Costa is owned by Jackie and Keith Medler


Milestones
One day to Go
Full circle
While we Wait
Realistic Expectations
Chadsgrove School visit

Why a Therapy Dog?

We have had three Rough Collies in the past and genuinely thought that our days of owning a dog were long-gone. Although my love of dogs remained it just felt like a season of life that had changed and was not going to happen again……..so what changed?

I had always had an ambition to become a Puppy Walker for Guide Dogs and with the time availability of part-time work Keith & I embarked on this new adventure last June (2013) with a beautiful guide dog puppy called Rye. She was a wonderful dog and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time taking her through her puppy year. It also became apparent through personal circumstances that this puppy was actually a very therapeutic experience for me. The more we thought about this the more a new experience started to beckon on the horizon – and that was to have a dog of our own that we could completely enjoy again - as a pet - but also use to help others in a therapeutic way.

Through the PAT (Pets As Therapy) demonstration at Crufts I really felt inspired to get involved and pursue finding a puppy we could train in a very similar way to a guide dog puppy. It was completely a “no-brainer” for us to have a Rough Collie again – these dogs are so sweet natured – and we were used to the breed and for us it was the only choice.

A good friend pointed us in the direction of collielife.com and the rest is history. Costa has been with us for just over three weeks and is already really well settled in and just about to begin the adventure of life in the big wide world.

Our experience initially as dog owners over many years but more specifically as puppy walkers will be invaluable in helping us to rear Costa in the best possible way but also to help him to be confident and out-going enough to be able to be introduced to others in the context of therapy work.

We have no idea how this is going to work out. Costa is first and foremost our pet dog and if he doesn’t adapt to the role of a therapy dog we wouldn’t dream of having an unrealistic expectation of him. But whatever happens he is going to have a fun-filled sociable start to his young life and we are going to thoroughly enjoy getting out and about with him.

He has already had an introduction to wider family and friends, and to the girls at Rainbows and he is already showing very promising signs of being very sociable and loves meeting people.

Here are a couple pictures of how he’s been adapting to life with a toddler (Oliver our two-year old grandson) – quite unfazed as you can see!

 

At just over 12 weeks old - first visit to 'Rainbows' - (Brownies)

Costa had a fabulous time, he was mobbed by all the girls but took it all in his stride!

He just loves everyone he meets and everyone loves him - he's one sociable pup!!

 

Watch out for the updates as he grows up and his experiences as we take him out and about.

Next time we’ll let you know why we chose the name “Costa” – it was inspired by our experience with Rye!

Why “Costa”?


now 4 months old


Costa really is Rye’s legacy to us and so no more fitting a name than one that describes one of our best regular training excursions with Rye. It included a good long road walk of about 45 minutes down to a local retail outlet and then a training walk around Sainsbury’s that included a the typical shopping experience with trolleys, steps and lifts etc, not to mention learning to queue quietly!!. Like all dogs certain words become very familiar and with Rye one of those was “Costa’s??”. We’re sure she knew where she was going even if she never tasted the coffee – and she always enjoyed our trip into Costa’s before rounding off the whole experience by taking a bus ride home.

Naming a puppy is nearly as bad a naming a baby but then after the connection with Rye and then knowing we were going to have a tri-colour – it seemed that Costa was a perfect description of black, white or cappuccino!!!! In fairness to Costa Coffee they have also agreed that we can continue to take our Costa into their outlet when we explained that we wanted to create as many opportunities for socialising as possible in readiness for therapy work.

So has the socialising begun yet? Well most certainly yes, although Costa needs very little encouragement when it comes to meeting people as he already seems to be a very sociable little fellow. We’ve now been able to have him out and about for the last few weeks and although the walks are still very short we’ve already been looking at ways to get him into different situations. We made sure that one of his first excursions was to Costa Coffee in Longbridge where they are now taking an interest in his progress.

As I write this we are away on holiday in Cornwall – and he’s getting used to some “first” great experiences such as – Padstow Harbour – with all the strange noises of sea-gulls and the boat rigging blowing in the wind, coffee shops, the café lounge of the Metropole Hotel and a local pub at St Agnes.

We think he’s taken to it all rather well – although one spiral, metal staircase was just one thing too far!!!!

