Not long after the arrival of our puppy Lila, I lay in bed one night listening to a podcast about Puppies Behind Bars, a nonprofit group that teams up puppies with prison inmates, who then live with and train the puppies to work as bomb-sniffing dogs, or service dogs for wounded soldiers.

I found this podcast pretty compelling…especially the description of the powerful and healing relationship that develops between dogs and prisoners — and I highly recommend listening to it yourself on the National Public Radio website — but what had immediate personal relevance and caused my eyes to snap open was learning how the dogs were matched with a career based on personality type.  [read more below]

[wpvideo 3dq26ABC w=484]

The service dog constantly looks up at its owner and asks, “What do you want me to do now? Tell me what’s next and I’ll do it!” The bomb-sniffing dog behaves in a more assertive, more in-your-face way and likes to make decisions. When I heard this, I knew immediately that, had our Labrador Lila been recruited to Puppies Behind Bars, she most definitely would have been destined for bomb sniffing.

The challenge for me has been to try to convert some of Lila’s bomb-sniffing aptitude into more of a service dog mentality. Because I lack what you might call an “alpha” personality, this requires a concerted effort. Lila is an extremely confident, proactive little girl and I have to work overtime to keep up with her. The video accompanying this post shows Lila attending a “boot camp” run by a quirky taskmaster (wearing white knee socks in the background.) As you can see, Lila is very much her own dog.

[If you have received this post by email, please click “dog downunder” or “lila the bomb sniffer” in order to view accompanying video in a web page.]