Veterans Moving Forward provides veterans with therapy and service dogs and amongst the puppies they are raising to help veterans cope with various injuries is an assistance dog in training that is near and dear to our hearts. His name is Nathan, in honor of Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal.
Compass is sharing Nathan’s journey from birth, through his puppy “years” and into his final stages of training in our series “Life of a service dog.” We hope you enjoy Nathan’s story as he goes from a clumsy puppy to a focused service animal ready to serve our nation’s veterans.
Written by assistance dog in training Nathan with help from his human handler, Cyndi Perry.
As an assistance dog in training not only do I have to have mastery of many commands – around 30 before I am a year old, but I have to be exposed to just about anything and everything so nothing unexpected will happen when I am with the person I will be assisting.
So far, a lot of my training life has been learning about all the things in the world – sounds, shapes, smells, touches. My handler tries to show me something new every day. She is kind of my best friend and is good to me so I trust her. She makes doing new things fun. My organization – Veterans Moving Forward – is a new organization so they are seeking sources of funding so they can raise lots of pups like me to help wounded veterans.
Because a foundation in New York City wanted to learn about helping veterans they asked to meet ME! My human handler felt I was ready for the challenge, so off we were to New York!
The ride did not seem very long – I slept through most of it in my comfortable kennel. It was dark when we stopped in front of this very big building where a nice man in a crisp gray coat helped me out of the car and carried the bag with all my food and toys. Gosh, there were so many lights everywhere and lots of people walking every which way; it was a little confusing at first. My handler gave me a hug, said I was doing great and reminded me of what a special pup I was getting to stay in a very nice place – she called it a “hotel” – in the big city. So I walked with her through these funny moving doors into this big room. Lots of people stared at me as I walked across the big room. My paws slipped on the shiny floor and I had to really work to not fall down. Next we took a long ride in an elevator – I know what those are ‘cause I ride them at my handlers office. When we got to “our” room I walked around it and sniffed everything. Then took my things out of my bag – I grabbed my giraffe and was only going to cuddle for a minute but I fell asleep.
I woke up early the next morning and had my first breakfast in Manhattan, then got ready to go outside. Up until now I have not mentioned too much about the commands I have learned. Well, one of them is a word that lets me know it is ok to urinate – or pee to you and me – ‘cause humans believe there are some places I am supposed to pee and some places I am just not supposed to pee.
Do you know how long it takes to get out of a 15th floor hotel room and find some grass in Manhattan? Well, it seemed like f-o-r-e-v-e-r to me given my tiny bladder.
Later that morning on our way to the foundation I heard a sound that I had heard as a little puppy. We moved toward the sound and it got louder. When we were right next to the sound I stopped to look at it – I had heard the sound but never saw this motion with it. My handler said it was called a “jack hammer.” The man who was holding it made funny motions but smiled and waved at me when I stopped to look at him. You see when I was just a little puppy and with my litter mates and Mom Jasmine, my human Mom would play noises for us. So while some pups may be afraid of loud or wailing noises I associate these noises with the warmth and comfort of my first home, so they don’t scare me. I think “no big deal.”
We got to our meeting at the foundation on Park Avenue after so many blocks! Everyone was so impressed with my napping under the table during the meeting – little did they know that it was my usual morning nap time! They invited me into an office with windows that went from the floor to the ceiling and you could see lots of buildings and the cars and people looked so little down on the street. Then it was time to go.
On the way back to the hotel, we walked up to some men in uniforms. They pet me, talked to me and were so nice. My handler said they were police officers and they sometimes have partners who are canines too. I knew I like these guys when I sniffed them!
Then, sadly, it was time to pack up my bag, jump in my kennel and say goodbye to the big city. It was fun to see all the new stuff and meet nice people. But by the end of it I was ready for sleep. I think I slept all the way home…puppies sleep a lot!
Check back here soon when I share a story about meeting Mr. Bruckenthal, my namesake’s father.