Sunday, October 20, 2013

My best girl, Serena

Serena's first night home

I never wanted a lab.  Everyone in my town has a lab.  Many are completely out of control.  I really wanted a cattle dog or a jack russell.  Yes, also dog breeds that can be completely out of control but in my mind exactly what I wanted (my logic back then wasn't too logical).  But after convincing my dad to allow me to train service dogs, a 5 month old petrified tiny black lab joined our household.  She was adorable and made me fall in love instantly with her the minute she came out of her crate and into my arms.  This puppy was Serena.  Almost 4 years later, I couldn't imagine my life without my black lab.  She has come so far from a starving puppy pulled out of a place that was shooting her with a BB gun every time she bark.  She has become my best friend, my constant companion and my service dog.  Cesar Millan always says "you don't get the dog you want, you get the dog you need."  This couldn't be more true of Serena.

Our journey together has been an entertaining one.  There really isn't anything I can't teach her taking into consideration these 3 things:

  1. Serena agrees to learn said thing
  2. Serena is motivated to learn said thing
  3. I figure out how to communicate what I want and she understands
Serena being adorable

I found while training Serena, that she has a sense of humor.  I am also pretty sure she is plotting to take over the world.  I taught her how to bring me her bowl for dinner.  The next morning, I woke with a bowl on my face and a puppy staring at me wagging her tail.

At around 10 months old she learned how to turn the lights on and off.  She then used that trick against me.  My dad and I were talking and not paying attention to her so she turned the lights off and left the room.  Leaving us dumbfounded and in the dark.

Probably the best story to describe Serena's genius was the night she turned the lights back on.  Every night at bedtime I would have Serena go across the room and turn the overhead light off.  She would come back to sleep with me and get a treat. This particular night I did not have a treat for her.  She hopped back on the bed, I told her she was a good girl and patted her on the head and rolled over to go to sleep.  The next thing I know the lights are back on.  Serena had gone back across the room and turned the lights back on then come back to bed.  When I looked at her and exclaimed "Serena!" she just curled up with her butt towards me.  When I said "Serena go get the switch" she curled up tighter as if to say "if you have no treat for me, go get the switch yourself." I looked on the shelf next to my bed and happened to find a small treat.  All I did was show it to her and she hopped off the bed, the lights went off and she came back ate her treat and went to bed.  She never ceases to amaze me.

Serena "playing" tennis like her namesake Serena Williams
At almost a year and half, My Angel With Paws x-rayed Serena's hips (they do this for every potential service dog).  Serena's left hip failed the hip x-ray, the socket of her left hip is completely flat and already exhibited signs of arthritis.  Serena was released to me on the spot.  She couldn't be a service dog for someone for fear that she wouldn't be able to do her job for someone who relied on her everyday.  She is still not showing any signs of hip problems but I still watch her like a hawk and check to make sure both hips have similar muscling regularly.  Because Serena was so well behaved and knows almost all the service dog commands, she became an ambassador for My Angel With Paws.  This involves public education, demonstrations and accompanying younger dogs in training out and about.  She has helped me train Jack, Darby and now Ice as well as a couple other dogs in training with other MAWP people.

Bree, Serena and Darby outside of Ikea
Recently, Serena has become my service dog.  I have been getting migraines since I was 18.  Within the past year they have gotten pretty bad with a variety of triggers. She started out just being my cuddle buddy when I was stuck in bed with a killer migraine.  She would lay full out next to me like a body pillow and let me position her skull bone right where I needed pressure to relieve the pain.  She would lay like that for hours until I would be able to fall asleep.  Within the past couple of months, I have noticed that when I would wake up with a migraine, Serena would already be laying next to me like a body pillow.  Recently she has taken it upon herself to alert me to when I am going to get one.  She puts her paws on me and whines like crazy.  I have learned that when she does this to just go take migraine drugs as she is right even if I don't have any migraine symptoms.  I learned this when she alerted 12 hours before I got a horrible migraine and I had ignored her whining and pawing at me.  

This past week Serena has added feral kitten tamer to her resume.  I caught a 4 month old kitten from the barn where I ride.  This kitten has never been touched by humans and has had minimal human contact in his short life.  The first night he hung from the top of his kitty condo and screamed.  The next day I let Serena see him.  Next thing I know, she is nudging and grooming him and he is purring and rolling around on the ground.  This kitten did a complete 360* and is currently roaming around my office like a cat that has been around humans his whole life.  I have no clue what Serena did but she sure did something awesome.

Serena is my one-in-a-million dog and I am proud to say I own a lab.

Oh and just incase you haven't seen Serena's video, here are 53 things she can do.  She was a year and a half in this video.  I probably should make a new updated version but alas this will have to do for now:

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