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Hannah's Service Dog Training

by Viki
(Florida)

For those of you following the fun times that Hannah and I are having with the service dog training there were a couple of milestone moments in the past month.

First we purchased a bark collar which screeches a loud noise when Hannah barks. So now instead of just barking we hear: WOOF SCREECH WOOf SCREECH WOof SCREECH Woof SCREECH and then lots of low grumbles. It IS slowly getting through to her brain that barking isn't a pleasent-God- given right for her if she wants to continue to go into public. Most of the time she is now limiting her barking to the house and yard, although that has dropped off also. Our neighbors are happy (although they are the ones with 15 Beagles on one side and 5 Jack Russels, a weiner dog and an American Bulldog on the other that seem to NEVER quit barking!)

Now we need to find a "grumble" collar...if anyone knows where to get one. HA!!

Second, after months of practicing pulling a manual chair up and down our driveway, we decided to give the mall a try. Hannah did AWESOME in Sears, carefully pulling me and the chair between racks of clothes and display cases. Then we hit the opening to the mall. Hannah looked back at me and I SWEAR to you that she said, "Hang on!" or some such thing...then took to pulling like the lead dog in the Iditirod! I am glad that I am not the type to have to stop and look in each store because that would have taken the fun out of making it all the way through the mall in record time. If there was ever (and you know there has been!) a doubt about her being willing to pull me and a chair then it was put aside that day. She had a LOT of fun and yet still listened when I slowed her down before she plowed into slow shoppers.

And just today Hannah went (the go command) and picked up the exact item I wanted (my comb) and actually BROUGHT it to me. Did we EVER party!! Of course that was followed by her stealing the comb and running circles through the house in a type of victory lap. Still it gave me hope that I may have the only two Great Pyrenees (well, would that actually be one and 1/2 Great Pyrs?) in the world that will retrieve. Funny thing is -- it took me about a year and a half to get Patches to retrieve anything and that is about the length of time it has taken Hannah...although for a good 6 months Hannah has known what "go" and "that's it" and "get it" have meant...it is just that she wouldn't "get it" but would only touch the item with her nose and then walk off. Did I mention how independant Great Pyrs are? Like training a CAT!!

So my little girl is growing up and learning to behave -- THANK YOU, LORD! All you puppy raisers out there go ahead and laugh. You deserve it! My puppy raising days are quickly coming to an end...and hopefully Hannah will make it. Otherwise I will have to look for a program dog -- and hopefully a program where I can hear about puppy antics. That is what makes doggy ownership the most fun, right? Believe me -- if it turns out I need a program dog, I will forever be thankful to the raiser and trainers! It hasn't been easy but I STILL would cut my trip to North Carolina short and rush home to pick out the big white ball of fur that came to be known as Hannah Rose Pearl Flingingslime!

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Hannah and the cold spell

by Viki Gentilman
(Bryceville, Florida)

Hannah at dawn, in the frost

Hannah at dawn, in the frost

This has been a very cold winter for Florida -- we have had so many below freezing mornings I have lost count. Last year we had exactly 10 days total, this year one cold spell alone lasted longer than that!

Our Great Pyrenees, Hannah, has been LOVING the cold. Because she likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, along with the fact that she is almost three, her fur has really gotten thick. We no longer get the question "is that a white Golden Retriever?" (Oprah made them popular). We have finally begun to get asked if she is a Great Pyrenees. People aren't sure because she is "small" for a GP...only weighing 80 lbs.

Hannah's favorite time to go outside is at dawn...she loves to lay in the frost and watch the sun come up. My husband tried to get a picture of her "surveying her kingdom"...and this is the clearest of the pictures. HE was shaking from the cold! Not Hannah...she was (like Goldilocks) "just right".

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Hannah, the talking dog

by Viki Gentilman
(Bryceville, Florida)

Hannah, the talking dog

Hannah, the talking dog

Today was Yappy Hour at the downtown Jacksonville, Florida hangout called the Landing. There is a large courtyard around a small 1/2 circle mall with a fountain (the kind that comes out of the ground).

Every month the Landing hosts the Yappy Hour, for all well behaved dogs (and owners) to come and sniff each other (the dogs, not the owners!) Last month we had a great time, Mildred Isabella trying to eat the water in the fountain and Hannah enjoying the sight of so many dogs. So, this morning I told the girls it was Yappy Hour day and they both got excited...but it is MUCH hotter today than it was last month. Hannah is NOT a fan of hot weather being as she is nothing but hair (being a Great Pyrenees) -- now if she would get into the fountain with Mildred Isabella it wouldn't be so bad. But she doesn't "do" anything that MAY turn into a bath, so she avoids water except to drink.

