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!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Daylight Savings Time . . . .

I don't think dogs get it!

But first, let me apologize for my slow approval to the last couple of comments.  I recently changed my comments settings because I learned that the squiggly word verification method can be very difficult to deal with if a person has particular disabilities.  In my effort to make Cura's Corner more 'friendly' to those people, I moved to moderated comments.  Funnily enough, that means that I have to approve all comments.  Something that I knew but, obviously did not manage to truly register in my brain.  Until today.  So,  thank you for your comments and please keep 'em coming.  As I get more used this moderated comments thingy, I will get better -- I promise.  Meanwhile, if it takes a bit of time for your comment to appear, it is probably just because still have to approve them -- mea culpa!

Now, back to daylight savings time.  As some of you know, Cura is the Service Dog in the family, but she has a "sister" -- a lovely Cairn Terrier who is also a rescue.  Now, both dogs have a routine and, as much as possible, their routines tend to overlap.  To some extent, the routines are constructed, but there are some things that have just developed because they fit out lifestyles.  But, I didn't actually realize how MUCH routine we had until the time change yesterday.  (I think I didn't notice it in the Spring because the time moves forward instead of back and the previous Fall, Cura and I were still a fairly new team, so I probably just figured any of this behavior I saw was part of the learning process.)

Sunday is one of the two training class days of the week. Most Sundays and Mondays, Cura and I leave the house around 12:30pm to go to class.  So, along comes 11:30am yesterday and Cura gets restless.  She woke from her morning nap (which she usually takes on those days that I am working on the computer first thing in the morning), started shifting around, looking at me, pricking her ears and wagging her tail when I looked over at her.  I made the mistake of getting up to take care of something and she was up and at the door waiting for her gear with her "Let's go, Mom!" expression on her face.  She was not a happy camper when it turned out we were not actually leaving. 

Then there was Skye and "bed time".  Skye is a one woman dog (oh, she tolerates everyone else, but we know who she REALLY loves best).  She and Nonna Ear Rubs usually head to "bed" about 8:00 or 8:30 -- well, the process starts at that point anyway with Skye getting her last trip outside for the evening.  So, there was Skye last night at 7:15 letting Nonna Ear Rubs know that it was time to let her out so they could go to bed!  Good thing Nonna Ear Rubs was tired and thinking of getting ready for bed early!

Just two examples of how dogs just don't get Daylight Savings Time -- I've gotta say, I think I'm with them -- especially in the Spring!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rights have Responsibilities!

I recently had an unpleasant experience at a business that allowed pet owners to bring their dogs on the premises.  Unfortunately, the person who had elected to bring their dog with them had a dog that was not socialized to being around unfamiliar dogs.  Twice, this person's dog became aggressive towards Cura and each time, the owner's reaction was to laugh.  Both times, Cura and I were surprised by the dog because my concentration was focused on shopping and not people with thier dogs coming up on us unnoticed.  (My fault because I should have been more diligent in an establishment that allowed pets -- especially after the first incident of anti-social behavior -- lesson learned, I hope.)  Anyway, this experience got me thinking about the responsibilities that go along with all those rights we hold dear . . .

***gingerly stepping up on soapbox*** (hey,my balance is bad, give me a break!)

Yes, there are places that you have the right to take your dog.  Some businesses let you bring your beloved dog in with you as you shop or provide a wonderful outside patio where you can sit with your best four-legged friend and enjoy a meal or coffee.  Of course, you have the right to enjoy these facilities!  No respectible animal lover would say otherwise and, in my experience, some of the biggest dog-lovers are those of us whose lives have been enhanced by an Assistance Dog. 

Now, here is the big ol' BUT . . .

With that right comes responsibility.  If you bring your dog into one of these places, you are responsible for controling them and insuring that they do not threaten the safety, wellbeing, or enjoyment of others.  Don't let your dog charge, growl, bark, snap, and/or lunge at other dogs or people.  If it happens (which it will at some point, no matter how well behaved your fuzzy friend is), get your companion under control immediately and for goodness sake, don't laugh when it happens time after time as if it is all a big joke!  This applies whether or not your dog reacts to another pet, a human, or an Assistance Dog.  Also, keep in mind that when your dog has an aggressive reaction to an Assistance Dog that it is potentially compromising the safety of another human being.  Even if you manage to stop your dog short of making contact with an Assistance Dog, your dog has interfered with the Assistance Dog's ability to concentrate on their job and placed the human half of the team at risk.

Hey, we all know that dogs have quirks and personalities.  Sometimes, no matter how well behaved they are usually, they just decide that they don't like something and react.  It happens.  But it is NOT funny and as the owner, you are responsible for insuring that it doesn't happen again (i.e. don't pass by the trigger repeatedly and then laugh at your dog's anti-social behavior).  You may have the right to have your dog with you at these locations, but you also have the responsibility to insure that your dog does not interfer with the ability of others to enjoy these places.  Make sure you live up to that responsibility before you bluster about your rights -- or just leave Fido at home, he may be happier if you do.

***thus endeth the soapbox***

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's Carnival! Let's Party!

Well, here it is . . . Sharon over at After Gadget is sponsoring the first Assistance Dog Blog Carnival and here is my entry! The plan is that the Carnival will take place quarterly with a different theme each time. The theme for this 'edition' is Firsts. My first thought was to tap imto one of the many 'firsts' that I have written about in the past -- there have been a ton of them. But, after what happened the other day, I decided to go ahead and write something just for the Carnival.

Why? You may ask . . . well it is because Saturday we experienced a first in a series of firsts and all of them had to do with Hot Air Balloons. Cura does not really like Hot Air Balloons. Not only does she not like the noise made by the burners, but she does not like seeing them floating in the sky -- near or far. Now, this would not be a problem in many places, but here in New Mexico it is a bit of an issue, especially this time of year with the Balloon Fiesta which just took place.

For those of you who are new to Cura's Corner, Cura is an owner trained Service Dog. Well, owner trained with professional guidance. She came home in March of 2009 and worked very hard together to become the team that we are today. But this is not about Cura's first days with me, it is about her changing attitude toward balloons.

Because she spent so much time in a shelter before being adopted, she had not been socialized to a number of things. The first time we went for a walk when there were balloons in the air, I thought I was going to lose her. She pretty much paniced and it was all I could do to get her home. She literally couldn't think -- all she wanted to do was get away -- to anywhere! She was panting, tail between her legs, ears back, head frantically swiveling from side to side . . . Obviously, this was something that needed some work!

Fast forward several months and we had another balloon first! It was the first time we went for a walk with balloons in the air where she was able to think. She was still not happy, but less frantic. She walked by my side in the proper place and listened to and performed the tasks that I asked of her. But her posture was unchanged . . . still panting, tail between the legs, ears back . . . but not so much head swivelling.

