I love my life as an autism Service dog. Little sis spends lots of time with me. We play fetch, tug and hide-and-seek. She giggles and smiles when I give her kisses and I help her be calm when it is time to go to bed. I love to follow the girls around the house and yard. I especially like going to and from the bus stop. Little sis has a very hard time waiting so she pets and talks to me until the bus comes. She holds onto the short leash when we go out, which keeps her from getting distracted and running away from the group. I help her calm down when she gets scared of things like glass mezzanine walls at the mall. She feeds me, a routine that helps her focus on the needs of others and adds structure to her day. Mom says I teach empathy because the girls know arguing, pushing and yelling upset me. They help put on my harness and leash and hold the door so it does not catch my tail. They are also learning to put their things away because they know I like to chew on toys, shoes and mittens. Little sis draws pictures of me and tells everyone she knows all about me. I come along when my family travels or visits relatives and am much better than a teddy bear for helping little sis feel comfortable in a new place. Mom thinks one day she might enjoy volunteering by taking me to meet people at a library, senior center or school. Taking me along as her autism service dog helps little sis interact with others and gives her purpose. I am so glad my family picked ME to be their dog. 
 
 
Little sis drew this picture for me. She said she used brown instead of black because the black pencil was broken. Notice the nice bells on my collar.  Happy Holiday to all my friends!
 
 
Mom and I walked around the mall today. It wasn't very busy considering the upcoming holiday. I sat right on cue and looked at her every time she asked. We even stopped to talk to a few people who were curious about me, but she doesn't let them pet me and tells them I'm learning to ignore people while I'm working. The hardest thing for me is when we get behind a slow group of people as I prefer walking briskly. We strolled through the food court without issue although I started to sniff the floor at one point. She sat down in a quiet spot and had me practice parking under a table. She positioned her chair so I had plenty of room in front of her feet but I was nervous about going under the table. She used hand taps and treats to encourage me to pass through like a tunnel. After I went all the way through both directions she asked me to lay down when I was right in front of her feet. I didn't want to lay down very long but she was very excited about my progress. I did it twice then she said we were all done and it was time to go home. As she was putting on her coat she dropped her hat two different times and asked me to bring it to her. I couldn't concentrate while some people were walking by, but as soon as they were gone I did what she asked. I like the mall. Mom told me if we go every week by the time I take the public access test I will have practiced 52 times! How cool is that!
 
 
Today I got to choose where I wanted to go for a  field trip. Mom held out my easy walk leash for outside walks and my service vest. I immediately bopped the service vest, sat down and looked at mom. She loaded me and the girls into the car and drove to the medium sized mall. It wasn't nearly as crowded as the big mall and I felt very comfortable since I've been there twice before. We walked around and I parked politely as the girls looked at merchandise at the kiosks. Big sis had a long turn with a remote control flipper car. Little sis didn't have any problems with the elevator today and was very good about staying with the group as she held onto her short leash. Up on the second floor she got scared about the glass walls of the mezzanine overlooking the floor below, but she felt safer after mom changed our positions and put me next to the glass wall. She asked lots of questions about why this floor didn't fall down. When the girls had a drink at the food court I parked right on cue. With a couple of redirects I tucked much closer to the table; not perfect but closer to what mom expects. I did a great job!
After we left the mall, mom wanted to take a walk in a local park since the weather was unusually warm. We stopped at home to pick up dad and headed for our usual trail. Unfortunately, I was pretty much out of control - there were so many dogs and wildlife smells they could hardly hold onto me.  I even tripped and somersaulted dad by going under his legs when a large group of barking dogs went by.  I guess I had the zoomies.  I do have to say, every dog we saw there was pulling and lunging at their leash, but they were mostly smaller dogs and their parents physically dragged them away. Maybe it was the balmy weather and lack of snow that made all the dogs crazy today. Mom decided she likes mall walking better for leash work and letting me go off-leash at the indoor dog park for run around time.  Hopefully next spring I will be ready for the trail!
 
