Interview with Asia Duhamel
How did you and Lotus first get together? Did the relationship begin through a specific need?
Asia Duhamel: While still active duty, I was searching for a service dog to help me with my disabilities by the time I got out. I received Lotus from an unreputable service dog program and realized they couldn’t help me with my goals with her. I was able to adopt her from that program and start training her on my own to make her a legitimate service dog. Afterwards, we went to Next Step Service Dogs to become ADI accredited.
Do you think Lotus approaches her service work like a “typical” German Shepherd Dog?
Asia Duhamel: Although German Shepherds can be difficult for inexperienced handlers/trainers as service dogs, they can make great service dogs due to their trainability, work ethic, and loyalty. Lotus absolutely has carried all of those traits, and her ability to help me when needed is truly remarkable. She is slowing down and getting closer to retirement, but I still couldn’t have asked for a better dog.
In your opinion, is there a growing need for Service Dogs in our society?
Asia Duhamel: Yes. In the past it was more difficult to get service dogs due to the lack of training ability, information for the public, and resources for those with disabilities. There is a large amount of people with disabilities who could benefit from a service dog but don’t know where to get information, don’t have the ability themselves to train, or can’t afford a service dog through an organization.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more misleading information online and the misconception that a service dog is an emotional support animal that, instead of task training, just requires a “certification” or vest purchased online to make it legitimate.
Can you share a specific story which demonstrates how Lotus has enhanced the quality of your life?
Asia Duhamel: Lotus has helped me open up and talk to people (including my husband), build my confidence to go out in public again, helped me develop a skill and career in training, and gave me a hobby I’m interested in with dog sports. I’ve learned how to advocate not just for myself but for others with disabilities, service dogs, reputable dog ownership, and more. Nothing about who I am today would have happened without her helping me with that “next step” in my recovery.
I’ve learned how to advocate not just for myself but for others with disabilities, service dogs, reputable dog ownership, and more. Nothing about who I am today would have happened without her helping me with that “next step” in my recovery.
What do you and Lotus do for fun? Do you compete in any Performance Events?
Asia Duhamel: Lotus helps me at work training other dogs and working with clients who receive service dogs. When we are not working, we spend time participating in sports such as Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, Rally, and more. Being able to set new training goals for her has been good for us both, physically and mentally. Because of this, I am now the Lead Trainer at Canine Support Teams. I have the pleasure of teaching inmates how to train, pair dogs to clients with disabilities, and help to give back to other disabled veterans like me.
Photos by: Captured By Sam