We Passed!

I know this is a bit of a repeat of the previous post, but I wanted to demonstrate more precisely what it means to go through the Public Access Test.

September rolled in, and so did time for our annual recertification for Public Access. This is an intensive and thorough test of all of Emmy’s skills and my handling skills. We were tested similarly to the sample Public Access Test on the ADI website. I had been using that to be sure Emmy and I were spiffy on all the tasks.

We were met at the parking place in front of the Columbiana Mall main entrance.

First order of business – unload Emmy safely. CHECK!

Next – Have Emmy “do business.” Well, we had rushed over from the motel where she had “done business” right before getting into the car. She balks at this when she really doesn’t need to go. Her pattern is about 4 times a day, and her next time would be about 4-5 hours later, so I didn’t. But I did explain – inside the mall, when asked. SORTA CHECK – Hmmm. Gotta remember this for next year.

I told her to Leave It when I saw a piece of apple on the ground. – CHECK!

Next – get into the Mall safely. I punched the “automagic” door opener with my cane, told Emmy to wait – but didn’t give her enough lead, so she was forced to crowd in beside me, not real safe. SORTA CHECK – gotta remember for next year!!

Next – have Emmy Down-Stay while I went 6 feet and then again went 20 feet away from her. She was to Come when I called her. I had her pick up her Leash and bring it to me [SMILE] as long as she was to Come to me. That worked! CHECK!

Next – go through two departments of a store without “sniffing the merchandise.” Only one time did I have to remind her to Leave It. – CHECK!

Next – get on an elevator safely. We negotiated that well. – CHECK!

Next – get off an elevator safely. – CHECK!

Next – wander through a few more departments. Only one Leave It needed. – CHECK!

Next – demonstrate some of the things she does for me: picking up objects. She did this so well, that all the testers were tossing small objects onto the floor. Interestingly, she picked them all up – and brought them to me! I had to try to figure out which tester had tossed which object and deliver it to them! – CHECK!

Next – Demonstrate her ability to help me at checkouts by giving a clerk my money (in a wallet inside a paper bag), and then taking my purchase, placed in a paper bag along with my wallet and giving it to me. – CHECK!

Next – Play “pick up” a couple more times! – CHECK!

Next – Go down the elevator, calmly and safely entering and exiting – same deal as before. – CHECK!

Next – wend our way out the store to the food court (the part of the test I dislike the most). In the food court, I had to demonstrate that I knew how to keep her out of the way of servers or other patrons, and keep her from eating food offered by others. Emmy is a “chow hound” – she LOVES food! Keeping her from eating the wrong stuff is about half of the effort I need to put into her! Well, with some strong effort on my part, I kept people from giving her food, and kept her from eating stuff dropped on the floor. – CHECK!

Then they brought not 1, not 2, but 5 (!) children over to pet her! Emmy LOVES children, and will just wag her tail silly and lick them slimy all over given the opportunity. But for this, she was in her cape, and she knew she was working, and she couldn’t do that. I had to help her restrain herself, of course. But she managed, only turning her head once to look at the children. – CHECK!

The testers stepped over her a few times for more handler control checks. – CHECK!

Out into the mall, get Emmy to Brace to help me stand up from my wheelchair. Then sit on a bench and have Emmy go Under. – CHECK!

As we were travelling in the Mall, I told the testers about my e-friend, Denise, and her hearing dog Chloe. Chloe had mis-stepped on a metal-grate set of stairs and ended up losing 3 toenails. She was out of commission for nearly 2 months! This is one of the reasons we don’t let our service dogs go on escalators, too – so easy for a dog to get a toenail caught between the steps when they collapse, or to get them caught where the steps go into the mechanism at the end of the up or down stairs.  They they would be out of commission for 4 – 8 weeks, depending on the amount of injury! So metal-grate stairs will be on the forbidden list – or at least on the be very-very-very-very careful list! Some metal-grate stairs may not be avoidable – we just need to be careful on them. As I don’t  “do” stairs, that won’t be a problem for me! – CHECK!

We exited the building, with Emmy Targeting the handicap-button to open the door – PERFECTLY. – CHECK!

Then there was “doing business” afterward. – CHECK!

And entering the van safely. – CHECK!

OK! Emmy passed with flying colors. There were a couple of suggestions for me which I mentioned above. One of the testers said it was nice seeing a “mature team” after seeing all the new teams going through! I thought back two years – yep, we did do much better. Validation for me!

Must say, I appreciate the help of my oldest son’s wife who accompanied me to Columbia and pushed my wheelchair exactly the way I asked her to! She was great! And she is looking forward to doing this again in the future! We had a good time, did a bit of MIL-DIL bonding, and ate some things we shouldn’t! If she goes with me next year, we will have to plan a meal at the Texas Steakhouse over on Two Notch Rd.

