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From Herder To Helper
Chapter 1 ~ Meet Pete

Sandra Mauerhan

Despite my limitations I have always prided myself on my independence. Only through a chance meeting did I discover what a service dog could bring to my life. At the same time, I also discovered that there is a huge disparity between the available number of Certified Service Dogs and the number of requests received by charitable training organizations. Now I am working hard to get the word out about how desperately volunteers, supporters and donors are needed by small non-profit training organizations. I hope that you will enjoy following our story as Pete and I begin our journey together as a service dog team in training.

We drove from our ranch in the Texas Hill Country to a breeder near Waco and selected Pete, an adorable smooth coated Border collie pup of four months old. Having a ranch our thought was to have a ranch dog/herd dog. Pete started showing an interest in herding the goats quickly so I wanted to have him evaluated by a trainer. As fate would have it Carol Christopherson from Florida Service Dogs, Inc. was at a friends to evaluate dogs for donation that were at the trainers. Carol and Pete hit it right off. Within a few minutes he was on lead with her and following every "command" with ease. Pete and I enjoyed watching the evaluations and he passed his herding evaluation with flying colors. When he was a bit older the trainer would be happy to accept Pete in training for herding.

Upon returning home I was talking to my husband about all of the wonderful things that Zoey (Carols hearing dog) does for her. We started thinking that Pete could help me so much and be of even more assistance as my condition degenerates. After about ten e-mails to Carol it was set. Pete and I became a team-in-(self)training!

Within just a few days a command list was set up for Pete based on what I need his assistance with. In my case there are mainly mobility issues. Pete's list includes service tasks as well as "manners" .

On December 12th Pete turned five months old and we have been together for less than two months. The use of a positive attitude in our training has proven to be our key to our learning together successfully. We are building a positive bond; Pete is becoming my partner because he wants to. Being my service dog Pete must be ready to work all of the time. We are learning what we expect from each other. Setting Pete up to SUCCEED at every opportunity makes him an eager and happy partner. I am not saying that Pete is perfect, and that I make the ideal partner, but we are constantly moving slowly forward. Since he is still a puppy I am learning to read his body language and anticipate when he is about to pounce on something. This way I can tell him "off" before he gets in trouble and he gets praised instead of told "NO!"

In our three weeks of formal training we have progressed from sit and down to sit/stay and down/stay. He has learned that "touch it" closes doors and drawers and that doing this results in a treat. "Leave it" is his least favorite command. That pre-chewed grape bubble gum on the sidewalk is soooo tempting! "Hold and tug" are difficult since he is loosing his puppy teeth. Teething has given us a great opportunity to learn redirection though. When I see him eying my favorite pair of tennis shoes ... "get your chewy".

"Get it and give" are starting to come together. He will automatically get my keys and many household items when I drop them. I am introducing him to stand/brace only with the lightest of pressure since he is not mature enough in size to fully assist me up yet.

Organizations like Florida Service Dogs, Inc. can use all types of assistance. To learn more about FSD and other non-profit service training organizations there is a wealth of information on the Internet. The site for Florida Service Dogs, Inc. is

"We provide highly trained service dogs to qualified individuals with disabilities, at little or no cost, as well as providing education and advocacy to any interested party regarding obtaining, maintaining and training of such service dogs. We also provide interested parties basic knowledge of the legal rights regarding the use of such service dogs in areas such as the public, housing and work environments."

We need Volunteers, Sponsors, and Friends.

    Volunteers: After 8 hours of service receive a FSD T-shirt, subscription to our Enewsletter, and our heartfelt appreciation.
  • Assist certified trainers
  • Man tables at events throughout the United States
  • Contact us about available dogs
  • Assist in fund raising efforts
  • Donate services (legal, printing, accounting etc.)
    Sponsors: Receive links from our website with highlighted "Sponsor" graphic, subscription to our Supporters Spotlight Enewsletter, and out heartfelt appreciation.
  • Host fundraising events
  • Provide equipment to service teams ($500.00 donation or discount of 15% or more for purchases from your business)
  • Coordinate volunteer and donation efforts within their organization
  • Donate services (legal, printing, accounting etc.)
    Friends: Subscription to our Enewsletter upon request, and our heartfelt appreciation.
  • Purchase items from our website
  • Donation of less than $500.00 or discount of less than 15%

Sandra Mauhern and her husband Chuck raise Boer and Pygmy goats and provide internet services in Barksdale, Texas. You can learn more about them at


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