After about 45 minutes in the heat, I guess Hannah had seen enough. You see, when she barks while we are out somewhere I ALWAYS tell her to be quiet or she will have to go and stay home! So it didn't surprise me when she barked a couple of times at other dogs and I told her she had to be quiet or she would have to go home that she quit barking and started being quiet...but the next time she barked and I said, "do you want to go home?" I was VERY surprised when she looked at me and said, clear as Scooby Doo, "Yes, I do!" and started to head for the car. I thought I was losing my mind until several people around me started commenting on the talking dog. Oh, to have had a video of her saying that!

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Happy Birthday Hannah

by Viki
(Bryceville, FL)

My big girl, Hannah

My big girl, Hannah

My big girl, Hannah
Is she beautiful or WHAT? smiles
Happy Birthday!
If a GP smiles at you all is well

Four years ago today a tiny bundle of love was born -- a blessing from God! In six weeks it will be the anniversary of that bundle of love coming to live with us and begin training to be a service dog.

Hannah is a Great Pyrenees which is somewhat an unusual breed to use as a service dog because they are actually a guardian breed...they were bred for thousands of years to protect a flock of animals. They have been known to kill bears and lions! But since my first service dog, Patches, was 1/2 Great Pyrenees and 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd (another guardian breed) we heard about the litter of pups and tested them (what testing you can do at 6 weeks) for traits of being a service dog -- no startling, curiosity at things around them, calm when rolled over...etc.

Hannah came to live with us that day. On the way home she had her first outing...we stopped at Walmart for puppy chow, collar, leash, etc...I took a pillow from the car and put it in the shopping cart for her to lay on and she watched the people, listened to the sounds, smelled the wonderful smells -- and took it all in stride. Of course everyone loved that little ball of fur riding in the cart.

She sure wouldn't fit in the cart now! We live in a mobile home...and have floor registers for the air/heat. Hannah would sleep on the floor vent and just about covered it. Today her head MORE than covers the same vent! As I think about all the things she has had a chance to do, and all the adventures we took together, it is hard to believe that she has turned four. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BIG GIRL -- MAY God grant you MANY more years with us and may they be healthy years.


I had the privilege of meeting Viki and Hannah three years ago - Happy Birthday, Hannah! - you sure have come a long way (and thanks for sharing those great photos with us, Viki - I'll be putting at least one on the home page each of the next few months). Jo

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Hannah's Hips

by Viki
(Bryceville, Florida)

Hannah's first day at home

Hannah's first day at home

For those of you that have been following the adventures of my sweet Hannah, service dog in training, I have some sad news. Hannah's hips are going to knock her out of being my service dog. She has dysplasia, and will have to go through two painful surgeries with lots of healing time between.

We hope to keep her as our pet. The problem is that our landlady only allows service animals. If we get another puppy for training it will be hard to explain why Hannah needs to be here. For this first year it will be okay -- since Hannah will have to wait a minimum of 4-6 months between surgeries...but after that...

Hannah is not having hip replacements. She is having something called an FHO, which until this all came up, I didn't even know about! The doctor will take out the top portion of her leg, the ball joint that attaches to the hip socket. Then the muscles and tendons will take over the job of the ball and socket. Sounds very odd, but apparently the surgery works well, and Hannah will not develop arthritis down the line.

If anyone has been through this and has any advice, let me know!

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Hannah, Service Dog Trainee

by Viki Gentilman
(Bryceville, Florida )


Hannah is a Great Pyrenees puppy...she is only 18 months old and Great Pyrs don't start to mature until around 2 years old. Hannah is in training to take Patches place. Patches is my service dog of almost 5 years.

I have trained dogs since I was 14 years old, including puppy raising for Southeastern Guide Dogs -- who GIVES the dogs away FREE to the legally blind or the blind (AWESOME company!!) and I also trained a service dog for a friend. So when Patches turned 5 I wanted a puppy to train for my own. Thus Hannah...

Hannah came to us at 6 weeks of age and we have been exposing her to various sights, sounds, people, places and smells. She has done very well...but around 16 months found out she was a Great Pyr and the guardian in her came out. She has a very deep bark that explodes from her now and then and we are working hard to stop those outbursts in public and at home.

