Daphne is a 4 year old mobility service dog. She was trained by Laughing Eyes Kennels, a non-profit, accredited member of Assistance Dogs International. In Spring 2011, I was accepted into the program and matched with Daphne and in August 2011, I traveled to Nogal, NM to train with Daphne on site at Laughing Eyes.
What type of dog is Daphne?
Daphne is a purebred yellow Labrador Retriever. She is a “field type” Labrador. This means that she has longer legs, body, and face than traditional show labs.
What is Daphne’s Job?
I have a rare type of chronic migraine called acephalgic migraine, or “silent migraine”. This means that I do not suffer from migraine-type head pain. However, my migraine disorder is fairly disabling. During a migraine I can lose the ability to walk in a straight line, navigate the space around me, and even talk. To other people, it can even look like I am having a stroke.
Daphne wears a mobility support harness and walks beside me. I use the handle on her harness to stabilize myself when I have trouble walking. Daphne also can do light guide work. She can follow someone walking ahead of me and help me around corners. Daphne can even pick things up when I drop them.
What else is Daphne trained to do?
Daphne has had extensive public access training. That means that Daphne is able to go to public places that are not pet-friendly and behave herself. Sometimes she’s so quiet that people don’t even notice she’s there! It also means that Daphne has been exposed to hundreds of public situations and is not scared or threatened by experiences that might scare other dogs. Daphne has ridden the NYC subway, walked past jackhammers on the street, ridden trains and planes, and she has even been to a live taping of the Colbert Report (we were in the audience). Daphne’s training makes it so that she can handle anything the world throws at her!
Her harness says “Do Not Distract”. Why can’t I pet her?
You should never pet, whistle to, or otherwise distract a working service dog. Even when service dogs don’t look like they’re working, they are. Working dogs are usually good at keeping their minds on their work, but it can be dangerous to their handler if they do get distracted. Additionally, if everyone who wanted to pet Daphne was allowed, she would get used to people petting her and might even seek out attention from strangers. Not only would this be a distraction from her work, it would also be uncomfortable for a lot of people that Daphne passes everyday.
Once Daphne’s harness is off, she knows it’s time to play. After that, anyone who wants to pet her is welcome to (as long as Daphne is okay with it!).
Does Daphne ever get time out to just be a dog?
Of course! Service dogs spend a good amount of time working, but they all get plenty of time off to be a dog. In fact, many service dogs (Daphne included) are spoiled rotten by their owners because we are so appreciative of what they do for us. Like so many labrador retrievers, Daphne loves to chase balls. She also likes going on hikes, swimming at the beach, and playing with other dogs.
You can follow Daphne’s adventures on facebook by liking her page. Click here to visit Daphne’s Facebook page!