This is the story of a young labrador Flor and his owner Dirk, a diabetic patient.
Although the fates of Dirk and Flor crossed paths because of medical reasons, they immediately connected as buddies. While walking through the forest together, it was easy to forget that Flor is an assistance dog. I was able to notice the subtle eye contact Flor is expected to maintain towards Dirk, only after he explained it to me. After our walk we went to the city centre, an environment with more urban distractions where Flor again proved himself to be a wonderful assistance dog. Such a good boy!
Flor is still being trained by Argos as we speak.
I was invited to a training session where Flor has to practice several reactions to situations: fetching a first aid kit; pressing an alert button; and scent training. Fluctuations in blood sugar release a certain chemical that dogs can smell. Flor is being trained to detect these sudden changes in the physiology of the human body. In this scenario he is an alert dog. With clicks, treats and toys the exercises take a playful form.
In between the exercises Flor was surprised by a sudden visit of his first foster parent. Before Flor completed his basic training and was assigned to Dirk, she took care of him while he was still a little pup. An unexpected and heartwarming reunion!
As Flor was practicing the exercises, two other pups arrived at the training centre. The foster parents and their pups come every week for basic training. It was nice to see three generations of assistance dogs in one scene.
These initial basic training sessions can be very demanding for pups at this age. Sarah, the trainer, always combines attention exercises with playtime.
I’m glad I was introduced to Dirk and Flor. I saw two kindred spirits, companions, grateful for being in each other’s lives. I really had a great time photographing this series!
If you would like to know more about assistance dogs, look here: www.argosassistancedogs.be