A black and white photograph of Scout, a black and white border collie, stands in centre frame in front of railings. He wears an “Assistance Dog in Training” vest. He is panting as he looks just off to the left behind the camera. Photograph taken by Joleen
Scout is Joleen’s, the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Kickstarter Apprentice, assistance dog. Joleen has worked with him since he was only 13 weeks old, and he is now three! Scout has become a great addition to the team here at the museum and brings light and joy to the office with a big smile and a wagging tail. In this blog post, Joleen shares the impact Scout has made on her everyday life.
Scout has been training to become an assistance dog since he was just a puppy. He started out with his obedience training and learning how to be a dog for the first year of his life; this is very important, as an assistance dog needs to learn how to be a dog to ensure that they know how to take a break from work. During his second year of training, he started his assistance dog training. This consists of learning tasks like deep pressure therapy, heart rate alerts and responses, and lots of other tasks. Once he turned two, he started his public access training alongside developing these tasks. Public access training makes sure that he can behave in a well-mannered and focused way in public, for example ignoring other dogs or leaving food on the ground.
A coloured photograph of Joleen, Scout’s owner, holding Scout in her lap, as she sits in centre frame, with the museum office in the background. Scout looks at the camera with his belly showing, while Joleen looks down at him lovingly. Photograph taken by Minna
Having disabilities can make life quite lonely, as I struggle to live a normal daily life. This can be hard, as I struggle to go to work or even answer my own front door due to anxiety; I also have issues sleeping with constant nightmares because of PTSD, and I struggle to be in my house by myself. Sometimes I would have daily panic attacks or not be able to get my post due pain from fibromyalgia or walk down the street without having an asthma attack! But then Scout came along and made everything better – I finally had a pal and I wasn’t lonely anymore. Now with his help I can go out knowing that he will alert to passing out and oncoming anxiety attacks. I can now sleep knowing that he will wake me up from a nightmare and perform deep pressure therapy to calm me down and help me go back to sleep. I now don’t have to worry about being in pain, as Scout is able to do item retrieval. He is my best friend and my lifeline.
In the museum, we are tasked with managing the locks and lights in the mornings and evenings during the week. Because of this, Scout knows his way around the galleries and when to stop at the switches, we all find this quite funny when he runs ahead as it’s as if he is telling us to hurry up! We then go back to the office and wait for everyone to show up – even people from the main office come over just to say good morning to him (and to us of course!). Scout’s presence boosts workplace morale and starts everyone’s day off a bit happier, even if they have a bad day.
A coloured photograph of Scout in centre frame. He is curled up in a donut shape with his tongue sticking out, as he looks towards the camera, with his head resting on the floor. He wears a blue vest with text, “Task Trained and Working. Handler Dissociates, May Jump to Alert” and a blue and yellow collar. Photograph taken by Anna
Recently we had some first aid training here at the museum. I found the course really interesting, especially learning how to give CPR during COVID with just compressions and no breaths. We all learnt a lot that day about how to treat burns and how to take care of someone if they need help, and it was a lot of fun. During the course, we also had to show how we would get someone into the recovery position. Scout does heart rate alert but sometimes he just goes off visuals instead of smell; as I was laying on the ground, he kept trying to task, licking my hand (this acts as a stimulant and helps me come round quicker when I faint) and performing deep pressure therapy. This really showed the team what to look out for when he is tasking and what he could do if it were an emergency, and it also made for a funny story. Scout is still young and is seeing new things all the time, so of course he got scared we took out the CPR dummies, as he had never seen them before. However, after the first hour he was able to calm his nerves and get on with his day.
During my first month of working at the museum, I have worked on a lot of projects! In my first week, I helped set up two exhibits: there is one in the WAVES Café all about fossils and hidden habitats. One of my favourite exhibitions so far has been the Loving Earth Project. Kathy and I had to hang up multicoloured panels in the Zulu Gallery, and it took us roughly two days to just get it just right to where we wanted them. We also decided it was good idea to put some pegs and question cards out for people to write or draw their responses and add them to the exhibition, and we have had a lot of responses. At the moment we are working on many other projects, which I am excited to see come to life.