Happy Birthday to Loken (and me)!

Last Friday Loken was three and I was fifty plus Loken’s age. We both had lovely birthdays, though I think Loken’s days are all pretty fine.

Loken got some fine presents, a new bone (from Kevin), a new toy (from Kevin’s class), and a new Public Display of Affection from the whole family. Can you spot it in this picture?


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Big Dog Party!

I always love the “big dog party” up in the tree at the end of Go, Dog. Go! You can make a reasonable facsimile of that with a backyard pool, twenty-five dogs from Canine Companions for Independence, and enough toys for each dog to carry one at all times.


My (edited) photos from the party are at Flickr, in the CCI Dog Pool Party 2008 set.

For us, the most exciting part of the party was that when Loken needed a friend, he came to Kevin. This first year with Kevin and Loken is critical for their bond, and this was the first time he showed that Kevin was his best friend.

Loken had a good time, but he eventually got a bit overloaded by all the strange dogs sniffing him and and the energetic play. I was sitting with Kevin in a somewhat quieter spot to the side, and Loken found us there. You can see him looking squinty and stressed in this photo. After a bit, he put his head on Kevin’s lap. This is the same as the “Visit” command, but we didn’t give the command. It was Loken’s idea.


Kevin gave him a hug (I did suggest that).


Then Loken decided to hide behind Kevin, where he would be safe.


It was wonderful that Loken went to Kevin. I was right there (taking pictures, duh) and Tina was right on the other side (you can see her in the pictures). We are big safe people and he trusts us, but Loken chose his boy when he needed a hug.

At home with Loken

We took Loken to church today as our first public trip and he was a perfect gentleman. At the snack time after the service, Kevin and Loken sat together and people came by to be introduced. The church cat was playing behind us, but Loken didn’t even turn to look.

We have had a couple of training sessions with him, some Heel and Side along with some Get/Sit/Give retrieves with car keys, and showing off Lap and Visit for a neighbor. He is testing us, doing a sloppy heel or dropping the keys and not going back for them. It provides a good chance for both Tina and I to practice our handling and let Loken know he isn’t going to get away with sloppy work.

We took some time this afternoon for play in the back yard. The tennis ball was fun, but Loken really likes his Hol-ee Roller. He ran around playing with it for a while after each throw. He brought everything back to Kevin, even when someone else threw it.

Afterwards, Loken settled down to watch some TV with Kevin. That was Loken’s idea. He actually left his beloved dog bed to be close to Kevin.

Kevin and Loken watching TV

Public Access Here We Come

Today was our ADI public access test and our CCI written test. The Coddingtown Mall was busier than usual, perhaps because it was over 100 degrees outside. It was noisy, echoey, and warm, but the dogs were well behaved.

Both Tina and I had trouble with the Get command, taking three or four tries for success, but we’ll work that out. Loken certainly knows the command, it is up to us to elicit his response.

The test is primarily about safety, and I didn’t see any issues on that front. We had to be extra careful about the hot asphalt and keeping the dogs hydrated. Tonight, we celebrate with the other families in our class.

CCI Skilled Companion Loken!

At CCI Team Training on Saturday, they told us our pre-matches were final, so we can tell the world the name of our dog – Loken. We headed home immediately after and found that our internet connection was cut (“backhoe fade” as a friend told us), so this post is delayed.

We are very, very excited, but also very busy as we study and practice for our ADI public certification test. This will be a quick post with a couple of photos, since I need to be in class in five minutes.

Loken meeting Kevin for the first time:

Loken really enjoys laying in the sun. He was raised in Seattle, so maybe that has something to do with it.

And a few pictures of Loken as a puppy, one with his Puppy Raiser. Thank you, Allen.

Headed to CCI Team Training

CCI is Canine Companions for Independence and Team Training is where the team (recipient and handler) are trained to work with a service dog. The dogs are already trained, so we will spend two weeks learning.

We will be training for a Skilled Companion Dog for our older son. CCI calls this a Skilled Companion Team:

A three-part team including a child or adult with physical, developmental or emotional disabilities, a primary caretaker, and a Canine Companion who helps with physical tasks and creates a bond of companionship, affection and love.

My wife, my older son, and I will be in training for the next two weeks. We will live on campus in Santa Rosa, and our younger son will stay home, go to school, and live with friends for one week and have his grandparents as companions for the second week. He’s being great about this. We are going to have a wonderful new dog, and he knows that he has to make room for his brother to be the best friend. How amazing is that?

The dogs really are wonderful. Here is a photo from our interview. The trainer is in the wheelchair and the dog is quiet and attentive, waiting for the next command. My audition was with this dog, and he was a joy. I told him “let’s go” and he walked with me, keeping light contact with my leg to stay close.

CCI trainer and service dog in training

Our son is developmentally delayed but doesn’t have major physical handicaps, so some friends have (reasonably) asked what a service dog can do for him. I think that is best answered by this video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia. Watch how Ilia puts her head on him (the “visit” command), how he holds the leash for security in physical therapy, and how Ilia is so careful to be close but not in the way in the solo dog walk. Warning: have a hankie ready.

Video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia (YouTube, 3:24)

If you are curious how a Service Dog can help, as opposed to a Skilled Companion Dog, read about Thida Cornes and her magical dog Hermione.

For a taste of Team Training, read Thida’s My Hermione matching story. I expect I’ll be a bit busy to liveblog our training.

This is a big commitment. We will be helping our son bond with the dog (we are not the dog’s best friend, he is). We’ll have a big friendly dog in our family for years. We will have epic levels of dog hair (one friend estimates that 60-80% of their food intake goes directly to hair production). We will be maintaining the training and teaching new commands. We will be re-tested yearly to retain our ADI certification. The dog will go to work with one of us every day — CCI rules don’t allow the dog to be alone for more than four hours. It should also be loads of fun. I’m already checking out dog-friendly trails in the area.