Disneyland: The Most Exhausting Place on Earth (When Training a Service Dog)

 |  Apr 6th 2011  |   1 Contribution


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Kami Jewart and Kendall, her service pup in training, at Disneyland

Today we're going to take a trip to Disneyland with guest blogger Kami Jewart, who has raised five service dogs and serves on the board of Power Paws Assistance Dogs, in Ariz. Kami is a dog-lover who is passionate about helping others gain their independence through the partnership with service dogs. If you like this story, you can find more like it in the book Partners With Paws: Service Dogs and the Lives They Change, edited by Kyla Duffy.

Maria Goodavage

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The Most Exhausting Place on Earth

By Kami Jewart

The happiest place on earth is even happier with a four-month-old Golden Retriever. An integral and fun part of the service dog training experience is taking a trip to Disneyland. Sights, sounds, smells, and millions of distractions await the service dog-in-training at a Disneyland Park. People are overjoyed when they see a service dog partaking in the Disney experience, and the park and staff welcome service dogs.

Training at Disneyland is unmatched, as the pup-in-training is permitted to go on most rides. They need to remain calm while getting spun around on the teacups, and they must rest quietly at their owners feet as they soar high above Neverland on Peter Pans Magic Journey. They dont meet the height restrictions for Space Mountain or Indiana Jones, so they have to forego those rides. However, a disabled person in the theme park with a service dog can do something like the baby swap, where if there is more than one person in the party, one can ride the ride while the other waits with the dog, and then they switch. People with service dogs are advised to obtain a guest assistance card when they enter the park, which helps their Disneyland experience go as smoothly as possible.

Meeting the characters in costume is one of the important Disneyland experiences for a service dog. I didnt even think about how scary a person in a costume could be until my pup, Kendall, tried to run away from Pluto.

Another experience I wasnt prepared for was the popcorn. Part of my responsibility as a volunteer service dog trainer is to get my pup-in-training to the point where he or she will automatically ignore dropped food. Once a service dog is fully trained, he or she can be expected to not eat dropped food off the floor, but at four months old, Kendalls leave it command was not yet perfected.

Now that youre aware of my duties, take a moment to picture Disneyland and all the spilled popcorn and then think of trying to keep a four-month-old Golden Retriever away from it. Kendall took this opportunity to lunge at every morsel of salty, buttery, popcorn goodness children had inadvertently dropped throughout the park. At least we didnt have to buy Kendall any snacks!

A day at Disneyland is an exhausting experience for children and service dogs alike. Near the end of our visit, Kendall fell fast asleep while waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. When we finally got on the ride, Kendall obediently hopped into the boat and lay at my feet. I hadnt been on the ride in years, so I wasnt prepared for the entire experience. We went through the various scenes on the ride, and Kendall seemed to enjoy watching the animated pirates singing and dancing.
We were nearing the end when it happened. The boat inched up a hill and then released into a sizeable drop. Kendall had never before experienced freefall, but he sure knew the location of my lap. As the water poured in over the edge of the boat, a little wet Golden Retriever landed in my lap. Now he was comfortable, and I was soaked!

Kendall quickly recovered from the Pirates experience, splashing the other patrons as he happily wagged his soaking wet tail. We stayed to watch the parade, and Kendall couldnt keep awake long enough to be scared of the costumes or fireworks. He just dozed in my husbands lap as the colorful light show bid us farewell.

This guest post is an excerpt from the book, Partners With Paws: Service Dogs and the Lives They Change, a compilation of 50 stories that highlight the important role service dogs play in peoples lives. From both puppy raiser and service dog team perspectives, readers gain an intimate understanding of service dog training, service dog team matching, and the liberating impact service dogs have on people with both visible and non-visible disabilities.

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