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.

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.

Day 43 With Dora

I’m having a big episode today. Fear of the call hit me like a hurricane. Crying, dissociation, mild paralysis, repeated forgetfulness, exhaustion… it’s been rough.

I didn’t want to run from the call, so I made it myself. Terrified. Crying during the hold music. Squeezing the corner of my pillow with full strength. But I did it. The Flutenist helped me find the address and the specific info I needed during the call. I remembered my birthday through the thick mental fog. I did it. 

I took the car today and dropped The Flutenist off at work. (I need to take the laughs where I can find them. 😏) Dora and I went to the park to walk and play Pokémon GO- they boosted the spawn rate for many pink pokémon, and I need most of the fairy-types, so it’s good for me.

We walked a bit and I caught several jigglypuffs, a koffing, a lickitung, and more. It was good. I evolved my first wigglytuff today. I hoped that the play session would ease the tension by working my body and resting my mind. It didn’t.

I started to drive home but realized that I was in horrible shape, so I pulled back into the parking lot. Took off my gloves. My coat. My scarf. My retainer trays. Drank some of the coffee in my thermos. Wiped the fog off my glasses. Tied up my hair with on of The Flutenist’s old hair ties that he left in our car. Petted Dora. Caught a pikachu. Breathed. Breathed. Took a picture of Dora.


Self checks. Positive self talk. Affirmation of the situation. I started to drive home.

Should I get gas on the way home? Only 60 miles until it’s empty. Dropped 20 miles so far today. Panic! Anxiety! Can’t do it! Need to go home but need not to go home! Bubbling up, ready to erupt. Shutdown.

‘Just go home,’ I told myself. ‘It’s ok.’

And I tried to, but along the way, I needed to repeatedly punch myself in the leg to stay attached to reality. *punch* Reconnect! *punch* Reconnect! *punch* Reconnect! I drove one handed while it was snowing because I had to.

I got close to home and realized I needed to eat. I had to force feed myself dinner yesterday because I was too overloaded to feel hungry. For lunch today, I wasn’t hungry and I knew I wouldn’t have any motivation to cook. So I went to a drive thru.

I found my wallet. Picked food. Answered questions. Paid. Made space for the food on the front seat (now buried under my clothes and purse). I counted the trims until my driveway and coached myself through each one. “Four turns left,” I said aloud. “You’re doing great. Preparing for the first turn… only three turns left.”

I coached myself home. Then I verbally guided myself through collecting all the items in the car and Dora and making it to the porch. Then I told myself how to unlock the door. Then I talked my way through putting down all of the items and transitioning to lunch.

And I ate it. And I watched anime. And I petted Dora. And now I’m blogging. But I still feel off, like my eyes won’t focus. Like my brain won’t work. 

All because this morning, I needed to make a single phone call.

Crocheting for Dora

I didn’t mention Dora until I got her, but during the searching process, I was pretty stressed (as you can probably imagine). What if we couldn’t find the right dog? I’ve ever picked a dog for service dog training before. What if it took too long? Or came too fast? What if I wasn’t ready? What if all the dogs we liked didn’t work out?

I needed to channel the stress into something, and with winter, it wasn’t going to be exercise. 😅 So I started making a dog blanket. I took it to bog of my family Christmases. (Aside- good idea. It allowed me to be present but not idle and not involved with the group activity. Everyone was fine with me working on a creative project instead of playing cards. I may have to do this again.)

At this point, I’m nearly done, and here it is so far:


I’m using up my leftover yarn from old projects and cleaning out my yarn stash. Dora will probably be fine with it regardless of the colors. Here’s a size reference:


At this point, I’m ready to be done with it, so I’m pushing ahead as quickly as I can. I’m so, so close to using up the yarn scraps.  I’m looking forward to starting something else soon. That should be pleasant.

For anyone interested: I’m using a variety of weight 4 acrylic yarns with a size H hook and a 1.5 stitch that I developed when teaching myself to crochet. No matter what stitch I try to use, I seem to end up back at this familiar one.

Day 27 With Dora

I need Dora to poop today.

I need that poop to contain tapeworm segments.

Then I need to drive to the vet with the poop.

Because they won’t believe me about the ones I saw yesterday otherwise.

But yesterday, I didn’t have the car.

And I didn’t want to fish through the trash to find the one bag that had the one poop sample with worms in it.

And I didn’t want to walk for 2 hours in the sleet to get to the vet’s office and back home.

😑

It’s gross, I know, but it’s also stressing me out because I have this obligation hanging over me without any clue when it will actually happen. I have an appointment this Wednesday. Dora is large enough that she isn’t in danger from the worms. 

Why should I have to run in again, right before an appointment, and pay for two vet visits instead of one? It’s too expensive for this to be taken in stride.

And why don’t they believe me? I know what worms her monthly meds protect against, and I recognized the ones she has. I know what I’m talking about!

Sigh.

I’ll just go back to being nervous without any foreseeable end to the tension. I can’t control Dora, the parasites, or the expectations of the vet’s office.


Do any of you have strategies for dealing with unexpected responsibilities that could arise at any moment? Especially ones that require you to monitor something beforehand? It’s really unhealthy for me.

Days 16&17 With Dora

Meeting the service dog trainers went all right, actually. They helped me control Dora during the informational meeting (which had maybe 7 extra dogs present). Mental note: despite ignoring them just fine during walks, Dora really likes meeting other dogs. Even if they are trained service dogs who are lying down like they are supposed to be. 😓

Anyway, she passed their evaluation- they basically each tried to rile her up, make her angry, and push her boundaries, and Dora just took it. She let them touch her paws, look in her mouth, push her away, rub her a bit too hard, pinch her, pull her tail just a bit, flip her over… everything. Through it all, my dog just looked up at these strangers with confused affection. Sometimes, she wagged like it was a game (head low, friendly ears, wiggly body as she walked back to them), even if she didn’t understand the game. Sometimes, she just relaxed fully, like she couldn’t be bothered to worry about what they did. She didn’t react; she just rolled with it. Dora won over two more fans.

So, that all went well. 

It also wiped me out for the day. Like a push puppet. 

You can buy this push puppet or look at others on this site, if you wish.

I finished. It was over. Collapse.

I’m not… I’m not ok yet, even though it’s been another day. I’m stable, but so tired. Give me another few days to reach equilibrium again. It’s out there. I know it.

Days 12-14 With Dora

Quick recap:

  • Day 12: I’m so scared of training what if I can’t do it what if it goes wrong I wish I didn’t get nauseous when I’m stressed this is pathetic my brain says it should be ok why won’t my emotions listen what’s wrong with me aaaaaaaagh.
  • Day 13: First half was more of yesterday’s mess. Second half… why was I scared of this? That went really well. I talked to people, Dora was fine, the trainer is friendly. It’s ok. Breathe. Breathe.
  • Day 14 (today): My friend came over to hang out during her break at work. Dora and I went to the park, walked for 30 minutes, and caught 2 Paras, 1 Vulpix, and 1 Drowzee. (I was being a bit more discerning today, plus it’s hard to throw pokeballs accurately with a dog tugging your arm at random intervals, so we mostly walked.) I played video games. I folded two loads of laundry. I emptied and started reloading the dishwasher. I picked up my husband from work on time. The three of us did some leash training in Lowes.

So, it’s been really, really bad, then pretty ok. Then last night, I realized that my life is ok- it’s not going to be ok someday, but it is ok right now. That was really weird, I have to say. Today went pretty smoothly overall, and it was nice to finish tasks I haven’t had time for the last few days.

I wrote my second week’s training log a bit ago, so I’m going to relax now.