It takes longer and longer to recover after things like this – extended stress, lack of sleep, tiring out without opportunity for napping or resting. I ran a fever for 3 days after returning. Oh, misery! I’ve spent almost a week sleeping nearly 16 hours a day – about 8 hours at night, 3 1/2 4 hour nap after breakfast, 3 – 4 hour nap after lunch! My hands are still swollen, as are my feet, and my hips and knees are most “unhappy.”

There is no ADI-certified tester in Georgia! I found that hard to believe, but it’s true! Hence, the need to travel to South Carolina for our annual Recertification. And it’s good to see some of the others from our “class” each year – not to mention Jen and the trainers, and, yes, the testers! They really try to make it as stress-free as they can. And they are good at it.

So, it’s over for this year, I have my certification card in my fanny-pak, and we are Ready to Roll!

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I Try to be Prepared…

… but sometimes I’m less prepared than others. Like during our Public Access Recertification Test last Saturday. We had practiced and practiced the things we did poorly on last year. But I had the wrong time for our test, and we were late. OMG – I was just mortified!

But I tried to put that behind us, and just concentrate on what we needed to do.

I got her out of the car safely and appropriately. Then we went into the Columbiana Mall, and the first thing I did was not give Emmy enough leash, so when I told her to “Wait,” she was forced to try to crowd in with me. OOPS! I realized it, and gave her more leash. Yikes! I had also forgotten to tell them Emmy had “done business” just before we rushed into the car at the hotel to get there and didn’t need to “go” right then. Yikes! Again!

Well, first was the Recall test – Emmy had to be left in a “Down-Stay” then called from 6 feet, and again from 20 feet, bringing her leash to me each time. She was picture perfect! Whew! I reached into the treat bag – OOPS, again! I had forgotten to put any of the “high value” treats into the pouch!! In fact, I was running a little low on treats in the pouch! So I had to be sparing when giving her treats. Probably just as well in terms of her weight and nutrition status (although I was pleased at out last visit to see she is still, at 58.2 pounds, within 3 pounds of her weight when we became partners).

Then through a store that had an elevator – or two! My daughter-in-law (my “pusher!”) did the elevator bit just fine, and so did Emmy. She “Waited,” then went “Through” and sat down in the elevator, then “Moved” out of the way of my wheelchair! We went up one very small elevator, and came down another, very slightly larger, elevator with a “panorama.” We wandered through the store checking that I controlled Emmy, preventing her from “sniffing the merchandise.”

Later she had to demonstrate how she picks up things for me. She was perfect, again!! In fact, the testers (all 4 of them) were so intrigued, they threw down more things of different sizes, shapes and textures for her to retrieve! But the joke was on them – Emmy retrieved them all, and brought them to ME. So I had to sort out who had tossed out what and deal out the items to the right people!

In the food court we demonstrated how she can restrain herself when tempted and even teased with food (she was shaking and drooling, but she maintained restraint). She went “under” the table (as best she could – small mushroom tables with “X” feet), and stayed there until allowed up. SUCH a good girl!

Emmy did all kinds of things – brought things to people, went “Under” a bench I was sitting on, “Braced” to help me stand, resisted temptation when other people offered her food, remained calm as people stepped over and walked close to her and when not just 1 or 2 but FIVE children all came up at the same time to pet her! Then she absolutely NAILED the “Target” (pushing the button to open the handicapped door). She “did business” a little on command in the grassy plot by the car, and we got her into the car correctly and safely.

All was well!

We went to a high tension lunch, while all the testers gathered at a separate table (along with the head of the PAALS program) and decided our fate. We passed! All of a sudden I had an appetite again!! I have our certificate in hand for 2010-2011! Yea!

Emmy is so smart and so cooperative! How wonderful she is!

We Passed!

The weekend of Oct 23 – 24, we were in Columbia SC at PAALS for annual public access recertification. I’m happy to say that we passed! I need to work with Emmy on a couple of things, to “spiff” her up before next year.

We got back and I went into a series of flares. The Ol’ Curmudgeon was not in the best of shape, so we spent about 3 days resting. I had cases due, so I had to work, and he, too, had to work, but we were simply in horrible, horrible shape. I didn’t get any grocerying done until that Thursday.

Then the time change hit. Double whammy! So this week I’m trying to “unbleary” the eyes. YIKES!

Emmy is trying to develop an ear infection, and I’m staving it off with thorough ear cleaning and Momentamax. I think we’ll have to put her on Atopica pretty soon. She wakes up sneezing every morning, is gnawing her feet and obsessively licking her feet and legs, scratching her head and jaw. I was hoping to hear from IAADP about the possibility of getting a break on the cost of Atopica. Oh, well, we’ll have to just bite the bullet. Have to have my Emmy feeling good!!

It’s about stopped raining long enough for the yards to dry out, so I’ll have to call my new acquaintance and see about getting Emmy and her Border Collie together to play. And now, it’s time for me to say good night!

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