We donít know much about Xioís early life, save that he spent most of it chained outside with little or no food or water. At some point during this period the tips of his ears were injured and without the appropriate care, they became fly infested and were unable to heal properly. He will bear these scars for the rest of his life.
Fortunately, when Xio was two he was placed in a foster home with the South Dallas Humane Society. After about six months there, I was fortunate to meet him on the eve of a weekend trip to El Paso. I decided to take him along and heís been a part of my heart ever since.
Xio spent the first three months or so living with a truly amazing service dog trainer in Lewisville. I was a frequent visitor and he made the occasional trips up to Denton to spend time with me. In September of 2003, I moved back to east Texas and Xio came with me.
In January of 2004, he and I began our first obedience class together with the Tyler Obedience Training Club. After a little of two months of training (which was pretty much review for him), he and I took and passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test at the end of March. Next up is a pre-Novice obedience class which will begin preparing us for obedience shows.
It takes a very long time for even an experienced trainer to properly prepare a service dog for their role. With me at the helm, I wouldnít recommend holding your breath. But there has definitely been progress on each of our parts. Xio gives me the courage to face places and situations I simply was unable to handle before. Heís become my courage. Since heís still in training, I can only bring him with me when there is something specific I am working with him on, but with my mother usually accompanying us, I have a lot of opportunities to work with him.
Weíve been through a lot of interesting situations together. Iíve dealt with all kinds of challenges although my area seems to be better educated than average about the rights of folks with disabilities. Xio and I have been through grocery stores, malls, lumber yards, pet stores, arts and crafts festivals, Shoguns (with the chef sending roaring flames several feet into the air right at the table), a show featuring the Lippizaner stallions, and soon weíll be going to our first Willy Nelson concert. Xio has done marvelously through everything. He has got to be the calmest, most even-tempered dog Iíve ever known.
You see, Iíve found that even though heís just now starting to work on some of the tasks heíll do to mitigate my disability, just having him with me and having to focus on the training when weíre out together helps keep me focused on something other than how Iím feeling. Being able to concentrate on him helps me stay calm when Iím in public which goes a long way towards keeping my neurochemicals at normal levels.
Xio absolutely loves to work. He gets incredibly wound up and excited when I bring out his working gear. And one of the things I work hard at is making sure that going out is always a positive experience for him. Were he ever to begin to dread working in public, he wouldnít be able to do me any good. A service dog should love what they do. But I believe itís also important to give them time to just be a dog as well. So when weíre at home, he and Ginny, my momís Norfolk Terrier, spend hours out in the backyard chasing each other and arguing over toys. Ginnyís done a lot for Xio by teaching him how to play...something heíd never had a chance to do before. When I bought him his first toy not long after he came to stay with me, he literally had to learn what it was for. Itís heartwrenching to think of what he must have gone through when younger, but at the same time I know that itís a part of whatís made him what he is today. And I wouldnít change a thing.
Xio is my heart, my courage, my strength to go on. Service dog or no, he will always be with me. Heís finally found his home and his family and we wouldnít trade him for the world.