Forward, march!

So…it’s assistance dog blog carnival time. I missed the one in May. The sad part about that was it was originally April, then it got postponed, and I still missed it. I forget what crazy was going on at the time, but since my life is full of more crazy than not, I’ll blame crazy.

So I’m really trying to squeak this one in under the wire. I hope it won’t suck. I make no promises.

The topic is Marchin’ to your own drum. Hmmm. I really don’t feel like I do. I’m not a textbook follow the rules guide dog handler, but I try to stick as close as I can to something resembling what I learned at school. Probably everything I do differently is that sloppy “Come on Trixie, you know what I’m trying to say” type way of giving commands that just happens over time as you get to know each other…at least I think it does. We don’t always do stuff exactly how we learned in class, right?…*looks out at the crowd for reassurance.*

So I don’t really feel like I’m that original or different from your average bear. So how could I possibly write for this carnival? But then it hit me. Just the act of getting an assistance dog forces you to march to the beat of your own drum.

I don’t think people realize this when they embark on this journey. I sure didn’t. I just thought wooo! I can blow through the mall at break neck speed and I’ll have a cute fuzzball by my side. People will go ooo aaa at my dog and it’ll be great. But that perfect little angelic bubble soon went ker splat when I learned that I’d have to train all my family and friends as well as John Q. Public all about what they could and couldn’t do with my dog.

No, mom, we have to go straight home to my house when my dog is brand new. No stopping at Uncle Joe’s. No, mom, you can’t start talking to and petting my dog. She’s new and has to bond with me. Yes, friends and family, I have to keep her on leash in your house. She’s new and I don’t want to find out what trouble she would get into. I’m not being cruel, honest. Yes, I have to stop at every street corner before we fly across the street. No, j-walking is not cool! Hey dude on the bus, no petting my dog! You tried to feed her? Please do not feed my dog!

You get the picture. Hopefully you’re not bored. My point is you have to be strong enough to not cave to the whims of your family and friends…something that can be really hard, especially for people who haven’t had to advocate for themselves. In order to make the team strong, you have to not do what looks like the easiest course of action. You have to set your own rules, and stand firm!

And then you meet other teams, and see pretty quickly that every single team does things in a slightly different way. Sometimes it’s so hard not to be judgmental. You see something and go huh? But you soon have to learn that as long as it works, who the hell cares if it’s different than the way you do things?

And finally, when the beat of your life’s drum has gotten too fast for your dog and they’d prefer a slow waltz to a fast march, you have to accept that new speed and figure out how you’ll accommodate, no matter how hard it is or how people feel about your decision. I’m going through that right now, which feels way too soon for me. People are completely shocked. “She’s 7! Seven’s not that old! Maybe she just needs a week off!” I wish it were that easy, but the fact is, since last October my life has been insane super crazy. I’m sure people on the blog wondered what happened to me. And the poor pooch, at that age, just wasn’t ready to step up her workload from average to holy mother of god what is this new schedule? I equate it to telling a 50-year-old office worker “Hey! I know you mainly typed and answered phones. How’d you like to do longer hours of manual labour?” At the same time, the person’s car breaks down and they can no longer afford another one, which means they have to take the bus. Wouldn’t someone at that age start thinking that maybe retirement would be a good option?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying my damnedest to rule out anything medical, and I’m scared shitless that something is lurking in the shadows waiting to strike. But if it isn’t medical, then I have to accept that Trix can’t do my whole workload. I’ve cut her back, and even with that lighter load, I see her tiring faster.

So, my point is, from beginning to end, we all as assistance dog teams have to set our own path, and find our own style. But I think most of us agree, even with all the struggles, the rewards are pretty awesome.

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4 comments
  1. This was a great post! I wasn’t bored, I assure you.

    Sometimes you have to do what’s right for the dog, even when it’s heartbreaking for you. You know Trix better than anyone else, so you’re the most informed one to make the decision.

  2. P.S. I meant to comment on this earlier, but I forgot.

    First, thank you for contributing to the Carnival! I’m so glad you did.

    Second, I loved this:
    “We don’t always do stuff exactly how we learned in class, right?…*looks out at the crowd for reassurance.*”

    Yes, indeed. I’m learning that a lot from my friends who went through programs, and I’ve also learned that those of us who private- or owner-train don’t always follow exactly the methods laid out for us, either. In fact, I might make this my topic for when I host again!

  3. I found educating my family the hardest. My dad and sister know the rules pretty well and i wouldn’t want anyone else looking after her. I remember in the early days though my dad and sister saying i walked quicker with ushi than i did when they guided me. My sister then said that i walked quicker to get a match. The more i think of that the more stupid it sounds. For one i would be the one who would have to live with the consequences and have to wait longer if i walked quicker in the assessments etc to be matched quicker. There probably are people who would do that but not me. It would just be a recepi for disaster! I could have killed them when they suggested that though.

    Everythings peachy now :).

    Xxx and great post!

  4. Oy! They really need to meet more guide dog folks. We all walk faster with our dogs.

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