Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

London at your Service

by Kris Phillips

Service Dog PhotographI get the amazing opportunity to photograph dogs in all walks of life, but to be honest very few of them are actually employed. Miss London is a bonafide service dog. She helps her handler Lori with all sorts of daily tasks and ensures that Lori can live a full and independent life without limitation. Lori says London is a cuddler. She loves to give hugs and get some in return. She awakes every morning wanting to do something and enjoys doing all her tasks which include retrieving items from the floor, opening and closing doors and drawers, flipping light switches with her teeth. London also enjoys assisting with the laundry by putting the clothes in the laundry basket, handing them to me so that I can put them in the washer then the dryer. When the clothes are finished in the dryer and it has cooled down she will retrieve them and put them back in the basket. Now if I can teach her to fold…

London’s quite the unique pup. From a litter of four, all named for places in Europe, she’s the only one to successfully finish Service Dogs Certification. She’s even been to prison. Not because she was a naughty puppy. But because she was part of a program where inmates train little pups in all the basic skills they need to be good housemates.

While London is fantastic at her job, she’s not without a silly side. She once stole one of Lori’s prized Colorado Rockies hats. The 25th anniversary spring training hat of which a limited quantity was made. She also enjoys playing Chuck-It in the backyard. London also enjoys playing peek-a-boo and tic-tac-toe (she’s ahead 41 games to 24).

In her own words:

“Hi, I’m London Wiggle Butt Powers and the bestest service dog that Freedom Service Dogs ever trained, according to my mom but she might be showing partiality.  I’m a straight-coated labradoodle with only a nubbin as a tail, hence the nickname Wiggle Butt, since my whole body wiggles when I’m happy. Most people don’t know what a straight-coated doodle is so after awhile of explaining it, Mom tells people I’m a mini Irish Wolfhound and they actually believe it! I started training as a service dog when I was eight weeks old and even went to prison! Not because I was a naughty pup but the inmates helped me learn the basic cues and got me ready for socialization and on my way to being a service dog extraordinaire. My all-time favorite task is to push the handicap buttons that open heavy doors. I’m three years old now so I’ve been in training and working for most of my life and love it! I have two sisters and a brother but I’m the only one who made it all the way through service dog school and my siblings were adopted by wonderful families. My mom and I are known as Team Lo-Lo because both our names begin with L-O. We have our own motto and it is this: BRING IT ON! since we will do or try just about anything that people don’t think we can do. Mom has a hard time picking things up from the floor and needs help so I jump in and do that for her, for the most part. She doesn’t let me pick up her pens because I tend to chew on them.  I love to get dressed in pretty collars and bandanas but can rough house and wrestle like any boy dog. Mom calls me a her little fish hound because I love eating sardines, scallops, salmon, shrimp and lobster. I’m definitely not a morning dog, much to Mom’s dismay but she’s learned to just chill till I’m ready for the day. I’ve been on TV and I’ve never met a person I haven’t liked.”

So what does London’s handler Lori have to say about her?

“London rocks my world! As a Freedom Service Dog she gives me independence by performing tasks that people might have to do for me. She improves my quality of life and takes me out of my comfort zone to try new things. London reduces my fall risk by at least 80% because she retrieves items from the floor. The poodle in the doodle is a challenge so London not only makes me a better person but a better service dog handler. I will do anything for her and I know she would do the same. I would run in front of a bus to save my little doodle daughter.”

A tremendous amount of time & work goes into training a Service Dog. Many dogs wash out of the program and are adopted by loving families. But for those who make it, a wonderful life of mutual adoration awaits.

Though the challenge doesn’t end at graduation. Both the dogs and their handlers have to be on their absolute best all the time to ensure that Service Dogs continue to be allowed to go all the places their people can. And in recent years they’ve faced an unexpected challenge- fake service dogs causing all kinds of ruckus. While it may seem like a harmless loophole to slap a vest on a pet and pretend its a service dog. Bad manners lead to bad press and unruly pets can cause store owners enough of a headache that they begin challenging the rights of legitimate service dogs.

So please, for the sake of hard working service dogs like London, follow the rules. If your dog is not a legit, certified service dog, don’t take them places they shouldn’t go. There are lots of dog friendly places to experience without breaking the rules.

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