Meet Lillie and Ezekiel
by Lillie Abbott
Ezekiel is a 1 year Old longhair Black German Shepherd. He is honestly one of the funniest dogs I have ever had. He is a very sweet and sensitive boy, over the past year he has passed his bronze Good Citizen Test at Crufts in March this year and now has passed his silver test too and is now working towards his gold award.
I suffer with Fibromyalgia which in basic terms means my body feels like it is on fire with pain every day (such a joy!).
From a very early age we noticed that Zeke is really sensitive to how I am feeling, if I am having a bad day he won’t leave my side (anyone else with GSD will know this is quite normal! You literally can’t even pop to the loo without an assistant) but with Zeke this is more intense.
If I am having a flare up I can start to feel giddy and really quite sick at this point, he will come and mouth gently at my hand until I sit down or go out for some fresh air (most of the time he will do this before I even know I am about to have a turn).
Every night he sleeps outside our bedroom door as part of my condition is my ability to carry out unusual tasks whilst sleepwalking (it’s a skill I am told but not particularly a safe one!) Zeke will always make sure he is with me following me to the bathroom at night and nudging me till I wake up (I have found myself at the top of the stairs with him mouthing my hand to wake me up).
I also suffer with nightmares that feel very real and can be very distressing, if he should hear me having a nightmare he will scratch at the door and whimper until I wake and then sits with me to calm me down (all without ever waking my husband up – it’s mine and Zeke’s little secret).
So I decided to look into training him into becoming my assistance dog so that he can support me whilst I am out and not just at home.
I came across a not-for-profit organisation called Sherlock Hounds who help people like me with a disability to self train their dogs with a self appointed trainer to reach the very high standards that are required to pass a public access test (if he passes, this will afford him the same rights as any other assistance dog and he will be covered in law by the equality act as an auxiliary aid), this is the same test that all other guide and assistance dogs have to take.
So now we are starting to train for certain behaviours such as picking things up for me as I find bending down difficult, being a support for me as my balance isn’t great, and we are hoping he will learn takes such as emptying the washing machine for me (for someone with fibro this is a massive task).
The training will take as long as it takes and it won’t be a quick process especially as I don’t want to rush him, we will do it in his time and when he is ready, only then will I look to take the test, it may take a couple of years it may not but however long it takes I will always be guided by him.
He like me has good days and bad days, he is still only a baby at the moment. All his training will be positive and reward based and will be focused on shaping natural behaviours. We are about to order his ‘Assistance Dog in Training’ jacket but this will need to be specially made as he is quite a big boy. As soon as we have that the training will begin away from home in earnest such as popping to the local shops with me, he loves going to the pub and will happily sit quietly and loves everyone fussing over him.
I am hoping to get some videos and pictures soon of his training and how he progresses but for now here are some pictures of my big boy.