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[illustration]Nicholas pulling my wheelchair[]

About Us
Nicholas and His Partner

Last updated: 5/14/06
The illustration by courtesy of Keiko Arisaka, as a friend and as an illustrator




A dog. Called Nicky. Star of this web site.
A Labrador retriever, but often asked "He must be a mix, lab and what?"
DOB: 1/1/1996, Capricornus. Bloodtype: ???. Male(Of course neutured for the job)
1996: Entered Custom Dog Trainig Center in New Tokyo Intl. Airport, and was failed very soon.
1998: Met his partner and became just a lazy pet of her.
1999: Followed partner going to the states. Entered TOP DOG, a service dog training program in Tucson, AZ.
2000: Graduated. Certified as a service dog. Came back to Japan. From then on lives in Tokyo with the partner.
2004: Certified as a legal service dog under Japanese new assistance dogs law.
Favorite: Cats, milk, ball, ear cleaning / Detestation: Separation from his partner, nail clipping, thunder
no picture of me...just an empty wheelchair

His Partner:

A human. Webmaster of this site.
With CP(cerebral palsy) and ROP(retinopathy of prematurity), needs wheelchair, glasses and eye drops.
DOB: 11/4/19XX, Scorpion. Blood type: A. Female, in Japanese said "Blooming single"
199X: Graduated college, got a job, and was fired very soon. Started seeking a service dog.
1998: Met Nicholas and got him just as a lazy pet.
1999: Won a scholarship, went to the states. Entered TOP DOG, a service dog training program with Nicholas.
2000: Graduated training and finished studying. Came back to Japan. From then on lives in Tokyo with Nicholas.
2004: Certified as a legal service dog partner under Japanese new assistance dogs law.
Favorite: Cats, cheesecake, traveling, writing / Detestation: Mothes, going to dentist, crowded places, uncooked foods.

A "service dog" is a dog specially trained to assist daily tasks for a person with physical disability.

With some trained skills such as carrying item in its mouth, pulling cord or strap, pushing with its paws, and moving on command, service dogs assist their partners with disability by retrieving items needed or asked, supporting mobility and balance, helping to stand up or move disabled arms/legs, operating door and switch, going to get help, and so on.
About 2000 service dogs are working in the US, handreds are in Europe, also some in other countries, and in Japan there are about 30 at 2006.
Once a service dog partner(who needs and has been partnered with a service dog) got a service dog which is well-trained and meets the partner's needs, The person and dog would become a good team and support each other. Many of difficulties of daily life would be solved and the person would feel greater independence. No more worrying.

Nicholas is one of those dogs who had been specially trained since May 1999 till July 2000, at TOP DOG, a service dog training program in Tucson, AZ. After temperament testing, in a training class specially designed for service dog candidates, he was highly socialized and learned basic obedience, behavior in public, and service dog skills. After we had been certified as a new service dog team, we came back to Japan, our home country.
Nicholas is still working with me, in Japan. He has been certified under Japanese new law, too.
He has become 10 years old in 2006, and still working fine as my service dog.
Though I seldom ask him some tasks which need physical strength, he now performs more tasks and shows more gray, I feel he is more important for me than he had been before.


Partner's Needs Nicholas' Tasks Team Work
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Partner's Needs

wheelchair I am both mobility and visually impared, and had difficulty to get around. Of course I can't drive a car, also a powerchair can be dangerous, for it maybe cause a serious injury if I fall stairs or crush into an obstacle in a powerchair.
When I was a college student, I saw many changes. Friends who were in wheelchairs or had difficulty to walk, got their drivers licences and new great mobility. Friends who were blind got their guide dogs and became able to walk faster and get around without asking help. But still, I needed someone who held my hand for balance, who drove for me, or who watched my steps. I felt I was so depending and was left behind.
After graduation from the college, I started living myself and had to get around myself. To go grocery, do gabage, go to bank or drop letters to postoffice. I couldn't control my wheelchair on a curb cut or leaning sidewalk, and was about to get hit by a car for a few times. I fell down a curb and had hurt myself. Also manipulating my wheelchair all the way caused a serious back ache.

Then I read about service dogs in the US or Europe, that there are some dogs working with persons who have both mobility and visually imparement. Those dogs can pull or push wheelchair when needed, find and stop at curb, fetch dropped and rolled away small items, even if the handler can't find it. Some lead their partners in power chair in the same way that guide dogs do.

That's it! That's what I need!
In 1996 I went to the US for 4 weeks, to see practically working assistance dogs with my own eyes. I met many partners of such dogs and trainers, and went back home with much advice and encouragement from them. Then in 1999 I won a scholarship and went to the state again, that time as an exchange student. I was with my own dog Nicholas, and we entered an owner-trained service dog program there.
After 1 and half year training, my left hand and arm (weaker ones) got stronger by holding leash on my active dog, I got much better control on my wheelchair, too. I joked, "I 'm now able to do all myself, do I still need a service dog?" --Yes, I need a service dog. Nicholas, a service dog changed my life more than I had ever expected.

