If you have not had the opportunity to see a dog learning how to walk in shoes, let me encourage you to do so at EVERY opportunity. Why put shoes on a dog, you ask? Well, because she is a service dog, she must go everywhere with me regardless of the weather. Think about how you feel walking across a parking lot in bare feet when it is sweltering outside and the asphalt is 100+ degrees -- or whether or not you would like to go barefoot when there is snow on the ground. Even if you are of the mind that dog's feet are more resilient than those of a human, what about all of the glass and other damaging items can be found on the ground? Now imagine how well Cura could effectively be my service dog if her pads got cut or torn. So -- while she will not always need them, it is very important that Cura become comfortable walking and then working in her shoes for those times that they are needed. One important note: since dogs have only two ways too cool themselves (panting and through their paw pads) it is important to make sure overheating doesn't occur when wearing the boots -- Rick and Heather have introduced me to a cooling coat which works to keep Cura cool. It is AMAZING. Cura is a black dog and we live in the desert so the cooling coat has come in handy.
Here is a video of Cura taken a few weeks ago. It is actually the 3rd or 4th time she was in her shoes so the 'prancing' is significantly reduced here, but still very pronounced.
One of the primary things we have been working on since last Thursday is getting Cura more comfortable walking in her shoes. She has gotten much better, though not exactly comfortable. In fact, she is still rather disgusted with the whole concept -- her face says it all. As with all things in this whole process, persistence is the key. We have even had a few successes in the past 24 hours. She has managed to figure out how to sit, lay, and relieve herself while wearing her shoes (okay -- probably too much information for some, but this is one of the realities of having a service dog).
Now, being ABLE to sit, etc. in the shoes doesn't mean she has gotten obedience in the shoes down yet. This may prove to be a bit of a challenge because on the directions of Rick and Heather, until Cura gets used to them, boots are a required element of her gear. Every time we leave the house, she is supposed to be in the boots. Tomorrow and Wednesday are going to be interesting as far as obedience is concerned. Especially Wednesday since on top of it all we are going to be riding the bus -- one of Cura's more challenging activities at the moment (more on that later, I am sure!).
Working with Cura on the shoes has presented another challenge that I have not really encountered yet -- at least not to extent that I am now. Having to make Cura wear something that is clearly not comfortable for her is quite difficult for me. I have to keep telling myself that this is what is best in the long run (after all, I don't want her to burn or freeze her paws). This is one of the harder parts of persistence -- sometimes it actually makes you feel like you are being mean! But consistency is the key and we will continue to persevere!
Until next time . . .