Our head trainer Matt Covey was recently featured on Animal Planet. In the summer of 2011 Matt was approached by the producers of a new show to see if he was interested in training a dog for it. The premise was to show that there are times that dogs can help humans when other humans are unable; hence the title “Beyond Human Help”. The producers wanted to know if Matt could train a dog to help a young woman with Trichotillomania. This is a severe form of OCD that is manifested by obsessive pulling of one’s own hair. This was to be the first time that this specific type of training was to be documented.
Matt agreed to join the show and soon was looking for a suitable dog to train. He called Carolyn Mossberger of the West Suburban Humane Society to see if she had any suitable candidates. She suggested a lab mix named Willie. Matt went and took a look and immediately adopted him for the young woman. Willie stayed with Matt for over a month for his training.
Since the young woman had very specific times that she pulled her hair, Matt did a lot of interviews with her to make sure that the training was tailored to her situation. After five weeks Willie was ready and a time was set for the introduction in Florida. American Airlines was nice enough to give Willie “celebrity dog” status so that he was able to have his own seat on the plane next to Matt.
The episode documenting the first meeting between Willie and the young woman was aired on Animal Planet in December 2012. It will re-air in a slightly different format in the spring of 2013. If the ratings are good enough Matt may be working on the show full-time. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for updates!