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Harper May my pandemic service dog in training
It all started when I first wanted a service dog. I felt like I needed more help in the independence and friendship department.
I felt like I needed something to help me feel safer in public especially when I was with friends or by myself because of anxiety and paranoia I felt safer sticking close to my parents or friends and only leave them to go to my favorite section of stores, certain places I’ve been to multiple times on my own, or only walked around the block because it's the only route I have memorized and being afraid of getting lost if I went a different way.
I’ve loved dogs my whole life and have had them in the family for a long time. There was never a time where our house wasn’t filled with a dog or two but they were mostly terrier mixes never a purebred dog.
While terrier mixes are great, they have qualities that I personally don’t like. That’s why over a year ago, I started wanting a German Shepherd. I’d been wanting a service dog for the past few years. The organizations I’d applied to said I wasn’t qualified or I’d age out by the time I’d be able to get a dog.
So I decided owner training was the best and only option.
“Hey Mom, Dad”, Can I have a German Shepherd? A puppy?” I asked one day. I knew it was a long shot and they’d say no but I asked anyway.
“No puppies are a lot of work and they are a huge responsibility,” Dad told me. “Why do you want a puppy?” My mom asked.
“I want to train one as my service dog,” I told them.
My parents groaned. I had been wanting a service dog for awhile especially once I developed OCD, Anxiety, and having issues with making and keeping friends because of my Autism.
I knew that German shepherds don’t always make good service dogs, especially for what I’d need one for.
However, I was willing to research a good breeder and training places to help my dog succeed. Maybe the dog could one day be an agility sport dog too but before that, I had to pester my parents for a puppy.
I researched breeders, trainers, and everything I could. I found a breeder and a few dog training places during my free time. I’d make supply lists and read up on the breed. Using german shepherd books I owned and bought new ones for more information on how to properly handle them during the 1st 12 months of life. Eventually, in January my dad gave me a plan. “If you can get a job and raise the money yourself, you can get a dog,” he told me. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I won’t let you down I promise.” I said excitedly, hoping I would be able to prove to my parents that I could get the money needed for my own dog. I started my job search immediately. I was able to get some interviews but wasn’t hired. I’d fill out job applications every chance I got or when I found a place to apply.
Then, COVID hit, and getting a job became so much harder. Unfortunately, the job search was already hard because of my disabilities. “I still can’t get a job. I’ve had successful interviews but no one contacts me back.” I said to my parents. “It’s ok Paige you’ll find a job just keep trying.” My dad said over and over again. It became so repetitive that I’ve got it drilled into my head.
“Ok, dad I’ll keep trying,” I told him even though I knew I was still going to be unsuccessful. I was right.
Coronavirus kept getting worse and spreading everywhere. I kept trying to apply for jobs and got a few interviews but that was it. I never heard back despite how well I thought I did in the interview but with each interview and no responses afterward, it hurt.
Then, we visited the breeder in March right as the stay-at-home order was put in place that weekend. It felt weird going somewhere when we were told to stay home. I decided to go with the breeder we visited. We talked about what kind of puppy would be best and Grant the breeder said a female puppy would be the best fit for me as it would be my first German shepherd. I picked out a great name for her Harper May.
A few months later on June 8th, my parents decided it was time to get a puppy because It was summertime and I had free time to work with a puppy. That day we decided. My puppy was born.
When we met her on July 25th we played with her and her sisters. I took videos and photos and was given lots of love bites/kisses. They were all happy and healthy and loved all the attention. They smelled clean because they’d all had baths and were happily loving the attention they got afterward. We decided to go with the white collar of the litter.
We brought her home on August first and I’ve been working with her ever since.
Puppies are a huge responsibility and I knew that from the beginning. Despite this, I had the puppy blues for a few days after she arrived and was biting and going to the bathroom in the house. I was worried that I wasn’t doing enough to help her become a good dog.
“That’s called the puppy blues.” my mom said one day as I came over to her one morning. I nodded. I didn’t want to worry her but I knew she was right.
“I’m just worried I’m not doing enough to help her,” I said.
“You’ll figure it out in time. It takes a lot of work.” Mom reminded me.
Since Harper is my dog, I do almost everything with her. I feed her, train her, and walk her. She’s doing well so far and I can’t wait to continue this amazing journey with her.
She’ll be a great working dog someday.
She's taught me a lot about responsibility as a dog owner and the importance of doing what’s best for both her and myself. I make sure to stay up to date with the American Kennel Club to know what to do as a responsible dog owner and I’m glad to get the experience now instead of waiting until I’m on my own. Harper is my first purebred dog and the first dog I have that’s registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club), and I hope that I can raise her to be a healthy, happy working, and sport dog. I’m learning a lot about taking care of something that isn’t a bad attempt at caring for myself. I’m learning how to properly care for a dog and myself. I’m grateful I get to work with Harper and to help her become the greatest dog she can be.