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Jagger's Journey from Street to Service

Hearing Dog Jagger

#JaggersJourney, the incredible story of one shaggy little stray’s amazing excursion from Street to Service.

Part 1 of Jagger's Journey...

Where it all began…I still get chills when I remember it. It was late evening, and we were driving on a busy two-lane highway at about 65 mph when we suddenly see two little white puppies happily crossing the highway – oblivious to the pick-up truck bearing down on them from one direction and my SUV from the other. Thankfully, the truck and I were able to slam on our brakes just in time. I pulled over and we jumped out of our car – circling behind to see where the pups had gone. All the commotion had obviously terrified them. They laid down quaking as we approached them. My partner went to the smaller one and I went to the other. As I approached him, he rolled over on his back – completely submissive and violently trembling. I scooped him up and held him close… and that was the moment Jagger’s Journey began.

In my arms, it became readily apparent that this little dog was in very poor shape – as was his “traveling companion”. Both pups were dreadfully thin, matted and we could smell immediately that they had serious ear infections. Their coats were full of burrs and brambles, they had no collars or tags, and they were intensely “fragrant”.  It was clear these young pups had – at best -- been living a life of neglect. And yet, shaking, they snuggled deep into our arms.

They came to my home that first night and I began to understand the depth of their lack of care. I suspect they had lived their lives to that point in some type of outdoor pen; it took almost half an hour to just get them to walk through my doorway. Once inside it was clear the inside of a home was completely foreign to them. Neither would eat from a bowl. In fact, the bowl frightened them greatly. They would only take kibble from the floor. A stuffed toy that squeaked sent them running for cover under a bookshelf. All sounds were startling. They spent that first night curled tightly together on a blanket, but they slept soundly, without a peep.

That was July 25th, 2020 and so much has happened since!

Part 2 of Jagger's Journey...

The next day we packed-up and headed to Hearing Dog. As we knew nothing about these pups, they needed to be in isolation, away from the rest of our dogs in training. We set up a little home for them in our Isolation Unit and began the process of getting them veterinary attention, fulfilling our obligations to try and locate their owners and, most importantly, working to help them feel safe and secure. That first day we knew them only as Boy Dog and Girl Dog. 

Our vet came to exam them the next day. Boy Dog and Girl Dog were underweight and dehydrated. The vet placed the little one, the female, at about six months. She had severe infections in both ears. The other, a male guessed to be about nine months, had a less critical ear infection. However, his most significant issue was the severity of his matted coat. He was matted from the tip of his tail to the tip of his nose, from top to bottom and every where in between. His matting was so extensive and thick that it was impossible to see any skin on any part of his body. And the matting was so tight that he would whimper when he was touched. His underside was so matted that his penis was matted to his belly, which meant he had been urinating on himself. As we began to get him cleaned-up we realized he had urine burns across his belly.

Boy Dog’s mats were so extensive that none of our groomers felt comfortable working with him. At a lost, we turned to our Guardian Angel, Donna Harris, my long-term vet and a great supporter of Hearing Dog. Literally within minutes of me telling her the story of our little vagabond pups she was, clippers packed, in her car and headed our way. Donna was so wonderful with the little fellow. Patient and gentle, she persevered through a nightmare of a task. The little guy had to be meticulously shaved down to his skin all over his entire body. Inch by painstaking inch the pile of hair grew and grew. She would shave for 10 minutes and give him a break, repeating the cycle over and over and over until he was completely shaved and weighed nearly two pounds less than when it began. He lost two pounds in mats! Amazingly, through it all, the little guy was an unbelievable trooper. Such a painful and frightening process and yet he was brave and stalwart and unwaveringly amiable. An absolute Rock Star! So somewhere in the midst of that harrowing experience we dubbed the sweet fellow the King of All Rock Stars – Mick Jagger! 

Part 3 of Jagger's Journey: The big question...

