Leo’s journey as a puppy started with ambitions to become a service dog through Paws for Purple Hearts. However, his path took a different turn as he didn’t quite meet the rigorous standards of the program.
“The bar for passing is exceptionally high,” explained Samantha Welborn, Leo’s mom, during a conversation with The Dodo. “These dogs that change careers, they’re still extraordinary in their own way.”
Leo’s intelligence and emotional sensitivity are undeniable. Yet, his cleverness often served his own interests, which ultimately led to the end of his formal training.
“Leo clearly enjoys tasks, but on his own terms,” Welborn reflected. “His penchant for snatching unauthorized items off counters and from cupboards was a part of the challenge.”
Welborn welcomed Leo into her home just as he approached his second birthday. Now, three years later, Leo still demonstrates remnants of his training, albeit in his unique, whimsical way.
“Every day, Leo delights in presenting me with various objects, particularly when he’s eager for a walk,” said Welborn. “He’s often there, post-shower, offering clothing. Sometimes, he brings things he shouldn’t, almost as if seeking permission.”
Leo has his own style of assisting, often bringing random items to his mom as part of his preparation ritual. His original training might have intended for a different kind of assistance, but for Leo, this approach feels just right.
Despite not becoming a service dog, Leo retained much of his training, particularly in areas of emotional support, which Welborn believes he would have mastered.
“If I’m feeling stressed or upset, Leo invariably tries to divert my attention towards him,” Welborn shared. “I’ve encountered many intelligent dogs, but Leo’s emotional insight is unparalleled.”
Though not officially a service dog, Leo continues his self-assigned duty of aiding his mom every day, in his own special and endearing way.