I have had the good fortune to speak at a variety of AIA conventions (national and some states). This past week I was one of several featured speakers at the Arkansas state convention.
First, I want to throw roses at the AIA Arkansas board, the speakers selection committee, and most of all Joie K. who made everything look easy, perform seamlessly, and who took every effort to make my job as a speaker so pleasant (Joie, you rock!).
Second, I want to thank Barbara Ann (another speaker whose topic was "On the Lighter Side of Dark") for sharing the wonderful story of her service dog with me. It's these moments of inception that can result in the most powerful partnerships.
Keeper is Barbara Ann's 10-year-old German Shepard that watches out for her. When Barbara Ann met her new dog, the dog's name was Peaches. She decided a new name was defiantly in order. When a service dog is matched with a new person, the new team of dog and person are trained on how to work together—much of which depends on the rapport between the two and the ability of both to communicate with each other, hence the importance of the name. During training Barbara Ann said she was puzzling on what she would like to rename the dog, knowing that it is a critical piece of core communication that she was intending on changing. Nearing the "graduation," the new dog/person team takes a journey to a new location yet unexperienced by either member. In Barbara Ann's and Peaches' training, the trip involved mass transit (both train and bus), urban city streets (which were under construction with jack-hammers, etc., with a few emergency vehicles thrown in for good measure)—in short, the most difficult of situations faced the new partners (but the best test of their partnership).
Incidentally dogs, especially service dogs, are best rewarded with praise. Upon arriving at the destination, Barbara Ann said she knelt down close to Peaches and began telling her she was wonderful, she could rely on her, and ended with, "You sure are a keeper." The trainer told Barbara Ann she just found the perfect name—Keeper.
I tell this story in tribute to Barbara Ann, her accomplishments and to honor Keeper and all the other service dogs like her who devote their lives to one master. I also tell this story to remind myself of the power partnerships, good will, and hope for the future.
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA