Today has been a fairly good day. While it started out a little rough, it evened itself out.
After the usual, Treble and I went to obedience. We did this in a group setting with loose dogs that belong to the instructors running around, while treats were tossed to try to see if the dogs would be distracted. Treble did pretty well with a great deal of positive enforcement and some correction. These setups really teach me a great deal about patience, being quick to catch mistakes, and learning more about Treble’s personality.
Today was pretty cold and rainy, so we did indoor work. Treble did a wonderful job on the escalators, and walking through Target. Every day, I just feel more and more confident with my dog and it is a wonderful feeling. I know I can handle correcting a lot of her sniffing and a few other habits. She has become used to me, and I’m used to her. I’m seeing so much of her personality shine through.
After lunch, we headed back to campus and did some work on the stairs. We walked down the hallways and she did an awesome job in targeting the elevators.
Targeting is such a wonderful tool. With a lot of positive reinforcement and clicker training, I can tell Treble to target doors, stairs, or my room. She is spot on and it’s a fun way to teach her. It’s a great game and she’s always ready to play.
We then did a group activity which involved having our dogs sit on our left side while we dropped treats on the floor, getting closer and closer to them. If they did not go for a treat, we would say ‘yes’, and give them a reward from our treat pouch. If they attempted to get a treat off of the floor, we’d give a firm correction. We then walked around in a circle to see if they’d go for the treats or not, stopping every so often to say ‘yes’ and treat them. Treble did a very good job in all of these things, but when we got to the safe zone and I went to treat her, I fumbled and dropped it and she dove in like a yellow ball of thunder. My Treble is one tricky little diva.
Treble and Tanner had a play session in my room, and I got to see Treble take interest in a Nyla bone that she had no interest in until Tanner. She would hide the toy from him or jump around, making sure she had the higher ground. She also likes to flaunt her toys and run around. She is very feisty and savage in the way that she teases the sweeter dogs. Again, what a little diva.
After dinner, I spent quality time with my classmates. I’m thrilled to be going home but I’m going to miss them so much. Each of them has brought something wonderful and beautiful to this experience.
Our lecture tonight was all about what happens once we go home. The dogs have been used to their surroundings for about five months of intensive training. As students, we have been unfamiliar people in a familiar world. taking them home with us is now throwing them with slightly more familiar people in to completely unfamiliar surroundings. There are a lot of things to consider in terms of how to handle these things. For example, when I came home with previous dogs, I didn’t have a roommate, so now I will need to navigate introducing a new dog to her and limiting interactions, which is very hard for me. My roommate is incredibly supportive and wonderful, but this is new territory for me.
Since I’m changing time zones, Treble’s feed, water, and parking schedule will also need to change. It’ll almost be like establishing a relationship all over again without the buffer of instructors to help smooth the snags. I’ll have to be careful and limit the amount of freedom that she has in the house, head back in to work and handle so many things. We will be working on building our routes and jumping back in to things shortly after returning home. It takes about six months to a year to become a fully-fledged team. I’m up to the challenge and am looking forward to it, but it will be a time of growth and admittedly, patience.
I have lived and breathed training for these three weeks. I don’t know what’s really happening in the world right now. Now, I’m going to have to focus on Treble and the myriad other things that are happening in my life. It can be done, but I did not miss the part where you deal with early stages of this development of a team, that’s for sure.
I’m going to make myself a little vulnerable here. I deal with anxiety and depression and some days it feels utterly insurmountable. It is hard to often articulate why I might feel the way that I do or what brought on an anxiety attack, or why I suddenly go from being relatively happy to being in tears. This training is very intense and it’s been difficult to figure out what is just the stress of the class and what is the depression. I’m not good at voicing that I am hurting and I am really awful about reaching out. In some ways, I can be very stoic. Maybe I see it as a weakness in myself, maybe I just want to always portray that I am a strong badass of inner strength. Today, though, I feel like I am neither a badass or have an unending well of said strength. I’m tired and I am sad, and it feels like dealing with this on top of other things is sometimes too much.
I have a lot of go-tos when life feels difficult, but depression is like a wet blanket and feels like it splashes crappy water on everything in its path. It is also a huge liar in what it says that I am, and believe me, I’m great about beating myself up.
I want to be very honest about this experience, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that while guide dog school is an emotional and physically exhausting experience, it is not helpful to have to fight this, too. I only have so much energy. I keep plodding along, though, and trying to do little things when my mind is too overwhelmed to consider specific things to help keep me calm. I don’t want to minimize the stress that is guide dog school, though, so I guess I don’t always know what the hell my problem is at any given time. But hey, that’s something to chat with my therapist about next week, right?
So, hooray for the home stretch. This leg of the race is almost finished and I’ve learned so much along the way.
Breakfast: toast and strawberry jam
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwich
Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwich and bacon. …I love grilled cheese sandwiches!