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!