By Wendy Hitch
Chuda is my special animal companion. He was entrusted to me to foster and train by Helping Paws, a service dog organization in Hopkins (www.helpingpaws.org). Chuda will live with me for about 2.5 years and then, as a young adult dog, will be given as a service dog to a person who has physical disabilities. Chuda: “miracle, wonder, marvel” and Lono: “bosom buddy” are Russian words and describe the essence of the partnership he provides.
I am so proud of this little guy and look forward to our adventures together—sharing a good life and coaching him (under the tutelage of Helping Paws trainers)—to learn and master the skills he will need to do his extraordinary job! The training for Chuda is an ongoing daily commitment; watch for us around town together where he is learning to concentrate on his skills surrounded by the distractions of everyday life. One of the best things about raising a service dog is that I get to take him with me everywhere and I am very happy with Chuda at my side! He is now 1.5 years old and has learned a long list of verbal and cued commands. Many of the tasks—turning on lights, opening doors, greeting at the door—are multi-step skills and have taken much practice before we both feel the “a-ha” moment when he understands what is being asked of him. It requires patience and creative thinking to communicate with Chuda and I always use positive reinforcement when he does what is being asked of him.
Being a foster trainer has been a wonderful experience. I enjoy the social time spent training and taking field trips with other training teams, doing promotional and fund-raising events for Helping Paws and talking with people who want to learn more about service dogs.