Meeting Benson, NEADS Service Dog in Training
Luke and Megan Rubin are Full-time Puppy Raisers for NEADS Service Dog in Training Benson. For 12 to 16 months, under the guidance of NEADS instructors, the Rubins will work with Benson on good manners and basic obedience, and the ever-critical socialization. Socialization means they expose the dog to everyday life in public, including visiting libraries, malls, grocery stores, and, in Benson's case, church.
by Barb Heffner, First Parish in Wayland
If you’ve attended Sunday Services [at First Parish in Wayland, MA] recently in person, you may have met Benson, a handsome NEADS Service Dog in Training. He is accompanied by Luke Rubin, who, along with his wife, Megan, are Benson’s Puppy Raisers.
Important: If you’d like to pet Benson’s silky coat, please ask Luke first. Benson needs to be given permission to approach a stranger.
Although they’ve had dogs as pets, Benson is the Rubins’ first Service Dog in Training. Benson, a purpose-bred black Labrador retriever, joined the Rubin household when he was 8 weeks old, weighing 17 pounds. (Benson, now 7 months, weighs close to 70 pounds.) Together with Benson, the Rubins participate in an hour-long Zoom session with NEADS staffers once per week to check on progress. Every fourth week, the Rubins take Benson to a NEADS outing so that the staff can observe Benson’s development and help the Rubins with any questions or concerns.
After his time with Luke and Megan, Benson will be placed with either a NEADS Trainer or with an inmate handler through the NEADS Prison PUP Program for his final, “finish” training. These working dogs learn 50 to 60 tasks and commands that they use to help an individual with a disability. A Service Dog can flip a light switch, push elevator buttons, open doors, and retrieve items like a dropped cell phone or medication from the refrigerator. A Service Dog for Hearing can alert its partner to sounds like a knock on the door, a smoke detector alarm, an alarm clock, a car horn, and their name being called. The dogs are trained to behave well in public, walking on a leash without pulling or straining. They will not bark unless asked to speak, and they will ignore distractions. They will be quiet and unobtrusive unless performing a specific work task.
Spending time at First Parish in Wayland helps Benson practice these behavioral skills, Luke noted. Benson sits quietly during the hour-long service, motivated by the occasional treat.
Luke and Megan love Benson, as they’ve loved all their dogs. It will be difficult to say farewell when the time comes. “Our thirty-eight years of marriage have been blessed. We believe Benson can improve another person’s life and that is a gift we want to give,” Luke said.