Finally, she got to the point where she could walk down the street with a bit more confidence when the balloons were out. Her tail was still down, but not tucked between her legs, and her body posture was better, but still not happy. Her solution was to go out, do what she had to do, and get back home as quickly as possible. No dallying, doing everything that was asked of her, not rushing, but no messing about. I can't tell you how pleased I was the first time I realized she was becoming better able to cope when there were balloons in the air. I respected her discomfort with the balloons and usually let her choose to walk the short route rather than the longer one on those mornings that they were out.

Then, there came the First that prompted this post. This morning there were several balloons in the air when we went out for our morning walk. Although she was aware of them, she was in quite a perky mood. The entire walk her tail and head were held high and she was obviously having a great time. We came to the point in our walk where, if we were taking the shorter route, she would turn to go home and she just kept on going! For the first time, she wanted to be out and about while the balloons were up in the air! It was a wonderful walk! All of that perseverence seems to have paid off!

So, that is the story of our Balloon firsts . . . like all of our challenges, it looks like one more has been overcome through dedication and perseverence. Having a Service Dog may not be a walk in the park but I think all the hard work is worth it. Cura has changed my life. She is my first Service Dog and I frequently wonder how I managed without her. Before her, so much energy went toward managing my life and now it goes toward living it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's Carnival!!!

How exciting!  Here I finally start finding other Service Dog related blogs and I am immediately introduced to the concept of Carnival!  I am still a bit unsure about what it entails, but I am looking forward to it because I think it will introduce me to several other Service Dog bloggers out there.  If you are interested in finding out more check out After Gadget's post.

Basically, anyone who has a blog can participate by writing a blog about some aspect of training, partnering with, NOT partnering with, etc. a Service Dog.  Do you live with or know someone with a Service Dog -- you can blog, too!  The theme for this Carnival is "The first . . . "  Yep, that's all you get!  Take it an run with it!  It can be ANY first -- your first dog, your first outing, your first reaction to a Service Dog Team, whatever!

The deadline for submission is midnight on October 19 (so think Monday, October 18).  You can write something new or just provide the link to an older, relevant post.  Just send in the link to your post before the deadline and then, once Carnival begins, visit everyone who participated and read all about their firsts!

I can hardly wait!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back into the Routine?

Well, finger's crossed, anyway!  I hope everyone likes the new look.  Since Cura graduated in July, I thought it would be wonderful to mark the occassion by redecorating.  I owe a BIG thank you to Marie over at The Play of Light and Shadow for the amazing new header.  She was increadable.  I was one of those people who had a vague idea of what I wanted and a very strong sense of what I DIDN'T want for the new look and she patiently attempted to visually portray intent.  Let me know what you think!

August and September were filled with all sorts of time consuming activities.  I signed up for some classes (one of many steps on the way toward a teaching license).  It has been ages since I have been on that side of the classroom.  Cura has taken to the routine very well (big surprise there, I know).  But it makes for quite a long day because they are night classes.  Both classes require a considerable amount of classroom observation so that, too, has been on the agenda.  Since I am interested in K-5, that means that Cura has spent time around lots of little people for the very first time.  Apart from the occassional 'greeting' in public, Cura really has no little people in her life, so I was not sure how she would feel being in the classroom.  Fortunately, all of the teachers I have worked with have been great.  The students were prepped ahead of time and some of the classes got to ask questions.  But they all followed the rules and didn't try to interact with Cura at all.  So, the whole process has gone very smoothly so far. 

I have also been going through an orientation process to teach University courses online.  The process has been rather time consuming but I am very prepared for my first class because of it.  The past week has been spent reviewing and preparing the online section and some students are already getting started this weekend even though the course technically starts tomorrow.

On top of all that, Cura and I still go to our weekly training classes, only now we are starting to help with the training end of things.  It is very challenging and exciting.  A Fresh Perspective Dog Training is responsible for the training of the Service Dogs for Paws and Stripes so there are a number of new Service Dog Teams on top of the regular basic training classes that they provide for the community.  So, Cura and I are learning the ropes and helping out with the training.  At the very least, we get to demonstrate some of the skills that they are working on. 

As I said, tons of stuff going on!  But, I think I might now have gotten into a bit of a routine again.  So, I am going to start posting regularly again.  My goal is at least once a week -- but deep down, I'm hoping for twice a week . . . we'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A few days away . . .

Well, hopefully the computer issues have been sorted.  Meanwhile, even though there were no regular posts, you may notice that I did manage to send out a few Tweets.  One of the things Cura and I did during the computer blackout was to go on our first Road Trip without family.  Heather and I took Cura and Corey (her Service Dog) and went away for a few days. 

Cura has gotten to be an old hand when it comes to travelling in the car.  Here she is gazing out the window -- watching the scenary go by.  But she is also just as comfortable taking a nap!

She absolutely LOVES her seatbelt because it allows her so much movement and she can get comfortable for those longer rides.  The seat extension cushion helps, too, giving her an addition 12-15 inches of space to lay on. 

Corey settled in very nicely.  Here she is making herself comfortable when we were on our way to dinner one night.  (Yes, that IS Cura's tail hanging down on the right).  The girls were great the entire trip.  They immediately settled in the back seat, side by side. 

We stayed with Heather's Mom for a few days and there were three beautiful dogs in the house.  Introductions went quite well and the entire visit was virtually uneventful -- at least when it came to interaction between the dogs.  In fact, Cura showed a very interesting development -- there were a couple of times that there was a bit of fussiness between the dogs and Cura's reaction was to go to Corey's aid.  This was an interesting development because Cura is generally quite aloof when it comes to other dogs.  Clearly, there was something about the trip and our attitudes that told Cura and Corey that the four of us were a pack -- so when Cura thought Corey needed help, she was willing to step up and support her.  Of course, neither Heather or I allowed the dogs to take the protective role -- that was our job!  But still, it was encouraging to see Cura make some ties with other dogs.

There was a funny result of the trip . . . we discovered a new hybrid Service Dog called Curey (or Cora), depending on the situation.  Within 24 hours of beginning our trip, both Heather and I were both having trouble with the girls' names -- frequently combining Cura and Corey when addressing either of the girls.  The funny thing was, usually they both responded regardless.

The trip was full of interesting experiences and devolopments -- some of which I need to ponder further before sharing (if I ever do share).  But, it was an amazing experience and I had a ton of fun.  Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future, I will plan a trip with only Cura and I!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Cura and I would like to welcome our newer followers.  We hope that you enjoy our journey as much as we are. 

