(5) Molly Had a Little Lamb: A duty to protect

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly:

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)

Molly was not William’s first service dog (we will share that story another time). Consequently, William and I received service dog training twice. Both trainers shared the responsibilities the owners bear for protecting the dog. Good nutrition, exercise, grooming . . . what else is there to know?

“Your number one responsibility is to protect your dog—that’s what the alpha males do for the dogs in their pack.” The trainer turned, facing my husband and pointed at him. “You are the alpha male. That means you must keep her safe at all times for her to trust you.”

Mother bear and cub“Don’t step on the dog’s paws, keep her legs and tail out of the aisle at a restaurant, don’t drop things on the dog. For us, Molly’s trainer added, “Keep her away from the bears!”

Our Cheyenne Mountain home is one of the last homes on the mountain near a mama bear’s den. Last year she had one cub but the year before she had triplets that wandered through our property in search of food.

“One swipe of a mother’s claw and even Molly would be torn to shreds.

Since our property covenants do not allow fencing yards and we live in a forest with no development outside of our front yard, Molly wanders close by. Protecting her means keeping separation between her and wildlife.Not having much dog time in my past, I failed the task of protecting Molly twice. The first time was during chemotherapy when I lost so much weight that my Oncologist encouraged me to eat anything that appealed to me. Unwrapping a chocolate cupcake, I sat it on the counter to thaw. Two hours later, the cupcake disappeared with only crumbs on the floor, giving away its fate. I never considered that a trained service dog would help herself to food on the counter.Molly sleeping with Cadbury

Just a few days before Easter, I packed a bag to visit my granddaughter the next morning. As I loaded my car that morning, a fluffy object on the balcony caught my attention. The fur ball was a stuffed lamb I bought for my grand baby. Molly had ransacked the bag and devoured most of three Cadbury chocolate eggs, pried open and consumed a bottle of Thousand Island dressing, and slimed the lamb with loving swipes of her tongue.

I failed to protect my dog from chocolate, a known toxin for dogs. I violated the basic tenent of dog ownership. Fortunately, Molly weighs nearly as much as I do and the amount of chocolate she consumed never reached toxic levels. I consulted several pet medical websites to learn more about chocolate and dogs.

Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, both of which may be fatal to a dog. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, accelerated heart rate, and even seizures. (For a full list of symptoms and treatment, visit the websites at petmed and Vetinfo.)

In the end, Molly suffered no adverse effects from her raid of the Easter goodies but it drove home my responsibility to protect our service dog. I no longer leave chocolate anywhere within her grasp. Now, if only I could figure out a way to keep her tail plume out of the way at restaurants.


Check out the chocolate toxicity meter to determine the toxic level of chocolate for the weight of your dog


What measures have you taken to protect your dog? Please post your comments below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.