The average service dog might know as many as two hundred commands, but there are the golden five that are truly invaluable. I’m not going to include the usual basics (sit, stay, down, come etc.) because all service dogs know those and while they are useful, they are not considered commands taught exclusively to service dogs.
1) “Go There”. I can point to a specific spot, and my dog will walk to that location, sit or lie down and await further instruction. This is very handy when in a crowded room or on a busy bus when you want your dog to move to an exact spot.
2) “Focus on me”: This is one of my favorites to use, especially when we are in hectic or crazy situations with loud noises and crowds, and I need Rally to be focused entirely on me. I’ve incorporated a “sit” into the command, so that he stops in mid walk, looks at me, sits and remains motionless, gaze fixed on mine, until it’s time to move.
3) “Greet”: This is another invaluable command, as when you own a service dog, everyone wants to come up and say hi. This can prove distracting to your dog, and might make him loose his concentration. I’ve taught Rally that he cannot say “Hi” to anyone unless I specifically give the command “greet”, in which case he is able to walk over and be pet by the adoring fan.
4) “Take it” is yet another awesome command, in which I can hand Rally anything, his leash, a pen, a bag, and he accepts it in his mouth and waits until I am ready to take it back. When you are juggling a dog’s leash, your own bags, school supplies and whatever else, it’s useful to have your dog help you out.
5) “Time to Go”: A command that I spent a month teaching Rally, which tells him when it’s okay to go to the bathroom. After long flights at airports or a four-hour class, Rally naturally has to go to the bathroom pretty badly, but I don’t want him to go potty on the nearest patch of grass or in a public place. Therefore, he will wait until we have arrived at a suitable spot before, upon my permission, going to the bathroom.
Similarly, when it is late at night and snowing, and he just can’t find that perfect spot, I can tell him that “it’s time to go” and he will immediately squat down and relieve himself. This command is worth it’s weight in gold! (:
Sleeping. Rally does a ton of sleeping. No matter where we are-airports, movie theaters, restaurants or classrooms, the instant his stomach touches the ground and his chin hits my foot, his eyes close and his snoring fills the room.
And boy can he snore! Sometimes I wake up and marvel at how loud my roommate has become, only to look besides my bed and realize the source of the heavy breathing, sighs, groans and lip smacking is in fact, emitting from my dog.
“Wow! Your dog can really sleep anywhere!” My friend often exclaims, peering down between my feet to where Rally can be usually seen sawing logs and drooling on the tile. “I thought German Shorthaired Pointers were supposed to be super super hyper!”
I can only assume that the vast majority are, but my dog-blessedly-happens to be extremely “chill”, as someone put it. “Chill” is a great way to describe Rally. Hardly anything fazes him. This is useful when a car backfires or someone skateboards close enough to pluck the whiskers from his face. The only time I’ve ever seen him look remotely startled was the one time an ant bit his nose. He hopped up, spun in a few circles to stare accusingly at the offending insect, and then went back to sleep in another, ant free spot.
Sometimes he dreams funny dreams. I watch his legs twitch and his paws extend as he pursues imaginary rabbits and hurtles after ghostly birds. Other times he has frightening dreams, and those are the nights when he whines and whimpers until I nudge him awake and let him bound up beneath the covers with me.
Rally is a bed hog–as well as a cover hoarder. He has his own huge, comfy bed right besides my own-in fact, I’m certain he has more blankets than I do-but his preferred routine is to wake up at dawn, meander the apartment for a few minutes, drink some water, check to see if some kibble has magically appeared in his bowl, and then hop up into bed with me, where he sniffs and huffs and groans until I scoot over and make room for him.
Rally doesn’t just lie down. He flumps down. With a great sigh. As if his legs have abruptly given way and the weight of the entire world was pressing down on his head.
He always starts on a tiny portion of the bed, but before I know it I’ve curled up around him and given him my pillow and pulled blankets and comforters and quilts about the both of us. Sometimes he gets too hot and will retreat back to the more comfortable climate of his own bed, but lately, with winter in it’s deepest and snow on the ground, he’s been happy to snuggle against me and go back to sleep until my alarm goes off. Then I’m up, taking a shower, getting dressed, collecting my school supplies, and he’s still lingering in my bed, reluctant to leave the warm haven until I hold up his leash and usher him out of the door.
Sometimes, if he’s very lucky, I’ll take a short nap when I’m home, and then he’s in seventh heaven. Occasionally he will chew on a bone or contemplate life’s mysteries while I snooze, but mostly, he joins me at the foot of my bed, opening an eye to check that all is well before resuming his nap. At this very moment, in fact, he is lying across my feet, all eighty pounds turning my toes blue, but I don’t have the heart to push him over because he is snoring and all is well with the world.
I love this site when shopping for Rally’s gear. If anyone needs service dog related items, this is the place to purchase it!
While at Costco today, I happened to pass by a woman and a child. The little girl tugged on her guardian’s hand, whispered something in her ear and stared in obvious awe at Rally. The woman smiled in return and, turning after me, said,
“Excuse me, Miss, I just wanted to let you know something.”
“Yes?” I asked, pausing in the isle. “What is it?”
“My granddaughter says your dog is a very special dog.” She said. “She says he’s a superhero.”
I’ll admit, I had to try several times before I could speak. “Thank you.” I said. “Does your granddaughter want Rally’s autograph?”
The little girl’s eyes lit up and she rummaged around in her bag for a pen and paper. I signed Rally’s name. “Rally, the super-dog.”
She grinned and left with her grandmother, leaving Rally and me feeling both uplifted and humbled. In today’s busy, hectic world where people spare you a curious look and then move on, it is heart-warming to have someone recognize Rally for his hard work and dedication. It made my steps lighter as I continued on my path towards the frozen food isle.
Thank you Amy.
I sat down today to begin the process of writing my children’s book, featuring Rally as the main character! It’s my goal to educate the public about the day to day life of a service dog, starting with waking up, going to class and accompanying me throughout my work. I would also like a professional photographer to document each step so the book will contain, not only hand drawn illustrations, but also photographs of Rally performing various tasks!
Hopefully it will be a great success!
Wish me luck!