Saturday, July 19, 2008


Oh, this dog is good.
Today we went to the mall, and it appears that one of the magic ingredients in getting Underwood to listen is being in the real world! He does not care for our repetition at school where he knows darn well that he can do it and doesn't need to prove it to us, thank you very much.
I felt like it was a special place where anything could happen. He did things without me having to act insane, he did things that he had never done before- it was awesome. He is going to be an amazing service dog.
I also know that he's doing better because our bond is a little tighter. He has started wagging his tail a bit more around me, and he's making more eye contact as opposed to rolling his eyes.
I'm also learning patience and not to micro-manage. Being that we're never supposed to let them get away with not listening, I have to choose whether or not I really need to tell him to do something right now. If we're just standing there and he's fine, I don't need to have him sit. I think that this is something that will spread to my whole life, too. I want to fine-tune and control everything, which is one of the reasons I don't like being around kids.
I'm also happy because I wasn't forced to give back his service dog cape, so we can go out and I can take him to church tomorrow. They just really don't want the actual clients do go out yet, since they can't control their dogs if anything were to happen. I could run after him or tackle him if I needed to, but someone in a wheelchair who doesn't have much experience with their dog couldn't take care of as much yet.
Now, we're off the the park for a walk/run. It will be interesting to be out with a big dog!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Today was day 5 of my mock-client training with a service dog. I. am. exhausted.
Lemme see if I can formulate coherent thoughts as to why this is so:
Every day, all day, I'm thinking, I'm being watched, I'm having mostly failures with some successes thrown in, I'm being encouraged or critiqued, and I'm having to lead.
I've been paired with a one year-old yellow lab named Underwood, and he is a VERY good boy- very sweet, well-mannered, and low-key. Part of the problem is his extreme low-key-ness mixed with the fact that he's young and has never had to work this much before. He's not one of those happy, waggy dogs who want to please you and await your every command. I have to fight to get his attention, repeat the commands a few times, and usually get extremely hyper and act insane in order to get him to really pay attention and do it. Or I need to offer him treats, which isn't all that great. Did I mention that I'm doing this in a wheelchair? I thought I did.
I know that there are worse problems to have-- he could be really hyper and hard to have around, but he is the complete opposite. I brought him home for the first time last night, and there was not one lick of misbehavior. He did wake me up for breakfast at 6am, but it was by very politely putting his chin on my leg, and we were able to go back to bed after.
We're attached to one another for the next week or so, and our bond should be forming very soon. I know that once he feels more connected to me, he'll be much more willing to pay attention to me and do what I say. It just makes for frustrating, tiring days right now.
He is a sweetie, though. We curled up on the couch last night for a while, he twice tried to jump up on the bed with me, he lives to "shake", and he is crashed out on the floor next to me as I type.
Tomorrow we have our first field trip--we're going to the mall for coffee, walking around in a civilized manner, and lunch in a restaurant. If we were a real service team, I wouldn't be allowed to leave the house other than that for the weekend. We're supposed to be bonding. Have I been told that I need to do that? Yes. Am I working on getting out of that? Yes. I want to take this boy to church! I'll let you know how the next week goes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I'm starting something a smidge intimidating tomorrow. I'm going to be in a wheelchair for most of two weeks, bonding and training with a service dog. There will also be some real clients there getting training with their new dogs, so that won't be awkward at all. "Hey this pretending to be handicapped during the day, except for when I have to go to the bathroom, this is hard!"
I'm looking forward to it, though. It's supposed to be very eye-opening, and I'm glad to finally get some training with the dogs, after 2.5 years of hanging around the joint! So, during the days this week, we'll have classwork- some lectures, lots of practice. Then, starting Saturday, the dreaded field trips. Going on a bus, to the movies, out to eat, to the mall, etc. There is a final exam in the mall, which I've been a spy/judge for before. No pressure.
Starting Wednesday, I'll be bringing a dog home with me, and I'm supposed to be the only one to feed, look at, touch the dog, etc. That's for creating that intense bond and starting life as a team. I'm not sure how much I'll be expected to do that. I'm supposed to be tied to the dog 24/7, minus showers. We'll see.
We'll see how Tootsie reacts to a big dog in her house, and how hard it will be for me to bond with a dog and then let it not actually be mine. But I can always see him/her at work. If I get paired with my favorite dog, though, there's going to be a showdown about giving her back, I tell you.
Why are non-handicapped people paired with dogs and going through this training? It's so that both our students and the dogs can get as much practice with this as possible. I'm probably going to have 2 of the seminar students (they're learning how to train the service dogs and start their own organization) as my teaching team during the two weeks. And it's a learning experience- to get a tiny taste of what life in a chair is like, how people see you. Joy(?).
Hopefully, I'll get some pictures to put up. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Middle Class Dream

I went into Costco on Tuesday and there was some sort of tasting jamboree going on. Two rows, back to back, of juices, meats, nachos, etc. I thought about resisting, but that didn't make any sense. So, I ate dinner for free, entertained the idea of buying a #10 can of nacho cheese, and got the lettuce I had gone in for.