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Patches the BEST service dog in the world!!

by Viki Gentilman
(Bryceville, Florida)

This is Patches

This is Patches

Patches is half Anatolian Shepherd and half Great Pyrenees. She was born the same day my first guide dog puppy graduated (who was raised by my daughter in law, son and a bit of help from me)... How is that for karma!

I got her from Florida Service Dogs in Jacksonville, Florida. She knew how to brace (stand like a rock for me to get up from places) and balance me when I was walking. When I begin to lean to the right, she leans to the left in her harness...when I lean towards her, she "pushes" up on me till I am upright. BEFORE I got her I was falling an AVERAGE of 4 times a day and had even broken several bones. I have had her almost 5 years and she has not let me fall one time! She is my ANGEL!!

It took about a year and a half of working with her to get her to retrieve things. Both of her breeds are stubborn with a "make me" attitude. I knew she knew how to do it...but she just didn't want to. Then one day while working a puzzle book in a hotel lobby in Tampa...with all the comings and goings of check in and check out, a jackhammer outside tearing up the sidewalk, Tampa traffic and blowing horn, and a radio with soft music -- I dropped my pen. When I reached to get it, Patches had it in her mouth!! Of all the places and times in the world, she decided that was a place to really impress me! And it WAS!!

She is so good now at retrieving things she can pick up a dime. I don't let her pick up pennies anymore since I found out they were poisonous to dogs. She will get me anything I ask her to, treat or not!

Everyone loves Patches. My husband and I are busy with lots of volunteer programs (CERT, ARES, RED CROSS, and I volunteer with FORESTRY)and she is somewhat the "mascot" in them all. When we graduated from the CERT training, the fire chief from Jacksonville gave PATCHES her own certificate! We also went to an Emergency Management "boot camp" where we stayed 14 days in a row. All of the different pictures of the class doing things, Patches HAD to be front and center and she had her own ID plate made...and she got a certificate from Tallahassee Community College! We have also taken many of the FEMA courses that you have to go to (as well as the online courses) and most of the teachers give Patches a certificate for coming. They are all in the book I keep her "important records" in.

She is my ANGEL and I look forward to her retirement time ONLY because she wants to slow down. I will miss working with her. But she does want to stay home and watch Lassie movies while laying on the couch with her Kong filled with treats...and I hope she has a VERY LONG retirement!!

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An Elevated Dog Bed
For My Spoiled Rotten Girls

by Viki
(Florida)


This is a picture of my girls...on their elevated dog bed which is actually an antique day bed (thank you, Sandy!! We all love it!)

Not every dog is lucky enough to share a twin bed with their sister, but then again not every dog weighs in around 100 lbs! With two girls that size it just made sense to give them room to stretch out (and that means they don't take up OUR bed!)

Patches is a 6 year old 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd and 1/2 Great Pyrenees and weighs 104 lbs. Hannah is only 15 months old in this picture...and just under 80 lbs. She is a full Great Pyr, although she doesn't yet have her full coat which will make her look more like a polar bear. She will grow slowly (thankfully!) for another 2 1/2 years. That means she will probably be about the size of Patches or possibly a bit bigger. By the way...in case you don't know Patches is the one with the dark spots...

For another photo and some homemade things Viki has made for her dogs, see their story under
"Great Pyrenees Service Dogs: Patches and Hannah."

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Patches...a great loss!

by Viki
(Bryceville, Florida )

My beautiful girl

My beautiful girl

Five years ago, I received a blessing -- the gift of a service dog from Florida Service Dogs. That blessing left me on June 17th around 1:00 in the afternoon from a heart attack, leaving behind a much stronger person than I was before she came to me. Patches helped me keep my balance when walking (I have vertigo all the time), picked things up I dropped (bad back) and helped me around the house (chronic fatigue) as well as being a big, gentle heart that introduced me to people again. I had become quite reclusive! Every person that met her, of all ages, loved her quiet spirit that seemed to exude love. Even people that were scared of dogs were able to get over their fear and were able to be near her, even pet her, in spite of her weighing over 100 lbs!

