Friday, September 3, 2010

The Gemstones Puppies Continue Their Journey

Tonight, the Gemstones puppies are joining their puppy raisers! Taz, Aqua, Topaz and Opal will don their purple SSD service dog-in-training harnesses and begin learning the skills they'll need to assist their future partners.

You've probably noticed that there are a few puppies missing from that list. Amber has traveled to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), where she'll join their program. The Gemstones' mother, SSD Pearl, originally came from PADS, and we have an agreement with them to exchange puppies.

But what about Coral and Diamond?

We believe that Coral and Diamond will be much happier as beloved family pets than as service dogs, so we have released both puppies from our program.

Not every dog is suited to service dog work, even though they may be wonderful dogs. (And Coral and Diamond are definitely sweethearts!) When puppies come to the kennel before they're placed with their puppy raisers, they go through temperament testing to make sure that life as a service dog is a good fit for them. In this test, we look at 40 different traits in the puppies.

Dogs that will be most successful and happiest in our service dog program have a moderate amount of energy, and they display confidence in a variety of different situations. During the test, the puppies are exposed to different surfaces, sights, sounds, loud noises, things they can chase and retrieve, and other dogs. We look for puppies who recover quickly when startled or excited. A dog will undoubtedly encounter things that startle or excite him, but it's the dog that can recover quickly and refocus that will make a good service dog. We also dress the puppies in their harnesses and watch their reactions, and look at how well the puppies cooperate with their handlers during the test. A puppy that wants to do what its handler asks will have a greater chance of success as a service dog than a puppy who would rather investigate all of the interesting distractions.

This temperament test gives us a fairly clear picture of each puppy's personality and helps us decide whether service dog work is right for that dog. For Coral and Diamond, service dog work might not be a life that makes them happy and is best for them.

When we release a dog from our program, we find permanent homes for them where they will be happy and loved. We're currently looking for forever homes for Coral and Diamond, and we're sure that they will be very happy with their new families.

Each Gemstone is moving on to the next stage of their lives. For Coral and Diamond, they're heading toward lives as beloved family pets. For Amber, she's embarking on her service dog journey with Pacific Assistance Dogs Society.

And for Taz, Opal, Aqua and Topaz, they're beginning their journey as Susquehanna Service Dogs, learning to change lives.

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