Our Failed Service Dog

2015-01-28 10.12.21

In what I refer affectionately as a series of unfortunate events, we rescued a dog in December 2013. I began blogging a short time before this and it became a wonderful way to miscommunicate with my wife, the ‘other’ Mom. I wrote about how my son was looking forward to having a dog…some day. Long story short, our whole family arrived to visit a dog named Challenger. With a panicked daughter, a delighted son, and two overwhelmed Mom’s…we adopted a dog.

At forty-four pounds, our muscular husky-mix is a bit of a man-magnet. If you know anyone looking for a man between the ages of 10 and ninety-four, let us know. Why waste this skill on a lesbian-headed household, we’ll share? It’s virtually impossible to make it through a walk without having people comment on his markings or friendliness. Unless there is another dog. Then the comments are indignant. Why we would expose such an aggressive dog to others. Challenger we’ve discovered is rather aggressive when on a leash. Finally we understand why he failed as a service dog.

Challenger has been an unexpected gift and a modified service dog. In our first two weeks of fostering him, we practiced techniques to ‘expose’ our daughter to connect with him. We played with a stuffed animal that looked like him and played a short video where we were “petting our new dog Challenger”. We would place him on our son’s bed at night and bring our daughter into the room as part of bedtime. Through all of these activities, our little girl was able to connect to the newest member of the family.

My son also benefitted. He was excited to have a ‘brother’, which helps quell the frequent requests for another sibling. He has learned responsibility by feeding him, at least once a day. Strangely, both kids get excited when it’s time to clear the poop in the yard. Another opportunity to take responsibility and care for a living being. Sharlene has yet another ‘child’ trying to climb on her lap for a cuddle or to sneak a treat. As she’s trained for longer and longer runs, our dog has been a pretty great running buddy.

Even I have come around to the gifts of having a dog. As friendly as he can be, he’s also quite protective. His bark means business and he’s a built-in alarm system. He’s never aggressive towards our children. Which is good when you have a hyperactive child who can misread social queues. In exchange for being jumped on frequently, my daughter regularly sneaks Challenger a treat. She’s also one of the few people who can consistently have him follow a command to ‘sit’ or ‘stay’. Grandma definitely can take lessons from her on this skill (which is a whole other story).

I am forever grateful that we have this guy in our lives. It almost makes cleaning a truckload of dog hair and dog poop worth it…most days!

9 thoughts on “Our Failed Service Dog

  1. I have a special affection for your dog, because he looks like a super-sized version of our dog Billy. Of course they are both SO CUTE. The hair and the poo are necessary to keep them from being TOO perfect! And Jenn is right — they are the best cleaners of flying toddler food ever. Not so funny when they decide to clean the breakfast off my plate when I turn my back, though.

    I didn’t grow up with a dog and always pined for one, so I think it is WONDERFUL when children have that experience. It’s a perfect outlet for affection and tactile-ness as kids (boys especially) get older and don’t want to be hugged and kissed so much by well-meaning parents. All in all, a great resource for mental health! Give Challenger a big hug from me.


  2. From this dog lover, YES! Challenger is surely a delicious challenge. He seems to be that gift you just keep on unwrapping. Remind me to share with you Taylor Mali’s poem, “Falling in love is like owning a dog.”


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