Finnegan McNeil isn't your average celebrity dog. Finnegan, or Winnegan as his fans call him, is a dog with a serious set of important skills. In addition to being known for his snappy outfits and amazing facial hair, Winnegan is known near and far for his efforts to help support disabled people and his initiatives to help stop cruelty against animals.
Winnegan took a short break from his duties as a Hearing Alert Service Dog to sit down with us and tell us about his special certification, his advocacy for people & animals world wide, and his favorite outfit.
Winnegan, you're a very accomplished service dog. How did you first get started as a Hearing Alert Service Dog?
At about eight months old, Winnegan noticed that Dwaddy could not hear his cell phone or the front door bell sometimes because of his fluctuating hearing!!! Well, it could be someone very good important and as everyone knows, terriers are the boss of all humans!!! So, Winnegan started alerting Dwaddy by pulling his pants leg whenever this would happen; next thing you know, Winnegan had a very good full time job, aye!!! Later on, Winnegan developed a very important system of "one ear up" for cell phone, "two ears up" for the front door. Then, Winnegan noticed that Dwaddy would sometimes have a very bad Meniere's attack but no realize it until it happened, aye!! But Winnegan could tell he was going to have an attack 30 to 40 minutes ahead of time, so I began alerting him ahead of time, aye!!!!
(Note: Ménière's disease is an inner ear disorder where episodes or attacks can cause severe dizziness, tinnitus, temporary hearing loss, and a congested feeling in the ear.)
Winnegan got his very good start as a virtual therapy dog for the world when Winnegan noticed how many very good fans send hundreds messages a day about how much Winnegan helps alleviate their anxieties with daily posts, blessings and axioms. That was when it became obvious he had a much more important role: as a virtual therapy dog for the world. If Winnegan is late with me daily post even just a few minutes, Winnegan gets lots of email and messages wanting to know if Dwaddy and Winnegan are okay, aye!!!!
What was the process like for you to become certified as a Hearing Alert Service Dog?
Winnegan had over one year of advanced behavioral training. It is even tougher than AKC Good Canine training as Winnegan had to learn to hold my wee wee, poop and to eat only with Dwaddy's permission and to completely ignore others animals, food, and other distractions whenever Winnegan be wearing my service dog harness. Winnegan can be a "normal dog" when me service harness is off at home; but I still have to very good listen and watch for Meniere's attacks all the time, aye!!! All the humans that meet Winnegan cannot believe me self-discipline, especially those that have owned terriers or Schnauzers, aye!!!
Later on, Winnegan and Dwaddy worked out a system where Winnegan would progressively alert Dwaddy for certain sounds by pushing me nose against his hand (muzzling), mouthing, pawing or by going back and forth to the sound (such as a doorbell). Winnegan also alerts Dwaddy to sirens (when driving in the car, whenever someone says his name, cell phone calls and texts, smoke and fire alarms, doorbells and knocks, or someone entering a private room. Some of the alerts are contextual based, i.e., sirens when in the home or office are ignored but not in the car. But most important is Winnegan's job of warning Dwaddy of impending Meniere's attacks about 30 to 40 minutes ahead of time!
Winnegan and Dwaddy were very bad shocked to learn that there is no certification of service dogs in the United States. But Winnegan has to go with Dwaddy in his extensive travels to do me job hearing and alerting him, aye!!! So Dwaddy got a letter of certification from a professional canine evaluator that tested Winnegan and certified that Winnegan very good meets the minimum standards for a hearing alert service dog of the Assistant Dog International. Winnegan has used this letter to accompany Dwaddy in international travels with, aye!!!
You're a leading advocate for issues of discrimination against disabled people and cruelty against animals. What inspired you to help spread the word about this important cause?
