Day 103 With Dora 


We’re outside. Relaxing. Dora has a chance to learn about the neighborhood where she lives, and I’m just enjoying the weather. 

I also mowed the yard today. And walked Dora out to a driveway where construction workers are prepping it for fresh cement. And talked to my next door neighbor- met her new dog, told her that I have a psychiatric disability and that Dora is in training to be my service dog.

Look at me go! It’s amazing what I can handle when I don’t need to face it alone.

I still have meltdowns semi-regularly, maybe once a week I think “I don’t know what I’m doing I can’t do this I’m ruining my dog why do I have to do all the training someone help me please,” but honestly, that pretty much only happens when I’m not doing well anyway. (Hungry, tired, cold, stressed, sad, lonely, etc.) 

It makes the pressure burst, and since the last straw was dog training, I initially process all the stress as coming from dog training. 😑 We’ll get there. Eventually.

Day 88 With Dora 


Wow! Training your own service dog is overwhelming! I thought it would be, but the scope of it is… it’s hard to put into words. Here’s a few of the pieces:

  • Public access manners- If you’ve ever seen a service dog, you probably have some idea of how they behave. Quiet, controlled, polite, focused on their handler, etc. All of this is taught, unless one or two of those traits were in your dog’s personality.
  • Canine Good Citizen manners- The American Kennel Club has two behavior standards your dog can test for and attain: STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen. There’s some overlap between the two sets, but also some real differences, because CGC dogs fill a wider array of roles. (Awesome pet, therapy dog, service dog, mascot, whatever.) It’s just a core behavior set that tests how your dog handles real world situations.
  • Service dog tasks- Oy. I’m lucky that Dora is emotionally sensitive to begin with, or this would be difficult. We’re starting with defusing-type tasks; that is to say, Dora observes a symptom that precedes a panic attack or suicidal spell and interacts with me to decrease the intensity before I meltdown. I’m also trying to prep her for tasks needed during panic attacks, but one of them requires several parts (get command, go to place, retrieve item, bring item to me, release item). It will take a while.
  • Socialization issues- Did you know Dora is scared of semi trucks? I didn’t until we had to walk past one this week. We were out for exercise and more experience with this stimuli set (strangers, cars, automatic doors, strange noises, whatever shows up), so we had to stop. And stand there. For five minutes while she hid behind me. Because I need my dog to know that it’s ok. Semis stay in the street. It’s ok.
  • Interacting with strangers- Dora needs to sit before and during petting. I am bad (really bad) at asking strangers to stop approaching my dog and wait until she sits and stays sitting before they pet her. Or telling people who scare her that they scare her. Or telling people who try to interact with her while I’m in a training class that I’m in a training class right now go away please.
  • Balancing two trainers (and two training methods)- Oh man. For someone with social anxiety, this is horrible. I don’t think I need to explain the issues here.
  • Evaluating a training method that reminds me of abuse that I suffered- Basically, I have been crushed under someone’s will and broken until I was unable to act in a way that displeased them. I find it hard to make choices or take action, even as an adult, because I was broken as a child. Now, I’m supposed to do that to Dora. But I can’t. Because it’s abuse. *sigh* Trauma is wonderful, isn’t it?
  • Making time for self care- 90% of my energy goes to Dora… and to my survival tasks. I have 10% left for leisure activities (during the day), relaxation (with the dog because I don’t get down time), thinking about life, interacting with people, exercising, and evaluating whether or not I can handle doing one more thing right now if I just buckle down and push a bit harder or if I need to just stop now because I’ve done enough and I can do that tomorrow.
  • Every night, I dream of Dora- Usually, it’s some combination of an app or game I used yesterday… and dog training. One day, I played a lot of Fire Emblem Heroes and that night, Dora and like 5 other dogs were having some sort of turn-based meet and greet interaction. I had to choose her moves and monitor the other dogs’ behaviors. The worst part is that no matter how many times I wake up during the night, the dream will just carry on when I finally fall asleep again.

I know I’m forgetting something, but I’ve already used about all of the energy I can spare for this, so that’s all. I’ll try to write about meaningful updates when they happen. I do want to share this experience with anyone who might need to walk a similar path in the future.

Day 75 With Dora

A lot has happened, and as is typical of my silence, it has been difficult for me. So here’s an overview, more or less:

  1. Dora graduated from her first obedience class. The second class starts this week.
  2. The Flutenist, Dora, and I all went to our first service dog training session … and I’m scared of the main trainer.
  3. I had a panic attack towards the end of that session and was sobbing and kind of screeching in terror in front of everyone.
  4. It snowed after some warm weather, and I made a snowball for Dora to play with.

In general, it was mostly new things for me to come to terms with, but I’m always scared of new things. Life can always be worse. *sigh* We are making progress, but it’s hard. I’m doing the best I can.

Days 53 & 54 With Dora

The three of us went on a long walk yesterday, about an hour and a half long. There were a lot of dogs and strangers around, but she did pretty well overall. She even got to sniff another pit bull mix! 🐕

Things went pretty well, and we were all pretty tired when I started typing this last night, so I didn’t get very far.