We’ve introduced him to our favourite Garden Centre - Trelawney at Wadebridge. Where quite a lot of the staff remember Rye and are really interested in what we hope to do with Costa.

We went away with a 16 week old puppy and were a bit apprehensive as to whether or not he was a bit too young to cope with it all but he’s been fabulous. We’re fortunate to have our own holiday place to go to and he’s already decided it’s home from home!

One big difference is that here we have nice soft sandy soil unlike our hard clay soil at home – and you can guess what – yes he loves to dig!!! Altogether he’s enjoying life, new experiences, lots of new people to meet – and overcoming odd quirky fears (without which he wouldn’t be a true Rough Collie!!!!) like metal staircases, white strips on other steps, people with walking sticks – but he’s rising to the challenge and getting move confident all the time.

We hope he’s going to be one adaptable puppy and so far the signs are good!! Don’t get the impression he’s a perfect pup!! He’s quite a character and very good at answering back at the moment and definitely likes his say if we’re talking too much and not including him.

He also has to get out of the mouthing stage – and stop the biting – we’re trying all the usual tactics but so far he still thinks it’s a good game – especially in the evenings when he gets even worse at it!!! But that’s just part of the process of growing up so we’re sure he will eventually stop it!!

 

And when all the excitement of holiday days out and about are done there’s nothing like chilling out back at home with your toys or even something more cosy such as Jackie’s knitting bag!!

We already have some lovely opportunities to start taking him to meet other people in a variety of places including Brownies, a local school and a drop-in coffee morning, and of course puppy classes!!

So there will be more news to follow soon…….

 

Is it design or destiny? …………I’m sure all of you who read this and who have Rough Collies yourselves will agree that this breed just lends itself to being so gentle and sensitive (always the exceptions of course – but lovable none the less!).

 

Without even having to promote this therapy dream of mine we took Costa on one of his first trips to Webbs of Wychbold, and had quite an amazing encounter. Unbeknown to us a lady who had been watching us in the shop area came over while we were sitting in the restaurant and asked if she could sit with us for a while. Slightly (but pleasantly) surprised we said “yes”. She then asked us about Costa – how old was he and what was he in training for?

When we told her she immediately and quite emotionally said that he already was a therapy as she is a long-term carer for her husband and gets very few opportunities to get out, and had always had dogs but couldn’t think of having one any longer.

The whole time she spoke to us she just sat and stroked Costa – who lapped it up of course!! She thought he was wonderful and couldn’t believe that such a young dog was so well behaved.

We were thrilled that this seemed an endorsement of everything that we would like to achieve with Costa and has been an inspiration already for us to see what possibilities are around the corner for him.

For all that we soon come back to the reality of puppy life – and at 5 months – you can guess that we’ve hit the silly phobia stage!! That means that for the moment stairs are a challenge – it all started with steps that had white strips on the edge and now it’s any stairs! So far he’s happy again to take a treat from our stairs at home and it continues to be a work in progress. He’s also trying to make a point that he definitely wouldn’t want to be a guide dog – so don’t get any ideas Jackie – “that life isn’t for me” – he doesn’t like walking sticks – and although we had thought he was getting better today he met someone with a white stick and they definitely had to be given a wide berth!

You can see he definitely has the collie pose and is even looking quite grown-up if it wasn’t for the cuddly toy that has suddenly become his favourite – it’s only taken him three months to realise that he can squeak it – and we thought he was quite clever lol!!!

Christmas is coming and with a puppy you’ll all know that they like to be part of the action too – here he is - Christmas hat at the ready!!

He really hasn’t been too bad –although left to his own devices he would be an opportunist like any intelligent Collie!! He’ll have doggie bag for Christmas – but no good leaving any enticing treats in it otherwise it would be raided long before Christmas morning!!!

Puppy classes start in earnest in January so hopefully he’ll do well and we’ll soon have some more fun and games to report.


Help – oh no, the therapy dog needs therapy!!!!!


Now I wouldn’t want to be over dramatic so must bring some balance to this!  The stair thing is, thankfully, a thing of the past! We went down to Cornwall after Christmas wondering what was going to happen as there are three steps up into our home down there. Thankfully Costa clearly had some very happy memories from his first visit because he went a little crazy as soon as he got in the garden – racing around and thoroughly enjoying himself – so much so that when we opened the front door he completely forgot about his fear of steps and happily ran up and indoors!! Never bothered him one bit - and from then he has got more and more confident on all steps.