This is just a short little post to let everyone know that the computer must go in for a checkup so regularly scheduled posts will be suspended for a time.  Hopefully, it will be a SHORT time!  I believe that it is something quite simple, but probably involves messing about with the registry -- something I avoid at all costs!  I have attempted all the fixes I am comfortable with and now it is time to pass the problem on to the professionals.  Wish me luck!

I hope to be back online soon!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Another Milestone!

Well, Cura and I are officially Alumni of A Fresh Perspective Dog Training's Service Dog program!  WhoooHooo!  It was a wonderful evening.  We were fortunate enough to have several people come and help us to celebrate our success.  So many people have come together to create our Service Dog Team and all of them were thrilled that Cura and I were graduating.

We received a framed diploma and Rick and Heather had Service Dog patches made -- I can't WAIT to switch them out on Cura's gear.  The wording of the diploma is great -- with any form of the word 'certified' conspicuously absent!  Yay!  (where do you think I get my healthy distain for the whole 'certified Service Dog' myth?)

One of the talented Service Dog Teams in the program presented us with a beautiful painting -- I have no idea how she managed it (the idea -- not the actual painting), but the imagery was perfect and the colors she used were amazing.  She is so talented and it was an honor to be gifted with one of her creations. 

We received many wonderful gifts and, thanks to the generosity of many of the guests, Cura and I were able to present Paws and Stripes with a small donation to help their cause!  (I posted about this great new organization a little over a month ago -- if you are interested in learning more about it, check out the website).  The founders are involved in the same Service Dog program as Cura and I so it was a pleasure to be able to donate to a good cause and help a few friends at the same time.

Well, that is the quick and dirty version of graduation . . . I think it will take some time to figure out exactly how I feel about no longer being in training.  I imagine it will gradually start to sink in as the weeks pass.  Don't worry, I will keep sharing our journey -- after all, it is still ongoing even though we are not 'in training' any longer.  Cura and I will still be going to classes -- to keep us from getting lazy -- and I will keep teaching Cura new skills -- to keep her mind working.  Plus, there will be the everyday experiences of being a partnership and moving through the world.

Stay tuned for our adventures!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Whew!  Well, recovery took much longer than originally anticipated . . . but it feels like things are pretty much back on track.  It is funny how a few days away can just throw everything off kilter.

Well, hard work reaps its rewards, and this week has some big ones!  We have had our very last Service Dog private tutoring session . . . while we will still be going to classes, Cura will officially graduate from the Service Dog program on Friday.  We will be celebrating with a little gathering of people who are in the Service Dog Program along with Nona Ear Rubs, Fuzzy Face and a few other people who have been involved in Whoopee!!'s transformation into Cura and our development into a smoothly working partnership. 

I am VERY excited!  It is going to be a lovely evening and it will be the first time all of the Service Dogs in the program will be together in a non-training situation.  Okay, yes . . . ALL situations are a training opportunity, but this is a real social event where all the dogs will be working instead of the focus being on practice or learning (but never fear, I am sure there will be at least a few helpful tips passed on during the evening -- Rick and Heather just can't help it and I love them for their dedication.  It really helps me to get the guidance 'in the moment' and have the added benefit of them illustrating things if it is needed instead of just explaining a situation after the fact and working on it later.  This allows me to really understand what I was doing wrong in the moment -- how was I feeling; what exactly did I do or not do to contribute to the problem; what is going on in the environment that could be (or definitely IS) contributing to the issue -- all of these things and more are important and can easily be overlooked after the fact.

In addition to graduation on Friday, this week is also a Playdate week!  Yay!  Cura gets to romp around with some of her friends, dig holes, and let her doggie hair down.  She really enjoys these sessions -- more so if the weather is not dodgy -- though with it being monsoon season, who knows what the weather will be like.  Still, getting out and playing with her friends is an important part of Cura's 'down-time' so we will brave the weather unless it is ridiculous.  There will be an added treat this time -- her podmate from the Shelter has been invited.  Cura and BB have been in classes together, but this will be the first time since Cura was adopted that they will be able to socialize together off-leash.  It should be a wonderful thing to see and I hope that I remember to bring my camera so that I can get some of it on film -- otherwise, you will all be subjected to phone quality images!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recovering . . .

Well, today has been all about getting settled back into the daily routine after our trip.  First thing we did this morning was take Cura for a short run.  It was about half the distance as normal because it was rather warm this morning and it had been a week since Cura had any real exercise.  For the most part, our time has been spent stuck in a car or a hotel room.

I think the one thing that struck me about the past week is how well Cura has fallen into her Service Dog role.  Last July, only about three and a half months after Cura came home, we also went on a trip for about the same length of time.  She did very well on that trip despite the fact that she had recently entered an entirely new life.  Both of us were so new to the whole experience.  Since that time, both my and Cura's confidence have improved and we have both become much more comfortable with each other as well as the challenges that can face a Service Dog Team.

The differences between that trip and this one were relatively minor, but they made the entire time feel much more relaxed.  Cura was much more comfortable about riding in a car and entering areas where the smells, sights, and sounds were different than what she was used to experiencing.  She settled right down in the hotel room (as soon as I figured out where to put her bed so that she was most comfortable).  She ate every meal she was given, apart from the night of the terrible thunder storm -- which I was not surprised by, at all! 

Just these little things made the trip much more relaxed for both of us.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone else notices the differences or if it is just an internal thing -- but even if others do notice, it is hard to express the reality of the change that I feel with Cura at my side.  She makes all the difference in the world.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Quickie!

Just a short little check in.  We got home from out trip and everyone is just beat.  Cura has been sleeping (apart from her dinner) since we walked in the door.  I think we are ALL glad to be home and looking forward to sleeping in our own beds tonight.

While not overly exciting, you should be able to see a few tweets to the right, along with a couple of pictures taken on the trip.  I'm not up to it tonight, but I will post in a few days . . .

Hope everyone is doing well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Separation Anxiety . . . mine!

The last couple of days have been spent preparing for our trip.  We will be hitting the road bright and early tomorrow morning.  I will (once again) attempt to tweet periodically on the trip, but we all know how rubbish I can be about that!

Anyway, one of the things that is on the list of things to do was to get Cura be-a-u-ti-fied -- something I try to do for trips or other 'big' events.  It's just a good idea to make sure she is looking her best so I supplement my weekly grooming sessions with the occasional professional job.  This means that she has to be dropped off at the groomers for a few hours and I am on my own.  I may have mentioned that I spend most of this time feeling a bit lost -- think of it like you have left your purse or wallet at home for some reason and have to constantly remind yourself that you are not supposed to have it with you.  A brief moment of OMG followed by 'oh, yeah.'

