Almost invariably, when I speak to people and mention that Caesar is an assistance dog, their next question is:
"What exactly does Caesar do?"
Illustrated here are a few of the tasks Caesar does on a regular basis, the list is not exhaustive (there are some tasks that I care not to share the details of), and will never be complete. The work of an assistance dog is inexorably linked with the needs and situation of his disabled partner, and as needs change, so does the job description!
Quite simply, an assistance dog never stops learning.
Frequently, the first job of the day is to collect the post and the newspaper and deliver them to me in bed. Caesar always does this without being asked, and maintains an eye on the postbox throughout the day, just in case anything else arrives.
Caesar picks up everthing I drop without being asked, I have to be quick to say No if it is something unsuitable for him to touch! Coins and credit cards a speciality! I tend to drop coins so much, Caesar has now mastered the art of picking them up from the floor 2 or 3 at a time.
Emptying the washing machine is probably the job that Caesar has to concentrate most on.
I have memory problems, and often cannot remember where I have left my keys. Caesar has been trained to search for the keys by smell, when he finds them he will collect them and give them to me. If they are on a table or in a place he cannot reach, he sits and barks to draw my attention to them!
He loves collecting dirty laundry.
Caesar always fetches and returns his bowl before and after his meals.
He also carries his lead.
Caesar is able to follow the command "Do Light" and switch on and off pull cord lights.
Click here for an .mpg of Caesar switching on a light
Caesar can, if needed pull an emergency cord to summon help.
Caesar is able to follow the command "Up Counter" to stand on hind legs to a counter or similar high surface. This is particularly useful in shops where I may not be able to reach the counter from my wheelchair. Caesar can then hand over money and collect the change and goods as necessary.
||Caesar fetches the milk from the doorstep in the mornings, and carries it to the fridge in the kitchen for me. He also enjoys carrying the empty milk bottles to the front doorstep at night. He has a little milk crate for this task.
Current training includes retrieval of recycling bins from the gate to the garage of our home. Caesar is still working on this!
Caesar assists me with talks and presentations that we do on behalf of Dogs for the Disabled, the charity he comes from. He has a little repertoire of tasks that he will willingly perform in front of any audience.
We also attend events and functions with Dogs for the Disabled, and Caesar enjoys meeting and greeting members of the public.
Just recently, (March 2003) Caesar did his first demonstrations in the Good Citizen Ring at Crufts, the aim was for the audience to understand how a wheelchair user like myself is able to cope with the grooming needs of an assistance dog. The secret of this of course relies upon the co-operation of the dog, and Caesar is great at this.
Perhaps the most essential job that Caesar has, he does without even realising. He has, in the few months he has been with me, brought more joy, meaning and unconditional love into my life than I ever could have thought possible. He has given me a renewed sense of purpose, and the confidence to tackle lifes' daily trials with renewed enthusiasm. In the years since the accident that caused my disabilty I had become more and more socially isolated. It was physically difficult to go out, and as I went out less and less it became emotionally difficult too. Sometimes people would ask well intentioned questions, but I could not help feeling a bit of a spectacle. The pain of social isolation is more intense than one can imagine. Caesar has changed that! He has to go out everyday and naturally he has to have someone to take him! People don't stop me and ask about my disability as much now, they stop me and ask about Caesar and what he does...and that is fine by me. We have met some lovely canine friends as well as their humans of course!