But oh no…..just to keep us on our toes he has decided to take a dislike to certain floors and doors instead!

More of that in a moment – but first a lovely bit of our story before we get ahead of ourselves is that just before the end of term we took Costa on a first visit to the local special needs school, Chadsgrove in Bromsgrove. He was amazing!!! There was one particular “introduction” that was very moving – a little girl who is deaf, blind and unable to walk was lying in her chair and the staff asked me if it was possible to lift Costa up so that she could feel him. I did this and together I leant and he half lay down by the side of her. When she realised what it was she was feeling a lovely smile came over her face and she clearly enjoyed the whole experience. The staff said that when they can have interactions like that with her and see that kind of reaction they feel as though they have made a significant connection with her – how special that Costa could do that as well!!

We’ve since just had our second visit and as far as the children were concerned it was just as successful and Costa really seems to like being with them. One little boy who I’ll call Dan – was just lying on the floor on a mat and Costa went and lay by the side of him – totally at easy and Dan was so thrilled and excited and loved having Costa by his side. It seems even at only 6 months old Costa can sense the difference between being with these children and the crazy character he would be if I lay down on the floor with him!!! He met six or seven children in total and was happy to be stroked and fussed by them all.

So where does the need of therapy come in? Although really happy to be with the children Costa has now decided that this month’s challenge is to go through automatic doors and onto strange floors. Sounds pretty familiar to some of you collie owners who might be reading this? The problem is that this is something that we really need to work on as most buildings that we might want him to go into will have just such entrances. So you can imagine the smiles when I had to carry this hefty little fellow in as he won’t walk through the entrance! I really don’t want to re-inforce his fear and just make him worse so it was worth the embarrassment – and also the total certainty that he was completely happy once we’d got over the black mat and onto the hard floors – that’s just not quite the right way round is it??? Collies if they do have floor phobias usually don’t like the hard surfaces!

We’re just taking it all matter of fact and low key in the hope that if we aren’t fazed then neither will he be in the end. Today I took him deliberately into a High Street to begin practice walking by as many automatic doors and shop entrances as possible – you can guess I couldn’t find one that seemed to bother him! Let’s hope that by the time we go back in to school he will be a bit more chilled about the entrance.

I would love to have some photos of Costa with the children – but you will appreciate it is early days and also quite a sensitive thing and I would have to follow the protocols of the school regarding this – but if I am allowed I will put some photos up if at all possible.

Hopefully next month it will be all progress and no more phobias – watch out for the next instalment!!!

Growing Up

At nearly eight months old Costa is growing up fast now and resembling the handsome adult dog he’s going to be!

 

Here he is (left), on guard, sparrow watching!!

And again – we couldn’t resist this one when we saw it – not quite the right spelling but very apt for Lillyway Loganberry!!

 

 

 

We’ve now conquered the fears of stairs, doors, floors – or at least Costa has. We did lots of practice walks passed automatic doors without even expecting him to go through and gradually he became less and less alarmed by them until one morning when walking past Asda he just decided to go in! Since then he hasn’t bothered at all – he sometimes weighs up a new floor but generally so long as we aren’t too quick he will think about it and then carry on!

So since I last wrote now we’ve been able to walk into school and other places he was previously reticent to go into and in fact now when we park up at the school you can definitely see his reaction and eagerness to get in.  

I am honestly learning as much as Costa is about our visits to school and little things like grooming him before we go and always using the same grooming spray so that his “smell” is easily recognisable is a really important consideration, and as he has become more familiar with the children he is also becoming more vocal and in this situation this is of course a really good thing with blind and visually impaired children. They are getting used to hearing him coming, and we’re even encouraging him to “speak” to them – an interesting experience!!! We are also taking his favourite squeaky toy with us – so that the children can hear this but it also works as a great distraction and relaxation for Costa if he does get at all stressed or over excited ….. and I need a distraction that I know will work for him!!