Well, this time it was different.  I had a very hard time without Cura.  I spent the entire time she was at the groomers battling my anxiety.  Since my recent tumble, I have been a bit unsteady on my feet (a bit stiff) and Cura has been particularly attentive.  She usually keeps track of me, even in the house, but since the fall she has been right by my side pretty much all the time.  Let me tell you, it has been very welcome.  Maybe it was the fall, maybe it was the fact that I have been a bit unsteady, maybe my confidence has been a bit shaken from the experience -- whatever the reason, both Cura and I were very relieved when I picked her up from the groomers!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Success when it really matters . . .

I was going to wait a bit before making the big announcement, but todays blog topic makes more sense if I spill the beans now . . . Cura will graduate at the end of this month!  Rick and Heather made the announcement at the beginning of the month.  This is our last month as students in the program.  I am both excited and proud to have completed the program.  But, that is not exactly what this post is about -- though it is relevant. 

As I have mentioned, before Cura came into my life, I fell quite often -- at least once a month and sometimes more.  But, since I have had Cura with me, I have not fallen . . . well, that is until a couple of days ago.  We were having one of our last training sessions and we were working on the 'Get' command.  This is the one where either Cura goes and gets someone to help me or someone tells her to get me so that she can lead them to me.  This has been a particularly difficult thing for Cura because she does not like to be away from my side.  She has also found it distressing to 'Get' me and find me laying on the ground when she gets there.  But, she had gotten much better and understands the concept well now.  But, practice is the name of the game, so Rick had walked away with Cura and I was moving to a different place (so Cura actually had to find me instead of just return to where I was before -- it keeps her thinking to mix things up a bit and helps insure that she can adjust to circumstances as they arise).

Anyway, there was something on the floor and I managed to step on it, lose my balance, and the next thing I know, I was on the ground.  Let me tell you, after over a year of not falling it was a big shock!  Heather called to Rick who, once he realized what had happened, told Cura to 'Get' me.  Before I knew it, she was at my side protecting me from anyone 'helping' me up before I had a chance to make sure I was unhurt.  Then, when I was ready, she helped me get up off the floor, we found a seat, and she sat with me until I had fully recovered from the incident.  She was amazing!  This was the first time she experienced a true fall (every other time had been simulated so the emotional element and sense of urgency was never really there before).  On top of that, we were in close quarters, so she had to adjust the routine to enable her to accomplish what I needed from her in a more confined space (an example of how mixing things up in practice helps Cura to do her job well). 

It is interesting that days after Rick and Heather announced that she was ready to graduate, Cura proved it -- I am so lucky!  Sure, it has required (and will continue to require) hard work and dedication, but it has definitely been worth it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A road trip!

This time next week, we will be making the final preparations for a road trip.  We are headed for Kansas City, MO for a few days where Nona Ear Rubs will be taking a class.  Plus, we will be doing some antiquing -- at least we hope to find some hidden treasures along the way.

It will be interesting to note any differences between this trip and the one that we took almost exactly a year ago.  We will be traveling about the same distance and traveling by car, just like last year.  That trip went very well, especially since Cura had been training for such a short period of time.  Of course, I was a bit uncomfortable taking her so far from home for fear that she would somehow get away from me and end up lost.  I no longer have that fear -- I know that Cura won't go far.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not foolish and do take precautions -- but accidentally dropping the leash no longer sends a flash of panic through my body.  Now, it is more like . . . oh, oops . . . whereas before it was more like . . . OH NO! WHERE'S THE LEASH! (frantic motion to get my hands on it or to step on it so Cura doesn't get away).

So, I imagine the BIG difference between this trip and the one last year is going to be me!  Go figure.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's flippin' HOT!

Happy Fourth of July!

Yesterday, Cura and I spent part of the day sitting around and answering questions at a nearby garden shop.  Okay, so I answered questions, Cura hung out.  We were in a covered area and I made sure that Cura was well fortified against the heat.  Her cooling coat was doing wonders -- keeping her core temperature down -- but after a bit, it became clear that her head was a bit warm.  This was my solution . . .

She was quite comfortable and I was happy to forego wearing my hat since the sun was not beating down on me directly.  I think I may have to look into getting her a hat of her own! (One that fits a bit better and doesn't fall off every time she moves her head!)

With the weather being as hot as it has been, making sure that Cura stays cool when we are out and about has been a big focus for me.  I think that I have mentioned that she is usually unwilling to drink while she is out working -- so making sure she doesn't get overheated is important.  I always know when I have failed in that mission because the few times she has gotten uncomforatable, she has actually taken a few laps of water when she is offered -- but only a few laps!  At least I know if she gets too hot, she WILL drink -- and it is a good gauge of how she is doing!

Still, even with all of the equipment to keep her cool, I am very careful not to have her out too long and we both are looking forward to the monsoons when the temperatures will drop a bit!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mea Culpa!

When Cura first came home, due to my inexperience and a desire to 'make my life easier', I went ahead and got one of those Service Dog "certifications" that can be sent away for by just about anyone.  I have mentioned having a meaningless certification before.  Well, when the certificate came, it included a couple of "Registered Service Dog" patches.  I didn't get them put on Cura's daily vest or pack, but they were added onto her Cooling Coat.  Now that the weather is warmer, Cura is using her Cooling Coat more often and walking around town flashing the "Registered" patches all over the place. 

So what, you may ask . . . what difference does it make?  Well, here is the problem . . . by displaying patches that indicate that Cura is registered, it supports and promotes the public's misconception that Service Dogs need to be registered.  I am not sure why I did not make this connection earlier, but something that Heather said the other day suddenly clicked.  By the next day, the "Registered Service Dog" patches were removed from Cura's Cooling Coat.  I have to order another pair of her 'normal' Service Dog patches, but at least I am no longer contributing to the problem.

In reality, initially gettting the certificate and the patches was probably something that I needed to do.  I was not ready to deal with access challenges without having some kind backup -- no matter how flimsy I knew them to be.  If I could flash a patch, card, or piece of paper that others would see as validating Cura's status as a Service Dog, then I could avoid an unwanted confrontation.  Even with that support, for several months I came away from almost every access challenge with my heart pounding, hands shaking, and knees weak.  It took me a long time to feel comfortable dealing with such situations without getting overly stressed. 

Now after over a year of practice, it is time to stop leaning on these crutches and stop supporting the idea that Service Dogs should be registerd by displaying patches, etc. that indicate Cura is registered.  I apologize for buying into the hype.  I realize that I potentially made it harder for the Service Dog Team that happened to follow after me without some "registration".  Fortunately, one of the benefits of having Cura in my life for the past 15 months is gaining the skills to deal with such conflicts when they arise.  I am happy to say that I will not longer be sending out false impressions -- the patches are off! 

