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!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ADBC: Reactions

Once again I find myself with no posts since the last ADBC! Things have been very busy and I have lots to share, but today I am going to chat a bit about "reactions". When I heard about the topic this time, a number of ideas came to mind -- many of which I have already blogged about to some degree or another. But, I like to use the carnival themes as a tool for touching on something completely new or at least on something old from a fresh perspective.

To that end, I have decided to talk about reactions that take place while Cura and I are out doing our daily activities. No . . . not Cura's reactions to other people or her surroundings. No . . . not other people's reactions to seeing a Service Dog. Each of these are very diverse and I have actually written several posts on the various situations that we have experienced.

Today, I want to talk about MY reactions to the people I encounter while I am out with Cura. These, too, have been very diverse in the past. However, very recently, it was brought home to me how routine my reactions to others have become as a general rule.  Now that is not to say that I am never phased by the excitement, lack of knowledge, down right rudeness, and everything in between that is frequently part of our day out -- of course I am some of the time (usually because I am being faced with something completely new and have not yet worked out the various ways I will respond to that particular question or action depending on my mood).  But, I did not realize how automated my responses had become until I traveled to visit a friend that I had not seen in years -- well before Cura became part of my life.

We were out and about and she turned to me and said something along the lines of "Is it always like this?"  My response:  kind of a blank stare because I had no idea what she was talking about.  Apparently, she had been noticing how many times I was asked questions about Cura, she was talked to or pet by strangers (no, I was not asked or even acknowledged most of the time, and  how many "Look Mommy, its a DOGGIE!!" were screeched in our vicinity.  That doesn't even COUNT the times I avoided situations by either switching Cura to another side so I was between her and strangers or just diverted our path to avoid excited people.

Most of the time I am very patient with people who approach me because I have a Service Dog, but I must admit that there are times when it is very disruptive and inconvenient having to address these constant interruptions to my day.  Here I am, trying to navigate through my day and everywhere I go, I am approached by complete strangers to discuss my dog.  Now, don't get me wrong . . . I LOVE talking about Cura!  But not when I am trying to go to the pharmacy or pick up groceries.

I didn't realize that I had gotten so adept at handling these situations -- I mean I hadn't even really noticed all of the interruptions that day --it was so like a normal day that I was not really phased.  I even used to wonder why things always seemed to take such an excessively long time to get done.  Well now I know!

Maybe I need to rethink how I deal with strangers approaching me.  I certainly do not wish to be rude -- after all, I want people to have positive associations with Service Dogs.  I think it makes it easier for others with Assistance Dogs.  But, at the same time, I can't just stop and chat every time I am approached.  Even if I don't mind being friendly (which is usually the case unless I find that person just plain rude), I don't have the luxury of chatting with everyone who wants to tell me about their dog or wants to know why I need a Service Dog "because you're not blind".  I'm thinking of making up some cards that I can just had out to people -- maybe that will help . . .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First, there is some discussion about whether to make the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival bi-monthly.  I have not yet decided how I feel about that, but if you have an opinion, feel free to chime in and leave a comment here.

Which leads me to my latest thoughts, because they were prompted by the same blogger, Sharon at After Gadget.  I was reading her post titled Roadwork! (Walkin' and Talkin') and can totally relate!  Cura can get pretty bonkers when she doesn't get regular runs.  I don't know HOW Sharon has done it with an adolescent and no means to really exercise him! 

Some of you may know from previous posts that my method of running the squirrelies out of Cura is to use a golf cart.  The darn thing can get up to 20mph -- and Cura hardly breaks a sweat (figuratively speaking) unless it is the height of summer and then it is more the heat than the running that does it.  Being in New Mexico, even early morning runs can be toasty in Summer!

I have seen Cura go full out a couple of times and it is a sight to behold!  I swear that she can hit speeds in excess of 40 mph!  I would LOVE to find a huge field with a really high fence and just let her go!  Her running is why I used to think that she had Greyhound in her -- I was very surprised when the DNA test results came back and Greyhound was not in the mix.  But, she is still a hound and a runner.

