Coronavirus and Dogs

During this difficult pandemic, there have been many excellent questions we are receiving regarding the potential effects of coronavirus on dogs.  While the notion of an infection in a beloved family pet is distressing enough, the idea of an infection in a SD rises to a new level of concern, as SDs are lifelines for those in need.  In order to be able to address these concerns, we have been watching closely the bulletins posted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and relying on the advice of our Board President, a licensed veterinarian.

Here is some information that is important for all SD teams to know:

  1. AVMA currently has no direct evidence that coronavirus can be spread to humans through contact with the skin or fur of pets.
  2. To date, globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States.
  3. Little is known about this virus and we are learning more as we go along; to date no deaths to any animal from coronavirus have been reported.
  4. AVMA recommends that if you are Covid-19 positive and have a SD you should wear a mask and avoid kissing, hugging or sharing of any utensils or bedding until you are well again.
  5. Avoid taking your SD to a public dog park.
  6. Maintain at least two weeks of food / medications for your dog in the home at all times.
  7. Do not permit others to pet or cuddle your SD.

Update on Facility Closure and Program Services

As many of you are aware, a decision was made to close our facility out of concern for the safety of staff and students.  This closure occurred in mid-March.  At the time that the Metrocenter Mall announced it was closing, the FSDS had already put in place a plan to ensure that our training would continue without exposing program participants to any undue risks.

Facility – our decision on when we may safely reopen our doors will be made independent of the decision by the Mall to reopen.  Given the nature of our services, 100% of our students live with disabilities and many are immune-compromised.  As such, they are a high risk vulnerable population, and we will act accordingly.

Timing – at this time we anticipate that we will remain closed at a minimum until June 1st, and in all likelihood for a longer period of time.  The numbers of cases here in AZ is still on the rise and any thoughts of reopening are premature and in fact dangerous at this time.

Continuation of services – we are blessed to be able to continue providing services to all of our students.  In June of 2015 the FSDS didactic education program transitioned from in-person lessons to our online classroom.  For this reason, the didactic training has been entirely unaffected by the pandemic.  Our skills training continues via Facetime lessons, and all students receive private lessons each week, and are making good progress.  Though this is not as effective as in person lessons, this represents a reasonable alternative given the current situation and at this time appears to be working well.

Recertification – for those teams who are nearing their 3 year re-test window, we are extending the time for them to re-test until such time as it is safe for them to be in public and meet up wither at our facility, or with one of our Outreach Evaluators.  A grace period will be extended to those who submit their completed paperwork packets on time, to ensure that their certification does not lapse.

We continue to accept applications from those who are in need of a well-trained SD, and anticipate starting new classes once we are past this pandemic.  Individuals with questions are encouraged to contact us for assistance at:

Classroom News

We commend all of our students for their hard work, teamwork and cooperation during these trying times.  Their positive “can-do” attitude has enabled them to continue to succeed at their training.

Beginner Class

This class is bursting at the seams with 10 students, and all are working hard and making great progress.  This month we acknowledge the progress of all.

DeAnna/Tesia & Scooby – Scooby has mastered doing recalls around distractions. He is performing very well with doing an automatic sit when coming to a halt.
Keeta & Dani– Dani has mastered targeting the lid on the wall with her nose and is very persistent about it! This is a set up task for future service work, such as pushing handicap buttons to open doors.  She also performed well this past month with doggie push ups that includes sit, down, stand commands. That exercise is good for strengthening the core and burning pent up energy.
Henry & Solomon– Solomon has been doing great with “go find” with the item being out of sight in different areas of the house!  He has also has mastered the “closer” command and sitting automatically when coming to a halt .
Celia & Carloine– Carloine has mastered recalls with distractions and is doing great with perch work as well as tugging on a chair to build confidence in moving objects.   This sets the dog up for success with service tasks such as retrieving a wheelchair or opening cabinets
Brian & Mando– Mando has mastered the beginning stages of “go find out of sight”.  He has also performed well with being on “place” while the front door opens and closes to help with impulse control when guests come over or something is delivered.
Lindsey & Willow – Willow has mastered being able to be cued from a distance to sit/down while trainer is 10ft away! Amazing progress.  She has also mastered putting items in a bucket with it on its side. This is a set up task for future work in putting items in a shopping cart or grabbing items from shelves.
Tina & Socorro– Socorro has mastered touch with the lid on the wall and has also shown great progress in off lead work with remaining at heel side when the leash is dropped
Soyini & Coco – Coco has mastered “go find” out of sight as well and is doing great progress with cueing commands from a distance.  Coco has also done great work with holding an item in her mouth for a short period of time and giving it back to her handler on command.
Yamill & Bailey – Bailey has made great progress with “down at heelside” and automatic sit when coming to a halt.  He is improving well with touching a lid on the wall and with “leave it” commands.
John & Simari (new student – military veteran) – Simari has mastered her ” sit, stay and down-stay” commands.  She is now at work on her new release cue which is “break”.   Simari is making great progress with “give” and doing awesome with the impulse control game “its your choice”, as well as recall work.

