TRURO- Vicki MacDonald and her faithful friend Gilbert, a trained service dog, enjoy a warm welcome wherever they go.
Truro Daily News
MacDonald has spoken to people in other parts of Nova Scotia who have been told they cannot take their service dogs into businesses, but the Truro resident is very happy with the response of people in the local area to her dog, Gilbert.
“Gilbert has been with me since he was 10 weeks old and I’ve been doing his socialization training,” she explained. “This consists of taking him with me wherever I go. He’s been to grocery stores, the library, bank, doctor’s office and hospital. He goes to church with me and he goes with me when I help with youth group. I don’t think there’s a type of business he hasn’t been in and we have not had a negative experience with any of them.”
Gilbert, who had his first birthday this month, is a Therapeutic Medical Alert service dog. Rhonda Langille, of Tatamagouche, the founder and master trainer of the organization, had contacted Dal AC to see if some of the students in the vet tech program were interested in being puppy raisers. One of the students mentioned this to MacDonald and she offered to help with a pup.
“I’m still his puppy raiser but I applied for a service dog myself and the decision was made that Gilbert would stay with me. He was supposed to go to another family but they had backed out.”
MacDonald is diabetic and Gilbert is able to let her know when her blood sugar is dropping too low. He also assists her with her chronic depression and anxiety.
“If I hadn’t had him through the summer I probably wouldn’t have left my apartment,” she said. “I knew I had to get out with him so I did.”
Gilbert, who is a poodle-Labrador retriever cross, came from a kennel in New Brunswick and was tested as six weeks of age to determine whether he was suitable to work as a service dog. He now knows that when he is wearing his yellow vest he is working. While MacDonald talks he lies quietly by her chair.
When the vest is off he enjoys playing with stuffed animals in their apartment and visiting MacDonald’s father’s country property where he can chase Frisbees and balls or play in the brook.
“He has made a big difference in my life,” added MacDonald. “He has definitely become my lifeline to the community.”
More information on the Therapeutic Medical Service dog program can be found online at http://tmaservicedogs.weebly.com