She not only helped me, she helped every service animal team in Florida. In 2005, Florida Service Dog teams went to the capital at least once a week to push forward a new service dog law (Fl. Statute 413.08) that brought Florida laws up to and past the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Now service animal teams have a bit more power behind them than they ever did before. Patches and the other teams did demonstrations for the House and Senate committees and shook a lot of "paws" in order to get the bill passed. On Friday the 12th of June, Patches went with me to a mitigation between myself and a doctor that wouldn't allow Patches into the exam room. She was teaching people up to the end!

Just in case any of your readers are wondering what a service dog is, the simple definition is they are for any OTHER disability other than blindness (the blind use guide dogs). They help with daily life, mitigating disabilities in many ways. If there is a severe disability that a person has, there is a dog that can be trained to help that person. Some teams are housebound (the animal helps only at home) and some teams are out and about the general public. Some dogs even detect medical problems before they happen -- my sweet Patches did "medical alert" for me. She knew when my periphial neuropathy was about to cause my legs to go numb...she would stand like a rock in front of me and give me a look which I came to know as her command to have me sit (most people try to get their dogs to sit, but mine told ME to sit!). This was a blessing I didn't expect because medical alert cannot be taught -- the animal just knows it. I had between 5 - 10 minutes to find a place to sit before my legs would be numb and I would fall if that happened. However, in the 5 years and 32 days that Patches was with me, she NEVER ONCE let me fall!

Patches was a "member" of the Red Cross, CERT teams in Duval and Nassau County, SkyWarn, and several HAM radio clubs in North Florida. She even went with us to an Emergency Management "boot camp" in 2007 at Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Center in Tallahassee for 14 days, becoming somewhat of the class mascot.

I know that I will see her again, because the Bible is clear about God's love for animals and how they are His teachers here on earth for us to behave like or not to behave like. After all, the ark wasn't full of people, was it? But there is a huge hole in my heart where her pawprints will forever leave their marks!

She did help me with a "trainee"...a Great Pyrenees named Hannah. Hannah is a wonderful service dog who Patches taught the magic of medical alert, but Hannah is having hip surgery this year (she just had her first hip done and when it is healed she will have the other done...). Patches also helped me train a Jack Russell Terrier named Kallios that went to a friend in N.C. in 2007. I was hoping Patches would help me train another service dog "trainee"...a black lab puppy named Mildred Isabella, who is only 18 weeks old. She sure did love the new pup and played with her until tired then pinned her down for some grooming. I am glad to know that Patches met this new girl in our life, and approved of her. I always said that Patches would make a great Wal-Mart greeter, but God decided to let her be a heaven greeter!

Patches would have been 7 years old on July 20. Happy Birthday sweet girl...I miss you!!



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Happy Birthday... Patches

by Viki Gentilman
(Bryceville, Florida)

Birthday Girl's beautiful face...

Birthday Girl's beautiful face...

Today Patches turns 7. The perfect number, according to the ancients. The number of God some people say. Fitting then that she is spending her 7th birthday in Heaven, with God!

How do I know this? All religions use animals as the way to either act like or not act like. In the three major religions, Christianity, Muslim and Jewish, the story of an ark full of animals with a few humans to care for them is told. The animals are said to have no soul -- but I disagree. If you have ever had an animal love you, you have looked into their eyes and SAW the soul. They however do not have a soul that needs redemption. That is the difference between us and the beasts...we are capable of evil, we know right from wrong and we do need someone or something to redeem us. It is our chore in this life to care for the animals, the earth and each other while we find that redemption!

In each creation story of the major religions, animals are made first - then humans. We are told to take care of all that was created.

I miss Patches so much my heart at times feels as if it will explode from the pain of seperation. I lock myself in the bathroom and cry until I can no longer breathe because the pain is so great. This being her birthday is especially hard, since she went too young! But I don't wish her back to a place that pain can creep in at any time, where insects bother and where there is wet grass in the mornings (Patches, being a large breed, was a canidate for joint problems and cancer...hated deer flies and bees...and wet grass? Forget about it!). I would have loved more time -- forever! But forever will have to wait until it is my time to join her.

And when that time comes, I will be running to her for doggie kisses and hugs!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BIG GIRL! Your "sisters", Hannah and Mildred Isabella miss you, and so do "Dad" and I!

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