The last day of class finally arrived on Friday. No more lessons, no more lectures, no more getting up early to track Kender through the mud. We volunteered for the last available test slot, so we didn’t even have to check out of the hotel early. At breakfast, A’Kos and Kender cuddled up even more than they had been.
We were able to sit around the hotel for an hour or so after we got packed up, and then it was off to the mall for our public access test. Although there is no national certification for service dogs, 4 Paws has a pretty thorough test they put everybody through before issuing their own certifications. For the first part of the test, A’Kos needed to demonstrate that he could sit quietly in the Food Court without trying to get food off the floor or otherwise being disruptive. We got lunch for ourselves during this portion, and I think A’Kos just went to sleep!
For the rest of the test, Brian walked A’Kos through the mall, essentially showing that A’Kos was fully under control the entire time. The kinds of skills he needed to demonstrate were passing temptations without breaking the “close” position, remaining sitting or down if his leash was dropped or passed to a stranger, coming when called, and generally maintaining any command he was given. At the end of the test, Jessa came out to watch Brian load A’Kos into the car. We passed!
After the test, we went back to 4 Paws for paperwork and graduation. The trainers and handlers at 4 Paws went through and gave all the dogs baths for going home. We received A’Kos’ medical history, a contract with 4 Paws, his collar and tags, next month’s flea, tick, and heartworm medication, some antibiotics to prevent him from bringing the Giardia home, patches that we can sew onto a service vest or anything else we want, identification cards to keep with us when we are out in public, a 4 Paws bandanna, and a gift card to PetSmart.
Lots of people come to graduation: breeders, other 4 Paws clients, volunteers who foster and socialize the dogs, and even Junior Miss Ohio was there for our class. The building became more and more crowded, making it hard to keep track of Kender and A’Kos as I was expected to pay attention and sign paperwork. Kender really wanted to leave and kept throwing fits. Sometimes he would go and play with the toys in the play area, but if we tried to make him sit with us he went berserk. Brian eventually had to take him outside for a walk once we got our graduation pictures taken.
Kender’s two student volunteer fosters came, along with one girls’ mother. It was so sweet to see A’Kos with them. He remembered them and wanted to play and cuddle, wet as he still was from his bath. I’m a terrible person and can’t remember all their names, but I took pictures.
After all the pictures were taken, we got to sign Kender and A’Kos on the graduation banner, with all the other graduates of 4 Paws.
We left as quickly as we could, considering all the goodbyes that needed to be said to our classmates and the staff. We finally hit the road around 5pm, and we got home around 11pm after traffic jams and a stop for dinner. A’Kos was very excited to come into our home, sniffing every corner twice. Any bits of cat food that were spilt are now gone, the bunny has been properly intimidated, every rawhide bone we still had on the floor has been dug up and taken away (there were six of them!), and A’Kos claimed the lovesac in the living room for a dog bed.
The other kids were surprised to see that A’Kos was bigger than they expected. We showed them how he can do “nuzzle” and “kisses.” When Caitlin asked what “kisses” was for, we asked her what she would do if we sent A’Kos to “kisses” her when she started stomping and slamming things. Then I told her she’d been warned!
Kender is still A’Kos’ boy, though.