One of the cues we teach our dogs is "Snuggle". When given the cue, the dog rests its head on your shoulder. For a person with quadriplegia - this cue gives them the chance to feel their dog. It's an incredible cue.
An interesting thing happened during the meet and greet session between State Fair Demonstrations last week-end. A young man and his personal attendant came up to talk with me and to greet Belle. Belle's reaction was both instantaneous and spontaneous - she wanted to greet this man in the worst way. Until then, Belle had been a model of propriety with everyone she met. She politely offered a paw for shake, and if I released her, she would gently step next to them to get a head scritch. With this young man, however, Belle was beside herself. I asked the young man if it would be okay for Belle to do a rise on his lap and when he replied, "oh, yes!", Belle happily rose and then, unexpectedly laid her head right on his shoulder. No cue for snuggle - she just rested her head right next to his cheek and stayed there for a very long moment. Then she kissed him on the cheek. Those that were watching audibly groaned at the touching moment. It was an amazing experience to observe.
In the days since the Fair, I've related this story several times. Each time I've told it, I've been asked, "why do you think she did that?" I still don't have an answer. Although Belle has worked with several HP graduates, none of our training is specifically designed to teach the dog to single out individuals in wheelchairs for this type of greeting - yet Belle somehow knew just what to do - and how to connect best with this young man. As her foster mom - it was such a proud moment to see what she could sense and then give so freely. I know what you're thinking, "she's a golden retriever - that's what they do". Still, this was different than her typical happy greeting behavior. She really wanted to give that man a snuggle - and she doesn't typically (at least with me) offer snuggle except on cue.
I'll never know what prompted her incredible response. I'm just so glad I could witness it.
Lu, you've done a marvelous job of training a LOVING and SENSITIVE dog to do the right thing at the right time. That's one incredible achievement! and what a dog! Congratulations to both of you. (What a lucky young man her new owner is, too)....