Day 34 With Dora

(I think I lost a few days last month.)

No long post tonight or fresh picture. I’m winding down for the night (more or less), and I just wanted to touch base.

Training class went really well tonight. It’s still difficult to get consistent results from her in a crowded, busy store, but man, Dora did so well on a few of the tasks.

She laid still and gave me begging eyes for a few solid minutes of waiting (instead of eating the salmon jerky just a few inches from her nose). I was even standing behind/beside her, so I couldn’t have physically stopped her in time. Dora chose to wait because I asked her to, and it was really good.

She also did pretty well at a sit-down-stay combo. Our trainer was dropping things and making loud noises, playing with toys and so on, and Dora only needed corrections once or twice, and she took them quickly. The other dogs walked by and she started to get up, but she laid back down on command and waited. That was also good.

She’s also having some digestive issues. But we have an appointment tomorrow for her booster shot, we took that sample in last week, and we can definitely try to get things settled. Her fur is still in good condition; Dora is hydrated; good appetite and everything… it’s probably just a minor issue.


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.

Day 15 With Dora

Somehow, this is now a blog about me and my emotional support dog. Funny how things happen, isn’t it?

Well, tomorrow, we meet the service dog organization that we’ve been looking at. They wrote the book we used to evaluate Dora (and earlier candidates). They are the ones who made us consider co-training a service dog. (They train you and you train your dog. They also monitor your progress and help guide you. I think.)

We’re driving an hour and a half to reach them for the informational meeting. It’s a bit out of the way, but where we live, this kind of thing can’t be helped. Dora is welcome to come, which is very good. The meeting takes place during one of her peak times (bathroom needs, food and water needs, high energy level), which could be problematic. There will be other dogs there for the meeting, and there’s no way to even guess how that will go, since we are all bringing our pets, hoping that they will qualify for co-training. Or be suited for it. Or something.

It should be fine. Of course it should be fine, but…

But a part of me always worries about the unknown. The known is safe, even if it’s painful. Things could always be worse. (Anyone who is thinking “they could also always be better,” you’re right, but that type of thought is pretty outlandish from my point of view.)

Otherwise, I’m playing Dragon Age Inquisition again for the “trials” trophies from the Trespasser DLC. If that means nothing to you, that’s fine. Life is moving along, and I am moving with it somehow.

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.

Day 7 With Dora

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.