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Nicholas' Tasks

* Nicholas, now assists me in many ways which include;
*Helps standing up when I fall
*Pulls/pushes my wheelchair when necessary *Stops at curb *Avoids or stops at obstacles *Finds elevators or doors *Brings items I dropped or out of my reach *Feches specified object such as cane or phone by name *Opens and closes doors *Operates switches (Some pictures of these tasks are "Nicholas@Work", and more about the training at "Black Dog in AZ", our another web site.)

As I needed first, he helps me to get around. At a large mall in the states or at a narrow uneven sidewalk in Japan, he pulls my wheelchair when needed to, and he is careful for obstacles. He finds and takes me to the elevator. Now I am able to hold my meal tray on my lap by my right hand, and hold on the harness by my left hand, to have him to take me to the table, in a large food court or fast food restaurant.

If the floor or sidewalk is colored separately, I can't tell if there is a curb/step or just colored so. Then I command Nicholas "Go". He will step foward if the surface is flat, will refuse the command if there is a curb/step. Without command he usually stops at obstacles or cuts my way to crush it, it's a good help if only my attention is on him. This skill is enough for me as I am still able to see a little (and not becoming blind so soon). A wheelchair can't turn like a walking person, so Nicholas changes my direction carefully, when there is enough distance to the obstacle.

I can pick up most objects from floor if only I have enough time, so I didn't teach Nicholas so hard to pick dropped items up or turn light on/off. But he was born as a retriever, he learned himself to retrieve, and loved to hold something in his mouth. He didn't need training to pick objects up for me. He also enjoyed to pull a strap, open a door and put my sock off. He loved training and became a quick learner.
He was good at retrieving fragile objects, I taught him to fetch my glaases, because I need 2 pairs of glasses every day and often loose them. Nicholas never damage glasses.

Soon I found, that I didn't fall so often as I had done before, and the serious back ache had gone.
To reach to dropped pen, I had to stand up with grasping wheelchair or furniture and bend down slowly. This caused falling or later back ache. Now it's a easy task of Nicholas. When I stretched my arm up to reach the ceiling light switch, I fell often, too. He can help it when my condition is bad or I am in bed.
If I fall and can not stand up myself, Nicholas brings cane and/or supports my balance to stand up. Or when I need someone for help, he brings me phone.
Even I didn't expect, Nicholas resolves small difficulties and big anxiety.

Now I can do things that I couldn't, but that is not all. I don't have to overload myself anymore. I feel easy and safe when get around, and have more scope. I can find flowers, look sky and crouds up when I am out. I could go only where I must go, but now I can go anywhere I want. Thinking about tomorrow became fun.

Nicholas is just there by my side, untill his help would be needed. Knowing that he would never let me down when I need him set me free. He makes me independent, because of I know he is with me to assist, I can try to do myself.

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dog bringing a caneService dog Nicholas assists me in many ways, but people often forget that his basic skills are very simple, and that using a service dog needs hardwork and responsibility.
Moving, stopping, standing up, holding object in its mouth, pulling or drugging, releasing mouth, touching, pushing, and keeping away from danger --these are what dogs naturally do. Service dogs are trained to do these natural behaviors on command. To have solid assistance with these simple tasks by the dog, the partner(handler) is also needed skills and hardwork.
The most important thing is making a good team. To communicate each other with and without command, there must be a strong bond.

In the training class, we had been taught points to be considered before we have our service dogs to pull wheelchair, to brace or support walking, because these tasks can injury dogs if used wrong. The weight of items dog carries in its mouth or back pack are limited, too. Even if the disabled owner wants, the dog would be kept away from overloading. In our program, there was no punishment in training, just verbal correction was allowed. It is called service dog, but not for just one-sided service from dog to human. In good service dog programs in the US and Europe, well-being of working service dogs is seriously considered.

Not only the partner(disabled handlar of the dog), but also the service dog itself, and people around them should be happy. Getting a service dog is not getting a trained dog which can be used on demand, but getting a live dog and responsibilities to it and to public. The person should understand and accept whose own disability, then assess whose needs and environment, before getting a service dog. Once he/she got one, also got responsibility to keep the dog under control in public, use the dog's skill properly, and take care of the dog with respection and love to it.
When I go up slope with Nicholas, he pulls me and I also push the wheel hard. To stand up, I hold him on shoulder by my left hand, and push floor or hold the cane by right hand. A service dog is just a half of team, and the teammate, the handler should be caerful for the dog's health and lighten the burden imposed on him. I never put my whole weight on Nicholas' back nor have him to pull wheelchair for too long distance.
Unlike a machine, a dog always needs proper health and mental care. And he never does his best, if I don't do my best.

Working together with a service dog is not easy, but once the person and the dog are bonded, the dog can understand what is need, and works much likely the person's own hands and feet. For me, doing ourself -my dog and me- is more natural and confortable than having someone to do instead of me.
As we were told "Be a good team" at the graduation party, a service dog and its partner with disability is an unseparatable team, there is a very special bond between the dog and the person. They help each other, do the best for each other, and bring out the best of each other.
So when we've done something in teamwork, we both feel happy and praise each other for good job.
When I smile, Nicholas wags his tail.

Nicholas, my service dog, my partner, and a part of myself.
I love you, and I really appreciate you for you changed my life and you are always there as my co-worker.

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