Mom took me out to a Target Store. The first thing she noticed is there was not a landscaped area for me to potty at before we went in. She had to go out a ways into the parking area to find a median with rocks.  But I was so distracted by a dog barking in a nearby car that I didn't want to go. So mom shrugged and we went in. I looked at mom when she stopped at the door just like we have practiced at other stores. She got a cart and we started walking. There is a grocery store there and mom went up and down the isles, but it didn't seem any different from the other stores we have been in. She has me look at her a few steps before we get to an isle and she stops now and then and asks me to park.  Mom is practicing using her shoulders and a hand signal to give me a clue to which direction we would turn. The only two places she had to remind me to "leave it" was the meat case and the bread isle. My nose was drawing me towards the enticing aromas so mom picked up the pace and we walked on by. In the toy area, I could hear some children and wanted to see what they were up to, but mom turned and went the other way. I quickly forgot about them and walked very nicely through the rest of the store. The TV area made me a little nervous at first, so mom had me sit so I could catalog the sounds and then I was fine. She was chuckling to herself about when I was a brand new puppy at their house and I was afraid of the TV and Computers. I've really grown up a lot! She walked back past the meat case again and bought a loaf of bread so we could practice the check-out isle. Right behind us a lady commented to mom it was so hard not to talk to me because she loves dogs. Mom invited her to pet me and explained I am an autism therapy dog. The lady gave me a nice scratch under my chin and told me I was doing a wonderful job in the store. I parked nicely while mom bought the bread and we went on home. I like going out with my family!
 
Mom took me to the library and County Service Center for training today. The first time she took me there we only stayed a couple of minutes. This time, mom walked me up and down book isles and asked me to sit or lay down while she paged through books. She kept dropping books on the floor, but I didn't even blink. Then she had me park under a bunch of tables, desks and computer stations. I understand she wants me to go under her feet and have gotten very good at it. She taps on the table and shuffles chairs, but I'm cool as a cucumber and lay my head down. She gives me a treat when it is time to get up. Next mom took me into the children's area. We sat by some big windows while mom played with some noisy toys. A lady and her daughter came up and asked if they could pet me. I sat very politely while the lady talked about missing their recently departed dog and how much the therapy dogs are appreciated in the hospital she works at. 
After going through some more book isles, mom took me to the service center next door. I did park under mom 's feet but wanted to have my nose towards the isle so I could see what was going on. At first the the funny voice calling out "now serving number X" made me a little bit anxious, but I got over it pretty fast. While we were sitting there, mom listened to a group of cognitively disabled adults in the coffee area talk about the cute black doggy-doggy-dog. They looked so excited mom asked them if they would like to pet me on our way out. We went from table to table and each person petted me with a big grin on their face. I can tell I made them very happy by letting them shake my paw and sitting when they asked. We could hear them talk about me all the way to the elevator.  I love meeting new people!
 
Every week we visit a mall to practice my manners. Mom doesn't take me into the stores yet, but we do go through the food court. So far we've been to three different malls and mom is planning to visit a new one soon.  Little sis never went walking in malls before they got me because she was afraid of crowded noisy spaces and often ran away screaming.  I help little sis with her anxiety because she has to focus on hanging onto a short leash and staying with the group. I am Rocky the Wonderdog!
 
What a busy week I've had. On Monday I took a shot at the Canine Good Citizen test. I passed almost everything! The one area I need to work on is not jumping on friendly strangers. I just love meeting people and get soooo excited and while I try to sit for petting, I can't quite contain myself just yet. But my family and friends all know I'm getting better every week. Trainer Lynnda predicted to mom last summer I'd probably pass when I am around 18 months old; I'm still a puppy at 14 months.  
Mom met up with Lynnda at a training club for open ring time. I'd never been there before and had lots to get used to. First of all, I wasn't allowed to meet the other dogs. I watched them though, they sure were doing a good job listening to their trainers.  I did my best to follow mom's directions and did some awesome recall and sit/stay work. There were some strange noises coming from the warehouse above the space so I got kinda spooked after a while. But mom knows the first time I go somewhere is the hardest, and as she brings me there more often I will get used to it. 
Mom also took me to the library for the first time this week. She had to pick up a reserved item and had me sit while she searched the shelf. Then we went through the self checkout and I parked perfectly under her feet. Next, she took me into the County Service center that is attached to the library. She sat down in some bench chairs that reminded her of a bus and asked me to park under her feet. There were lots of people waiting and a strange intercom voice telling people when their number was called. We only stayed a few minutes but I did a good job.
 