For the next two weeks, while Jagger was on a Mandatory Hold, we concentrated on supporting him, slowly introducing him to the world, helping him build trust, and blanketing him with love and affection. At the end of his required two-week hold several things were abundantly clear:

  • No one was looking for this remarkable pup.
  • He was an exceptionally intelligent fellow.
  • His confidence was slowly beginning to grow.
  • He was one of the most delightful, sweet-natured, willing dogs any of us had ever had the joy to meet!

Jagger, and his traveling companion - who we had named Winnie which means Gentle Friend - were now free to take their next steps in their journeys.  Since both were energetic, happy, responsive, and affectionate by nature – all important qualities for a hearing dog - we asked ourselves the obvious question:

“Could these two little strays, who literally wandered into our lives, have what it takes to become a highly trained service Hearing Dog?”

Evaluation time...So the day had arrived for our two rescued pups to be evaluated for their ability to alert to sound. Winnie was first. The doorbell rang; she never even turned her head. A siren? No, she was wandering the other end of the training room. Ducks quacking? Nah, she was busy pulling toys from the basket. Whistles? Nope. Car horn? Nadda. Smoke alarm? Dog dish hitting the floor? Dogs barking? No… No… and No…  What we came to learn was that the ear infections Winnie had arrived with were so severe that they had caused damage that had resulted in hearing loss. The hearing loss was not so extensive to interfere with her everyday life as a great companion dog; however, becoming a hearing dog was out of the question. 

Now it was Jagger’s turn to be tested.

The doorbell? Absolutely! A siren? My goodness, how exciting another sound! Ducks quacking, dogs barking, car horns, whistles, smoke alarm, falling dishes, buzzers! 

With each new sound Jagger responded enthusiastically, with curiosity, and gave his full attention. At the end of the evaluation, we looked at one another with wonder. This amazing little pup, who we rescued literally inches from the tires of a truck, had just aced his sound test with astonishing ease, confidence, and accuracy. Let his training begin!

What about Winnie? Have no fear! Our spunky, sweet "Gentle Friend" was adopted out into her perfect forever home as a companion--renamed Penny! The connection was instantaneous and Penny transitioned into her life seamlessly. She has a puppy cousin that she gets to visit and play in the backyard and has reached true celebrity with all the neighbors and friends. She has a plethora of laps to choose from and makes her rounds to visit all of her friends. She truly brings smiles to everyone who meets her! 

"Penny is absolutely fabulous. It's like she was made for me. She's the best thing that ever happened to me and she's so obedient and loving. She's got me hook line & sinker. I don't know how I ever lived without her. She's such a great little companion"

Part 5...To Foster He Goes!

You've heard the saying 'it takes a village' to raise a child, well the same can be said to raise a successful service dog -- especially one to which a home is an entirely new environment. And this is where our dedicated & life changing Foster, Kathleen, joins Jagger's Journey. 

As Jagger was a young pup and had clearly not had any socialization prior to joining us, we felt it would be important for him to spend some time in a Volunteer Foster Home. IHDI is deeply grateful for our wonderful volunteers who provide foster options for our dogs. The volunteer Fosters provide the dogs a home environment with all the routines and expectations of home living vs. kennel living. The dogs build solid house manners. Further, just by the nature of living within a family home, the dog is introduced to a wide array of socialization opportunities. Equally as important, our trainers receive critical information about how each dog behaves in a real home setting as well as out in the world with a “regular” person rather than a trainer. The feedback is a powerful tool as the trainers identify behavioral patterns and highlight areas that need training focus.

Jagger hit the jackpot with his foster, Kathleen. We were so delighted when she agreed to take on this extremely critical and demanding role for Jagger. It is a big commitment on every level – time, effort, and perhaps the biggest of all, a commitment of the heart. Jagger and Kathleen connected from their first meeting.  For Kathleen, Jagger's personal cheerleader from Day One, the first step was to build this little guy's confidence & teach him what being a dog is all about while continually monitoring his behavior, reactions and interest in his new environment all while supporting his basic needs and development as a young pup.

Exploring the World Around Him...