I have stopped 'making my life easier'.  In the long run, it is more effective to do the hard work of educating those who do not know any better.  I am now up to performing this task 100% of the time.  It may not always be fun, but it will always be worth it.  Thanks Heather for persisting and helping me to see the light!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Party!

As I mentioned previously, we have been working to improve Cura's performance while around other dogs.  Yes, this happens to some extent at her weekly group classes, but that is on neutral ground and we are now working on situations where Cura may be visiting others on their turf.  Specifically, we were preparing for an upcoming party that I was going to attend.  After the time spent preparing for the gathering, I was fairly confident that all would go smoothly -- little did I know HOW smoothly!

Yes, this is going to be another 'my dog is awsome' story.  I try very hard to notice all of Cura's little successes which is very important for the training process.  But this time it is not just a little success that I am sharing -- this one is significant!  Sure, she and the other dogs did wonderfully togther as anticipated which is always a good thing.  On top of that, the party was outside under a covered area and, at one point, Mother Nature decided to up the ante and throw in a short period of rain, lightening, and thunder.  For about 30 minutes we had a lovely summer storm.  Some of you will remember that lightening and thunder are particular challenges for Cura.  She had shown improvement over the last 15 months, but they still bother her.  (Though now, instead of heading for the bathroom to cower in a corner, she usually just stays by my side, panting and shaking for awhile until she calms down.)  However, this night she was AMAZING! 

She had already spent quite some time laying quietly at my side, dozing.  When the first lightening flash happened, her head came up, shes stood up, turned around in a circle, and then resettled.  Within a couple of minutes, her head was back down and she was dozing again -- that was the extent of her reaction to the storm.  On top of that, there were some guests that, after arriving and socializing for 10-15 minutes actually asked me where Cura was.  When I showed them that she was laying at my side, they were quite surprised because they had not noticed her until I pointed her out.

So, all in all, it was a VERY successful evening.  Many previous efforts came together and contributed to my having a wonderful evening out -- a truly relaxing, enjoyable evening!  Thank you, Cura!  You're a STAR!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ignoring, well, almost everything

But me!  That is pretty much what Cura does when we are out.  All of that time that we have spent in classes every weekend around all kinds of dogs with all kinds of personalities has really paid off.  Just this last weekend was the beginning of another cycle of classes so there were all sorts of new dogs and thier new owners.  This time there were several dogs that had poor puppy manners and were pretty fussy.  On top of that, apart from one session, the classes were all quite full so pure attendance alone made for very energetic classes.

Cura took naps.

But it isn't just in class that Cura does such a good job of ignoring other people and dogs.  When we are out and about and a person tries to engage with her, she usually turns her head.  She usually refuses to make eye contact with anyone and if someone reaches for her, she will move her head out of the way.  If a dog stares as her, she practically looks through them!  She is clearly no making eye contact on purpose.  She either stares off in the distance, puts her head down and dozes, or looks up at me.

She knows that just because people or other dogs are around does not mean that it is appropriate for her to interact with them.  She has a job to do and she takes that pretty seriously -- gotta love a good work ethic, even in a dog!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Great Cause!

Today was the first class of the new training cycle so we had a bunch of new dogs and owners.  It is also the class where I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the newest Service Dog Team to benefit from Rick and Heather's training.  It is always a happy time when another team joins the program, but this particular team is extremely special.  To learn more about this team and the wonderful organization that they have been instrumental in implementing take a few moments and visit Paws and Stripes.

This is a wonderful new organization!  It is dedicated to pairing Rescue Dogs and returning Veterans with various disabilities and impairments that are a result of their service to the United States.  It then provides for the training of both the four- and two-legged members of that pair until they become a strong Service Dog/Companion Partnership.  Regardless of your position on the military activities of this country, these men and women deserve an opportunity to re-enter society.  As the website says; "Paws and Stripes strives to bring peace and normalcy to the lives of our nation's heroes and see that homeless dogs not only find a loving home, but a new purpose in life."

This may be a shameless plug, but who cares!  Take a look at this great organization.  If you have a Disabled Veteran in your family or if you know of someone who does, PLEASE tell them about Paws and Stripes.  It may be the best thing that you ever do for them and will be a wonderful way of thanking them for everything that they have sacrificed for their country and its citizens.  The cause is awesome and the trainers they are using are fabulous (but then, I admit, I am just a little biased on that front)!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Upping the Challenge (plus our blogaversary!)

Before I go any further, I have to give a little nod to Cura's and my blogaversary.  I completely spaced on Sunday and didn't even remember that, while we began our journey together a few months earlier, the firts post to Cura's Corner went up on June 13, 2009!  I knew it was sometime in June but I have a clearer memory of adoption day.  I never got around to checking the date of the first post before June began and when June hit, we have been so busy that I forgot all about it again until today!  Ah, well . . . we are officially a year old here at the Corner!  How far we have come!  Thanks to everyone who checks in on us, even if it is just from time to time.

Now -- about upping the Challenge . . .

This should come as no surprise!  This whole experience has been one big challenge.  When I look back at where Cura and I were just over a year ago (yes, she has been with me for almost 15 months -- it seems like forever AND yesterday all at the same time), I am amazed.  Not so much with her, but with me.  I am doing things that I have not done for years and if I did, I was VERY uncomfortable and got it over with as soon as possible.

A perfect example is going to the Mall.  Could. Not. STAND. Going. To. THE. MALL.  Just thinking about it would heighten my anxiety levels.  When I had to go, I was in and out as quickly as possible -- no window shopping, no browsing.  If I didn't find what I needed quickly, I usually did without it.  But, I digress . . .

This post is not about the Mall, at least not specifically.  Instead it is about yet another level of training for Cura.  She is already very good about not reacting to other dogs while she is working.  We have even gone on a few restaurant trips with another team (Crayola and Ginger) but now we are actually having the dogs work next to each other and not just relax side by side under the table.  We started off with the dogs on the outside and the two of us walking close enough that we could touch hands if we stretched out our arms -- about 5-6 feet.  Now Ginger and Cura walk side by side with only a few inches between then!  It only took one session to get them there and now it is all about reinforcement.

To top it off, Cura and I have started working with other Service Dogs in the same way.  Saturday we will be either having an initial session with a third dog, or a second session with the second dog that we trained with a couple weeks ago.  Either way, it will be interesting to see how we do!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Everyday (non)events

There has not really been anything spectacular or exceptions that has happened since my last post.  In fact, things have been ordinary.  I have begun working on a the revisions for my PhD again.  This time I have a strict schedule and am diligently sticking to it.  What that means is that I have been spending a lot of time with my head in books and in front of the computer and Cura gets to have quite a bit of semi-work time. 

