Celebrating National Service Dog Month with Winston

Meet+Winston+

Meet Winston

Meghan Mullaly, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that college students love dogs, and Linfield is no exception. Chances of running into a dog as you walk across campus are high – but some of these dogs may be more than just a furry companion. 

One of these dogs is a year and a half old golden retriever named Winston. 

Winston is currently training to be a service dog. He is at phase three of four with about a year left until he is fully certified. Raechel Thomson, Winston’s owner, completes some of his training on her own, but she also utilizes an outside training facility. 

“There’s a lot of different ways you can train service dogs. You can buy them pre-trained, so you can say ‘I want this kind of dog’ and then they train it for you. Or you can do it yourself, which is what I do. I also have a trainer obviously, but we do a little bit of both,” said Thompson. 

Thomson bought Winston in May of 2021 when he was just a couple months old. According to Thomson there are certain tests a person can perform to determine if a puppy is going to pass service dog training. 

“If they have a certain personality they may fail out [of training]. [They] have to want to do stuff for you,” Thompson said.

Winston has about 1 year left of training until he’s a fully certified service dog.

 

Thomson is currently training Winston to be a psychiatric service dog for herself. Thompson has panic attacks, so Winston is learning how to support and calm her during these attacks. 

“He’s able to sense panic attacks and he can help when I am having [one], like he’ll lick my face to help [me] control my breathing,” said Thompson. 

But easing panic attacks are just one of the many tasks that service dogs can be trained to perform. Service dogs can also smell out low or high blood sugar for diabetic patients, detect seizures before they happen, detect fainting episodes, sniff out food allergies, be guide dogs for the visually impared, and so much more. 

Unfortunately, it is common for people to lie about having a service dog. People can only ask about what tasks a dog has been trained to perform, they cannot ask why a person has a service dog, which can lead to a lot of lying. 

“It sucks. It’s very often that people will fake service dogs, because technically you don’t have to have any marking on the dog to say they’re a service dog. . . it is important that if you have a service dog to know your rights,” said Thompson.

Overall though, Thomson has loved having Winston by her side and as an elementary education major, Thomson is excited to have Winston in the classroom with her when she becomes a teacher. Having a dog in the classroom will benefit her students just as much as it benefits her.

Winston on his best behavior in honor of National Service Dog month.

 

“When you have a service dog you are able to help other people too. I think it will be really cool to have the kids see somebody with a service dog, you don’t see it all that often,” said Thomson.  

September is National Service Dog month, so during these last few days of the month (as well as the rest of the year!) remember to appreciate the work service dogs do everyday.