Who’s that Pooch?
The All Natural Country Store Mascot
Does So Much More Than Charm Customers
That’s a common question when people first open this website and see that cute little pup. Her name is Peggy Sue, mascot for the All Natural Store. When things get a little frazzled with customers, or when a store associate needs help in handling a particular challenge, Peggy has a way of keeping us all grounded. It’s amazing how she can keep us all calm, and realize we have a lot to be grateful for. But this four-legged, furry creature is so much more.
Peggy Sue is a registered service dog. Alan won’t step out of the store without Peggy Sue by his side. A little run-in with his ticker in 2006 resulted in a stint that now resides in one of Alan’s coronary arteries, and eventually led to Peggy taking up permanent residence in his heart as well.
A special designation
Peggy Sue isn’t just a service dog. She’s Alan’s “cardiac” service dog, one that required even more specialized training. Let’s go back to how it all began between the two of them. It’s quite a love story. After Alan suffered that intense heart spasm in ’06, it required an emergency angiogram, which found that a major artery had a 95% blockage, preventing the normal flow of blood to his heart. Any delay of medical intervention would allow more plaque to build up, completely closing off the artery that would trigger a heart attack. Prepared that the angiogram might result in such a finding, the surgical team had the go-ahead to immediately insert a stint into the artery, open it up, which would allow the normal flow of blood to circulate through Alan’s heart.
Alan was very fortunate, the cardiologist told him. At least Alan called his primary care physician when the chest pain became so severe that he knew it must be serious. And his physician immediately referred Alan to the cardiologist for the exploratory angiogram to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem. (This surgical procedure is not performed at our local Big Bear Community Hospital, so Alan was required to make the hour-and-a-half drive down to a regional medical center in Victorville, CA.)
After the surgery, what next?
After the stint was in place and doing its job, Alan returned for a follow-up exam with his cardiologist, and unloaded a series of concerns that had built up in his mind: “What if the stint malfunctions, and I have another major angina attack? What if I don’t have my cell phone with me, or the battery is dead? What if I am driving my car down the mountain like today and have an attack without a living soul around for miles?”
Alan was reassured there were additional back-up safeguards available that could reduce such risks. And some of them involved another type of specialist. That’s right, call in the dogs! Man’s best friend – through their keen sense of hearing, smell and taste – can detect when their best friend might be in danger. Alan learned that thousands of dogs across the country have been trained to sound the alarm when medical help is needed. “I’ve got to get a service dog!” concluded, Alan.
Finding the perfect pooch
An online search began, first for pounds within driving distance that might have a cocker spaniel pup available. He was being too picky. Then he went to a local pet store that offered puppies for sale. The owner, who also had a store in Palm Springs, didn’t have any cocker spaniels available. But after learning the important role the new pup would eventually play for Alan, the owner said she had a number of breeders, who supplied her with dogs. However, pure cockers rarely could be trained as service dogs; they had to be mixed with another breed better known for its intelligence, such as a poodle.
Alan wrinkled up his nose. “Would you consider a cockapoo?” asked the store owner. Alan didn’t even know what a cockapoo looked like. “I happen to have one from an Arizona breeder that will arrive soon at our Palm Springs shop? Would you want me to email you a photo? Well, it was love at first sight!
The making of a service dog
Both Alan and Peggy Sue went through two years of weekly service dog classes led by a local professional trainer. Yet Alan was very discouraged after the first few training sessions. “I must have purchased the dumbest dog in that class,” he moaned. But as additional classes went by, Alan saw that the instructor was primarily teaching the humans, while the dogs were learning to imitate the responses made by the other dogs to the trainer’s commands.
Alan’s opinion of his service dog-in-training soon changed as Peggy started learning the basics. Then she moved on to conquer more challenging commands. Eventually, Peggy became a “star” pupil. Other dogs just starting the basic training sessions would watch as Alan rewarded Peggy Sue with lots of treats, hugs and praise when she responded correctly to various commands. They soon made the connection that if they followed Peggy’s lead when given the same command, they, too, would be rewarded with treats, hugs and praise from their “moms” and “pops.”
Two dogs in one
Peggy Sue is all business when she has her red “service dog” vest on. It’s a sign to young children eager to pet Peggy when they walk by our Watkins booth at public events that she is a “working dog.” She must constantly be on alert that the big guy behind the cash register isn’t overdoing it. But once Peggy returns home and the vest comes off, her personality becomes more like a typical four-legged teenager. Her favorite game is “get-the-ball,” but if Pops has his head buried in his computer or is on the phone with one of our Watkins Consultants, Peggy is content to play “chase-the-cat” or “get-chased-by-the-cat” through the house.
When the day is coming to a close, Alan climbs into bed to catch one of his favorite television shows. Peggy will jump up on the bed, lie down beside him, and stare up at Alan with those big, brown eyes. That’s Alan’s reminder it’s time to take his handful of pills before turning off the light, and time to reward Peggy for reminding him. Now, the cat follows Peggy when she jumps up on the bed, and expects some treats of her own. Of course, there will ever be a certified “Service Cat” designation. Felines are just too independent!
No, Peggy Sue will never be replaced by a cat. She will remain the constant, calming influence in Alan’s hectic life, who reminds him daily with just a look from those lovable brown eyes, “Slow down and give your girl a treat!”
The statements made & opinions expressed on this page are those of the Independent Watkins Associates, who published this document. They are not to be construed as the statements or opinions of Watkins Incorporated.