Jagger hit the jackpot with his foster, Kathleen. We were so delighted when she agreed to take on this extremely critical and demanding role for Jagger. It is a big commitment on every level – time, effort, and perhaps the biggest of all, a commitment of the heart.

Jagger and Kathleen connected from the first meet. As his Foster, Kathleen knew, her first tasks would be to provide Jagger routine; help him feel safe and capable so his confidence would grow and begin his never-ending socialization. For any puppy socialization is very important as they are developing. However, for a Hearing Dog, socialization is crucial. Because Service Dogs must accompany their person everywhere, it is critical that a Service Dog is comfortable, accepting, and not distracted by, the world around them. Consequently, a huge first step in a Hearing Dog’s training is socializing them with, and de-sensitizing them to, the world around them --  men, women, children, dogs, cats, bustling environments, bicyclists…. a never-ending list of people, places, and things. Because Jagger seemed to have come from a confined situation with no socialization, every single thing was new to him so Kathleen began his introduction to the World!

Part 7...He's Found His Voice!

As Jagger grew more confident and  comfortable, we began to learn he has a lot to say. He began to voice his opinions loudly and often. When on a leash, if his handler stopped to speak to someone, Jagger would grow impatient and begin to sound his discontent. Even his best dog friends would tell him enough is enough – ignoring him or walking away! Because a Hearing Dog must accompany his person in public as well as at home, a Hearing Dog must be able to keep his opinions to himself… translated that means waiting patiently with No Barking or Whining. The dog must be able to settle himself. The cue PLACE is used to help the dog learn to settle in an assigned spot and quietly wait there until released. As IHDI utilizes only Positive Reinforcement Training, the dog is rewarded when it responds to the Place cue. Initially the dog is rewarded frequently and will only be expected to maintain  being settled in his Place briefly. As his understanding of the request grows and he is better able to maintain Place, he is asked to remain, self-settled and quietly waiting, in Place for increasingly longer periods of time.

Clearly, we, and Jagger, had a lot to work on here!

Part 8: Focus on Handler...

Service dogs in public need to walk well on leash and pay attention to their partner so they are right with their handler if they're needed for work, like sound alerting. Hearing dogs must be able to work without being distracted Polite leash walking keeps service dogs out of the way of other people and away from dangerous things that may be on the ground. Learning to offer eye contact and attention takes time and starts at the very beginning of training, and helps the team stay connected. Foster Kathleen & Jagger can be seen below demonstrating that exact connection!

Part 9...

Not only do hearing dogs have to walk well in the heel position, they need to learn to be reliable even when surrounded by distractions and temptations!  In order for the hearing dog and handler to be a successful team, it is critical that the dog and partner have a solid bond. Consequently, a hearing dog should not demonstrate interest in, or garner attention from, other individuals. Jagger recently accompanied his Foster to the salon which provided a perfect training opportunity for Jagger to demonstrate his "Place" cue while ignoring all the new distractions, smells and people! This was also a great exposure outing for all that salons have to offer; the capes, multiple hair dryers, the silly smells and lots of activity! 

"Leave it" is the cue to remind the dog to ignore things that a dog may typically find interesting. Here at IHDI we use it to tell the dog to ignore other animals, food, objects, smells, and people. This cue is also very important for a dog's safety in ignoring and leaving potentially harmful items they could come in contact with while in public. In these photos you can see Jagger demonstrating his “Leave It” cue--even when tempted with a delicious dinner right in front of him! How do you think he did?!

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles + So much more..

Can you think of a memorable trip - long or short - with a best friend? Jagger can! A Hearing Dog must be able to appropriately accompany their person everywhere and travel with ease. Jagger took to travel well and has become a Stellar Traveler whether that be in his dog car seat, at the airport, or on the hiking and ski trails! When traveling in the car, due to his small size, Jagger is buckled up in the back for his safety. We promise, he will be the best back seat driver you could ever ask for!

