|St Francis logo on Piper's service vest.|
|The St Francis logo features a monk and dog silhouette.|
For me it was not an easy decision to switch from Southeastern Guide Dogs to St Francis Service Dogs. Southeastern is a top-notch organization with absolutely awesome dogs and trainers. Over the seven-plus years and 6 puppies I have raised for SEGD, I have watched their campus and programs blossom and their relations with PR's become increasingly more personal and gratifying. You cannot help but build close friendships with your fellow PR's and Area Coordinator, and I have even gotten to know several of the staff in faraway Florida. Especially I have looked forward to my visits to the SEGD Palmetto, Florida campus to pick up a new puppy, drop my dog off for In For Training Day, attend an AC conference, visit their Discovery Center, and best of all, the four times I've been invited down for Puppy Raiser Day, when you meet your dog's forever partner! At the Southeastern campus I always feel welcomed and appreciated.
However, since I live in southern Virginia, getting together with my SEGD PR group, based in North Carolina, can involve some serious logistics and driving. With St Francis I can actually visit their campus on a regular basis and work my puppy, Piper, with a trainer. Also it has been challenging and interesting to train service dog foundational skills, which lead up to tasks such as retrieving objects, learning how to open doors, and other jobs a dog performs for their partner. Some behaviors you teach the puppies are the same for both schools, but the word you use is different. So you say Here instead of Come, Park vs. Busy, Release vs. Take a Break, Load vs. In, etc. A little confusing at times! My two personal dogs have had to switch to the new vocabulary as well - they are becoming bi-lingual!