Azul has had a busy 2022!
- Forward Momentum Pull (FM) - Azul leans into a leash or short handle attached to a harness to help me walk on rough terrain such as climbing hills to enjoy the hikes we both love so much. While hiking is our favorite way to enjoy this teamwork, we also use this to accomplish day to day chores such as grocery shopping, getting the mail, and having the energy to meet with our dog training clients.
- Counterbalance - This applies to 2 main needs for balance assistance for me, vertigo/dizzy spells & slippery or multi-level surfaces. To do this task, Azul will brace into a stronger stand if I pull up on his soft handle. (I never push down on my dog for bracing as this is very hard on a dog's body.) If I'm having a brief vertigo issue, I slightly tip in one direction and Azul lightly leans the opposite direction. If we are hiking in a rough environment with lots of things to step over, hills to go down, or on slippery rocks/surfaces, Azul will walk slowly at my side taking one step at a time while I hold that same soft handle.
- Medical Alerts - Azul does 3 main medical alerts for me. Migraine Alerts were his first and most valuable alert in 2022. (I'm happy to report that towards the end of 2022, my migraines are growing less frequent and therefore this is dropping off as our #1 task. YAY!) Azul will run his nose up and down my leg when he feels the need to check my status and if the migraine is about to hit or about to get substantially worse, he will do a nose nudge on my leg to tell me to take meds ASAP. This medical alert often happens 40-45 minutes before I have any sign or symptom of a need to take meds. The other reason this is extremely helpful is that I get a wide range of headaches & migraines so sometimes I might feel like a migraine is about to build then 30 min later it goes away and Azul doesn't alert in these situations. Since I don't want to live on meds 24/7, I've learned to trust Azul's nose and wait for his alert to take my meds. Azul also alerts to extreme inflammation that can strike me at any time. This is part of my autoimmune issue where any random body part can suddenly start to swell up as if it was injured. Azul will lick that area to alert the need for help. He has never enjoyed licking me since he was a puppy, but he started this behavior when I started playing with scent training for this medical issue. I was playing with this because I don't know of any other dog trained to do this type of alert and I wasn't sure if there was a scent involved or not. When Azul starts licking, I know to take my NSAID and start with ice/heat rotation to reduce the amount of swelling that takes place. And the last medical alert Azul does is an extreme vertigo/dizziness alert for when I've been pushing to hard to get something done and need to sit down before I fall down. It's totally normal at any part of day to have a moment of vertigo, but if these moments are coming frequently which causes lots of off balance pressure on the soft handle Azul wears, he will place his paw on my foot to alert the need to stop and sit down. Thankfully I don't struggle with this every day, but it tends to run in streaks where it will happen multiple times a day for several days before it goes away for a few weeks. All 3 of these alerts are life saving in their own way, allowing Azul and I do accomplish more as a team and allowing us to have more fun together having adventures.
- Retrieve Tasks - Azul learned at a very young age to pick up miscellaneous items and place them in my hand. Most often Azul is retrieving my meds, water bottle, phone, keys, and winter gloves. Azul will retrieve pretty much anything that I drop on cue. This is a cued task because I don't want him picking up things that may be dangerous such as medicine, a dropped knife, or other hazards. We have fun with this task sometimes entertaining ourselves and sometimes entertaining the public around us. I totally accidently dropped a box of bacon in the grocery store once and Azul carried it from the back of the store up to the check out much to the laughs of everyone around us. I've also handed Azul tip money before to hand over to the person who had earned it. Azul also loves to greet UPS drivers on the back porch and then carry the package into Dad. If Azul is not there, they always leave a treat for him on the package.