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 . . .