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!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's all about attitude . . .

First, an announcement . . . so much has been going on, that I have decided to start trying to post twice a week instead of the usual once a week.  I am not sure if it will stick -- but, the goal is to post around mid-week (Wednesday or Thursday) and again at the end of the weekend (probably Sunday).  Site traffic, in general, is on the rise and we now have a whopping 8 'official' Google Followers (whoohoo).  I also am a firm believer that if one's brain keeps turning to particular (non-damaging) thoughts, it is important to honor them.  Ever since the first of the year, my thoughts have returned to the idea of increasing the number of weekly posts -- so it is time to take the plunge and give it a go.  I hope you all continue to enjoy!  Now, on to the 'good' stuff . . .

In one of our recent sessions, Rick, Heather, and I were talking about some ways to deal with difficulties with access -- it is amazing how creative one can be and how easy it can be to head off most confrontation.  The key is to find the right balance that works for you -- I am still working on finding mine in certain situations, but that is another post altogether.  During this conversation, I came to a wonderful realization . . . and have decided that, at the risk of tempting the Fates, it would be good to share this moment of enlightenment because it illustrates something that I think is very important -- and something that can frequently be challenging for me and, I am coming to realize , many individuals that wrestle with a disability.

I suddenly became aware of the fact that it has been quite some time since anyone has honestly attempted to deny me access while I was with Cura.  Oh sure, there have been a couple of times where someone has either informed me that I had to leave my dog outside, or asked if Cura was a Service Dog, but as soon as her role as my Service Dog was verified, all was well.  In fact, those who had told me that I could not bring Cura inside were immediately apologetic.  What had previously been a very stressful and uncomfortable situation for me, has become somewhat of a non-event.  This is a big difference from my experiences with public access when Cura first came home.  In fact, some of my experiences frustrated and unnerved me so much that some of my earlier posts focused on accessibility and its challenges.

Since I tend to be rather self-reflective by nature, once I realized that my reception to places had improved, I took the time to evaluate why that might be.  After all it was not just happening in places that we frequented, it was also happening in new places.  I think that it is all about attitude . . . both mine and Cura's.  I am no longer entering places expecting to be challenged.  Instead, I just calmly enter locations with Cura at my side.  If someone makes eye contact with me, I just smile and keep on walking.  In restaurants, I just make sure that my server knows that there is a Service Dog under the table and ask them to be careful.  Before, I think that the tone of my voice and body language was almost apologetic or tentative -- maybe even defensive or confrontational if I was approached in a way that I interpreted as aggressive.  Now, I am more comfortable with taking Cura places and I think is shows -- resulting in fewer challenges by others.  But it is not just me . . .

I think that just as much as my attitude is contributing to these situations, so is Cura's.  We have been training for almost eleven months now (wow, it seems like she had been with me for an eternity and a blink of the eye, at the same time) and she is really settling into her role.  Not only is she more comfortable going places, but she is also visibly 'on task'.  It is more obvious to others that she is doing a job because she is more focused.  She knows what she is supposed to do; I know what I need to do; and we are clearly working as a team.  In fact, Cura is getting so good at her non-verbal commands, that frequently people don't even realize that I am asking her to do something - it looks like she is just doing it!  To be honest, sometimes that is the case.  I (semi) jokingly say that Cura is learning three types of commands: verbal, visual, and mind-meld*.  The fact is that she is learning to read my body language and responding -- sometimes before I even realize I want her to perform a particular service.

I am glad that I am having fewer confrontational situations -- certainly it makes things less stressful -- but even more gratifying is that Cura and I are developing an attitude of partnership that others are clearly recognizing.
*mind-meld:  Cura and I communicating without verbal or visual cues that can be noticed by the outside observer -- and yes, we really are trying to cultivate this form of communication.  In fact, apparently our next private training session is going to work on this particular skill.