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.

Big improvements

I’ve been in a bad state since this morning- about 8 consecutive hours. I had to buy lunch to be sure I would eat.

I used the energy I had recovered this afternoon to call the doctor’s office again and follow up on this morning’s phone call. That choice knocked the wind out of me, but it was still the right one. I picked the one task that needed to be done today, that needed to be done by me, and I made sure that it happened.

But we are coming up on dinner, and I can’t manage an appetite or cooking. In a few hours, I’ll need to get The Flutenist from work, but I shouldn’t be driving right now.

I just called my brother and asked for help. 

I’m not sitting here alone this time, crying in the dark, not eating, and just pretending to be ok. I called for help because it’s important to me that I make it through this AND take care of myself at the same time.

With the last shreds of my energy, I reached out for help, and help is coming. It’s going to be ok.

Running on Fumes

I took Dora out for every single bathroom trip today, from 6 am through now. It’s a 15 hour shift so far. We also went for a lengthy walk with this awful hill along the path (good for me but hard to handle).

I’m tired. I had to reschedule plans with a friend today because I couldn’t handle it.

I wanted a fully trained dog. I didn’t want to have this extra stress on top of what I already carry. But for many reasons, here we are.

It will be ok, but tonight, it’s just too much. So my invisalign trays are out and I’m going to just eat some cookies.


I don’t care whether I “need” the calories or not. I need the sanity.