These new environments & ways of travel are built into a Hearing Dog’s training curriculum to help ensure a safe & stress free travel for teams regardless if it's by air, foot, or wheels! During these outings Jagger experiences, and grows comfortable with, rolling suitcases, trucks driving past, the hustle and bustle of a busy airport, escalators and elevators, trains and overhead sound systems saying loud messages like “the doors are closing”, crowds of people in smaller spaces, car washes, gas station stops… the list goes on and on. We will try to introduce and de-sensitize Jagger to the vast array of lights, sounds, smells and experiences he is likely to encounter as he travels with his person throughout their world.

Work hard, play hard!

It can't be all work and no play! Though even "play" is building on Jagger's training as he continually gains confidence while exploring this great big world!

Jagger is gearing up to be the perfect adventure companion as he & his Foster Kathleen add mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, camping and so many more outdoor activities to his outdoor resume!

A match has been made!

A great deal goes into the process of pairing a hearing dog and their handler.

Clearly, the Match is critical to the success of the handler/dog team. Consequently, we weigh all the contributing factors extremely seriously. As we need to have a very thorough understanding of both person and dog, the entire matching process takes months.

Long before a Match is even considered, IHDI’s Director of People and Community (DPC) begins working with an applicant, getting to know them, and learning all about their needs, lifestyle, activities, people in their lives, work situations – all the many factors that make-up an applicant’s life.

At the other end of the equation, the Trainers are learning all about each dog in training - their energy levels, their activity preferences, their greatest motivators, their greatest strengths, and their idiosyncrasies.

As the DPC and the Trainers gain an increasingly deeper understanding of person and dogs, the discussions begin about what makes sense for a person/dog match. The IHDI team considers things like what is the energy level of the dog and how active of a lifestyle does an applicant lead? Do allergies play a factor? Is travel a large factor in an applicant’s life? What is the household composition? Are there size requirements dictated by the physical needs or conditions of the applicant? Will grooming demands be a concern? Does an applicant’s work require extended periods of “Settle Time” for the dog? How much time will the dog spend out in the community? How able is the applicant to exercise the dog and what will the exercise consist of? What activities does the applicant enjoy and how will the dog be incorporated into those activities? Does the applicant have prior experience as a dog owner and if so, what is that experience? The list of considerations is lengthy and comprehensive.

When possible, we also introduce the applicant to several dogs we have determined may be a successful fit. We observe the applicant’s reactions to each dog and listen to the applicant’s comments.

After carefully moving through this entire matching process over the last several months, the day has arrived to make Jagger’s Match.

Brianne, IHDI’s Director of Dog Operations, and Jagger, reached out to applicant Katie via a Zoom call to let her know the good news about the match! Jagger is going to Vancouver! Katie, who has been waiting for a Hearing Dog for three years, has been following Jagger’s Journey and is excited that she and her wife Kristen will be such a vital destination in this little fellow’s Journey!

Look at that tail go!

Did you know that teaching the hearing alert to dogs is a three-step process, with each step requiring the trainer to shape a behavior? Shaping is used when teaching complex behavior, and teaches that behavior in small steps that lead to the desired end behavior. In this video you will see Jagger demonstrating the touch cue with IHDI trainer Taylor’s palm.

Step 1: Learning the one-way alert (the dog hears a sound, alerts their handler with a nose bump to the leg, usually. Other physical alerts could be substituted)

  • The dog first learns the cue “touch”, where they press their nose against the trainer’s open palm. The goal is for a firm touch when cued, regardless of which hand is used, the distance of the hand from the dog, or the height of the hand (within reason for the dog’s size). This teaches the dog how to use their nose to target an object.
  • Next, the touch behavior is transferred to the knee of the dog’s handler. This is done by the trainer holding their palm near their knee and slowly getting the dog to target the knee instead of the hand through shaping, while making the hand less available to the dog. This can also be done by putting a small piece of tape on the palm and getting the dog accustomed to targeting the tape, then moving the tape to the knee. Targeting the knee is practiced with the trainer sitting, standing, and laying down.
  • When the dog has a firm knee touch, the hand and verbal cue are replaced with a sound as the cue. This is typically begins with an alarm or phone sound. It must be a sound that is easily recognizable and repeatable. The trainer plays the sound, then cues the dog to perform the knee nudge. This is repeated over days/weeks, while the trainer uses shaping to maintain a firm knee nudge and remove their verbal or physical cue until the sound alone elicits a firm knee nudge from the dog. This is also practiced with the trainer sitting, standing, and laying down.
  • Proofing this behavior to improve proficiency includes changing the location of the sound and the dog in relation to the trainer, having small obstacles between the trainer and dog (a chair or desk, a ball, etc.), and adding distractions.

