service dog


I’ve been wanting to give you an update on Kianna, my hearing dog.

Well, after we got home from CCI, it was havoc. Kianna, on-leash is just about the best-trained dog you can imagine. Kianna, off leash is a typical young exuberant dog that will tear into anything! She tore the wood handles off of a rocking horse a friend loaned us, she ripped up the kid’s toys; she went beserk! Added to that madness was the fact that she hadn’t been trained in my own specific sounds.

You see, CCI trains the dogs in general commands, like the base layer of a cake. It’s up to you to train your dog in the specific sounds you need your dog to hear for you, and you train them by using the technique that CCI spent 2 weeks teaching you. It sounds do-able but it can be really hard to implement and train when you are working by yourself (- like me!) and you need to teach your dog things like, “Kianna, go get Mommy”.


We haven’t worked much with the sounds.

I was feeling bad about that but I don’t anymore, because I look at our relationship with Kianna now and how well we gel. It’s  more than that though.

Moxie’s Bolting

Kianna knows that Moxie’s bolting is a problem. We’ve gotten Moxie a device that will sound off an alarm when she goes too far, but she doesn’t wear it all that time. What Kianna does is – and this is without any training, mind you – she sticks by Moxie when Moxie goes outside. Occassionally, Kianna comes and gets me. She “gets me” by nudging me, and “too far” is out of eyesight.

More often though, Kianna doesn’t get me, she just stays with Moxie. This is an enormous relief, the biggest possible help that she could provide right now, actually. I know that Moxie is safe with her, and if I call for Kianna, she will come – and Moxie follows.

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I wondered for a while if Kianna was going to become Moxie’s dog but no. It’s clear to me now that Kianna is most emphatically my dog; she is with me constantly by choice unless Moxie goes outside. Moxie. Not the other kids – she doesn’t follow MacQ or Micah around like she does Moxie. Moxie. 

I have absolutely no idea how or why that happened or work – the only answer I can give is that she senses where my worry lies – and that is absolutely with Moxie’s bolting.

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She is the best dog, ever. I’m sorry, Pugsily.

And I’ve been meaning to tell you – Pugsily was adopted by a nice local family.

We knew we couldn’t keep him because we can’t bring him with us traveling again. He simply can’t take heat, like physically, he isn’t built for it. He also can’t run and the combination of all that – his not being able to walk any amount of distance, his getting overheated and miserable all added up. When we came back here to Northern California, we saw how utterly happy he was with the weather and made the decision to let another family have him. He’s an awesome dog. He needs weather that suits him and he needs to not travel.

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So Kianna is our only dog.

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And since she loves activity, loves running and playing and working – hearing for me and watching out for Moxie – she couldn’t be working out better with us.

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I’m very aware that she can be trained to hear more for me – but I think that’s going to come with time, especially when Mikey is working less and we can work on commands together. Like, “Kianna, go get Mommy!”

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More info on Service Dogs: Check out the website for Canine Companions for Independence (- this is the organization that I went to for Kianna)

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I’ve been in service dog training for this past week and I have one week to go. I’m talking 9-5 training and it’s hard catching up to a dog that is smarter than I am.

I’ve developed a little Q & A in anticipation of some of the questions you might have about service dogs and this whole process:

Aren’t service dogs just for the blind?

Nope. There are service dogs for just about every disability, including autism and Down syndrome! The dog that I will be partnering with is a trained Hearing Dog – a dog that has been specifically, professionally and intensively trained to work with the d/Deaf.

How long does it take to get a dog?

The whole process took me over 2 years! The application process is LONG: there is a lot of paperwork, many, many questions, an interview, then you basically have to wait for your dog to be born and raised through puppyhood

Puppies! I want one!

Oh man, the puppies we see around here are adorable! My dog is not a puppy (- she’s 2 years old) but she was raised by a puppy handler until she came to train.

So she’ll be able to tell you when someone is talking?

Yes, no, maybe so – she’ll be able to alert me to sounds that we train her on and work specifically with. It wouldn’t make sense to train her to alert me whenever someone is talking and it’d be kind of impossible to alert me to one person alone talking.

I think it makes more sense to work with her on just alerting me to voices saying “Meriah!” or “Mooooommmmmmmmy!”

What else can she alert you to?

She can tell me when the phone rings, a doorbell sounds (- not that we have a doorbell on our yurt), she can tell me pretty much anything that I train her specifically to alert me to. YES! Amazing, huh!

Do you love your dog?? Have you met your dog??

Yes, I met my dog and I cried when I did. We all did, all of us Trainees, when we all met our dogs. It was so emotional, meeting this creature that we’ve waited so long for and need so much.

“Do I love my dog?” – well – I was fighting attachment to my dog from the first time we worked together – I truly have been matched with an exceptional animal.

I want to see a picture! When are you going to post pictures?!!

My dog was raised by a puppy handler and then came to the training center for intensive training when she was old enough. Since the puppy handler put a lot of love and time into the care of my dog, the handler needs to be notified that my dog has been first pre-matched, then final-matched. Just basic consideration at work.

As soon as that happens, I WILL POST PHOTOS!!!!!!

In the meantime, check out my photos on Instagram (- I’m @meriahnichols there, if you care to follow my feed), or on the blog Facebook page (- linked here)

meriah nichols

Did I miss anything? Are you curious about something else? Ask! 


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