Serving a Purpose

Service Dogs

Picture by Kelsey Slaughter

This is about my service dogs and myself with a little advice. Luna is pictured by the lake.


Luna is the mother of Arlo, both dogs are a mix breed and they both serve a purpose for me, their owner and dog trainer. They are my Service dogs.  Now how ridiculous is it that you just heard a dog trainer has a service dog. I am sure you are thinking about something along the lines of "now that is just not fair", well if it makes you feel any better it was not planned that I have one. Luna has a knack for being there when I have my panic attacks or anxiety issues, she has interrupted me many a times in stressful situations trying to ground me, she is really one of the key reasons I am able to do what I do without losing my composure. An example was a dog fight at the dog park that I helped break up, my nerves were shot and the fact that the other dog had an arterial bleed just made it worse. I was holding one of the dogs while the owner held hers and with shaky hands tried to stop the bleeding. Luna dropped playing with a ball, her favorite thing to do, and came right to my side, the same side the dog I was holding was on; I felt her head against my leg and then felt a sense of calmness, called the vet for the owner and went along with the day. On a side note the dog that had the arterial bleed is fine and back playing at the park. Luna really is an amazing dog. Yet she is not only in tune with me, she also loves to help and comfort others which makes her a wonderful candidate for animal assisted activities dog also known as a therapy dog. 

If you think your dog is going to be able to do service work don't just make that assumption on your own, consult with a local dog trainer and look into a course or two. It is important that you have help as you train your dog for work so as to not have any issues that may come to light in the future. There are a lot of things a service dog is labeled under. 

  • Mobility: This is such a wide range of things for a dog, what is mobility to you? Maybe you are not steady on your feet because of a health issue or a previous injury, maybe you need a dog to retrieve things for you. There is a lot that goes into training a dog for this kind of work. 
  • Alert: This has an ever larger scale of things that a dog is capable of being trained to do. Some examples are: anxiety, seizure, glucose. There are many things a dog is trained to do but alerting is one step to allow the handler to prepare and cope with an oncoming attack or flare-up. It is not a joke the amount of hours that goes into the dog within a two year period. Hence why when you buy or go through training with a dog it will cost you thousands.
  • Psychiatric: Make a note that you have to have a note from a doctor for this type of dog and that as the ADA has yet to recognize this type of service, most states are welcome to the idea because the dogs specifically trained for this help a lot of veterans.  This is one of the reasons most abuse the system. They believe their Emotional Support Animal can be a service animal. This is not true because the dog is not trained to preform a specific task whereas with a psychiatric service dog they are trained to do just that. 

So I have explained to you what Luna provides for me, at least one of the major things. In 2011 when I got Luna she was going to be a project dog for training but she has done much more then just tricks and obedience. With that said you still have to start somewhere. She and another dog I had at the time alerted to my asthma before it hit me hard enough to tell. She alerted to my son who ended up in the hospital for RSV. She has an amazing gift without being taught, but despite that we continued with training. In 2014 she and I took a public access test to be a Service Dog ready team. Still to this day I challenge her, and believe me, I can't fake an asthma attack with her; she gives me a glance and looks away unless I really need it. Smart dog. I would like to give you a list of things that Luna has learned. 

  1. SIT
  2. DOWN
  3. STAY
  4. PLACE
  5. KENNEL
  6. COME
  7. WAIT
  8. TOUCH
  9. TARGET
  10. BARK
  11. LEFT PAW
  12. RIGHT PAW
  13. UNDER
  14. INTERRUPT
  15. STAY (EXTENDED)
  16. DOWN (EXTENDED)
  17. SIT (EXTENDED)
  18. BREAKING ALL COMMANDS 
  19. GO FIND
  20. BRACE

There are 20 things I have taught her, these were important for her training and they are for many other dogs out there. You will notice heel is not there. That is because I didn't have to teach her this with training her, all I had to do was move and she moved with me always waiting to be told what to do. 

Moving on...

In the spring of 2017 I started feeling worse; dizzy, having a hard time walking, passed out, hurt. I went to the doctor and they told me that I had an onset of a virus and since there are so many possibilities that I should just go home and sleep it off.  Well still to this day January 2018 I have these issues and still nothing has been found. Luckily I had decided to keep a puppy from a litter I had with Luna, his name is Arlo. I began to teach him the basics and a lot of the listed things above that I had taught Luna; once again heel is not in my vocab with him because if I say Arlo he is with me. I was unsure how to train him to help me with everything that was now hard to do. One of the easiest things was laying on or next to me when I was not feeling well. 

Arlo started training at 6 weeks old for only a few minutes at a time, now we train for hours and he is still willing to work. To this day he does counterbalance, picks garbage and toys up for me, retrieves my inhaler, picks up anything I drop, steps in front of me if I am walking to stop me from continuing if I am going to pass out, cuddles with me, goes under my legs to slightly elevate them, the list goes on. He is great at what he does. You know a dog does need a purpose, they have been bred and domesticated over many years, some dogs are great as house pets only, others need a job, a task or a lot of exercise mentally and physically or they will tear everything apart and become frustrated. 

Please consult your local dog trainer on what steps to take in finding the right dog for the job. 

This is the most important part of advice when you see a working dog of any kind. Yes you can show your kids but be sure to explain to them that it is important not to bother them. These dogs are an important part of their handlers lives. DON'T TALK TO THE DOG, DO NOT TOUCH THE DOG, IGNORING THAT THERE IS A DOG IS HARD BUT IT IS VERY HELPFUL FOR THE HANDLER. Be it a Service Dog or Police K-9, it does not matter, help educate each other on the importance of these dogs.

Kelsey Slaughter
Kelsey Slaughter

I am a single mother who loves educating dogs and their owners. My son is six and already miles ahead of me with dog training lol. We have three dogs two of which are service trained. We love people and animals. Thank you. 

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Serving a Purpose