Today, a friend and I went to a fast food place with outdoor seating, and Dora got her first practice at sitting and staying still in public while people ate. She got up about 5 times, but she sat again on command. Overall, it was pretty good.


It’s hard to imagine that this little girl will be allowed into restaurants with me later, that she will behave well enough to be trusted with that privilege. Still, Dora must be halfway there already. She did so well today, that I really think she can learn to do even better.

So, yeah… nothing major, just life together. Still waiting to see if my application gets approved. Fingers crossed.

Day 51 With Dora

I’m pretty tired. We walked around 5 miles today, split between 2 different walks. Why? 

  1. The temperature was 30 degrees higher today than yesterday.
  2. Generation 2 in Pokémon GO released last night.


I haven’t actually seen these before, since I stopped watching the show before they reached these guys, and I never owned a Gameboy.

Overall, I’ve caught 12 new ones so far today, which is decent progress.


As a side effect, Dora has gotten a really good amount of exercise, and she is napping very well now. She sniffed so many things, saw several people and their dogs, scared about 45 geese into a pond, and had a great time. In general, she is getting much better at walking on a leash, but I need to be better at consistency with correcting her pulling.

Some days, I have the energy and time to make her stop when she pulls and to stand there until she relaxes enough to be ready to keep walking. On other days, I just want to walk. Today… today was more of the latter. But consistency matters most in teaching Dora to walk nicely, so I should try to do better.

Otherwise, I logged into Duolingo for the first time in a while and discovered they have chat bots for French now! 


I enjoyed talking to them more than I probably should, but they just rolled with my typos and underwhelming fluency. (Though I still maintain that if someone asked me “Do you want a sandwich or a salad?” and I said “A sandwich, please,” they would understand me even though it was a grammatical fragment.) 😑 Oh well. 

It has been a pretty good day mentally and physically. 

The Awkward Reality of Training Dora

Disclaimer: We haven’t started Dora’s official service dog training yet. We are still in the application phase. However, after all of the research and preparation I’ve done so far, I feel like I understand a few of the basics. For example, your dog can only learn to respond to your emotional cues if you practice those behaviors, just like verbal commands, just like learning tricks, just like almost all training goals.

So we were just outside for the 5th potty trip of the day (Dora peed but still hadn’t pooped). We came back inside. Within 10 minutes, she’s crying and poking at the leash. Dora only pokes at the leash when she really needs to go out. Cold ears and all, I had to bundle back up and head out. We went to one of Dora’s preferred spots. She finally finished her business after 6 trips, and I dragged her back to our home.

Child coming home from school? No. Go inside. Trash in the road? No. We’re going inside. Weird smells? No. Go inside. Geese flying around? Don’t care. Inside. Neighbor’s dog outside? JUST GO INSIDE! Screams. Pulls hard on leash/harness. Both inside. Door shut and locked. And I stood there, pressed up against the door, just breathing.

A nose touches my gloved hand, and I remember: I need to be training her now. She can tell that I’m not doing well, and I need to be interacting with her so that she learns to keep doing this.

I sit down and start talking to Dora. I pet her and apologize for being rougher than I’d like. I take off our gear (gloves, boots, harness, leash, coat), and I just start crying. Dora licks my face and I manage to praise her and pet her for doing it. I sob, she licks me, and I ruffle her ears and tell her that she’s a good girl. We do it again. And again. Until I don’t have any sobs left inside. 

It is such and odd thing for me at this early stage: allowing myself to experience my feelings so they don’t end up trapped inside and remembering to interact with my dog, teaching her little by little that if she comes to me when I’m sad, I will pet her, and love on her, and say nice things to her. 

It’s weird, being the caretaker who teaches her dog and the cared for who benefits from her dog’s care. Both roles are true, and it makes this a delicate partnership, held in balance through our affection for one another, which we’ve built through tug of war, walks, all of our outings, and just living life together.

I can do this. I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to have exclusively good days. Bad days are useful too. It will be alright.

Day 49 With Dora

It’s so cold here. The wind is just awful. It seems like half of the day I’ve had numb and/or painful ears. I’m dancing around the edge of frostbite, at least I think so. Mom said your skin hurts, then goes numb, then hurts again? (Or was that the other way around? 🤔) I’m too cold; I don’t remember.

Dora is just sniffing around the house like she’s looking for a potty spot. Which is why we were just outside for 15-20 minutes. For the 4th time today.


I can’t take it. She’s whining again. 

I AM SO COLD. WHY WON’T SHE JUST GO WHEN WE’RE OUTSIDE?! 

The longer we are out, the angrier and more tired I get, then the more I pull at her leash and snap at her. I can’t keep doing this. 

It’s so cold. 

I want to be a responsible owner and a good caretaker but the wind just saps my strength and leaves me empty. On days like this one, we stay out until I can’t handle it anymore, and then I stagger back home without being able to maintain good leash control or pay attention to what she’s doing.

15 mph wind. It’s just brutal when it’s below freezing. On days like this, my emotional support dog just makes things worse, honestly. It’s more the weather’s fault than hers, but I still get stressed out either way.