Watson’s Journey so Far…

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Well…it’s been forever since I last wrote. This semester has been a blur! Between training Watson, taking a full course load and trying to maintain my meager social life, the time to sit down and write has sadly eluded me! But I hope to rectify that oversight going into the glorious months of summer.

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Watson is now 78 pounds and 7 months old. Sometimes I can’t believe that he has grown so much! Then, I look at the food bill! His paws are still huge in comparison to the rest of him, so I expect he will continue to thrive!

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Over the past several months Watson’s personality has emerged in full force. He is easy going, content to lie beneath my seat for hours during class. He greets everyone everywhere with a grin and a furiously wagging tail. “Leave it” is a command we work on tirelessly so that I can walk through campus undisturbed, but he still gazes longingly at anyone we see, and if I give him permission to “greet”, he saunters right on over and demands to be pet. He is unfailingly gentle with children; even the occasional pulled tail is greeted with ready forgiveness. Watson is insatiably curious; perhaps this is in part due to the impossibly high food drive that he possesses, but his nose is always working and when off leash he thoroughly explores our surroundings. A most important aspect to his personality, I believe, is his need to please. He loves to train and his tail waves merrily when he gets a command right. Now, anytime I drop a quarter, his leash or my pen, he scrambles to collect it for me. The drive to please is something that Rally lacked; although Rally loved being with me, he approached his tasks with seriousness and focus, whereas Watson embraces work with enthusiastic delight.

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Watson has developed a “working manner” when he is in vest, which never ceases to amaze and intrigue my friends and the people we meet. Out of vest, Watson is a complete puppy. He is goofy and sly, lazy and curious. He routinely tests my limits and will give me attitude if he doesn’t get his way. In vest, Watson displays more focus. He calms himself, focusing on his tasks and even though his tail never stops wagging, he can resist the urge to greet people most of the time. The change is remarkable and I am very pleased that Watson can handle the transition between working dog and pup.

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Watson has made huge leaps in his training since I last posted. He has learned how to open the fridge and get me a bottle of water, and he recently learned how to open handicap doors. He has progressed to a hands free leash I belt about my waist. Yesterday we worked with him on escalators; he passed with flying colors, yawning nonchalantly as we rode up and down and practiced stepping safely off and on. Additionally, Watson’s understanding of his tasks has increased. He now fetches me anything I point at and he knows how to do DPT, which has been a great help to me in recovering from a migraine.  We are working on him ignoring dogs and people when in vest. It is no easy task with Watson’s adoration for all creatures great or small!

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A great milestone in Waston’s training was when we took him to see the Avengers at the movie theater. Sitting through a movie with the loud sounds and ignoring the rest of the audience can be difficult for a dog, but Watson did excellent! He even resisted the popcorn and candy that was scattered on the floor!

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I have begun working Watson in Rally’s old vest because Waton’s current vest is getting too small! It was a proud moment for me when Rally’s vest fit Watson perfectly–and the “do not pet” patches have been excellent in deterring Watson and the public from greeting one another.

This Wednesday will be the conclusion of the semester, and I am ecstatic that Watson has completed four months of class at my side. He has learned so much and I can imagine the next ten years with him at my side, working to keep me healthy! Watch out world! Here we come!

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7 thoughts on “Watson’s Journey so Far…

  1. Olivia

    Hey there! Just wanted to stop by and say that I absolutely love your blog. I’m 24 and have been suffering from chronic migraines since i was about ten years old. Ironically, when I was in college I actually fostered and trained service dogs for 4 Paws for Ability, and it never even occurred to that I might need a service dog for myself.

    When I was a student it was somehow easier to deal with migraines effecting my life, but now that I’m an “adult” and trying to work a “real job” it has become a lot harder to cope with on a daily basis. It seriously makes me wonder if this could be a possible solution for me, and I am really reading about your work with Watson. He seems like a wonderful dog and it looks like you are doing a fantastic job with him. Best of luck to you!

    • Hi! Thanks! It was my goal when I started this blog to reach out to anyone who suffered from migraines! That’s awesome that you have experience working with service dogs, so you have the benefit of that knowledge! Feel free to friend me on FB or to ask if you have any more questions!

  2. Hey, my name if Jennifer. I am looking to train my own Migraine Alert dog and could really use some guidance. I was wondering, first off, how you contacted shelters about dogs with Migraine abilities. Most shelters I contact, say to go find a retired service dog.

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I did find my first SD through a rescue, but he was just a pet before I got him and he was abused, neglected and took a lot of work and time to train because of his issues. Because of that I made sure my current SD was raised from a pup by myself so that he has no negative experiences, is of sound mind and temperament and has been in training since he was 4 months old.
      I would be wary of taking a retired service dog from a shelter. First, the vast majority of handlers won’t give their dog to a shelter. Retired dogs usually stay in the family or become pets. I would be nervous about taking a dog that used to be a service dog but was no longer wanted by their handler. Secondly, most dogs are retired around the age of 7 or 8. That’s too old for you to begin training or to work because they usually have hip problems or just deserve to rest.
      I would start with breeders or rescues, looking for young dogs. If you like, give me a call at (925) 849 2167 and I’ll help you brainstorm on your desired breed, any tasks you might need and where you might find such a dog. (: It can be very confusing and overwhelming.
      Cheers!
      -K

  3. Karen Sleeper

    Hi!
    I know it has almost been a year since you posted this blog, but I have been reading your blog and I think it’s wonderful. I am 17 and I have been suffering from Migraines literally since birth. They have been getting worse and I have been to the ER several times in the past 6 months for them. I don’t get an aura when I get them. With my migraines I don’t get vertigo or any of the “stroke-like symptoms” and I was wondering if you thought I could still benefit from a service dog? I have been looking into it and I was thinking of getting really serious about it if I go to college and they interrupt my life then. Right now, I’m homeschooled and I don’t really do much so I don’t find that they interrupt my life since I don’t do anything.
    If I get one, I want to train it myself. I’m worried about getting a dog that can’t help me, or doesn’t warn me of my migraines.
    Any advice you have, I’d love.

    Karen

    • Hi Karen! So sorry I haven’t responded sooner! I’ve been traveling and have been far from wifi or cell service!
      I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from migraines. It is a testament to your strength of character and grit that you haven’t let them stop you from pursuing your dreams!
      Being homeschooled and having ample time to train and work with a dog is definitely a plus. Training a service dog takes up a ton of time and energy! I would suggest that you brainstorm on what breed of dog you would like and on what tasks you would like the dog to do for you. Are you allergic to dogs? Do you live in a small house without a backyard for exercise? Are you able to potty train and teach basic and advanced obedience, plus public access work and task training? Do you have two years to train a service dog or would you prefer an adult? There is no guarantee that a dog will be able to sense your oncomming migraines. Unfortunately we can only give our best guess and choose carefully, but even if the dog can’t alert they can always be taught to respond (bring you abortive medication, turn on and off lights, fetch help, bring you water, guide you to safety etc.) Give me a call at (925) 849-2167 if you would like and I’ll do my best to help you brainstorm and decide if a service dog is for you (:
      Good luck!
      -K

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