A little over a week ago I flew out to Wabasha, MN where, with some help, I selected a dog who will hopefully grow up to be my next service dog.
It was amazing getting to finally meet the breeder I have been talking with for almost a year, and to see and meet her dogs. I can honestly say that if my puppy is anything like her father, I will be totally blessed.
We spent hours getting to know each of the five girls in the litter using CARAT to score each dog so we could get an idea of each of their strengths and weaknesses. At some point soon I will get more into CARAT and what an awesome tool it is. Once we evaluated the pups, it was clear I had two choices.
You can click on each one to look closer. The cream poodle on the left is light blue collar, and the brindle on the right is yellow collar. The cool thing about the CARAT scoring system is that each score is neither good nor bad. A dog that is suitable for sporting has a very different profile than a dog that is suitable for police work, who has a very different profile than a dog who is suitable for service work.
“In CARAT, the components are rated on a 9 point scale ranging from -4 to +4 with the center point of 0. Each point on the scale has an operational definition.The scale is laid out on a left-to-right basis. We talk about dogs being “left shift” (-) or “right shift” (+) in terms of which way they are moving off the balanced, functional midpoint.
“The left shift (-) is a tendency towards inhibition, passive, suppression and/or avoidant behavior.
“The right shift (+)is a tendency toward activation, irritation, excitability and/or aggression.
“The midpoint – 0 – is functional, highly adaptable to a multitude of situations, has greater tolerance to a wide range of influences and stimuli.” (CARAT Intro)
So a dog who is blind would score -4, while a dog who is hyper aware of visual input to the point of being unable to process other information would score +4. It is very rare for a dog to score on the extremes of behavior, but most dogs have some left or right shifts across the board.
The last three points on the bottom of the score sheet are scored 1 through 5 with 1 being weak and 5 being strong.
While either of these pups could be suitable for service work, one of them has better structure, and is a better match to my training style. We let the pups all come out and play after testing and during that time I was able to hold and handle yellow collar and light blue collar. I knew as soon as I held her, that light blue collar was Becky. She’s everything I was looking for in a puppy, and she’s a total snuggle bug to boot!
So welcome to the family Dog as Copilot’s Gipsy Danger, known to her friends as Becky.
So why the fancy name? Two things. One, Gypsy has been my partner, my friend, my copilot, and my heart for many many years, and while I hope she will be with me for years to come, she absolutely MUST retire soon. I hope that giving Becky a little bit of Gypsy to carry with her, she would find the strength and heart to step into her pawprints.
The second thing has to do with what Gipsy Danger is. Have you seen the movie Pacific Rim? In that movie there are large monster killing machines called Jaegers. Jaegers require two pilots, joined mind to mind, to drive them. One of the Jaegers, Gipsy Danger, was driven by two brothers with the last name Becket, hence Becky.
Becky has been home with me for a full week, and I am so in love with this beautiful girl. I hope that she will be my partner for a very long time to come.