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buddyand dick
VN Ch Whisperbay's Tejas Compadre, CD, WRD, DD, Assistance Dog 30SL3299 AOHSD

Buddy: Daily Making A Difference

Based on an article that appeared in Newf Tide 1Q 2000, written by Dick Shumer with  Photos by Chip and Sondra Burnette

VN Ch. Whisperbay's Tejas Compadre, CD, WRD, DD, Assistance Dog 30SL3299-AOHSD, better known as Buddy, is my second set of legs. I have a disability resulting from severe back injuries and use a cane to walk most of the time. In assistance dog terms, Buddy is known as a "walker" dog. Many assistance dogs are trained through organizations, then paired with their human partner and given additional training. I trained Buddy myself.

I have an older dog, Fagin, that I trained to assist me in walking. About four years ago, I knew that I needed to find another dog and train him before Fagin had to be retired.

Buddy was shipped to me when he was 12 weeks old. He was a very self-confident puppy and full of joy. I knew that I would need to work with him carefully so he would not lose his "up" attitude, so I made all of his training a game. I wanted Buddy to learn to focus and keep his attention on me at all times so I taught him to heel off lead before I put a leash on him.

I trained Buddy to assist me in a variety of ways for a year and a half. By the time he was three years old, he became a certified Assistance Dog. Buddy now helps me stand up, walk, climb, retrieve things and open doors. In fact, he assists me in performing more tasks than could ever be described.

Buddy opens all types of doors for me. Buddy first tests the door to make sure it opens by leaning against it. Then he pushes the door open by leaning against it and walking sideways and forward at the same time. This allows me to go through the door. Once I am clear of the door, Buddy continues to walk sideways until the door edge passes him to prevent him or me from being caught in the door.

Upon occasion, I have severe muscle cramps which cause me to fall. Buddy is trained to crawl underneath me and lift me up. He does this by crawling underneath me until my weight is on top of his shoulders. He lifts me up and carries me on his back until he finds a chair, a bench, or somewhere to place me. Buddy will stand sideways to the bench or chair and roll me over on it using his front paws to straighten me out until the muscle spasms subside.

Buddy picks up Dick's cane.

cane boat
Buddy follows Dick just in case his cane is needed in the boat

Buddy and I compete in NCA working events, and we belong to a local carting club. I trained Buddy for water and carting because I love to be around the water, and I like to hike. Training for draft exercises and water rescue exercises were essential to me in Buddy's assistance dog training. I use the water rescue exercises to swim with Buddy and he can pull me in my cart if I can't walk. Many times disabled spectators or members of local clubs comment that they would like to work their dogs in draft or water but have been afraid to try. I always encourage them to give it a try regardless of their disability.

Buddy thinks for himself. My older, retired dog, Fagin, has problems getting up sometimes. After watching my wife help the old fellow to his feet, Buddy began to go to Fagin and help him up. If he sees him struggling to stand, he will help push him to his feet. Now my retired assistance dog has an assistance dog!

Buddy has a keen sense of humor. Fagin likes to sleep out on the deck, and we keep the door cracked open so he can get inside. Once the old boy is sleeping soundly, Buddy closes the door so he can't come back inside the house. Sometimes Buddy thinks I should go to bed sooner than I want to. He runs to find my cane, without my requesting that he do so, and brings it to me. If I don't take the hint, he runs to the bed, leaps up and paws down the blanket on my side. At this point, I usually give up and go to bed.

What Buddy has been trained to do is important, but perhaps more so is his strong desire to do things for me. It's his way of showing me his love and respect. This is what gives him the drive and the need to learn. The more he learns, the more confidence I have in him. As a result, he has more confidence in himself, which gives him the desire to learn more. It's hard to go out in public when you can't walk well and sometimes fall down.


vn newf hug

at national
Dick & Buddy at the 2002 National Specialty (photo by Merri Shumer)

It gives me confidence to know he is by my side, can keep me from falling and can take care of me. Buddy is always happy, and he and I take delight in his favorite command, "Buddy hug." When I say those words, Buddy stands up on his hind legs, places his front paws on my shoulders and gives me a big hug. When his assistance packs come off, Buddy becomes as silly as a puppy again. He races around the backyard with my grandchildren and runs and plays with Fagin. Buddy is three years old, and I look forward to many years of his companionship and care. I love and respect this confident young guy. He is truly my best friend; he's my Buddy.


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