Meet Bart. He is an eight-week-old chocolate Labrador puppy who is being raised and trained as a diabetic alert dog.
Of all the scent detection training I do with my Labradors, the medical detection work is some of the most satisfying. Dogs take each day at a time. They live for the moment, and they rarely fret about things that haven’t happened. When you pair a dog like Bart with a person—or especially a family—where a medical issue has created an atmosphere of uncertainty, worry and unrest, such a special trained dog can do so much just by his presence to ground people and bring about a sense of peace and tranquility. I’m not sure of all the psychology going on here, but I have seen how a dog’s presence impacts the lives of the people he lives with.
Bart is not aware of his mission in this life yet. He is playing happily at my feet for now. I talk to my dogs all the time. I tell Bart his role in life is an important one. A person’s life will depend on his keen sense of smell. He sits up now and cocks his head to one side to listen better. Maybe he understands. He seems exceptionally wise as I return his gaze and peer into those soulful brown eyes.
I don’t know how much of what I say he understands, but I can tell you for sure he is one smart boy. He is picking up on his lessons quickly and already walks nicely without pulling on a loose lead in public. He has figured out to wait for doors to open, sits to be petted when he meets someone and is getting into the routine of riding in his crate in the car when we go out for training sessions. He even has the general idea of housebreaking now—he still cannot “hold it” though for too long after he signals he needs to go outside.
Bart is special, there is no doubt in my mind, but he is, after all is said and done, a puppy. You can’t forget that puppies need to do puppy things. Like all puppies, he goes about with great enthusiasm playing with all the other puppies for just so long before he crashes, takes a nap, gets up to eat, then starts the process all over again. What new toys will they find this time? What new area of the house will they explore? Life is full of wonderment in all the small things. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to be more like my puppy. Enjoy the things around you, have fun with your friends, eat hearty, nap often. Life is good.