Madonna is a true underdog who might be small, but she is mighty. She is a 2.5 lb Chihuahua who was rescued from a hoarding situation by my friend Julie. They attended some of my first scent work classes to work on increasing her confidence and I remember how shy she was the first class, staying on Julie’s lap the entire class. She took to scent work quickly and by the second class, she walked into the room like she owned the place. Madonna and Julie have continued to progress to the point that Madonna is confident enough to trial and this little dog is fast! Watch this video from a recent trial! She placed first in this search. You can see her catch odor from the start line and try to follow the scent cone directly to the hide. Julie did a good job at muscling her through the start line, but let her pick up the scent cone again and guide the search once she was through. What a gorgeous search. Great teamwork on this one!
Even cooler, Madonna was recently evaluated and certified by the Assistance Dogs of America as a service dog! Julie was born without the sense of smell and Madonna provides two invaluable services for her. Julie taught her to tell her to alert on spoiled food using he same strategies that we use for scent work. The cue for this search is “save me” 🙂 She also alerts Julie to any gas leaks! Julie says, “I wasn’t sure how I was going to train this without a command and then one day, I was home alone and suddenly, she started acting funny, going into the kitchen and coming back to me and seeking eye contact. I decide to follow her and she stood on her hind legs staring at the stove, that is when I noticed one of the burners wasn’t turned all the way off.” Of course Julie rewarded her heavily and now she will alert on gas leaks without any cues.
I love this story because it shows how BOTH Madonna and Julie took the skills that they learned in scent work class and applied them to real life. This has deepened their relationship and now Julie doesn’t eat moldy food any more. And that is worth more than any ribbon!