Dolly Pawton is a highly skilled cardiac alert dog who has made her way into the hearts of Americans far and wide. She and her human Amy Sherwood have a relationship that goes beyond a typical service dog and handler. Amy and Dolly have been inseparable from the moment Dolly was born. They work, live, and love together every moment of the day and they wouldn’t have it any other way. They hope to show others that service dogs can provide support in more ways than one and still have time to be “normal” dogs, too.
Dolly is a Service and Companion Animal, an Uncommon Combination
Service dogs are specifically trained to perform a particular skill or set of tasks to support their human handler. They are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their handlers follow guidelines that demonstrate a clear delineation between a working service dog and a dog that is a companion pet.
Service dogs are working. They are often wearing vests that ask members of the public to leave them alone so they can focus on their job. Conversely, companion animals don’t need to be left alone. Friendly pets can be approached, petted, and loved on by anyone. Dolly Pawton is different.
Dolly Pawton is a service dog who helps Amy stay safe and supports her daily life. Amy uses a wheelchair and has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, congestive heart failure, and adrenal insufficiency. Dolly is a cardiac alert dog who will signal Amy when her blood pressure drops too low or her heart rate gets too high. Dolly also assists Amy with specific tasks around the house. Dolly helps Amy with laundry, for example, by placing dirty clothes into the washing machine. But that’s not all. Amy says that Dolly is also given free time to be a normal dog. Dolly is also a companion pet.
Amy told Lakes Region Weekly, “she’s not just a service dog for me … She’s going to be able to show a lot of different things (that) a service dog can do and show that a service dog can have free time to be a typical dog.”
Amy Trained Dolly Pawton Herself
Many service dogs attend intensive training sessions over the course of months in obedience and in particular skills that will support their handler. Organizations will often raise puppies to become service animals, giving them basic obedience training along the way. Once they are partnered with a handler, they receive further training to support that individual’s needs.
Amy was there when Dolly Pawton was born and assisted in the birth which took place at Amy’s home. From that moment on, Amy and Dolly bonded and stuck together. The strength of their relationship played a major part in all they have been able to accomplish together.
Amy watched YouTube videos and put in the work herself to train Dolly. Humans emit different smells when their heart rate is high or low. Amy collected her own saliva samples and used them to train Dolly to alert to a high or low heart rate event. She exposed her to a variety of experiences to improve her skills and make her retain focus even in crowds and noise. The result was a perfectly trained service dog who would do anything to support her companion.
Amy said, “I don’t even think she’s a dog. She does so many things that humans do. She likes fireworks. I trained her to like things that move and loud noises. When we go to the fair she actually likes going on the rides. Just because one service dog doesn’t like something, doesn’t mean another can’t.”
American Humane Service Dog of the Year
Dolly and Amy have been getting some much-deserved recognition. The pair entered a nationwide contest through the American Humane Society and the Hallmark Channel. Dolly earned a top spot in the overall contest, advancing all the way to the semifinals. Then, she won the top spot as Service Dog of the Year for 2020. It’s no wonder. Dolly Pawton is highly skilled at protecting hearts and stealing them!
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Featured Image Dolly Pawton 2020 Service Dog of the Year/Facebook
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