Sound Alert Training Continues..

Earlier this week you saw a video of Jagger in the beginning stages of learning the alert cue for a Hearing Dog, with "touch". Teaching the hearing alert to dogs is a three-step process, with each step requiring the trainer to shape a behavior.

The dog first learns the cue “touch”, where they press their nose against the trainer’s open palm which you saw Jagger demonstrate earlier this week. The goal is for a firm touch when cued, regardless of which hand is used, the distance of the hand from the dog, or the height of the hand (within reason for the dog’s size). This teaches the dog how to use their nose to target an object.

Next, the touch behavior is transferred to the knee of the dog’s handler. You will see Jagger performing this next step of contact to the knee in this video! In the early stages, this is done by the trainer holding their palm near their knee and slowly getting the dog to target the knee instead of the hand through shaping, while making the hand less available to the dog. This can also be done by putting a small piece of tape on the palm and getting the dog accustomed to targeting the tape, then moving the tape to the knee. The tape on the door in the background of this video is there for this very exact purpose!

Training Training!

Once a Hearing Dog has grasped and mastered the touch behavior first to a trainer's palm, then making the physical contact to the knee, the hand and verbal cue are replaced with a sound as the cue. Initially, this is typically an alarm or phone sound like demonstrated in this video. The initial sound should be easily recognizable and repeatable. The trainer plays the sound, then cues the dog to perform the knee nudge. This is repeated daily over weeks, while the trainer is using shaping to maintain a firm knee nudge and remove their verbal or physical cue until the sound alone elicits a firm knee nudge from the dog. Like the previous steps we have shown through video in the last week, this can now be practiced with the trainer sitting, standing, and laying down.

Step 2 of Sound Alert

We've seen Jagger master the first step of the three-step training process for hearing dog alerts, learning the one way alert. Now we are highlighting Step Two of the training process, introducing the "show me" cue!

Step 2: Similar to touch, but not having the dog nose the person, the dog is first taught to target a new object with their body, in this case Jagger's nose. A plastic lid or disc is an easy object to start with! The trainer will drop the disc on the ground, which will usually interest the dog, and then use shaping to teach the dog to touch the disc. This contact may be accidental on the part of the dog initially, but with repetitions and clicker training, the dog learns to target the disc.

When the dog understands they should touch the disc, the cue “Show Me” is added as they perform the behavior.

Once the dog is mostly proficient with show me, a sound source is placed by the disc (a Bluetooth speaker, phone, timer, etc.). When the sound goes off, the trainer says “show me” and clicks and treats the dog for targeting the sound/disc combo. Through repetitions and shaping, the dog learns to move towards the sound, and the disc is removed so the dog is now targeting just the sound.

Step 3: Two-way alert

This is a three-step process starting with the one-way alert, adding in the "show me" cue and now bringing them both together through combining the knee nudge and "show me" into one fluid series; creating the two-way alert!

  • Now that Jagger is mostly proficient with the one-way alert and "show me", the trainers start combining them for a full two-way alert. In the two-way alert the dog alerts to the sound and then moves toward the sound. Because combining these makes the task more difficult for the dog, this step requires the trainer to initially remove distractions, obstacles, and distance that the dog was working under during the first two steps.
  • The sound will be set off, Jagger will perform the knee nudge, which the trainer will initially reward, then say “Show Me”, and reward Jagger for going to the sound. Again, using shaping, the trainer will work to maintain a firm knee nudge in any body position, and have the dog target the sound.
  • As with most cues, the full two-way alert will be proofed by adding distance, obstacles, and distractions.