She also has a normal stubborn side to her that Great Pyrs are known for. They are almost cat like in getting them to do things -- but she is a foodaholic like her momma...so MOST things will be done when she knows she will get a treat. Sometimes I don't have treats though and she HAS to do a task anyway. She is learning to work for "ear numbies" which is a knuckle into the ear for a nice soft rub.

Still, she KNOWS what "get it" means (when I point or lazer point to an object) because she goes to it and touches it with her nose...but will NOT pick it up. She looks at me and I could swear she says "MAKE ME!"...I don't bother because Patches has already locked eyes with the item and is waiting for me to send HER...which I do. Patches gets the treat. It is a matter of wills as to when Hannah will finally get the item and bring it in exchange for the treat!!

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Hannah's booboo...

by Viki
(Bryceville, Florida)

My beautiful pups...Hannah and Patches

My beautiful pups...Hannah and Patches

Hannah was playing with her best friend and mentor, Patches -- the regular daily routine of full force, wham bam slam dunking. Hannah thought she could do a REALLY big wham bam slam dunk by jumping off the bed onto Patches' back...but Patches saw it coming and moved quickly. Hannah landed just a bit wrong and that is when the booboo happened.

At first she wouldn't put any weight on the leg at all...and held the leg up by her belly. She let me feel her leg from hip to toes with not a whimper or flinch but I couldn't feel any swelling or looseness in the joints. I searched under each bit of hair for a bruise (which isn't easy to do on a Great Pyrennes!) but none was found. She had full range of motion in her leg also. I decided it must be a muscle ache and kept her off her normal 2 mile hike the next two mornings and afternoons. On the third day I took her to the vet.

Our vet is a "country" vet...a mobile vet that spends the weeks driving from place to place to see mostly sick cows and horses but on Saturday mornings he drives his truck to the feed store in one of the small towns around us and sees people and pets that wait in line for him in a field. He is as caring a vet that I have met and also understands that country folk don't always have lots of money to spend on their animals. Without his services animals may not get seen. He has been seeing Hannah since she was 7 weeks old.

We waited in line until our turn and then he watched her limp up to him. Now a dog that is as big as a Great Pyrenees (she is over 80 lbs with 2 more years of slow growing to do) that is in pain is a "touchy" situation. I did have a muzzle with me in case he wanted her muzzled. I wouldn't have thought any less of him had he said yes to the muzzle, but Dr. Lewis just said let me look at her. Hannah never growled or whimpered...she just stood there while his gentle hands felt the leg. Finally he told us that we COULD go have it Xrayed or an MRI done and spend $100's of dollars but he didn't feel any bone problems or anything else but just a LITTLE bit of movement in her knee...which probably was a torn ligament or tendon -- thankfully a small one. He gave her pain meds and said to keep her quiet for about six weeks. If she isn't better by then and walking on all four legs then we may have to go for the big bucks at a full service vet.

It has been two weeks now and today she went for her first short walk (about 1/4 of a mile). She is beginning to put her foot on the ground about every fourth step. She has also begun to play with Patches for a few minutes a day -- but not any of the wrestling or kamikaze moves of before. I think she will be fine by the time the six weeks are up. And I pray that her service dog days are still ahead of her!


Editor's note: Wow! Didn't know there were any country vets like that around - we hope Hannah makes a full recovery...

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Great Pyrenees Service Dogs: Patches and Hannah

by Viki
(Florida)

Service Dogs On The Job!

Service Dogs On The Job!

I have two service dogs. My wonder dog is Patches. She's half Anatolian Shepherd and half Great Pyrenees and is brindle and white.

Hannah is in training and still very much a puppy at only 15 months old. She's all Great Pyrenees and white. Great Pyrs don't even begin to mature until two years. Although as a service dog trainee she SHOULDN'T bark she often does...she may never get over the barking since she is a Great Pyr...time will tell if our prayers will be answered. Smiles!

I make my own "coats" for them. They are holiday specific and everyone loves them. I have also made awesome collars for them and friends dogs out of thrift store belts. So I am looking forward to what this site will teach me also!

By the way, our girls have an antique daybed (about twin size) for their "bed". Since Patches weighs 108 and Hannah at one year is 77 lbs they needed lots of room. How many dogs can relax on a twin size antique bed? Smiles!!

Editor's note: I had the privilege of meeting Viki and her dogs at a dog event in Jacksonville, FL. The homemade dog collars she made from belts purchased at thrift stores are awesome. She has also cleverly added backpacks to the service harnesses.

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