We are still having lots of puppy fun with him, and in that respect we are enjoying being able to be more relaxed than we were with a guide dog puppy as you don’t feel we have to worry about meeting milestones in puppy development at every turn! Being truly “Collie-like” he does decide to take his own time making up his mind about things (polite speak of course for “being a little bit stubborn”) and if something is in an unusual place (even if it’s something he’s familiar with) he can really be quite insistent in trying to tell us that he thinks something’s wrong. So …….. a wet coat hung on the bottom of the banister just won’t do, a shopping bag on the kitchen work surface, a package by the front door ready to take out with us, a wet umbrella in the porch – any of these things plus anything else he considers “out of place” gets pointed out to us in no uncertain terms. I know that it’s most likely his adolescent stage that’s to blame but he does make us laugh!!

We’re now getting close to the time we can apply to PAT (Pets As Therapy) for his formal assessment for therapy work – it’s a bit nerve racking – just over a month to go!! We just hope that along with his good nature we’ve given him enough experience to be able to succeed at the assessment – although it’ll feel more like I’m being assessed. The next update, hopefully, will have news of when his assessment will be – keep a look-out for it!!

Milestones

One of the things I’ve loved about having Costa after a guide dog puppy is that we haven’t felt all the way through his puppy months that we have to reach certain milestones. We’ve just been able to enjoy him and allow him to grow up in his own time – that is until now!!

Last week I was able to start the process of registering him with Pets As Therapy – having now owned him for more than six months plus now he is nine months old. It all feels a bit scary – looking at the checklist – I know he can do it all but can he pull it all off in one assessment? I’m also sure that when the time comes it will feel much more as though I’m being assessed – fingers crossed I won’t let him down!

First requirement is his (and our) ID photos – will spare you ours but here he is (left) ready to become “official”. We’re now just waiting for an assessment date and then been told that it could be a 12 week process to complete registration if he is accepted! Meanwhile he continues to get much admiration wherever he goes – and surely we’re not biased – but he is one handsome boy!!!

Today (14th April) he has just had a marvellous afternoon meeting up with his sister, Loobylou. (right)

They had a great race around together and thoroughly exhausted themselves, but it was lovely to see them playing together again, and Julie has put some pictures on of them together in the “Owned by others” section.

He’s also off to school again tomorrow – and clearly in need of his beauty sleep as since Julie and Loobylou left us this afternoon he’s hardly put in an appearance. I’m sure these two beautiful pups will have sweet dreams tonight.

 


One day to Go!


With just one day to go before the PAT assessment Costa has had another “real-life” pet therapy opportunity – and did it with flying colours! We went into school this morning to a new class with more able children.

I said at the very beginning that I really didn’t know how this was going to work out and most importantly Costa is a family pet and we wouldn’t ask more of him than he wanted to do. What I hadn’t reckoned on was just how much I was going to learn in the process of learning what it takes to work with a therapy dog!! As Costa has been getting older the last couple of visits to the school have been good but he has also barked a couple of times – making the children jump!! This has also coincided with him literally asking at home when he wants more entertaining and so I began to think that being with the children who were more immobile and less able to interact with him was perhaps not the best option for him, and his barking was really just him asking them for something that they are just not able to give to him.

Today was a completely new situation with children who even if (as some of them are) in wheelchairs they can still talk to him, pet him and give him a treat. One or two others were able to play some games with him and one little boy walked him around the classroom on his lead. Both Costa and I really enjoyed the time and it was lovely that the children were asking questions about brushing him, what he eats and what he likes to play with etc.

It seems we are certainly going to be invited back and already the children were asking for photos of him to have in their classroom and if they can make him their class mascot – I think he might have some fans!!

So all of this on the day before his PAT assessment – I’m beginning to feel nervous – I know he can do it and I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t pass but I’m totally biased, of course!!

The application forms will be in the post tomorrow afternoon and then a nail-biting 12 week wait!!!

 

Meanwhile – one fun picture to share – just as any typical child - you can buy the fancy,
pricey toys but homemade ones are always the best!!

 

Do wish Costa all the best for tomorrow – results in about three months!

 

Full-circle!

I wasn’t expecting to write more just now but if anyone out there has been following Costa’s story you might like to see some pictures of a very exciting visit!

Rye came to see us and the two dogs got on famously.

We are so proud of Rye – she has done really well, now graduated and placed with Philip.. I’m convinced that we would never have had Costa or even considered working with PAT if it hadn’t been for Rye, so this is a very special part of his story too.

