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!

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 . . .


Torie said...

Glad you're back :). We missed you!

Great post. I kind of find it hard to say "don't pet the dog" when someone is petting her. I have it ready to say in my mind, but can never manage it. Any tips?

Take care, and look forward to more posts!

L^2 said...

Excellent post! This is definitely something all AD handlers have to deal with constantly.
Thank you so much for participating in the ADBC. I'm checking all my links now, so the full list should be posted on my blog soon.

brilliantmindbrokenbody said...

Oh how I hate those decisions. Hudson is a cute little fluffball, and he likes people quite a bit, so he wants to sniff and be petted by everyone if he can.

It means he gets a lot of corrections when we're out that are not 100% his fault. I hate doing that, but I don't know a better way to stop the interaction than barking 'leave it' at him.

I hate that I feel responsible for how people react to service animals. Being a de facto ambassador wasn't something I signed up for, and it takes a lot of energy that I don't always have.


Jess and Glacier said...

I couldn't agree more. Sometimes I don't feel like being the "educator of the year," and have life things that need to get done. Other times it's not so bad. You're right-it is important to make sure that interactions are delivered in a positive way, but it's not always easy.

aftergadget said...


So glad you participated in the carnival again! Since I don't see a comment here from L^2, I'm wondering if you have not removed the CAPTCHA feature? I guess I'll find out when I need to send this comment.

Anyway, I think this is something we all go through -- dealing with the public -- and it's a personal decision as to how to deal with them. I guess I don't feel as strongly as you do anymore that people have to have a positive experience with me and my SD. I give them brochures and move on. I am not up to dealing with everyone's questions, intrusions, assumptions, and toxic fumes.

But that's just me!

Cura's Mom said...

Whew! So glad to hear that its not just me! I almost didn't write this post! Torie . . . I almost always say it. First I usually say, "Please don't pet my dog." But I follow it immediately by explaining that she needs to concentrate on her job and if she is being pet, it distracts her and she is not able to help me properly. Then I tell them that they should always ask before touching a Service Dog because it can put the person they are with at risk. This usually smooths over any ruffled feathers and helps the next Service Dog Team that they meet.

Of course, then there is the avoidance method -- I have been known to suddenly change directions mumbling something like, "oh, I almost forgot . . ." Hey! It works!


Pink Doberman said...

Good post. It is an all to uncommon issue when anyone is out with their Assistance dog. I am now prone to just handing out a business card that has my blog information on it. It relives me from any obligation to chat if I am not up for it.

Additionally I have found that if I make eye contact with anyone, it seems that I have instantly given them permission to "attack" me with their questions or start reaching the hands for my guy.

It stinks because I like making eye contact, or chatting but it just isn't worth it, especially when I am already tired.

Some people are so much better than me about keeping people backed off.

Blessings on your journey,

Ro said...

It always happens the exact minute it can't haha! The one time I decided to experiment with having a cab wait for me outside the drug store, a sweet little old lady wanted to tell me all about her sister and her sister's "blind dog". I just didn't have the heart to tell her I was in a rush haha!

Sweet people are one thing, but the rest? Ugh. School told me the hardest part of having a guide dog would be people. Oh so true!

Carin said...

Yeah I think that's one of the hardest things to deal with at the beginning. What bugs me are the ones who say "Can I pet your dog?" as they are reaching for them. Why did you bother asking then, bucko? I try my best to leave everybody with a positive experience, but some people are bound to be offended, and since I can't protect their precious sensibilities, they can go pout for all I care. I just hope some of them listen and learn. That's all I can hope for.