Public Access Training 

Jagger’s training and preparation to become a Hearing Service Dog can be broken into two primary elements – Public Access Training and Sound Alert Training.

As a candidate program for Assistance Dogs International (ADI), IHDI’s client/ dog teams must pass the ADI Assistance Dog Public Access Certification. This evaluation serves to ensure that all teams meet the standards of training and safety for working in public and is a critical component of the client/dog team’s preparedness. A great deal of work between the trainers and the dog is invested in mastering the cues and behaviors necessary to pass Public Access Certification.

Then, in Team Training Week, the client and dog must learn to work together to achieve success as a team in their Public Access Certification. The TEAM RELATIONSHIP is key. It is imperative for a Hearing Dog Team to have a positive and strong connection. Both the client and the dog should be relaxed; there should be positive reinforcement for the dog’s good behavior; the dog should be under control; and the team should present a positive image to the public.

As you have seen over the past weeks, Jagger has spent a great deal of time being trained in a wide array of public settings. All that training will culminate in his Public Access Certification which will be conducted in a busy public setting that presents many and diverse distractions - like a mall or large retail store. Throughout, Jagger will be expected to remain focused on, and respond to, his person regardless of the distractions surrounding them.

  • Evaluation sections, all accompanied by distractions, include:
  • Controlled unload from, and load into, vehicle
  • Heel on a loose leash through the parking lot and inside environments with many distractions
  • Sit and down on command
  • Settle
  • Complete a six-foot recall
  • Respond appropriately off-leash
  • Stay focused despite sudden loud noises
  • Settle under the table/chair and remain during a meal in a restaurant

Jagger and Katie will complete their Public Access Certification on Day Seven of Team Training.

If there is a section of the evaluation in which they do not excel, our trainers will work with them on a training plan so they can be successful. We, however, are feeling extremely optimistic about their success!

Wow! What a Week it’s been, Team Week! This has been a phenomenal and momentous week in Jagger’s Journey!

Day One:

On Monday, Jagger and Katie, his new lifelong human partner, meet in person for the first time. They spend some time getting to know one another first thing in the morning. Then, throughout the day, interspersed with Katie’s classroom instruction, Katie and Jagger work together with the trainers to do short training exercises together – learning the basis of click and treat training, how to gain and maintain Jagger’s focus, utilizing verbal markers and practicing and beginning to get comfortable with some of the cues that Jaggers knows like “Sit”, “Down”, “Go Potty”, “Get Dressed” (put on his harness), “Let’s Go” and “Heel”. Jagger goes home with his Foster for the night, but by the end of Day One we have begun to build the foundation for Jagger and Katie as a Team!

Day Two:

Katie attends more classroom instruction; however, the training time spent with Jagger begins to increase. Focus is placed on building the connection between Jagger and Katie. They work with the trainers to practice yesterday’s cue as well as introducing new cues – “Touch”, “Stand” and “Leave It”. The trainers begin introducing distractions and outside training is added as well. A highpoint of Day Two… the initial introduction to Sound Alert Training! Katie watches as the Trainers demonstrate Jagger’s ability to alert to his sounds and then Katie practices the Sound Alert steps with Jagger. Coming together as a Team; Katie learning cues, training techniques and training theory; Jagger learning to trust Katie and respond to her over all else; each of them learning about the other and growing in their understanding of each other… It was a very full and challenging day! Jagger slept well that night!

