I am a former 911 operator and dispatcher from Vancouver, BC living with chronic and complex PTSD.
I had been trying to get a service dog from one of the many organizations in western Canada for well over 7 years now and seem to always get shuffled to the bottom of the stack of applications for a fully funded SD. The owner of one organization put me in touch with Allan at Golden Retriever Haven to discuss the possibility of my purchasing one of his puppies and training it myself.
During my first conversation with Allan, I was instantly put at ease. He had a new litter and after hearing my story, Allan decided that I would get first pick of the male puppies in that litter! Over the course of the next few weeks Allan regularly sent me updates on the puppies and video clips along with photos so that I could see their progress. When the puppies where about 7 weeks old I talked with Allan about selecting the best fit puppy for my disability needs, he gave me the choice to either choose on my own or he and the lead trainer would test the puppies and choose for me. I agreed that they would be better suited to choose based on the puppies inherent traits which one would best fit my needs. Before doing this testing Allan sent me one more video clip of the four male puppies to look at and he asked me to decide if one of them stood out or attracted me more than the others… but not to tell him which one. I watched the clip and sure enough there was one!
The following week Allan sent me a photo of the puppy that was chosen for me and guess what? It was him!!!! I started crying… I was so happy! I called Allan right away and told him that my puppy’s name is Jake and asked him to please start calling him by his name. Allan asked me why the name Jake? I explained that my mentor Jackie Williamson aka Jake (as everyone called her) always had my back at work as a new 911 operator and throughout my career, even if it meant she was kicking my ass… lol… and that shortly after she retired with a full pension, having given all of her working life in service, she died of a double aneurysm without having truly enjoyed her retirement years. In her memory, and because my Jake as a service dog will also always have my back, even if it means he is kicking my ass… lol
Since bringing Jake home my life has changed completely! Raising a puppy is not easy, and it has been made more difficult due to the pandemic for sure, but the blessing that is my Jake has managed to reduce my symptoms, regulate my sleeping patterns so that I am now sleeping at night for the first time in 20 years, expand my patience and provide me with all the love, cuddles and puppy kisses that I can handle. Always good natured and ready to go experience new things, after a rough start Jake is now super responsive to my training… and it is me that has had to re-learn how to train a service dog with positive reinforcement rather than the lure and command/correction tactics of the service dog training organization that I was originally receiving guidance from. Positive reinforcement training has helped us to rebuild our relationship, increased Jake’s confidence and we are now regularly able to train in stores and other public places.
At 15 months, Jake is almost fully grown and a sleek 75 lbs with a shiny coat that is not too heavy for hot summer weather nor too skimpy for the colder winter months here in southern BC. Jake regularly gets comments about how absolutely gorgeous a dog he is!!! Being a sport dog, Jake requires a secure and safe place to run every day… he absolutely loves chasing bubbles and retrieving a ball or romping around on his own with his jolly ball swinging side to side smacking himself!
With the training setback and the pandemic Jake’s certification will be delayed by a year, but that’s okay… he will be a solid, reliable and confident Service Dog when the right time comes to do the public access test required in BC.
As a breeder, Allan is second to none. He has been communicative, open and completely honest throughout the entire process of selecting a puppy and the follow up communications over this past year and a half, providing health and feeding information and support when there were possible medical issues that turned out to be just growth pains and a minor muscle injury from playing hard with another puppy. I have no doubt that if there was an inherited medical issue that precluded Jake from attaining certification as a Service Dog that Allan would make it right in an honourable way. Thankfully there is not as I don’t believe I would have been able to give Jake back.
Jake is my true heart dog who has already saved my life. Thank you Allan for choosing him for me.