Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ekphrasis Post

For those of you who know Bravo and me you have seen many good pictures of us!  Jeffrey D. Allred of the Salt Lake City Deseret News managed to capture in image what I believe to be at the center of how diabetic alert dogs work.  He captured the raw emotion from both Bravo and I after an alert!   My look is one of gratitude and love for this amazing dog…and his is in my humble opinion is  a look of absolute love and peace!  It is  “I JUST WANT YOU TO BE SAFE!”  “ I LOVE YOU AND YOU ARE MY WORLD”.

Over the years I have taken some flack if I stated that these dogs alert out of love.  I had one lady tell me that dogs are not capable of what we humans call love.  I understand what she was trying to say to me but I don’t think she understood what I was trying to say.  We can teach most any dog about SCENT work... but scent work is an OFFERED behavior.  Who truly knows what a dog smells and how they do it.   When training these dogs we teach them the particular scent we want them to acknowledge.  We then teach the desired behavior in combination with that scent and that is about as far as we can take it.  At that point….it becomes does the dog want to OFFER this behavior on its own!

What would make a dog want to offer this behavior on it’s own???  Some dogs seem to do it as a self-reward.  Some do it because we have always had a big PARTY when that scent is present.  Some do it because we are their world, we have spent hours and hours teaching, training, and playing with our dogs.  We are the source of EVERYTHING to our dogs!  Their basic needs of hunger and food come from us.  Their need and desire for order is enhanced by our actions.  Though love, discipline, and by simply spending a lot of time with us they very often JUST WANT TO PLEASE US!!!!  Most dogs want to know when they are right so they can do it again and again!  Their experience over time is that this makes us VERY HAPPY and they like to see us happy!  When you add the mood and behavior changes that diabetes can have in our bodies…these dogs just want that “BAD SCENT” to go away and for us to be HAPPY again.

I realize that I am simplifying this but I need for folks to understand how important BUILDING RELATIONSHIP with these dogs truly is!  Yes you can teach a dog scent….but to keep them at it YOU MUST BUILD AND WORK ON THE RELATIONSHIP!  It has to be tended daily! 

So get on it!  Build and grow the relationship with your dog!  Little by little and soon you will have your very own hero!

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