Day Three:

Katie attends more Classroom Instruction but the training time with Jagger is increasing dramatically. With the trainers’ support, Jagger and Katie practice… and practice… and practice all the cues to date and add yet more cues “Wait”, “Place”, “Fix”. They practice… and practice… and practice… Sound Alerts with Katie focusing on her timing for rewarding Jagger’s responses. And, another mammoth step in this Team Training process, the trainers take Jagger and Katie on their first public outing! Within the safe and supportive guidance of the trainers, Jagger and Katie practice all their cues within the busy, bustling, distraction filled, environment of a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store. It is a powerful and fruitful day! It is so clear that Katie’s and Jagger’s bond is growing. Katie has become so attentive to every aspect of our remarkable pup and this remarkable pup is displaying a true desire to please his new companion.

Day Four:

Today was a colossal day! More practice? Yes! New Cues? Yes, “Under”, “Hup”, “Off”, “Stay”! More Sound Alert Training? Of course! But then it was off to Chautauqua Park in Boulder to spend the afternoon in a challenging training field trip! Oh my goodness! Distractions galore! Dogs, children, loud noises, sudden movement, and crowds, crowds, crowds everywhere! The field trip was topped off with the Team’s first meal in a restaurant. What a wonderful way to practice so many cues, in the realities of the world but still within the safety and comfort of the trainers’ support! As Jagger went “Under” and took his “Place” at Katie’s feet, “Stayed” patiently throughout the entire meal, it was clear that Jagger and Katie have truly come together as a team!

But wait… the greatest challenge of Day 4 was yet to come. This is the night that Jagger goes “home” (back to the hotel) with Katie. This is the point at which Jagger fully becomes Katie’s responsibility and Jagger must fully look to Katie for his leadership and care. The first time that this incredible Team is navigating the world together and without the support of staff!

Day Five:

In the morning Katie and Jagger arrive at IHDI together and report having a good first night! And then we are all off to another very full day. Learning how to be in public as a Hearing Dog Team is more than successfully responding to all the cues and sound alerts. It is also learning how to interact with others, how to set boundaries around people approaching or petting the dog, how to get multiple tasks accomplished – shopping, post office, salon, restaurants – while still staying very aware of what your dog is doing. Today was the day to practice all that and more. Jagger and Katie tackled Cues and Sound alerts inside, outside, with folks approaching them. The trainers brought them to Cabela’s Katie and Jagger worked as a Team purposefully moving through the store shopping. Today was another profound day as we watched Katie and Jagger working together through everyday challenges that will fill their world. We watched as Jagger patiently settled at Katie’s feet when she needed to attend to tasks. We watched as Katie asked and Jagger responded over and over. We watched them make eye contact and check in with one another again and again and again. It is undeniable… Jagger’s Journey has become Jagger’s and Katie’s Journey together. These two have truly found their perfect match in the world!

YAY! They did it!!!! Congratulations Jagger and Katie!

An essential step in becoming a certified Hearing Dog Team is successfully passing two critical tests – the Sound Alert Certification Test and the Public Access Test. After six long days of intense training, practicing, and building their skills together as a Team, Jagger and Katie took both of their tests Sunday. And, as we knew they would… they passed both with flying colors, qualifying them for graduation and certification.

Sunday afternoon we held our Passing of the Leash and Graduation Ceremony. What a phenomenal celebration it was. Our little remarkable pup has come so far. This scraggly, neglected stray has made the incredible, demanding, complex Journey to Certified Hearing Dog!

They Are Home!!!!

Well… Jagger’s Journey has drawn to an end.

Jagger and Katie boarded their plane at DIA and headed for Vancouver. Jagger had a fantastic first flight. Jagger and Katie utilized all their training, all their practice, and their solid bond, to navigate Denver International, conquer their first flight, manage SeaTac International and arrive safely HOME late last night.

Our hearts are overflowing with Joy. Our remarkable little pup is finally Home with his remarkable forever person! As with all our newly matched teams, our trainers will continue to work with Jagger and Katie virtually, and through on-site visits, as this Dynamic Duo continues to build their skills, strengthen their cues and alerts, and establish their routines.

Thank You so very much to each of you who have followed and supported this remarkable tale of this remarkable pup. Jagger’s Journey has now, at last, come to an end. But Jagger’s and Katie’s journey has just begun.

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