day one– What gear do you use?
Well, there’s been a few different things that I’ve tried out as I grew through learning exactly about working dogs and finding more gear. This looks rather nostalgic, so I’ll just give a brief description; PHOTO 1 is chocolate lab Milly, my first working dog. She was the one I had through learning about gear and dogs. She was just an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) and I had a home-made lead slip on her own lead. Then, as the year went on, I bought a proper black rope working lead, made another lead slip, and even made our first vest! Home-made out of a grey vest-top of mine, I sewed on printed patches and buckles. It was flimsy and unprofessional, and though I taught her a few tasks, I decided not to go in any strict non-dog place. We did only what I referred to as ’emergency public access’, when I simply had to bring her in because there was no other option, and this only happened a couple of times. I was respectful of working dogs from the start.
PHOTO 2 is black lab/lurcher Norbert, who I still walk now for his owner. He underwent a brief stint working for me after Milly’s family left the area, and so she left my life. Initially training him for his owner to push buttons to open doors, I talked to her (his owner) and I turned the walking into training to help me. Already having a bond with him, he learnt quickly, despite being a good age, and I used the same lead and slips I had for Milly, minus her headcollar (until I got one of my own to use on him), and decided to use a fluorescent ‘be seen’ jacket thing I’d gotten before, with again a few patches on it. He was good and I was more savvy to what I was doing, and despite the fact he only worked for a summer and a bit, and again we only did proper public access when absolutely necessary; he helped me do several things in that time that I wouldn’t have done alone, including coffee with a friend, in PHOTO 3. Not particularly fond of the bright yellow vest, I boldly searched for a good working vest online, and eventually found and purchased a OneTigris brown medium tactical vest. I attached patches and it was the best thing I’d had thus far.
Norbi was already old when I met him, and after a few trips to town, I quickly learnt he wasn’t fond of many people around, especially children, and especially in town. By the end of the year, I retired him to an ESA like Milly had been, and made plans for the new year. After failing with a puppy of my own, not for reasons related to working or training, but situational – in the new year, I met beautiful chocolate lab Charlie, with his owner who lives in the same close as me. This time, I set it off from the start. His owner was understanding and nice, and I immediately started walking him and training. Quickly, he learnt and we bonded. Using a new ‘training’ bandanna and a proper expensive blue vest with a handle, I went about public access properly as I could, recording our outings, referring to the public access test, and building things up. PHOTO 5. Working so well, but sparsely as time went on, I went ahead and after a little while, got a measured red vest to use as well – PHOTO 4. The lack of handle got to me but it looked even nicer and fit a little too well. Along with the proper lead slips I got along the way, and a headcollar similar to Milly’s I’d gotten after using a too-big Halti on Norbi, he looks what could be called ‘professional’, and we’re still training and working every so often, as I get worse in my mind and Charlie gets more foster-siblings. But anyway. That’s a very detailed explination of my gear through the years, and so the dogs I’ve worked with. One day I may find my actual own dog and actually live this life I have, but meanwhile… I’ve got Charlie.