The story of guide dog Captain Mikey

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It began as a normal day for everyone involved – the police, the humane investigator for the local animal shelter, the medical department, volunteers and staff at the shelter, the trainer (yours truly) – everyone who would become involved in Captain Mikey’s life.  You see, there were eleven three-week-old puppies and their momma living in the trunk of a car. They were for sale for $50 each. They were confiscated and awarded to the shelter. This story is about one of the puppies. His name is Captain Mikey. They all got cartoon character names.  They all didn’t make it due to health reasons.  You just don’t get anymore “underdog” than this bunch.
When Mikey was just a baby, he was like every other puppy, chasing momma for milk, romping with his siblings, giving as many puppy kisses as he could to all of the volunteers at the SPCA Tampa Bay shelter, and searching for any shoestrings he could get his teeth on. Little did we know what the future had in store for him. One of the shelter volunteers adopted Mikey when it was time, and began his training future.  He attended a basic obedience class.  When he first came to my class, he was the most boisterous, non-focused canine there.  At six months old, he was still all about being a puppy. We went through six weeks of training and there was some improvement, but he would need more training.
Around that time Mikey’s family moved out of the area.  We were all sad to see them go. We would all have special memories of little Mikey, but we knew that he was in good hands with his new family.  However, that’s not the end of the story. We kept in touch and began to see Mikey mature and grow into his new role.  Although he is the family pet, he is also a service dog for his human mom!
The little puppy that could
Due to a car accident in April 2010, Mikey’s mom has an issue with her balance and stability.  Having Mikey as her service dog allows her to have a much more mobile life than she would have without him.  Mikey positions himself around her to help with standing, walking, climbing stairs and moving around without falling. There has been a lot of effort and time devoted by

many people to take the wiggly puppy and mold him into the dog he is today – none more dedicated than his mom. Who would have thought that the little shelter dog (did I mention he’s a Pit Bull mix?) that had so many strikes against him from day one would turn out to be a hero?  I’ll tell you who – the people who saved him, healed him, trained him ,socialized him and loved him. It took everyone to believe in this dog at every step in his life.

What can you do?
We all think our dogs are special, and hey, they are! Thankfully, we don’t all need a Mikey to depend on for physical support, but I think we would all agree that we enjoy our dogs for the comfort, loyalty and comic relief they give us. My message is twofold. One: don’t count out the underdog. No matter how they enter our lives, we can always improve our lives and their skills.  And two: in this time of hectic schedules and dizzying commitments, seek help when you need it. Seek out your local shelter. Not only could they use your help (donations, time or supplies), but they are often a great source of help to the community.  Many offer low-cost spay/neuter, training classes and referrals, behavior help, and tons of information. You won’t find a more committed group of people to help your dog and you during the rough spots.  I shudder to think where Mikey and his mom would be if it not been for these people who united to save Mikey. He truly is a captain.
Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at FourontheFloor-Dogtraining.com and on Facebook.

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