So, when life gets away from me and Nona Ear Rubs and I can't get it together and run Cura regularly (three times a week usually does the trick) Cura lets us know.  With her exercise, she has better concentration.  She is able to deal with the "down time" more easily and patiently because she is able to move and work out the squirrelies on her runs.  Of Cura's needs, this is the one that I find the hardest to accommodate, but it is one of the most important.

Here is hoping that the golf cart stays healthy (anyone following our Tweets knows that it recently had a little glitch -- though it was quickly fixed) and we can keep Cura on her exercise schedule!

Bye for now!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Carnival . . . again!? . . . already!?

My how time flies!  I knew that I had been neglecting Cura's Corner, but I didn't realize that it has literally been MONTHS since I posted.  It just illustrates how busy things have been -- and much of it required computer work.  I just wasn't up to blogging after spending hours and hours working on the computer.  As much as I enjoy using the computer for work, school, and pleasure -- there is such thing as too much of a good thing!  I guess I was just computered out. 

But, the Assistance Dog Carnival Blog provides a wonderful opportunity to get back into the blogging routine (I don't do New Year's Resolutions, but I do make changes throughout the year.  This is the first for 2011: Regular Blog Posts on Cura's Corner.)

Now, the theme for the Assistance Dog Carnival Blog is "Decisions" . . . and it has proved to be a surprisingly difficult one for me.  I didn't want to go with a more obvious and monumental decision like actually getting an Assistance Dog -- although that was certainly a big decision fraught with all sorts of challenges.  The fact is that having an Assistance Dog requires constant decisions -- at least it does for me.  I think one of the most common decisions I have to make is how and when to interact with people who approach me in public. 

I know . . . you are thinking "huh?"  After all, if someone approaches you, one should be friendly, engaging, blah, blah, blah . . .

Well, what about the person who just wants to tell you all about their beloved dog (who Cura reminds them of) for 20 minutes and you are on number 1 of a long list of errands that need to be done before you go to a scheduled appointment?  Or what if they want to pet your Assistance Dog even though you not only have patches asking that they don't -- or you have already asked them not to (because Cura is having a day where she is already slightly distracted and she needs to focus more than usual in order to do her job so added distractions that can be prevented are a no-no)?  Or, they are a person that you see frequently and, because they have been allowed to pet your Assistance Dog in the past, they pounce on you as soon as you walk in the door and reach to pet your dog without permission (I'm talking, you have not even taken off your coat, yet)?

These are just a few of the situations I find myself in where I must make a split-second decision and decide how I am going to react.  On top of making sure that I make the decision that is best for Cura and me at that moment, I have to do it in a way that doesn't offend or hurt the feelings of the other person or persons involved.  Not an easy thing -- I have found that a number of people are offended when asked not to interact with an Assistance Dog!  Learning to set boundaries and use subtle body language and placement has really helped.  It is always easier when I don't have to say anything directly but am able to be polite while setting boundaries around us that enables us to disengage from the situation while avoiding any hurt feelings.

To be honest, I used to get very frustrated when going out -- constantly having to decide how to approach situations like this.  After all, it never happened in a way I was ever prepared for because I just was not used to reading my environment and the people in it.  Now, I am pretty good at assessing what is going on around me.  I very seldom get surprised by people any more because I have learned to see the signs that a person displays indicating that I am going to be approached.  I have more time to decide how to react -- or even if I am going to engage with that person.  When I have that warning, I have the option to decide to wander down a different aisle in the store if I am having a bad day (hey, everyone has them!  Do you want to sit and chat with a total stranger when you are in a hurry or in pain?). 

I want people to walk away from any contact that they have with Cura and me with a positive experience.  Sometimes that means deciding to stay and talk and sometimes it means deciding to avoid interacting with them directly and just letting them watch Cura do her job with precision.  There are so many variables that come into play on any given day -- how am I doing physically, how is Cura doing, how much time do I have, what kind of mood am I in, etc.  Everything can affect the experience that stranger has when s/he interacts with us and can make the difference between a positive outlook toward Assistance Dogs and a negative one.  Decisions, decisions, decisions . . .