Here’s the two of them in the garden after a mad chase around

and then another one that looks as if they are holding hands!!

A final picture of Costa, taken by the assessor, after his PAT assessment. –
she was quite taken with him and without being too presumptuous
it did go pretty well - so now we wait whilst the application is processed and our references are taken up!


While we wait......


It’s almost four weeks now since our assessment but we’re not wasting that time twiddling our thumbs and wagging our tails!! Although a bit frustrating to have to wait this is still a great time to enjoy Costa maturing into one beautiful dog!!

We’re continuing to go into school and this is turning into a real treat for us all! We are getting to know each other – Costa and me getting to know the children and they have really taken to him. He is now really pleased to go into school and he really does know the “school” word and gets very excited at the prospect. It was particularly lovely today that one of the children was able to come and meet us from reception to take us to the class.

It was really interesting today to see that he is beginning to take commands from the children when they were playing with him and he would sit and wait when they were throwing the ball and then giving him the command to fetch it. One pupil told us a trick that his dog does and we even got Costa to do that – so he’s going to think of something else to teach him next week!

I’ve probably given myself a bit of a challenge too – because we were talking about how many words a dog can learn and understand, apparently it’s about 200!! We played a bit of a game and came up with about 25 that Costa already knows and now I have just until next week to teach him some more. What have I started now – no pressure!!

As well as continuing the school visits we are also getting ready to start volunteering at Acorns (the children’s hospice). We (as in Costa and me) went for our interview on Tuesday and he did really well. We can’t begin there until the PAT registration is completed but at least our volunteer’s application can be processed while we wait.

We’re a bit devoid of new photos – but were delighted to see a whole board about Costa (and with pictures that the staff had taken) when we walked into the class-room and are hoping soon that we will have permission to let you see some pictures of him with the children. The over-riding question from the children today was “has he passed his test?” – they’re just as impatient as I am to hear from PAT – and I have promised that they will be the first to see him in his PAT jacket and so they will know as soon as we walk in that he is “officially” their PAT dog!

Of course all this hard work means that he has to come home – and chill out in the most ungainly fashion!!! Think you can just about make it out that there is a dog there, somewhere, amongst all that fur!


Realistic Expectations

This journey began because of one guide dog puppy and here she is – her official “graduation” photo – I am so proud of her!!!

There is no doubt in my mind that had we not had Rye then today I would not have been able to
also share another “official” photo – of Costa’s Pets As Therapy registration!!

I said at the very beginning of this blog that we would not have an unrealistic expectation of Costa to do the therapy role if it was just not for him – but now we are also so proud of what he’s been able to achieve. He’s had a fantastic opportunity at Chadsgrove School in Bromsgrove to get used to visiting (albeit unofficially) but this has proved to be a great way to see how he gets on and I think that we all – me, Costa, the children and the staff have all loved the visits and I really hope that in the new term we will be returning on genuine Pets As Therapy visits.

This has to be considered as the end of his “training” adventures and to mark that I have permission for Julie to come into school with us for some photos. Due to stock change at PAT and also the fact that as yet I am not registered with Chadsgrove to visit officially we still won’t have any photos of Costa in his PAT jacket. Hopefully as we continue with Pets As Therapy they will also approve further photos to be released.

What great hopes we had for both of these beautiful pups – it looks like they weren’t unrealistic expectations – well done to both of them – this is only the start.

Today (16th July, 2015) was Costa's last 'unofficial' visit to Chadsgrove School, and I was delighted to tag along with Jackie and take some photos.
Chadsgrove School is a special day school for children who have a physical disability. Many pupils also have additional sensory, communication or learning difficulties.
I was really pleased to learn that Jackie has been invited back with Costa in an official capacity in the new term, below are some photos of our visit.

 

September 2016

Unfortunately this blog is being updated on a sad note as Costa became quite seriously ill, and we had to make the worst decision imaginable and say our goodbye's.
Costa will never be forgotten and lives on in many peoples hearts. God bless Costa, sleep tight x

I would especially like to thank Mae Melvin and Joan Jopson (Nithview Collies) for their help and support at a very difficult time, without them I don't know how we would have got through it.
God bless you girls x

 

 

 

 

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