The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Liz R Kover
Marleys Mutts Dog Rescue 

The New F.A.D. in Service Dog Training

It's A Dog's Life

 

Envision this.

Bill, an American male in his early 40s, has struggled with weight issues all his life. Bill is depressed and uses junk food as an emotional anesthetic. He gets up in the morning feeling dread, and comes home from work each night with fast food to the empty calories of Reality TV. Bill is crippled by a lack of motivation to do better for himself. His negative, sedentary lifestyle has become a disability with which he needs serious help.

Now, imagine this.

Bill has decided to stop the downward spiral; he has qualified for a Fitness Assistance Dog (F.A.D.) through Frisky Fitness Assistance Dogs, Inc.

Today is his first day of a two-week long Frisky Fitness Boot Camp. Here, he will be paired with a specially trained, athletically inclined service dog, whose job it is to help Bill get active, move forward, become balanced and learn a healthier way of being.

The Fitness Assistance Dog's training takes advantage of her boundless energy, her primal need to migrate, and her evolved instinct to connect with a human partner. Bill's dog is trained to heel at varying speeds from walking to sprinting (without planting or pulling). She is trained to hike, climb, and run alongside rollerblades, a bike and a skateboard. To help with motivation, she is trained to fetch her leash, bring it to Bill and nudge him until he gets up and takes her for a walk. She behaves as a perfect unobtrusive helpmate around all manner of gym equipment. Not only is Bill's dog trained to perform physical actions that motivate him and enable his physical activity. In keeping with the curriculum from FF Boot Camp through a continuing online class, Bill feels a sense of community, and stays motivated as he works toward positive lifestyle and weight loss goals.

Bill is empowered by having confronted his lifelong battle with emotional eating. With this special dog by his side, Bill processes his feelings honestly and productively during long walks and runs. Bill now wakes up to the happy nudge of his dog, prodding him with the leash in her mouth saying Let's go! There is life to be lived and we don't want to miss a minute of it! Because of his early successes with weight loss during Boot Camp, Bill is now eating better and taking pride in his appearance. He is more confident, and so takes more risks in getting out and meeting people. He ends each day feeling proud of himself, and thankful for the exercise partner who never skips a day, and always helps Bill in his resolve to keep going.

Creating this brand new type of assistance dog – with the amazing Bonnie Bergin's guidance – is going to be the opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true. I will study part-time on the Bergin campus in Santa Rosa, while living and working on full-time experiential research in Bakersfield. My goal is to proactively address the health epidemic of obesity and all its manifestations within individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. For these and countless other reasons, I cannot wait to begin my Master of Science program in Canine Life Sciences at Bergin University of Canine Studies. I am equally as excited to share what unfolds with you – Marley's Mutts' Mutt Militia!

 
 

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