Thursday, June 18, 2015

Special Edition "How does Mike do his Job?"

On request I am going to attempt to put together a simple (maybe not so simple) explanation of the ins and outs of how Mike does his job. The reason I am doing this is America's VetDogs posted a picture today of Mike pulling the alarm on my belt. I did not know that they had done this and I started getting messages asking about the alarms and what they did and who paid for them and so on. Of course not knowing the context of the questions I was answering as best as I could until it was pointed out by a friend that there was a picture posted.

Once that happened I understood and realized I had done a very poor job up till that point in explaining things in a comprehensive manner. So lets start by first explaining the gear Mike has to use for his Job

1. There is a belt alarm. This alarm makes a loud noise but does not actually call anyone.
2. There is a Home alarm that is in the same place all the time. This is a wireless alarm that connects to my phone line and dials 911 directly.

3. There is a Traveling button that I either wear on my belt next to the pull alarm that Mike pulls or it gets put into another device similar to the home alarm but it goes to an alarm service that I pay for at the moment.

4. Mike has his Vest that he wears, He has his Camo vest for daily wear and then I also have a Tan vest that he has which I have deemed his dress wear. (I figured after years in the military if I had to have regular and dress wear why should this guy be any different?)

5. I use a Shoulder harness leash because I personally have a messed up vertebrae from those great PFL's I used to do after jumping out of perfectly good airplanes (so I have been told).

Now for the shameless plug to insure other Veterans have the same opportunities I have had Here is the info on the fundraising page for VetDogs Attention: I have a Personal Fundraising Page for VetDogs Now! Please follow this link and make a donation to help another veteran like me get a service dog.

Now lets dive into explanations. The easiest way to start is to start with showing the video of Mike in the Mall when we were training an outside the home event. During this event I feign passing out (yes I know I go out like a little girl but...) and with no prompting Mike has to locate the pull tab on my personal belt alarm and pull it. Once he locates and pulls it he is trained to lay down by my side and wait till I either come out of the event or medical people come and take charge. With this in mind I do wear a second button by Great Call which is a service I pay for right next to the pull alarm that Mike pulls. There is a note on it now that say in case of emergency press button. This service not only will contact a local 911 provider based on the GPS location but will also let the emergency responders know my medical conditions and medications. I felt this added value was well worth my health and a good addition if ever needed. Just in case anyone wonders I actually had this service with my first service dog Iris also who would bark to draw attention instead of pulling the alarm like Mike does.

Ok The second Task/Alarm is the in home alarm. The video was also done while in training at the America's VetDogs Facility and it is using the direct line button but you can use you imagination that the second button that I showed a picture of above works in the same way. The only difference is that the second button is portable and goes with me into the RV when I travel. It also goes to the Great Call Service instead of directly to 911. We use the home button while at home because if I go out my local 911 providers understand that a call without any human response means that my service dog has pressed the button. This has been pre-arraigned with them and they will send emergency providers without speaking to someone because of that. With the second button we designed that has the great call button in it they also understand that if they get a call without a response that more then likely Mike has activated the button and they will locate me via GPS and send emergency crews to wherever we are.

As you can tell we have taken some serious time to make sure that we have covered all the bases and allowed Mike my service dog the best chance of saving my life.

Now that we have discussed the life saving portions of his job lets talk about his job of helping to wake me if I have a nightmare or am having issues with my sleep. The third Video is again taken while in training at America's VetDogs facility. Mike has been trained to react to my bedtime activity and if I appear to be in a state of unrest he will pull my covers off. He does this so as not to startle me and cause me to come flying out of the bed in a state of panic but yet will still wake me. It is a very gentle but effective manner of waking a person I have found out.  Originally I didn't think it would wake me at all.  Now that he has done it a few times I will be honest with you it is a very effective and nice way without having to shock me awake. For Mike it is all in a day or in this case a nights work and he really does seem to enjoy waking me.

Those are the main task that he does for me that I have videos of. Some of the other things he does for me that I don't have video of would be the picking things up and bringing them to me. As I mentioned I have neck and back issues so bending can be a real pain in the (yes you guessed it) bottom. He will pick up pretty much anything he can get his mouth around and bring it to me on command. So far we practice on a regular basis with all sorts of things and he has even started learning what a remote is. Yes one of the greatest things about this past class at America's VetDogs is that they taught us the user how the training process happens so we can teach task we want the dog to learn. So since my kids have both decided to grow up and are no longer home I figured I would train Mike to bring me the remote. (Like I could ever get the kids to do it anyhow) Mike is also always by my side for those times when my balance my be a tad off and I need to have a touchstone there he is.

I hope that these videos and my explainations have helped to shed light on how and why having a seizure alert dog is so important and also how

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