and Mark agreed to that. There, we did 6″+ off-lead stays, recalls, and off-lead heeling. Literally “off” lead!! Mark still doesn’t quite realize how well he is doing with Pongo. We really pushed the envelope today for both of them, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to take Mark a couple days for it all to sink in. They did so well I treated them to lunch at DQ, and there, Pongo quite successfully laid under the table for over a half hour, and left dropped food alone on command!
Perhaps more impactful for Mark (I hope) was he was able to observe how I handled public inquiries about him and his dog. I have been coaching him about that since day one, knowing his challenge about being in public. He said he was more comfortable with Pongo with him, so I’m hoping I am giving him the tools he needs to cope. He is a lovely man, and I’m praying that Pongo gives him comfort and freedom he has been missing for many years.