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, 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!