SSD Lexington arrived at SSD in early October. Lexi is a little black lab from KSDS, Inc. Assistance Dogs in Kansas. One of our volunteers, Robin, drove down to Kansas to pick her up, and these are her adventures.
Guest post by volunteer Robin
This is really the story of me needing a change of scenery. I woke up to an email from Nancy Fierer [SSD’s director] about picking up a puppy in Kansas City. I took a look and thought, Wow, what great timing! Nancy had sneakily thrown in the word “adventure,” and I was hooked. Amanda [SSD’s training coordinator] put together a “puppy pack” and gave me the information about KSDS, Inc. to make the necessary arrangements. This will be a piece of cake, I thought, thinking I would be home in 3-4 days.
Lots of packing everybody up. SSD Aladdin and Tomme the Papillon were also coming. I had the good luck of having my close friend Jonathan agree to come along. (I had sort of simplified the whole idea—a long Sunday trip to pick up an adorable puppy and back we would come!) Since I’m selling my car and didn’t want to put more miles on it, I decided to rent a big Suburban to fit all our stuff. We just fit.
Off we went at the crack of dawn in high spirits. First stop—coffee. I dislike driving the flat, straight, boring route through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, so we decided to take the scenic route through West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas. The mountains of West Virginia were lovely and the scenery just zipped by. The Suburban flew along. At each gas/coffee/walk the dogs stop, we slipped deeper into southern-style country. People were no as used to seeing a service dog and were quite curious. One older gentleman came up, looked at Aladdin, and said “Good lookin’ dog there. Kin he tree a ‘coon? I got me a blue heeler that trees ‘coons like bees make honey!”
Well, I was a bit taken aback on how to answer that one, but I did thank him for the compliment.
That night, we stayed in a national chain hotel, so asking for a room on the first floor near an exit wasn’t a problem. While Jonathan signed in, I drove the rest of our entourage to the hall door, and we would start uploading the car: dogs, crates, blankets, and all the dog stuff. We always bring a blanket to cover the bed, too. The housekeeping staff were amazed at how good and polite our dogs were.
Repack, rerun, and more junk food for the humans. We made it into Missouri and passed the Gateway Arch. The miles and hours were beginning to drag a bit. How much farther to Kansas City? We checked our directions and found an email from SSD saying that our destination wasn’t exactly in Kansas City. It was a small town north of Kansas City near Nebraska, only 350 miles more. We were on a long straight road called the Pony Express Highway, which is a historical route. Periodically in the distance, we could see a life-size metal sculpture of a horse and rider galloping across the plain.
We arrived at KSDS, Inc., which is made up of three buildings right on Main Street that can house 50 dogs—a little different than the smaller kennel surrounded by woods that we’re used to. [SSD’s much smaller kennel is located on a mountain in the middle of the woods.] They have a great facility. We met with the CEO and walked to the training and whelping areas in another building. The puppies are whelped in house and cared for by staff and some volunteers. We took a tour and finally met Lexington, nicknamed Lexi, which suits her perfectly. Well, out she came, yawning from a nap, wondering what was going on now. I put her in her little SSD harness. She never batted an eyelash and pranced around proudly as if to say “Look at me!”
We introduced her to her new travel mates and she immediately fell in love with Aladdin. Six-pound Tomme, our grumpy old man, just growled for her to stay away, and she left him alone. Within a day, she was running to come for a treat and loving when she was called.
Now the fun really began. No more sleeping through the night. We had to take her out to potty every few hours. By the end of our odyssey, she was sleeping six hours without needing to go out. She would play with her little toys that we had brought for her, pounce of Aladdin (which was fine with him), leave Tomme alone (which was fine with him), and go into her crate to sleep. She cried a little bit, but I would ask Aladdin to lie next to the crate, and Lexi would sign and conk out. It worked beautifully. We humans were beginning to wear down, but the dogs just adapted.
Homeward bound! Walking three dogs drew a lot of attention, especially the large and tiny Labradors in their service dog harnesses. We educated people about service dogs and continued on our way. The junk food and lack of sleep and exercise were getting to the humans. The entire trip was about 3000 miles, and we were ready to call it over.
Turning Lexi over to SSD, though, was another thing entirely. You bond so quickly to a creature as sweet, smart, mellow, and dear as this one. She spent more of her trip in her snuggly crate and the rest of the time sleeping on my feet in a puffy blanket, with lots of stops in between for potty breaks.
Thank you so much to Robin for picking up Lexi and bringing her safely to her new home!