Diane's Diary #40: Filming Kaitlyn and Mowgli the Service Dog
Note: This is Excerpt #40 in Diane’s Diary. If you would like to read previous excerpts, you can find Diane’s Diary 1-39 here.
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In our last blog post, Diane’s Diary #39, we discussed our Facebook group, The Science and Magic of the Human-Animal Bond. But this week we are moving on to what happened in the fall of 2020. So, let’s travel back to Diane’s Diary #28 for a moment since it’s been a while.
As a refresher, I had been introduced to a family in Parkland, Florida in 2019 through a connection at Josh Provides Epilepsy Assistance Foundation. The older daughter, Kaitlyn, was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 8 years old. When I met the family in 2019, she was 15. Kaitlyn’s mom, Erin had just recently learned about seizure response dogs and Josh Provides was supporting them in getting paired with a dog.
Erin and Kaitlyn were very excited about the prospect of a service dog for Kaitlyn, and they wanted other families who were dealing with epilepsy to know about service dogs too. Erin invited me into their lives to document their experience. In October of 2019, I flew to Florida to film their lives and get to know them. I also interviewed their neurologist.
Erin and Kaitlyn were working with Jim and Susan Wagner of Perfect Fit Canines in Pittsburgh, PA who were training some puppies that would become service dogs. The dogs are generally not ready until they are close to 2 years old. Susan and Jim were aiming to connect Kaitlyn with a dog by the Summer of 2020. Then COVID hit which threw a wrench into some of the plans.
Fortunately, Kaitlyn’s dad lives in Pittsburgh, and Kaitlyn was able to visit with some prospective dogs in July of 2020 and was ultimately paired with Mowgli! They were supposed to be doing a group boot camp that summer but that wasn’t possible because of the pandemic.
In September, Mowgli received additional scent training at a facility in Indiana called Medical Mutts. The co-founder of Medical Mutts, Jennifer Cattet, has also co-authored a peer-reviewed paper on dogs being able to detect seizure scent. They have a couple of cool YouTube videos that show shelter dogs that were trained to detect the scent!
Then Mowgli returned to Perfect Fit Canines for some reminder training about living in a home with a family and Mowgli was ready to be paired with Kaitlyn. Jim and Susan decided to travel to Florida and bring Mowgli so that they could train him in his new environment, Kaitlyn’s home.
We agreed that I would have cameras there to capture Mowgli arriving and what the next steps were.
Since December 2020 was the height of COVID, I had zero interest in getting on an airplane and they didn’t need one more person in the room either. (We already had Erin and Kaitlyn, Jim and Susan, and two film crewmembers.)
So, I decided to direct using Facetime! I totally trusted Theresa, my Florida producer, and she made it very easy for me. They were there live with the cameras, and I was watching and directing through the telephone.
Ain’t technology amazing?
You’ll notice when you watch the piece that everyone wears masks when interacting. It’s not ideal for filming, but necessary given the circumstances.
We captured some amazing training footage and other fun moments with Mowgli. I was blown away by what he has learned to do, and I think you will be too.
Theresa then overnighted me the footage.
More about what we then did with the footage in a future post.
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