 
Mom took me to the big mall in our area this week. I am now 13 months old and this is the mall my family is most likely to visit. It wasn't very crowded on Thursday and I walked the whole mall. Coffee shops don't faze me, but the scent of sesame chicken near the door caused me to lose focus, so we practiced going in and out the door several times until I sat politely while mom took her coat off at the entrance. She notices I feel anxious until I see the whole space when I go somewhere new. This is a big mall with an upstairs and downstairs. We rode the elevator twice and went up and down glass-sided staircases. Since it was my first visit here we only stayed long enough to walk the mall and then she took me to a park to play. 
On Saturday, she and little girl took me there again. Mom knew I would be much more comfortable after getting to know the mall ahead of time. Little sis was super excited since she doesn't go to a mall very often. She held onto her short leash while mom guided us along. Mom walks on the left of me and little sis, who is left handed, walks on the right. It was very busy with shoppers. I was comfortable and happily ate a treat every time mom asked me sit. The aroma of sesame chicken caused me to turn my head, but I mostly paid attention to mom and little sis.
Half-way up the glass-sided staircase, little sis got scared and started yelling. Mom quickly realized I needed to be on the glass side so little sis could be in the middle. There was a steady stream of people and mom was behind us, but she got us re-arranged and kept us moving. As soon as we got to the top little sis stopped yelling and felt better. We walked around the top level and then went to find the elevator. Little sis started yelling that she was scared as soon as she got in and mom said "look at your dog, that is why he is here". Another family in the elevator with a baby stroller looked shocked, but mom is used to autistic outbursts and calmly talked little sis through the situation without worrying about what other people think. I looked right at little sis and within seconds the ride was done. Little sis  got off the elevator and soon calmed down, knowing our next stop was a Jamba Juice bar. Little sis was so excited! We had to wait in line for about 10 people and little sis complained loudly about the wait. I, however, did a fantastic job. I sat politely and mom treated me frequently.  A guy behind us asked mom if he could pet me, but mom explained no eye contact was best to help me keep focus.  He looked confused but she stayed firm. She often allows elders to pet me but this guy was 30 something and should understand service dogs are there to work. 
We went to a quiet place under the escalator so little sis could have her smoothie. I laid down without being asked and watched all the people go by. Mom tried several times to get me to park under the table, but since it was my first time doing this she decide it was good enough.  She fed me lots of treats while little sis enjoyed her drink. Mom noticed I got more relaxed as I absorbed all the sounds and people going by. Then we walked around some more and even took the elevator again. Little sis said she wasn't as scared this time. I guess she is a lot like me - she needs to try things more than once to feel comfortable. She asked mom if we could come back again soon. I'm game! 
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Rocky at the mall.
 
 
Check out my new video. Mom is really pleased at how well I pay attention to little sis.
 
 
Mom noticed my front paw pads were cracking and peeling. She had been rubbing my paws with Musher's Secret, a waxy paw conditioner,  but I keep licking it off my front paws. So she got me these fine boots to wear to the bus stop. I got used to them very quickly and they keep the road salt off of my paws. I'm stylin now!
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Ultra Paws dog boots.
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What a good boy
 
 
Meet Nina, the Russian Tortoise. Nina comes to the glass and stares out of the aquarium when she wants to eat. I circle around mom to let her know I'm herding her and take her to Nina. 
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Nina the Russian Tortoise
Mom gets the food ready but I inspect it before she gives it to Nina. It smells like grass and cactus. Next mom will get fresh water. I follow her every step of the way to make sure she does things right. I always say "hi" to Nina before she eats. 
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Tortoise food
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Hello tortoise
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Good boy, Rocky! Thanks for helping!
 
 
Mom and I went practice walking at stores again. She took me to the home store we visited last week. This time, she got a cart and did a little shopping. I did a super job staying right beside her. Trainer lady had taught her to get my attention right before exiting a side isle into a larger main isle. She treated me intermittently and I am getting the hang of it! The workers are all very nice and everyone smiles at me, even the guys driving the fork lifts. I feel pretty comfortable in this kind of store now. This was my first time going through a check out. I sat very nicely while waiting in line and while the lady scanned mom's items. The lady almost petted me but pulled back just as mom asked her not to. As long as people ignore me I don't get excited and stay focused. When we got to the end of the checkout lane, mom dropped an item and asked me to pick it up, so I did. Funny thing, she dropped another item when she was putting her coat on and I had to help her again! There were several people creating distraction so she thinks I did an awesome job.  
Next, we went to the mall we visited last week. I was much more relaxed since I had been there before. The elevator didn't scare me this time and I sat very nicely next to a lady in a wheelchair.  It was pretty crowded and some people even bumped into me, so I started leaning into mom when there were more people around. One little girl and her mom commented that I was the third working dog they had seen that day! The parents are very good about telling their kids they can't pet me, but some seniors came up and wanted to learn all about me. They didn't understand much about autism and mostly wanted to talk about the therapy dogs that visited their senior center. I sat quietly while they talked but was glad when mom said we needed to keep walking. We even walked through a food court because mom wanted to visit the restroom. I really like the mall and didn't want to go home but mom ignored my request to stay (pulling and looking back). I showed her though - I refused to put my paws up to get into the car so she had to heave all 60 pounds of me into the tailgate!  But I forgave her by the time we got home and took a long nap.
 
 
I love playtime at the indoor dog park!