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!

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!