Semi-work -- what the heck is THAT, you may ask.  Well, even if we are in the house, Cura is aware of my location and if I am out of sight for too long, she will come to check on me.  For example, we have one of those alarm systems that make a little beeping noise when doors are opened.  If I leave Cura upstairs (usually because she is napping and I plan to be right back) and go downstairs and go out to the garage to get something, by the time I come back inside, she is waiting at the door for me.  So much for being asleep! 

The few times we have gone out have been fairly uneventful.  Well, at least no more than normal.  We still get approached by people wanting to touch Cura.  Younger people just want to touch her, older people want to touch her AND talk my ear off!  There are still waiters who forget that there is a Service Dog under the table or tucked next to my chair.  Putting her in a corner doesn't even work all the time.  Just the other day I was at a restaurant.  When the server came to the table, I made sure that he knew that there was a Service Dog at the table and I pointed to where Cura was so he knew exactly where she was.  It was a small table, so she was not completely under the table -- but she was placed out of the walkway and in such a way that the server could access all the settings at the table without having to walk near her.  But, the next time he came to the table, he went straight to that area and banged into Cura.  She didn't really move, so it must not have been too bad, but still!  On top of that, he then proceeded to 'console' Cura by petting her and making a big deal about the fact that he bumped her.  THEN (you gotta LUV this . . .) he refilled our coffees -- pouring the hot coffee into our cups OVER Cura's body!  Now, I used to be a server and I realize that he was using a technique that insures that a beverage is not accidentally spilled on the table or a patron -- but if he HAD spilled any coffee accidentally, he would have dumped it on Cura! 

Sometimes it amazes me how much people just don't think!

More adventures (or non-advenures) next week!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Expression of Disbelief (aka: eejits) . . .

Well, it is time to share another 'desbeliever' experience.  This person was more of a disbeliever who challenged Cura's ability to perform her job. Now, let me begin by saying that there are a number of people who, for lack of exposure, do not understand how a dog can help a person with a mobility/balance problem. This lack of understanding is not what landed this particular individual on my rant list. It was this person's refusal to give any consideration to the validity of my points after I explained how Cura was able to help me. This person challenged me about my status as a disabled person (because I "didn't seem to have a disablity" or "appeared to be fine"). I will not even get into the fact that one of the reasons I appear to get around so well is BECAUSE I have a Service Dog -- HELLO. Instead, I will point out the obvious fact that not all people that are legally disabled have a disability that is visible to the casual observer. Just as you can't tell that a person is subject to seizures or panic attacks by looking at them, you can't necessarily tell that I have difficulty with my balance and movement. Just because the casual observer is unable to tell that a person is disabled does not mean that they don't have one!

Even after I pointed out that not all disablities were visible to the naked eye, this person continued to be confrontational, but in a passive aggressive way. Okay, let me be honest here -- this is my personal interpretation of this person's body language and facial expression. So, to be fair, I must acknowledge the possibility that I have misinterpreted things -- it is certainly possible that I was feeling more sensitive than normal and read more into things than was intended. On the other hand, I think it is fair to recognize that this person's reaction to my explanation was less accepting/more resisting and critical than many that I have received in the past, and could very easily be placed in the 'antagonistic' category. I interpreted this person's expression to be one that showed disbelief, and I determined that there was no inclination by this person to consider the validity of my experiences over the past year. (After all, let's look at the facts, prior to Cura coming home, I fell at least once a month -- sometimes twice -- causing continual irritation/damage to my chronic back condition. Since Cura came home I have not fallen ONCE -- when did Cura come home? March 26, 2009 -- you do the math! Even if Cura did NOTHING else, she would be performing a very positive and beneficial service to me by preventing constant and recurring aggravation of a chronic condition. Amazingly enough, she does more than just this simple task -- as many of you who have been following our journey know.

So, forgive me for getting a bit bristly when confronted with various eejits that rear their obnoxious, ill-informed, intolerant, and confrontational ways.  Sometimes I wonder why they bother to ask the questions if they are not willing to accept the answers!  Ah, well -- at least eejits have become the exception to the rule.  Most people who approach me are quite nice!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cura is a STAR!

Yeah, yeah . . . I know, you have heard it before.  Still, this last week Cura showed, once again, how far she has come since that morning in March of 2009 when she came home.  I had to spend the day taking some standardized tests.  As is the case with tests like this, the are held only a few times a year and in locations that can handle the volume of test takers.  Unfortunately, these locations rarely have comfortable furniture for those with healthy bodies, let alone those with physical disabilities.  So, there we were surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of other test takers -- all nervous and figety -- waiting to be let into our assigned rooms to sit at our assigned desks.  Cura laid down under the table and calmly waited at my feet.

Each test was four hours long -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  For each test session, as we settled in our designated area, I put down Cura's neoprene pad under the table at my feet.  She immediately laid down on her 'place' and, apart from the occassional shift of position, stayed put without making a sound.  Fortunately for both of us (the chairs provided were horrible), I did not require the full four hours to take the tests, but they did take around three hours each.  We were both very relieved when the day was over and we could head home.  It was a long day -- but also a complete success!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Creatures of Habit . . .

Cura is a mobility dog, so she needs to have strong, healthy joints. To that end, I try to do everything I can to help keep her joints healthy. For example, I give her joint supplements daily and make sure that she has comfortable surfaces to relax on as much as possible. Another thing that I did very early on was to get her an elevated feeding bowl. She is quite a tall girl, but I was conservative on my first purchase and only got a bowl that was 7" tall. I figured that would be fine, but what I didn't realize was that the height measurement indicated the top of the bowl. Since the bowl was about 2-3 inches deep, it only really raised her dish about 4-5 inches. She still had to hunch when eating. On top of that, her water bowl was still at ground level.

So, I recently purchased a elevated twin bowl set. This one has two bowls, one for food and one for water and stands 18" tall. It is perfect! It puts her bowls as head height so she does not have to bend down at all. There is just one problem . . . she is hesitant to eat and drink from them!

As I mentioned, she is quite tall (which is one of the reasons she is able to do her job). So, with very little effort, her head can reach many tables and at least parts of the kitchen counter. So, from the very beginning, she was taught that she was not allowed to counter/table surf. To be fair, it was never really a problem so it wasn't like it was hard or anything, but we did the work anyway. So, now it is a little confusing to her that she is being asked to eat from bowls that are so elevated. Fortunately, eating is progressing well -- though it has taken some coaxing -- in fact, tonight Cura just hesitated briefly, glanced at me to make sure it was really ok, and then began eating.  I think she is finding it rather comfortable. 