On Saturday we went to the big mall. Every time I go I get more comfortable with the routine. I even recognize the doors where mom takes me out for a potty break. One hallway had a man in a walker, a wheel chair, three stroller families and other folks all coming towards us at once. None of this fazed me and I didn't even flinch. When we got to the center atrium, we saw one of little sis's school social workers and she proudly introduced me to him.  He was pleased to meet me since little sis talks about me all the time. Oops, I did jump when he got too close and looked directly at me, but he backed up and I laid down when mom asked.  Next, we had a snack. The girls had a clementine and I got treats while I practiced parking.  Look how perfectly I parked under mom's legs! She told little sis when we ride public transportation I will need to know this skill. Our typical visit to the mall is about 45 minutes, after which both little sis and I are ready to go home.
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Little sis and I at the mall
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Perfect parking under mom's legs
 
This week when we went to the mall, mom let me wear the Easy Walk harness instead of the Gentle Leader. The previous visit, I kept dropping to the floor and trying to rub it off my nose. I kinda get obsessed about it. So I was much happier with the Easy Walk and mom thought I didn't pull any more than usual. She did grab my collar when I saw that seeing eye dog coming towards me to prevent me from visiting. And I started to jump when a kiosk worker tried to pet my head.  If these people ignore me I can stay focused on my job. I parked under the table perfectly this time while the girls had their snack. It is fun to go to the mall! Little sis likes it too. Mom commented that she rarely went out before they got me. Now little sis has the important job of hanging onto her short leash and she gets to see the world. She even brought a quarter to buy a squinky toy in the gumball machine. She is learning that all the vendor tables have cool stuff but we can window shop without buying.  I also remind her to keep moving because I can not wait very long while she looks at the jewelry and toys!
 
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They put the stuff in the crate so I can look out the window.
I saw the suitcases and knew something was up. Mom clipped me to my outside cable and I watched as they put my travel crate and pillow in the car. I wasn't worried while they loaded the rest because if my stuff is in the car I get to come too! Soon everyone got in and off we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa. I'm a pretty good traveler now and take turns watching out the window and napping. When they stopped for a break I did my biz right away. When we got there, they put me out on a 20-foot cable so they could unload the car. I barked and wagged every time they walked past. Soon mom put me on a leash and brought me inside. She and grandma had already decided by closing the doors to the bedrooms and office I could be off-leash after my initial excitement calmed down because I don't eat rugs or magazines anymore. I did a super job! Grandma has all sorts of decorations but I only sniffed at the things on the floor and didn't even mess with the Christmas tree. They put the stuffed snowmen and Santa's up on benches and then I left them alone. The rest of the relatives came and after they greeted me I kept my four on the floor almost all the time! Mom made sure someone was watching me every minute; even big sis took a turn following me around while they got ready for pie. Later, we went for a walk and I got to play on my 50-foot rope at a park. There was another dog behind a fence and we ran back and forth to play. Back at the house, little sis read me some stories and gave me hugs. Soon everyone left and it was time for bed. Mom had put my crate in the living room but I started to whine when they left me there. It was very bright because it was snowing out and nothing felt right. So dad moved my crate to their room and I settled right down. I even let mom and dad sleep till they woke up at 8:00!  Grandma gave me lots of pats and even let me lay on a bed while she showed mom her quilting projects.  After lunch they loaded the car again and we came home. Everyone was super impressed with what a good boy I was and how I've grown calmer since Thanksgiving. 
 
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. 
 
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!
 
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.