Pepé to the rescue: for a family in Burrillville, the service dog is exactly what the doctor ordered
BURRILLVILLE – When the Bisson family rescued Pepé, a then 5-year-old standard poodle, they had no idea how the animal would change their quality of life.
Holly Bisson, 35, has Down’s syndrome and at the time, mother Annie Bisson said her daughter was often frustrated with trying to communicate, which resulted in tense and sometimes scary situations in the home.
“Her language skills are not great,” said Annie.
Pepé’s former owner had recently passed away and Annie said she hoped to provide the dog with temporary shelter while helping him find a new permanent placement.
This plan changed the day the Bisson’s met Pepé.
“He got attached to Holly,” Annie said. “He wouldn’t leave her by his side.
Back home in Pascoag, Pepé followed Holly as she walked through the house, a few steps behind her.
The dog slept in Holly’s bed that first night two years ago, and has been there ever since.
Annie says she first knew Pepé was special a day soon after moving in, when his daughter had a change in mood, a fairly common occurrence in the Bisson household linked to Holly’s condition.
“He got in between us and leaned against her,” Annie said. “She was stroking him and all of a sudden there was no more anger.”
“For me it was surprising,” she said. “Poodles are extremely intelligent.”
Annie spoke to the family doctor about the possibility of Pepé Holly’s official service dog and he was told the plan could help. She then contacted Stonewall Canine in Bellingham, Mass., And was put in touch with trainer Jen.
Jen began working with Holly to teach the already well-behaved dog how to walk without strain on the leash, get in and out of cars properly, and behave in a public place.
Last year, Pepé obtained his Canine Good Citizen certificate from the American Kennel Club, and assistance dog training continued, with the dog learning to be both a protector for Holly and a constant companion. Assistance dog certification requires the owner to have full control of the animal in any environment, from a busy bank to a shopping mall or restaurant, where Pepé will sit quietly under the table.
“It has to be fixed on her and only on her,” said Annie. “He can’t bark. He cannot intimidate other dogs. Jen wanted as many experiences as possible.
On Friday November 19, Holly and Pepé took the last service dog test and passed. Holly’s new t-shirt, marked with the words “Just a girl who loves her service dog”, also arrived in the mail.
“I don’t know anyone else who has a child with Down’s syndrome who has a service dog,” said Annie. “She is fully responsible for him. Holly worked very hard to be able to achieve this goal.
Now, Pepé goes everywhere with his master, and in the rare cases where he cannot, the dog will sit and wait near the door for “his girlfriend”. If a car arrives, Pepe will prevent Holly from walking in front.
“He just knows that stuff,” Annie said. “Surprisingly, this dog knows how to be safe. “
And the fights that were once so common in the Bisson house?
“Since we got it, we haven’t had it,” said Annie. “He calms her down. We have a better conversation. It’s like night and day.
The dog, Annie said, was skinny when he arrived, before the new owners learned he had a sensitive stomach.
“He’s blossoming now,” she said. “Holly is also on the rise. It has made all the difference in her life. She has a confidence that I have never seen before.
The grateful mother now hopes their success story can reach others.
“It’s awesome,” said Annie. “I think it could help other families. It was the most incredible experience.
“This dog rewarded Holly with exactly what she was missing, we just didn’t know that,” Annie said. “He’s, like, the best dog ever. There’s something about him… I think he just belonged here. It belonged to her and it belonged to our house.