Advanced Class

Nicole & Dakota – are completing their required 180 training hours to graduate from the program, Dakota is doing amazing at retrieving items that are on the floor such as: remotes, bags, kid toys , and giving them to handler all on his own without having to be told!  He is excellent at alerting the family when there is a crisis with Maiden and getting her the emergency help she needs.
David & Samson–  Samson is improving on his scent training to help alert David to an impending medical crisis. He is performing well with applying deep pressure and laying on David when he needs to , and doing great at his Brace command to help David off the couch and other sitting positions.
Irmarie & Bruno – Bruno has finally mastered being able to be cued “under” to allow him to work unobtrusively in public. He has become very adept at getting help when cued and retrieving Irmarie when her son is in crisis.

Shalanndra BenallyWith Sincere Appreciation

We wish to express our deep appreciation to Shalanndra Benally for volunteering her time and talent to film a video for our training program.  She has also volunteered to take on a few other graphic design projects to help the FSDS.

Arizona based Creative, Shalanndra Benally specializes in photography, documentary, graphic design, and screen printing work.  She is currently finishing her degree in Digital Culture with a concentration in Design at Arizona State University, and anticipates to graduate in May 2020. Shalanndra has worked as a graphic designer at ASU for TEDxASU, was the graphic designer and sole documentarian for the Office of American Indian Initiative, and was also the Marketing Director for Native American Heritage month (Nov. 2019). Upon graduating, Shalanndra hopes to pursue a career in design and wishes to continue producing a variety of creative content not only for herself but for independent brands as well. She is currently the graphic designer for Event and Marketing Services at ASU.

Wellness Tip

May has arrived, and while this means pleasantly warm, moderate temperatures in some parts of the country, here in the desert it means that the triple digit temperatures have arrived.  Please remember to take the following precautions to protect your dog during the warm Spring / Summer months:

  1. Limit the time your dog spends outdoors in hot temperatures; remember your dog is wearing a fur coat.
  2. Always carry an ample supply of cold drinking water for your dog, along with an appropriate travel bowl for their use.
  3. Never leave your dog in a hot car – for any length of time; a SD should be within 2 ft of the handler at all times.
  4. Inspect all working equipment, and make certain that your dog has thermal working booties for their use; pavement can be very hot and dogs can sustain serious burn injuries to the pads of their paws.  Put working booties on your dog when you leave the home at all times,and carry at least one spare bootie in your bag in case one gets lost.
  5. Purchase a life jacket for your dog if you are planning to go boating, or if you are in an area prone to flooding during monsoon and hurricane season.
  6. Always remove toys from your swimming pool so that they do not pose a temptation to your dog; a dog that wanders into a pool unattended can drown.
  7. Always supervise your dog when they are outside playing; snakes, scorpions, poisonous toads and other venomous critters are an ever-present threat.
  8. Keep your dog on a short lead, and remember to avoid bushes where snakes can hide.  Rattlesnakes occur each year to dogs who sniff under bushes and rocks when out on walks.
  9. Bring a portable battery powered fan and a spray bottle of water to keep your dog cool if you are planning to attend a BBQ or outing (once the stay at home orders are lifted).
  10. Avoid shaving your dogs fur in the summer, as this can increase their risk of sunburn.

Heat-related illness and injury can be devastating, and in some cases fatal, yet they are so easy to prevent.  Be vigilant, stay safe.

Thank You!

Our sincere thanks to the following individuals / organizations who have supported the FSDS during the month of April:

  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
  • Valerie Schluter
  • Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand

Your commitment to help us fulfill our mission is appreciated.

Photo Gallery

During this time when our skills training is being conducted via Facetime, we have turned to our students for photos of they and their dogs at home.  We hope that you enjoy  these photos submitted by students.  FSDS dogs are never kenneled.  Al dogs in training live with their handlers 24/7 and a a part of the family.

Henry and Solomon Iirmarie and Bruno John and Simari Lindsey and Willow tina and socorro Yamill and BaileyCelia and CarolineKeeta and DaniMaiden and NicoleSoyini and CocoHenry and Solomon2