Unfortunately, we are having a harder time with the water.  Part of the problem is that there are other (shorter) animals in the house, so we need to keep water sources at levels that they can reach.  Initially, we just put another bowl of water under the elevated dishes with the intention that Cura would use the tall bowl and the other animals would use the one on the floor.  Yeah, well, THAT didn't happen!  Cura kept trying to use the bowl on the ground (it was actually kind of funny to watch because she not only had to hunch down, but maneuver around the elevated bowls as well) and no one else wanted to drink under the elevated dish.  Finally, the humans got a clue and lifted the bowl on the ground (there are other bowls that can be accessed by everyone in different areas of the house -- but Cura tends to mainly drink from one location).  Finally, Cura has begun to use the elevate water bowl.  I'm going to wait a few days before putting the other water bowl back under the elevated bowls.  Hopefully, it will be enough time for Cura to break the habit of drinking from the bowl on the ground and take advantage of the elevated water bowl. 

They say that the animals in our lives tend to exhibit our characteristics.  I am a creature of habit -- it looks like Cura is too!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Romping in the Garden

Frequently, I am asked if Cura gets any 'time off' or if she has to work all the time. As you can see below, she can play just as hard as she can work.  Watch as she speeds by Nonna Ear Rubs.  Then, of course, there is Skye who starts to jump into the fray and then gets camera shy.  Enjoy!


Oh, and if you are wondering about those straps you can sometimes see, that is her anti-jump harness -- if all goes well, by the end of the summer, she will no longer be wearing it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Experience . . .

For the past few years, I have been trying to find ways to work around my physical limitations and develop some kind of excercise routine.  Since Cura came home, I had kind of given up actively pursuing anything.  There were a few reasons, not the least of which was that after a few weeks of adopting Cura I was invovled in a car accident that further restricted my activities for several months.  But, finally, about a month ago, I had reached a point where I was ready to try, once again to develop an excersize routine that worked for me.

Since many of the things that I had either considered or actually tried in the past were either unrealistic or ended up putting too much stress on my body, I decided to try swimming.  It is a good aerobic excercise that also provides resistance to help develop and tone muscles.  On top of that, I could also participate in water resistance excercise classes.  Maybe in the future, as I get in better shape, I can try to do some basic, beginners yoga or tai chi -- something that will help me to increase my strength and flexibility a bit and keep things from getting tight and restricted. 

But, in order to include swimming in my life, I needed to introduce Cura to a new experience.  More often than not, she is within a few feet of me -- even when I am home and she is relaxing.  At the very most she is upstairs when I am down or she is in the front of a classroom while I am wandering among students.  If I was going to start swimming, she was going to need to lay calmly by the pool while I swam laps in the pool.  Since the pool was in a gym, she was going to have to resist any urge that she had to go for a swim herself and she was going to need to learn to come to me when I called -- but not by going through the water.  She needed to know that she had to go around the pool rather than take the shortest route to me. 

So, a new mission for Cura, myself, and the trainers.  We have been going swimming fairly regularly now for a few weeks and things are going quite well.  Cura has even gotten so used to the routine that one time she got up and started in the direction of the woman's locker room/sauna/steam room/jacuzzi (they are all in the same direction) after 20 minutes.  Up until that point, I had limited my swim time to 20 minutes -- I guess she figured it was time for us to be done!  She came back promptly when I called her, but it made me realize that as I extend my swimming time, I am going to have to reiterate the stay after about 20 minutes -- at least for a bit. 

I find this development quite interesting.  You see, Cura has been trained to hold her stay indefinitley if I am in the room with her -- but if I am out of sight, she is expected to break her stay after about 10-15 minutes and come find me (a safeguard in the event I need her help but was not able to call for her).  So, I think Cura might have lost track of me in the water and decided that she needed to go find me!  Not an altogether bad thing -- but it means that I need to 'check in' with her every once in awhile so she knows I am still in the pool and that she should stay put!

All in all, the experience has been a good one and my stamina in the water is slowly improving.  We still have the occassional training session at the gym -- making sure that Cura can perform a recovery series in the different environment and that she is on the ball with all she needs to know.  But, for the most part, she has settled in and is taking the gym in stride.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crawling out from the Cave!

Finally, I feel like it has been forever!  I apologize to all of you who have patiently been waiting for me to pop my head up and re-enter the blogosphere.  To make a long story short, my absence began because I became ill -- for weeks!  Yes, I was one of those fortunate souls that got that lingering cold/flu (no N1H1 though -- yay!).  After finally recovering, I have spent the last month or so dealing with current activities while playing catch up and getting things back under control.  I believe that I am finally to the point where I can resume my blogging on a regular basis.  So, here goes!

First, since so many of you probably have four legged fuzzies in your home, or know someone who does, I thought I would pass on an opportunity to lend a helping hand in the Gulf.  Some of our local businesses are collecting human and animal hair to be sent to the Gulf so that it can be used to soak up the oil. Apparently, hair has been used effectively in the past to clean up oil spills and some eco-conscious businesses are making it easy for us to gather this easily acquired item and get it to where it can really do some good. Check out Matter of Trust for more information on how collecting all that hair that your dog or cat is spreading around your carpet and furniture can be used to combat the oil gushing into the ecosystem. If you are not aware of any businesses collecting in your area, you can sign up on the website and they can provide a location for you to send your clippings. They are also looking for donations of nylons -- and they don't have to be pristine -- they stuff the nylons with the hair and create a hair boom to gather the oil. Even better . . . do you know a local groomer? Get them involved!

Now, on to a bit of an update . . . well, an update on one thing anyway -- more will follow in later posts.  Some of you may remember that Cura and I were scheduled to go to a Conference in April.  Despite not being fully recovered, we did go.  It was my first with this particular organization so really wanted to go.  But on top of that, this going to be a great opportunity to see how Cura handled a Conference situation.  There are some major national conferences that I want to eventually attend, so this smaller gathering was a good test run.  On top of that, this was the location that had informed me that they required certification for any Service Animals (see Traveling with a Service Dog) and I saw it as both an educational opportunity as well as a sitiuation for me to practice dealing with these types of situations.

We traveled by car and Cura was her usual laid back travel complanion.  Though she does get a bit antsy once we have been travelling for about an hour -- looking around, sniffing the air.  It is almost as if we hit a point where she realized that she doesn't recognize the sights or smells and she spends about 15-30 minutes trying to record them in case she needs them.  Then, she settles down for the rest of the trip until we get close to our destination -- then she gets antsy again, but more expectant, like she knows the trip is about to end. 

When we got to the hotel, I just had to show the front desk Cura's Service Dog Tag.  I had her certificate, but I was not going to show it unless I had to.  Once they had made a copy of the tag, I politely let them know that thier procedures were inappropriate and that, it was possible that they could run into some difficulties if they continued to require people with Service Animals to provide certification when they checked into the hotel since it was against both ADA Federal and New Mexico legistation.  I suggested that the clerk inform the manager so that they can avoid problems in the future.  I am not sure if he did -- but I did my bit.  I was tempted to call and pretend to make a reservation again, just to see if they changed their practices -- but have not gotten around to it.  I still may do it . . . just to see if I need to follow up and contact someone higher on the totem pole.

