DUKE My bLeSsiNg!

It’s been hard to write about Duke.  It felt a bit like being disloyal to my hero Luka who’d saved me from my hell.  Luka’s transitioned to being our love at home, he is 14 now and having a few health issues but overall doing quite well.  It has been hard for all of us to leave him at home when we go out and take Duke.  But we are making it.  Duke and Luka are becoming friends.  Jason is taking a bigger role in Luka’s life, he still will always be my big boy but he enjoys more attention from Jason.  Hazel loves him of course and it is hilarious to watch him scoot under our big Great Dane girl.  Duke is our smallest at 80 lbs.  Luka is over a hundred, and Hazel is nearly 200 lbs.

DUKE!  He’s been a trouper.  Man does he love to work.  He loves to show off and impress.  He’s always striving to be the best and if there is a competition man he is going to be the first one to meet the expectations!  I learned this right away during our two weeks of training.  He’s a show off.  =D  Which is perfect for me since I seem to be a little flamboyant myself.

He’s a black lab, who’s been given to the Domesti-Pups program he was in need of a new home and he had the right stuff!  Although in his initial interview, one of the trainers couldn’t flip him over and the other got flipped over by him..  which must have been an automatic entry to the program.. ha ha!

He went through his training in 6 months.  I don’t know if that is a record, but it was fast.  He is a smarty pants.  Which is super fun, and also means I need to stay on my toes with him.  I am currently starting to walk on the tread mill for my physical therapy, and Duke is learning to walk on it with me.  He is curious about it and I think he is having fun with it.

This week we finally got almost all of our thank you cards and our holiday cards out.. Yes.  It is February.. we are a little behind.  Jason helped me do this and I couldn’t be more grateful, it is something that is physically difficult for me to do!  I haven’t wanted to release the images that my friend and photographer Julia took of us.  She did such a great job and since we were sending out cards with these pictures on them spoiling the surprise by posting them online first just doesn’t seem right.  She’s been such a great friend, I wanted her images to go to those who’ve supported our efforts first.  So a HUGE THANK YOU to our friends and family and even strangers we’ll never meet!  You’ve made my life better!  Thank you for your care and donations!

Tonja and Service Dog Duke! By Julia Kuzamenko

Thanks to my beautiful friend Julia for doing such a great job! We love what you’ve done for us!!

We’ve been on a trip to St. Louis already.  That went really great!  We have just had a booth together at the Domesti-Pups I LOVE My Dog Expo!!  Which was a total experience!  Duke was a bit excitable at first.  We don’t get out in situations often with this much distraction.  I get all distracted and then he’s distracted.. we make quite the pair.  I had my scooter there so that helped.  Once Duke was used to the whole event we could walk together around the Expo.  I wrote more about our experience at our photography booth on our Images by Jason and Tonja Blog, check it out!

During a bath experience I discovered that he has an allergy to some shampoo.. and he also seems to be allergic to wool, which is the cushion on his original harness.  Luckily Domesti-Pups had a spare old harness that didn’t have any wool on it and we are able to use that until we can get one of their new ones.  You wouldn’t think things were this difficult, but it is, imagine putting on itchy pants.  Or ill fitting shoes.  His harness needs to suit him perfectly, if it doesn’t it isn’t a good thing for anyone.

He has been helping me walk of course.  My balance problems are so much better after working with Dr. James Nedrow.  Thankfully!  However when I get tired, distracted, or overwhelmed, my brain just stops functioning fast.  This is something that is dangerous for my balance and my speech.  Thankfully people can understand what I mean, Duke did learn some sign language in his classes, so I am also working to reinforce that as well.

He’s been picking things up off of the floor for me.  One of the best things is picking up laundry and handing that to me.  Which is so so nice!  He also helps me get out of the bathtub by providing stability and support.  Now if he could dry my hair…  =D

He is also rather protective, which is nice.  I won’t go into the details, but if he thinks you aren’t a good person, I’ll know about it.  Which gives my PTSD issues some safe feelings.

Working to create a bond with a new service dog sometimes happens fast and sometimes it is slower.  For Duke, he’s had to work a little bit. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him but already having Luka in my life, getting a successor dog is different.  Luka still being alive also makes a difference I imagine.  It was hard in the beginning for me to not compare.  Luka and I had figured things out on our own, we didn’t have the benefit of a training camp and how we did things together won’t likely work with any other dog.

Duke is smaller than Luka so the harness is a big help since I can’t reach him without bending over without it.  Duke and I had to learn to walk together, this summer when we were partnered, I wasn’t as steady on my feet I’d been ill for a while again and so I didn’t have the strength built up.  But we worked together with my scooter and that worked out, and when we came home my physical therapists helped me and we started figuring out how we could walk together.

We got to show all of that off this weekend at the Domesti-Pups Expo.  I was in the scooter some, but when I could be I was up and walking about with Duke.  Everyone noticed how good of a team we’d become.  I’ve even carved out some time and space that is just Dukes in the house.  I think it is also making it nicer.  I do feel guilty leaving Luka and Hazel out of this space but it is good for Duke and everyone is adjusting.  Including Jason and I.

Don’t think that having a service dog makes everything easier.  It doesn’t.  They are lots of work themselves.  You have another personality to keep happy.  But for me the benefits he brings to me far outweigh the extra work.

The next thing I want to figure out for him is a fenced in back yard.  Duke is a 3 year old and has some energy to burn!  He also loves to play fetch!  I’ll talk more about these things later.  I just know it is time that I started sharing how great this transition has been.  Not that it has been easy, but many things worth while take time.


Tonja and Duke

Merri Hackbarth - March 2, 2014 - 1:31 pm

Loved the blog!!!

[…] This past summer, I became the recipient of my first successor Service Dog.  My boy Luka now 14 years old is retired, he was my first Service Dog and one of the Domesti-Pups originals back in the day.  He came to me through a series of seemingly destined events.  We made quite the pair, so transitioning well, it has been hard.  You can read more about my journey which I haven’t shared much about on my other blog.  PINKDOBERMAN BLOG […]

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