K9 Heights Alumni Spotlight
In the past 3 years we have grown as a company. We have added additional trainers, and administrative staff. The dream of having a dog training business that treats clients like family was planted and it has grown in ways we could have only hoped for. We'd like to highlight and check in with our Alumni and feature some of our family members since their training began with K9 Heights.
Cienna and Opie were one of the first K9 Heights Alumni. I had the opportunity to sit down and meet up with K9 Heights Alumni and our first service dog team, Cienna and Opie, to do a spotlight feature on the duo. Cienna and Opie's journey has been quite the adventure, but their story of friendship and rescuing one another is one we couldn't keep to ourselves! Keep reading to learn more about this incredible bond they have.
Meet Opie and Cienna
K9 Heights 1st Service Dog
Breed: Black Lab
Age: 4 Years old
Trained Medical Alert and Mobility Service Dog
Professional Nap Taker and Couch Potato
Sitting Down with Cienna & Opie
Tell us about Opie and your story?
When Cienna Met Opie
Our story is one focused on Rescue. Opie had originally started training to be another person's service dog, but due to unforeseen circumstances Opie's first owner had to re-home Opie. When I met him, he was living in someone’s garage in Nov/December during a Michigan winter. We really rescued one another. I had been contemplating and talking over the prospect of getting a service dog when I learned about Opie. It was known that Opie did medical alerts, and so we set up a time to meet and see if it was a good fit. He stole my heart and preformed natural alerts for me.
The Freedom Gained from Training
After finishing his training we went to music school together. Opie's training allowed me to experience college life (we also learned that he does not like out of tune instruments, and he doesn't appreciate wrong notes) he lets the individual know with an eye roll and a sigh/moan. He would steal the spotlight at concerts by being impeccably well behaved. At the end of a piece he would also take a bow with me. Opie liked going on boat rides and training with his girlfriend Nissu. We'd go shopping, go to physical therapy, and go out to eat. He's happy to relax at the beach, enjoying a nice soak in the water while lying in the shallows.
Unfortunately, his service dog days were cut short when he developed Autoimmune Eosinophilic Meningitis, which causes him to have seizures and migraines on a regular basis. Managed with medications and lots of peanut butter, he's now living his best pet life. This consists of lots of naps, belly rubs, shredding toys and getting love from the whole family. Opie's favorite thing to do is to chase his brother Piper around the house. He also a social media influencer! He and Piper product test and model for Chronically Persevering’s Instagram page when they partner with companies, or get gifts for Opie and Piper fans. He's happiest when he gets to go on car rides and gets ice cream.
How did you get connected with K9 Heights for training?
We had the experience of meeting Eric at another training facility and enjoyed working him. When we heard they were starting K9 Heights, we followed him because we appreciated working with them. I trusted them to help us train Opie to achieve our goals.
Our training goals were to finish his service dog training, including mobility tasks, object retrieval and public access training.
What was important about finding the right trainer for you?
I had very specific goals to finalize our service dog training. We began training at another facility, but our training philosophies did not align as time went on and other people took over Opie's training. I wanted a balanced trainer who works to find the right tool for a dog's individual learning style. For a service dog, it is especially important to find the right trainer. Service dog trainers need to have a collaborative approach. The trainer needs to be able to listen and give guidance. It helps when they are empathetic and think outside of the box to help meet individual needs. The customization of tasks and obedience is incredibly important, because not everything is cookie cutter with chronic illness. Their flexibility is what drew me to K9 Heights.
What does the "K9 Heights Difference" mean to you?
To me, K9 Heights means family. There was a place where I could go weekly for Opie and I to practice working on things. We also have the camaraderie of seeing and interacting with the trainers and other alumni.
When a Service dog retires what happens?
It’s up to the handler and the organization that the dogs are trained by. Some service dog handlers might rehome their retired service dog, this can be for a few reasons. Sometimes programs maintain ownership of their dogs and will take back the dog when its ready for retirement. Other handlers can find it difficult to take care of multiple dogs. Finding Opie a new home wasn’t an option, because we don’t get rid of sick family members. However, if a new, quieter, home would have given him a better life, we would have done so for his best interest. Luckily, he's quite happy where he is. Opie's seizures caused him to forget everything except his name. He means so much to me and took care of me, now it’s my turn to take care of him. If that means helping him relearn everything, we'll do it together.
Does Opie get jealous of your new service dog now that Opie's retired?
Shortly after Opie's seizures started we quickly realized that I needed a service dog to help give me lifesaving alerts. We then got Piper, Opie's little brother, who is a wired-haired Vizsla puppy. Opie doesn’t get jealous having a little brother around, and hasn't directed any jealousy at Piper. They both get equal attention. If Piper gets training time, Opie gets training time.
Now that Piper is getting closer to be fully trained, Opie notices when Piper and I leave to practice working on public access skills. We have family that he spends time with while I'm working with Piper. Opie gets dedicated time and attention. We work on tricks and strive to spend time together still and he gets love from the entire family.
Piper and Opie have different rules since Piper is a working dog. Opie has gracefully transitioned to pet life with less structure than that of a service dog. He really enjoys being a couch potato.
What are some fun hobbies that you do to continue to build your relationship with your dog?
Mr. Opie loves to go for walks. We also play fetch with his tennis balls, and do trick training. Opie has also taken up a hobby of being a professional napper. His meds often make him sleepy so he's my cuddle buddy.
How has your life changed since working with K9 Heights?
We had a year of working as a team and it was a great adventure. Having Opie's timely alerts saved me trips to the hospital numerous times. He showed me the value of what working dogs can do. While Opie is now medically retired, before that he saved my life countless times. He’s a very happy couch potato, who is part land whale (he loves to work those puppy dog eyes for treats), and Opie is truly loving the pet life. Opie's well-being has always been our priority. We can rest assured that he has had people who put his well-being first working with him.
Thanks for Catching Up with Us
Be sure to follow Opie, Piper and Cienna's Journey on social media at @chronicallypersevering . We were so lucky to have the opportunity to be part of Opie and Cienna's story, and we cannot wait to hear about future endeavors they tackle. Have you shared your experience with K9 Heights yet? Don't forget to let us know about your experience and success. Utilize your Alumni classes and don't forget to join us for Pack Walks this summer.