When Winnegan and Dwaddy read our fan email, we see two common themes: There is a lot of bad humans discriminating against disadvantaged people in the world; even in the United States 25 years after the American Disability Act became law. The second things that Winnegan fans write about is the amount of needless cruelty against animals that exists in the world. We knew that that had to become our causes as well as that of OTSD, "Owner Trained Service Dogs," aye!!! Winnegan particularly wants to help very good disabled animals all over the world, aye!!!
What types of special skills and abilities do you have as a result of your Service Dog training?
Winnegan can tell from hundreds of thousands of sounds which ones are important enough to tell Dwaddy about—that is not easy in the digital age. Doggies can hear thousands of times better than any human, aye!!! Winnegan can sometimes be very bad fooled by doorbells, sirens and cell phones on the television because they sound very real. And in the digital age, they also can change sounds with the latest update or model. But the skill that Winnegan is most proud of is to very good be able to very good tell dwaddy if he is having a Meniere's attack 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time! Without being able to do this, Dwaddy would not be able to lead an independent, somewhat normal lifestyle, aye!!!
Winnegan also be a professional model and can very good hold a photo post for two or three seconds as a result of being a celebrity and having so many photos taken each day!!! Hee hee, fans cannot get over that, aye!!!!
Now Winnegan has a little brother, Quinnelan, that is learning many of these same skills by watching Winnegan, aye!!! He is only nine months old and is already very good doing sound alerts like Winnegan, aye!!!
What advice would you give to other animals, and their people, who are interested in training their dog to help them?
Winnegan and Dwaddy get asked that a lot and the first thing we tell them is that first and foremost, the human must have a disability that can be mitigated by a service dog!!! This seems to be the point that many forget just because they want to take their doggy everywhere, making access hard for the legitimate service dogs. We also make a point of being sure that they understand that it is a felony in most states for their pet to impersonate a service dog!
Then Winnegan recommends that they put their doggy and themselves in an AKC Good Canine "train the trainer" canine behavior class or similar training. After that is done, then pursue the disability mitigation training for their doggy, aye!!!
How can people help support you and your cause to end discrimination against handicapped people and cruelty against animals?
Help Winnegan educate the world to respect rights of the disabled and animals. Not an easy task, but definitely achievable if everyone joins in the cause! Winnegan will lead the very good way, aye! Be sure to share, comment and like stories and posts that you see about these causes, and very good help educate everyone, aye!!!
Not only do you do good, but you look good too! You have a fantastic sense of style. What is your favorite outfit?
Good gwosh golley gee whiz willikers!!! Winnegan has clothing and "lwids" (hats) from over 70 countries around the world that have been sent as gifts to him by his fans in 106 countries—many which were outgrown by their dogs from when they were pups. They love to see Winnegan in photos wearing the items that they send!!! Winnegan has many very good clothes and costumes, but me favorite has to be me service dog harness and tuxedo (including tails and cuffs) which Winnegan proudly wore in the weddings of me sister and that of me Dwaddy and Mwommy. Winnegan loves wearing clothes (when it is cool), hats and sunglasses made especially for dogs to help protect them from cataracts. Hee hee!!! Winnegan has enough costumes for brother Quinnelan and Winnegan to wear a different one each day in October during Winnegan's Very Happy, Happy Halloween Parade, which is joined by animals from all over the world each year, aye!!!
Your facial hair is fabulous- what is your grooming regimen like?
Hee hee!!! Winnegan is famous for having very good voting polls for fans to help stop his needless grooming with unbiased Chicago election judges are well known, aye!!! It is so silly for humans to take their doggies to the groomer to get their hair cut, then put clothes on them to keep them warm, aye!!! But Winnegan never seems to win the voting contests, even with brother Quinnelan helping out and we end up going to the very bad groomer once a month, with daily brushings. Funny thing is, Winnegan's very good fans love Winnegan's long moustache and if the groomer cuts it too much, they get harassing emails and phone calls from Winnegan's very good fwriends and fans, aye!!!
By Sara Stuart
To learn more about Finnegan McNeil and see how you can help him spread his important message, visit him on Facebook .