We got a lot done today: registered for obedience training, had her first vet checkup, walked nicely in a store, went on two walks, behaved well during several car journeys, and stayed home alone for a half hour or so. Dora was really good today, and she impressed more people with her good behavior.
Both the vet and someone at the trainer’s told me that they think Dora will be easy to train, which is pretty encouraging. I have been rather daunted by the prospect (because it’s unfamiliar, largely my responsibility, impossible to control completely, etc.). Today, I’ve started to feel like I can do it. I will have help after all.
This is a profoundly odd time for me. Dora is an emotional support dog- I have a qualifying disability and a doctor’s order, so Dora can live with me. She does not have public access rights- any places (like pet stores and parks) that allow dogs are fair game, and I can ask other places (employers, public facilities, etc.) for access if I want, but they can say no. In addition, I have a subtle mandate to ensure that Dora is actually qualified for the access that I’m requesting.
For example, I already have approval for bringing her to a local track, but until she is suitably leash trained, I don’t want to take her there. If I’m irresponsible, it could really hurt people’s impressions of service dogs. Dora is not a service dog- yet.
Some places suggest 120 hours minimum training for dogs. It’s… well, it’s daunting, like I said. But she needs (or at least, she’s going to get) two full obedience classes and the CGC prep class and then take the test. I’m looking at a weekly commitment for the next several months. Plus practice sessions between classes to reinforce the commands and expectations for both of us.
And then, after we finish that, there’s still the business of identifying what tasks I need from her (probably emotional overload related ones), developing a training method (simulating the situation, teaching the behavior, developing the command, etc.), practicing, and once she has all of it down pat, then and only then will Dora actually be ready for full public access.
I’m tentatively looking forward to it. It could be nice to have a safety net in place if/when I break down in inconvenient times and public places. I mean, I’ve crawled under bathroom counters and stayed there for more than 30 minutes before. I limited my breathing. I hid behind visual obstructions (chairs, shelves, trash cans). No one saw me, because why would you look for a grown woman tucked under the counter of your public bathroom?
One day, I might be able to cut that time down to 2-5 minutes of Dora helping me reconnect to reality and find a way to move on. It sounds really, really good to me.