Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Little Rusty . . .

On October 19, Cura and I went back into a face-to-face classroom.  It has been about five months since she had to be in class and that first night was certainly a lesson in 'use it or lose it'.  Now, I am not saying that Cura was completely out of control, but she had certainly forgotten that when we are in class and I am up front, standing and/or walking around, her job is to lay quietly and pretend she is not there (unless, of course something goes wrong and she needs to perform some of her more active duties).  Instead, every time I moved -- and sometimes when I didn't -- Cura stood up and came by my side.  So, she was quite fidgety that night.

The whole experience gave me great multi-tasking practice.  By that, I mean it gave me an opportunity to practice getting Cura to behave in a desired way while having much of my attention directed at something else.  If I am honest, I would say I was only moderately successful on Monday, but the next class was much better.

One of the things that I try to do, no matter how successful we are in the situation, is to reflect on different experiences.  I try to figure out what may have affect both my and Cura's behavior in that situation and what I can try next time to help things to go more smoothly.  As I was driving home that night, I did just that.  I guess I had gotten a bit spoiled since Cura was doing so well in the classroom at such an early stage (after all, by the end of the term, she had not even been going to class for two months).  So, I suppose I figured that if she had mastered that so quickly, going back to class would be a piece of cake for her -- like riding a bike . . .

But, as I was reflecting, I realized a few things.  First, one of the people in the classroom is on oxygen.  The noise from the tank was not only new but, as Rick and Heather later pointed out, it sounds very similar to the noise made by Hot Air Balloons (although much shorter and not as loud).  Cura still dislikes Air Balloons -- need I say more?  That person was absent the next class and she was much better (I don't think that was the whole challenge because she did well when that person returned in class 3 -- but it probably had something to do with it.)

Second, it had been months since I stood in front of a classroom and I believe I reverted back to pre-Cura techniques.  What are those, you ask?  Well, it was kind of like revving up a car engine.  In order to keep things interesting and energetic, I tended to increase my internal energy levels.  But, I soon learned that this only caused Cura to behave as if she expected something to happen -- that we were going to 'do' something.  Well, I was -- I was going to teach -- but SHE wasn't.  Here I was projecting all of this 'let's get ready to do something' attitude and she was responding in kind.  So, I had to develop ways to keep that energy going for teaching purposes while conveying to Cura that we were not getting ready to move.  Since I had only been doing that for a short time before the term ended -- I slid into old habits that first class back.  Ooops!

Actually, when you think about it, 2.5 hours is a pretty long time for her to just lay quietly in one place -- even if she gets up a couple of times, that is excellent (provided she is not completely disrupting the class) -- after all, I have to move around once in awhile or I start to get stiff and uncomfortable . . . 

Finally, regardless of how hard one tries, a Service Dog is still a novelty and I am sure that she was getting more attention from students that first night than she was comfortable with.  As I mentioned, days two and three were much more in keeping with her stellar performances toward the end of Spring semester -- but since I am doing so much teaching online lately, I need to keep in mind that entering the classroom after a significant break may just involve a bit of a refresher course.