Gizmo at the Museum

Gizmo and I spent Wednesday providing training for the museum personnel and enjoying the exhibits. It was a great day, but long and exhausting. We taught them about the different types of service dogs, the ADA and TX HR-121 regulations, and discussed points of etiquette for dealing with people who are disabled and their service dogs. (If you are interested in some of this information, click the “About Service Dogs” button on the menu bar above.)

Our day started early as we had to catch the 5:44 a.m. train, ride half an hour, and then walk three blocks before our first training session at 6:30 a.m. This was mainly for the security officers coming off the night shift. They asked lots of questions, and I did my best to answer them while Gizmo napped. After that session ended, we received a behind the scenes tour of the museum, and then had about an hour to relax. Relaxing consisted of reviewing Gizmo’s training (as we do every day), and practicing a new task. Then we played a bit of fetch in an empty hallway. I wonder if we were entertaining to the staff monitoring the security cameras—hmmm, I should have thought of that before now.

The second training session was mid-morning, in a large auditorium. Gizmo stayed right with me, and the presentation went perfectly as planned. After I finished, a few people came forward to visit and ask more questions. They were all dog-lovers, and so very kind to us. Gizmo was getting a bit fidgety, so I made everyone happy and let Gizmo greet our new friends and receive lots of petting. After saying hi and checking them all out, he returned to me and settled at my feet.

We were then invited by one of the museum librarians (I didn’t know museums had libraries let alone librarians—I learned another new thing) to come hang out in the library rather than sit alone in the Green Room. I promptly accepted and accompanied her back to her office where I met the other librarians and got another behind the scenes tour. Gizmo and I were also invited to join a couple of them for lunch. We had a great visit, discovering many things we have in common, and I learned even more about the museum.

After lunch, I had about two hours free before the last training session at 3:00 p.m. Gizmo and I took advantage of that time to visit a number of galleries. I enjoyed looking at the exhibits, while Gizmo got a workout practicing his DOWN, STAY, SIT, HEEL, SIDE, WAIT, BRACE, LEAVE-IT, and SAY-HI commands, given as whispers or hand signals. Unfortunately my back gave out before I got to see everything, so we went back to the Green Room where I took some pain medicine and stretched out on the couch. When my host came to check on me, he realized why I need a service dog. He was really impressed how attentive Gizmo was, how he picked up everything I dropped, how he brought me things I asked for from across the room, and how he seemed to anticipate my needs.

For the last session, I was able to sit on a tall chair behind the podium. I don’t think it was my best performance, as I was hurting a lot, but I got a positive response from the group. By the end of the day, we had trained about sixty people, and made a number of new friends. We were invited to come back anytime as their guests.

Riding home on the train, we had the opportunity to visit with at least a dozen more people about service dogs, what they do, and how they are trained. I am a teacher at heart, and love these chances to share with others. I believe Gizmo is a great representative for other service dogs, and I try my best to be a good representative for those living life with both visible and invisible disabilities. My hope is that the more people learn about service dogs, the more they will also learn about people with disabilities, and the more kind and understanding they will be with their fellow humans in general.

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