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The Importance of MS Comfort Dogs

January 18, 2016

GUEST BLOG: Written by Gideon, an MS Comfort Dog

Harry, Rufus and I were kicking around turf at our fave dog park when Sammy dashed in. The three of us hold Sammy in pretty high pack esteem. He’s a certified service dog for a sick little girl.

After sniff-and-greet and a quick dash around the park, we circled a shady spot and chilled a while.

“I heard some pretty nifty news about you, Gideon,” Sammy ruffed.
“What’s up?”, Harry and Rufus barked. “Gideon’s a comfort dog!”, ruffed Sammy.
“Oh, that’s nothing great – we all comfort our persons sometimes,” growled Harry and Rufus.
“No, this is different,” Harry ruffed, “Tell ‘em Gideon!”

PAWwww well, OK guys. Here’s my tale:

Yeah, we canines are known for being totally devoted to our people! For sure, I’m one of those! However, some of us – like Sammy – go through special training to become certified service dogs who are recognized legally. Those certified canines do specific tasks for youngsters and adults with special physical and emotional challenges. Not all of us dogs are cut out for that kind of work, just like not all of our persons do the same work.

And, yeah, most all of us dogs show our peeps comfort when they’re upset or sad. We wag our tails off to show them how much we’ve missed them when they come home – even if they’ve only been gone a few minutes!

When the lady who eventually adopted me first visited me at the shelter, she asked if I thought I could be a very special dog for her. She’s got MS and sometimes it makes her feel pretty terrible. She asked me if I could be an MS Comfort Dog – a title she came up with to describe what kind of canine companion I would be just for her. J

In return, she’d always love me, take good care of my health and grooming, pick the best treats for me, bring me to the dog-park and best of all, be my forever person.

I woofed, “Sure, I can be your MS Comfort Dog!” almost before she finished the question. I really didn’t know what I’d have to do to be her MS Comfort Dog, but the treats, dog-park and forever person part nailed it for me! After tail wags and slurps, she signed my adoption papers and I was on my way HOME and into my canine comfort career!

Commands to Give Comfort

My lady quickly signed me up for basic command training. I’d already perfected my begging techniques, but she wanted me to know a few more important commands to be her MS Comfort Dog.

  • See sometimes when my lady’s MS kicks up, she gets lot of pain and she wanted me to know how to be “quiet” on command. That made sense because I didn’t want to make her headaches worse!
  • Knowing to “come,” “sit” and “stay” on command and to only jump into her lap when invited – when she says “OK!” – are really important.

That was hard ‘cause I always want to be with her! I understand when she gets in her lift chair or lays on the couch, she gets comfy first and arranges her blanket before I arrive. Responding correctly to “no” is not exactly fun, especially when I want some blanket. I really, really, really like her soft pillow, too, and quickly showed her how I can be a pillow hog!

I always snuggle up close ‘cause she feels much better when she gently pets or strokes me. I love that, too! I lay a paw on her chest as my signal to her “I’m here for you!”

  • The trainer says the most important command for an MS Comfort Dog to learn is “drop it.”

I really struggled with that one. When I was on my own and scrounging trash piles for food, I wasn’t about to let anything go – even if it was something I really shouldn’t have devoured! See, I’m a “paper hound,” too. I really love stealing facial tissues and nibbling on envelopes or newspaper. And TP – that’s the BEST! Clean, of course. J

I learned when MS saps my lady’s arm strength or vertigo sets in, lots of things drop on the floor, like pills and syringes. My nailing the “drop it” command keeps me safe.

  • Next, my lady wanted me to go to my crate on command. I really, really worked hard to learn the “go to your place, Gideon” command.

This is important so when paramedics or other helpers came into our house, I would be out of the way. I’m really protective of her and she also didn’t want me to mistakenly attack a stranger trying to help her.

Thankfully, I really love my crate – it’s all mine and my comfy, safe place to sleep at night or catch an afternoon nap. 

  • And of course, I had to learn the right way to behave when I’m on a leash. I now know that going for a walk is a great thing for my person and for me and I know not to pull to go my own way (especially after a fat furry squirrel who’s taunting me with his chatter). Pulling and straining to go my own way on the leash means I could easily pull my lady off balance and cause her to fall.

Comforting Characteristics

Whew! I worked super hard to learn all commands and my lady and my trainer are so proud of me! I’m proud of me, too! Then my lady explained to me why she picked ME over all the other pooches she saw at the shelter. Gosh, that made me feel really special – especially after my first family just abandoned me.

  • Size is a big consideration and I’m just the right size to be an MS Comfort Dog for my person. I’m about 14 pounds and about 13 inches high. I’ve got long legs (I think that’s because I’m part schnauzer), so that makes it easy for me to jump into the lift chair, onto the couch or into the car!
  • Temperament reveals a lot! Some dogs don’t really like snuggling in laps or having people really close around them. I’m definitely a people dog and love lap time, so I have the perfect temperament.
  • Being at ease around stuff like walkers or canes or wheelchairs is really necessary. Some dogs I know really get skittish around stuff like that. I’m OK with ‘em.

Well, that’s pretty much my story, guys.
Thanks Sammy for barking about my special work!
“Gee, I was wrong about a comfort dog not being anything special,” Harry ruffed. “Me too,” nodded Rufus. “Being an MS Comfort Dog is pawsitively awesome!”

Follow Gideon’s postings for MS Awareness:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GideonARescuedDog
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RescuedDogGideon