Written by Dave Heine
Sasha Maria was an owner surrender to Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida on 4/8/2017. My name is Dave and I do transports for them as well as a lot of volunteering between other things in life. I received a call from the BTF rescue about a deaf two and a half year old Boston Terrier who needed to be picked up as soon as possible that day from the owner.
The original owners of Sasha also had another Boston terrier and a Frenchie that they decided to keep. They were very clear they wanted the deaf female Boston gone and she needed to be picked up right away or they were threatening to take her to a high kill shelter the next morning. This situation was such an emergency that there was not even time for me to get an intake sheet and fill it out. I asked the rescue some of the typical questions a transporter like me needed to know before I picked up the deaf dog. Mainly I was wondering what I am suppose to do with her after I pick her up and get her to safety. I was asked by the Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida if we would be willing to foster her because they also knew at the time we ere looking to adopt a deaf female dog. We gladly agreed that we would foster this sweet deaf dog and I drove the 90 minutes to where Sasha was located. (her name was Stella at the time).
Once I got to the owners house, I was literally handed this poor sweet deaf girl through the window of my SUV. Had to tell the owners there was not enough time to get the intake sheet and since I was not her only ride but I would be fostering her and that I needed to know when she was due for her routine vaccinations and her Heartworm preventative. The following Monday I found out from Sasha’s vet she had seen her only three times (from the time when she was 8 weeks old until they discovered she was deaf at 16 weeks old). She had never been vetted or put on Heartworm preventative. Thankfully, she was not Heartworm Positive but she went into heat five days after I got her home because she had not been spayed.
When I was leaving Sasha’s previous owners place, I was told everything was up to date with Sasha and so off we went to travel back home. Mind you, Sasha found a bed in the back of the vehicle and curled up while I talked to her owners. They also told me that Sasha was was a non-stop barker and she needed to be in a covered crate so she could not see or else she would bark. Sorry, even writing this brings tears to my eyes. Here is a beautiful creature that God created being put out like a bag of trash because her owners could not handle her disability.
The 90 minute ride home with my beautiful girl was wonderful because Sasha just laid in her new bed, all curled up in a ball and went to sleep. When we got home, we tried to have her go potty first thing but she had no interest in going, so I took her in to meet her new wife her new mommy. My little girl decided to indoctrinate the house by going potty inside (did both of her jobs at the door – she was so close). Poor girl thought that she was going to get into trouble but she didn’t.
We learned right away from Sasha that she did not know how to play with toys and if you played chase it was something that scared her. Over time I could play chase with her but my wife (her mommy) could not play chase because Sasha would get scared and cower to the ground. Sasha still cowers but hopefully with time she will learn to trust us 100%. Over the next couple of weeks, Sasha started coming out if her shell with me and I saw something very special in her. I could see she had the desire to please her people.
Fast forward to the present time. My wife has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and she is losing her finer motor skills. We were very concerned for my mom and we had discussed maybe further on down the road getting her a service dog. A service dog that was task trained would help my mother keep her independence. My wife and I thought, you know, Sasha has the temperament and the desire to become a Service Dog with the right training. I wonder if we could train her with the help of a professional trainer. We did a two week board and train with a trainer that used to work at Sea World in Orlando and now works for Off Leash K-9. She really got Sasha trained in the obedience side and my wife Tosh went to online classes to learn American Sign Language so she can communicate better with Sasha on tasks.
After her training obedience training, my wife Tosh and I have worked many hours with Sasha. I am going to guess we have spent over 50 hours doing public access training with her. Saturday, I took her to be evaluated for Canine Good Citizen Award (CGC) just to see what we needed to work on, but we were surprised when she actually passed the CGC test during her evaluation. The trainer suggested we follow up with CGC Advanced and CGC Urban and said he would help me to do her task training. We have identified about 14 tasks from the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) site that would benefit my wives continued independence in the long term.
Sasha will start her task training this weekend and also we will start prepping her for CGCA and CGCU. Our trainer also said that once she is tasked trained we should do a Public Access Test with her to complete the training. My trainer also said the task training is the easier part of all her training.
My Sasha is definitely a deaf velcro dog and prefers to be with her daddy (me) more so than with mommy (my wife) but they are slowly building confidence in each other. Hopefully with a lot of work, positive reinforcement training, and socialization, by June Sasha will be a full Service Dog for my wife and fully trained to help Tosh become more independent in the future.
Update on Sasha 3/26/18 from Dave:
So this morning Sasha Marie and I met with one of our trainers when Sasha first came to us.
As you know, Sasha Marie passed her Canine Good Citizen test last month. There are 2 other AKC Good Citizen Tests that Sasha needed to test for as part of our service dog training, Canine Good Citizen Community (CGC-A) and Canine Good Citizen Urban (CGC-U).
She passed both tests with flying colors and was awarded 2 ribbons today and will get 2 certificates in a few weeks.
Our next part of our service dog training is our task work and she will get started on that in 2 weeks. After that and we will have one more test to take that is done by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners called the Public Access Test and Sasha will be a fully trained and qualified Service Dog.
So proud of my deaf little girl. Mommy and Daddy love you bunched baby girl.