Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer, Emilia, shares her experiences on one of her first in-home placements with Dogs for Better Lives. We also connected with Alexis on how it was when Hearing Dog Skye was placed with her. What we discovered was a heartwarming story that shows the power of Service Dogs – not only on the people who receive them, but also on those who help them prepare for their career.
First Placement Experience
By: Emilia Wenner, Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer
The last five days have been five days that I will forever hold dear to my heart. As if I needed another reason to love what I do, assisting DBL Field Representative Ashley in placing Skye with Alexis definitely validated it.
As a staff member of DBL, I’ve read all the placement stories that have been shared over the years. I’ve teared up at pretty much all of them, but nothing prepared me for the emotions I would feel seeing it all firsthand.
Of course I could go on and on about how amazing Skye is. She was the first Certified Hearing Dog I have trained, and the first dog I have placed. But the truly amazing part of this experience was Alexis.
My excitement started when I got to learn more about Alexis. Hearing about all the places she plans to take Skye: camping trips, local hockey games, the beach, and other spontaneous adventures.
From day one it was obvious that Alexis did her research and really studied all the required materials. She asked all the right questions and followed through with all the information we threw at her – which was a lot! When she successfully worked sounds with Skye for the first time, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the home.
By the second day of placement, it was as if Skye forgot all about me and Alexis was now her person. Other trainers have warned about the struggle of watching a dog you bonded with nearly every day for the last six months begin bonding with another person, but seeing the biggest smile on Alexis’s face when Skye was already choosing to follow her and lay at her feet all day is something I will never forget.
Throughout the rest of placement, as we continued working sounds and obedience, I was holding back my tears as I admired this person I just met. Watching her blossom into this happy and confident human, quickly understanding how to help her and her new companion be a successful team in public and at home, it all made me realize; I don’t think there could have been a better match for Skye, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better first placement to observe.
The Moment Everything Clicked
Day four was when it really hit. We had a few struggles with getting consistent good alerts from Skye, but Alexis never gave up or lost her spark. We were sitting at the table with the oven timer set, going over what the final day of placement would look like. Mid conversation the oven timer went off. Skye popped up from under the table and alerted Alexis, who was just glowing with excitement. And as hard as I tried to hold back those tears again, there just wasn’t a chance.
It was then that I thought “this is it.” If I could capture one moment to show someone why I choose to do what I do, why Dogs for Better Lives does what we do, that would be it.
I will forever be grateful for this beautiful, exhausting, and emotional experience.
I remember the day I met Skye. She was more beautiful in person! I felt a bond almost immediately, I think it was like love at first sight. As we got to know each other, our bond started becoming deeper and stronger. I learned so much from Ashley and Emilia, along with training practices from them. They were a total team and I have many favorite memories from my week with Ashley and Emilia. I continue to communicate with them about Skye’s adventures.
Since Skye was placed with me, my life has changed for the better. I am no longer worried about missing sounds surrounding me. She’s my best friend.
As of the date of this article, applications are open for Hearing Assistance Dogs. Visit dogsforbetterlives.org/dogs for information about our programs and to complete an application. All Assistance Dogs are provided to our clients at ZERO cost, thanks to donor support.
Interested in becoming an Assistance Dog Trainer? Dogs for Better Lives offers a three-year paid apprenticeship program. Learn more.