Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Meet SSD Aladdin!

You’ve met SSD Nubble and Onyx – now say hello to Aladdin!

You probably noticed from his photo that Aladdin is not a little puppy. He’s actually in advanced training, although he is currently on medical leave. Aladdin and his brothers Phillip and Caspian are recovering from surgery to correct Cauda Equina Syndrome (see our Help the SSD Princes blog post to read more about these dogs and Cauda Equina Syndrome). The good news is, they’ll all be back in advanced training by March!

Aladdin is currently at home with his puppy raiser family. Cindy remembers the day SSD placed the little black lab in her arms. He looked up at her with his heart in his eyes, as if to say “I’m yours, for a little while.” He seemed to know he was on a path toward something bigger.

Over a year ago, Cindy and her family answered an ad for puppy raisers. While they were waiting for a puppy, they puppy-sat for SSD Burke and SSD Sadie. Then the Royal litter was born, and Cindy and her family were weeks away from holding little Aladdin! During those weeks, they attended a few puppy classes, where they worked with SSD Gretel and Terra. They also went on several puppy outings to learn more about clicker training and loose leash walking before the big day at the kennel when they finally held the little black lab they would be raising for the next 15-18 months.

Even though Cindy and her family were excited to raise a puppy, there were times during the early days when she wondered what she was doing. It was sometimes difficult to juggle all the classes, puppy outings, vet appointments and the daily effort to raise a puppy, on top of a large family. But it was worth it! “I’d just see those huge brown eyes looking up at me, saying ‘What will you teach me today!’” says Cindy. “I kept working harder with Aladdin, and if we missed a class or an outing because our lives got so busy, you couldn’t tell because Aladdin caught on so quickly. He never let me down.”

Aladdin seemed to like everything. Well, except for their one outing to the Bass Pro Shop. The first time Cindy and her family took him there, he pooped on the floor. It was as if he were saying, “I’m not gonna be a hunting dog!”

He seems to be meant to serve people. “Everything he does, even if I don’t ask him to do something, he does for me,” says Cindy. “He does it for love.”

Aladdin does have a playful side, though. When he was playing outside with Cindy’s daughters, he would grab them by the seat of their pants and drag them through the yard! He also has a protective side. Every time they went to the park, Aladdin would stick close to Cindy’s three-year-old daughter, watching.

When Aladdin entered advanced training at the kennel, it was both exciting and heart-breaking for Cindy and her family. Exciting because he was moving on to the next step in his training, but heart-breaking because it meant he was no longer going to spend every day with them.

Even though the dogs go to the kennel for advanced training, they still return to their puppy raiser families for the weekends. Cindy’s three-year-old daughter loves to pick up Aladdin at the kennel, but Sunday night or Monday morning inevitably bring some tears when he goes back to continue his training.

It was during one of his weekend stays that one of our trainers had to tell Cindy that Aladdin had Cauda Equina Syndrome. The nerves in his lower spine were compressed, which was very painful for him, and he needed surgery. Cindy was devastated for Aladdin. If the surgery to correct it didn’t work, he would not be able to continue training to be a service dog.

After the surgery, Cindy brought him home to recover. She tried to explain about the surgery to her three-year-old, so her daughter wouldn’t think he was back for good. Her daughter responded by calling him “Aladdin with a tear” because of the “tear in his back,” as her daughter called the stitches. Aladdin has been healing nicely, although he did have to have his stitches put back in. We’re all so glad he will be returning to advanced training in March!

While Aladdin was still in advanced training, Cindy and her family received another puppy to raise – SSD Shamrock from the Crayon litter! Shamrock is much more free-spirited than Aladdin, but the two dogs got along great right from the start. Now that Aladdin is well on his way to recovery, meal time is a challenge. Cindy has quite a time making sure that each dog gets the right food dish with the right pills! (Aladdin gets three pills to help with his recovery, and Shamrock takes vitamin C.) She labeled their bowls so that she wouldn’t accidentally mix up their food and give the dogs the wrong pills. But labeling the bowls only helped prevent human error. It didn’t take Shamrock into account!

One morning, Cindy had just finished getting the dogs’ breakfast and pills ready when Shamrock jumped up and knocked both bowls out of her hands! She dove to the ground and tried to cover up all the pills and food so that Shamrock and Aladdin wouldn’t scarf down the wrong pills! Luckily, her kids were home to help out.

Look for more of Aladdin’s adventures as he continues to recover and reenters advanced training!

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