Cura dealt with the crowds well.  In fact, she was quite popular.  I have run into several people that were at the conference and they all recognize me because they remember Cura.  She was a big hit -- everyone commented on how well behaved she was.  She still has a bit of trouble with camera flashes -- too much like lightening.  But each event we attend where people are taking pictures that require a flash, she gets better. 

The conference days were long and full of activity and the trip was followed by over a week of very busy days.  By the end of it, Cura was knackered!  She even got to the point where she didn't really want to go out a couple of times (more on that, later).  But, all in all, it was a successful trip.  I think Cura will manage a larger conference quite well!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Expression of Disbelief!

Apologies for posting delays . . . I finally caught whatever has been going around.  Still recovering, but am a bit better so I thought I would have a little rant . . . it has been awhile since I had a little rant about all those 'eejits' out there -- so here goes!  (don't know what an eejit is -- google it!!) 

As you know, Cura spent 13+ months at a shelter.  I have a black and white picture of her from her intake at her last Shelter (Watermelon Mountain Ranch) which shows no grey on her muzzle.  You will notice that every picture that I have posted (where you can see her face) shows that she has grey hair on her beautiful face -- and if it doesn't it is a trick of the light.  My beloved Cura has been grey since the day we first locked eyes upon each other.  Since she is only four and a half (at least based on the records provided to me -- and the vet is happy with that assessment), I, my trainers, and pretty much anyone else that spends any time with Cura, attribute her grey to the stress that is the result of a very social animal spending months in a shelter with very limited social contact.  WMR is a good no-kill shelter.  They work hard to socialize the animals, house dogs in social pods rather than in isolated kennels so the dogs have companionship, have volunteers that come in to walk and spend time with the dogs, and generally provide the best care possible with limited resources.  Of course there is room for improvement (I am one of those people who believe that everything can be improved, no matter how good -- nothing is ever perfect) -- but WMR does a wonderful job for the creatures that are fortunate enough to be placed in their care.

So, where do I get off with the eejit rant intro?  Well, I recently had an eejit response to a rather common exchange involving Cura's grey muzzle.  The normal exchange goes something like this . . .

Annonymous Person (AP):  How old is she?
Me: About four and a half.
AP: Oh, she is so grey . . .
Me: She spent over 13 months in a shelters/pounds.  When she went into the last no-kill shelter she was not grey, when I adopted her, she was -- it is probably due to being in a stressful environment for such a long period of time.
AP:  How can a no-kill shelter be stressful?
Me:  All shelters are stressfull.
and here is where this exchange entered into annoying eejit-land . . .
AP:  Well, I suppose that depends on the quality of the shelter . . . .

I chose not to continue this exchange.  Why? For a few reasons . . .

1) I believe that, no matter how good a shelter, it will never be equal to a loving and fulfilling home.  No shelter can give a dog the same quality of life as a 'forever home', no matter how dedicated the staff or how endless the resources  -- in my opinion, any person who is not able to recognize this is not worth the time needed to sway their understanding of the dog/human relationship,

2)  This person, again in my opinion, was not interested in learning about Cura's story -- instead this person wanted to challenge my understanding of reality (notice that I recognize that my interpretation is likely subjective -- but, since it coincides with the interpretation of several professionals familiar with Cura's case, it is certainly a valid possibility!), and

3) I have personally witnessed the behavioral differences between shelter resident Whoopee!!! and Service Dog Cura -- not only after adoption, but before she came home.  For about a month, Whoopee!!!/Cura switched back and forth from the stressed, energy-buzzing shelter dog to the (relatively) stable, comfortable and engaged, potential Service Dog.  On top of that, it is not just me and a small group of professionals that have had these observations . . . everyone who has witnessed her development over the past year has commented on how Cura is clearly much more calm, secure, settled, and confident now than when she was first adopted.

So, annoying person #1 -- next time you think that some shelters could provide a non-stressful environment for a dog, think about this . . . How would you feel if you were confined for over a year to a studio apartment with a small garden and you lived with 1-5 other people in that space?  Let's be generous, let's say that once or twice a day somebody came and took you away from that and wheeled you around (in a wheelchair so you could really only go where they decided you were allowed) a small garden where you saw the same things everyday, sniffed the same smells every day, heard the same things everyday, and felt the same things EVERYDAY!  Would this not be a stressful and monotonous environment?  Hopefully, you understand -- if not, you hopefully never will and there is no point harping on the point.

Enough ranting for one day -- tune in for more 'eejit' stories later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Officially "ON DUTY"

Well, it has become very clear that I am not a very good tweeter!  I had every intention of providing frequent Twitter updates on Friday to keep everyone posted throughout Cura's midterm and you can see from the sidebar how successful THAT was!  LOL!

The day went very well.  We rode the train and spent the day wandering around window shopping, had a meal, spent time in a Tavern.  A good time was had by all.  Previous to the midterm, I had to perform my own evaluation of Cura's skills that Rick and Heather would review after Cura had completed the midterm.  Final result?  Cura 'exceeded expectations'!  Go, Cura! 

In addition to passing the midterm, the fact that there were several times that Rick and Heather did not see the communication exchange between Cura and me even though they were paying attention to that type of thing was very satisfying.  Sometimes, my signals were very subtle, but there were also times that I didn't actually give a verbal command or even a proper hand signal.  There really were times where I just thought that I wanted Cura to do something and she did it!  I must admit, when Rick and Heather first introduced the concept to me, I was skeptical.  Okay, who am I kidding, I was more than skeptical -- which is why I called it mind meld in the first place.  StarTrek, here we come.  Now, here we are, a few months later, and mind meld is becoming a reality.  Rick, Heather . . . I owe you an apology!

We were out for twelve hours!  It was a very long day for both of us.  I may be used to very long days, but I am very seldom on the go for twelve hours straight.  Saturday, all Cura did was eat, go potty, and change sleeping positions and locations!  She was knackered!

So, after such an impressive performance, Cura and I passed the midterm with flying colors.  She has been taught all of her absolutely essential skills and can perform them in strange and distracting locations.  Her training is not complete because there are some other skills I want her to learn that will be convenient and will probably become essential in years to come.  But, with the successful completion of the midterm, Cura can now wear her Service Dog ON DUTY patches instead of her Service Dog IN TRAINING patches.  She is now officially ON DUTY! 

Just think . . . one year ago, she was considered unmanageable/untrainable!  What a great year!