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Carnival Post: I Will Not Regret the Past (Except for the Purpose of this Post)

Posts are being written and compiled for the next round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, the topic of which is regrets. I’m down to the wire on this one. The deadline is in just over an hour as I paste my post into WordPress.

the first idea to come to mind when I pondered what I regret about my first and current guide dog, Jayden, is that we didn’t go to Muir Woods when we were at school together at guide Dogs for the blind. As if to punctuate that thought the day I was considering what to write about for the blog carnival, I ran across this article about Muir Woods’s tallest tree.

I knew about the trip to Muir Woods before I went to GDB and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I imagined beams of sunlight sneaking through the canopy of tall, stately redwoods, the scene suffused with a warm golden glow, a lovely and peaceful walk with my dog through the beauty of nature, the quiet and meditative quality of the stroll with my new partner, it was going to be beautiful.

My first mistake was having that expectation. Never, never have expectations. Nothing is ever what we think it will be.

My training at GDB was hard on me emotionally and physically and when it came time for the Muir Woods trip at the end of the three weeks, I didn’t have it in my heart to go. All I could think about was returning home with my boy and settling back in to life where I was comfortable, without instructors popping out and telling me what to do. why wouldn’t they tell me what to do? Even major league baseball players still have hitting coaches.

I regret being so damned willful.

What an experience that would have been, to stroll through those woods, to smell the trees, to take a break from the honking, humming and thumping of cars but I was just so tired. I was tired and I did not want to ride on the bus for an hour on a winding road, worrying about limiting my fluids, not just Jayden’s. Not being able to smoke. I regret that I used to be held hostage by nicotine.

Looking back, I always think Muir Woods would have been the perfect place to have that first amazing walk with jayden; our other walks were stressful for both of us while in class. I deeply regret letting the physical and mental fatigue win.

One of the ways I live today is not regretting the past, yet here I am doing just that. Jayden and I did have that first awesome walk together the day we arrived home in tucson and he guided me out of the airport, around concrete poles, following B through cold rain and biting wind to the car. I grinned the entire time even though it wasn’t majestic redwoods he guided me through.

Thinking about regrets is dangerous territory unless we look at regrets not as regrets, but as mistakes.

I made a mistake by not going to Muir Woods and I won’t make that mistake again. I learned my lesson. I have not turned down a trip since then and Jayden and I have had some pretty awesome experiences together.

If you wrote your own post on regrets for this blog carnival and if that post dredged up painful feelings, just remember the past cannot be changed and we only grow by making mistakes and learning from them.

On a lighter note,another regret I have is not teaching Jayden to stay out of the kitchen. I envy my friend Carin that she did with her guide and you can bet I won’t make that mistake again. This is a small regret, but it’s the only thing that can grow into a big thing when He won’t get out from under-foot. I’ve been able to teach him to stay on the couch when I put him there however, so I found a solution.

Oh and one more thing speaking of the couch, I regret that he was taught such good house manners with regards to furniture because here at home, he does not need permission every single time he wants up on the couch. It’s your couch too, buddy!

(Ok, that’s not really a regret since I’m incredibly grateful for his house manners. thank you to his puppy raisers!)

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Filed under blog carnival, doggy school, fellowship, GDB, guide dogs, Jayden, jayden quirks, puppy raisers, sobriety, spoons, working dog

Carnival Post – LittleLesson

I was really drawing a blank as to what to write for the 13th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. Lessons? How to narrow that down, especially since Jayden and I have been a team for quite some time now. February will be four years! Wow! Our work is just routine now for the most part. I was having such a hard time coming up with a lesson I’ve learned about Jayden and myself as a team.

today however, something very small happened. Something so small that no one else would notice. Something not even related to Jayden as a guide dog, but Jayden as my partner and best friend.

Jayden and I are very routine based. I never realized just how routine based my life had gotten until I was talking to my friend Ricardo one day and he said I am the most regimented non-military person he knows. That is such a true statement! I have found that sticking pretty closely to a routine helps me manage life with MS. I won’t go into specifics on that since that is another post. The point is, Jayden has gotten very used to certain things happening at certain times during the day. These certain things namely being when he gets to eat something and when he gets to um, lighten his load.

After his afternoon outside session, I always give him a Kong Wobbler with a handful of kibble from his morning meal. For some reason I have turned French when I ask him if he wants his Wobbler. It’s true, just ask Carol. She’s been on the phone with me when it’s Wobbler time. “Wooblah? Se wooblah?” It doesn’t translate well to text.

Anyway, after Jayden has finished with his Wobbler he comes to find me and I ask him where it is and he shows me. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the floor, sometimes it’s wedged underneath the couch or the bed. When he shows me I get all excited and praise him and he gets a cookie (dog biscuit). This happens every single day. He gets his afternoon snack and a game and high praise from me.

Here is where the lesson comes in. I’m under the weather today. I think it’s a cold or something. It doesn’t have me flat but it’s not pleasant. This afternoon I forced myself to shower which completely wore me out. It was time to take Jayden outside and I just wanted to sit down afterwards and relax after the shower exhausted me. So I split a banana with Jayden.

Jayden loves bananas! We split one in the mornings after his second outside session. You ask if he wants one and he literally bucks into the kitchen, not running or jumping, bucking like a bronco. So I thought a banana in the afternoon would distract him from the Wobbler. We shared our banana and I sat on the couch, happy to relax with my feet on the ottoman.

Not long after I picked up my keyboard, I felt Jayden’s chin on my leg. I immediately knew why.

What lesson did I learn today? Never ever try to fool a dog as smart as Jayden. That banana did not make him forget about his Wobbler and praise and cookie for a second. Jayden is now curled up beside me on the couch, his belly temporarily satisfied with his afternoon snack and extra banana.

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The Tenth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is up!

Check out the Tenth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I think it turned out great and AfterGadget did a fabulous job putting it all together!

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Carnival Post – Top Ten

Here is the complete Carnival!

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It’s the tenth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival! Click here to read about what the blog carnival is and click here to read about this round and it’s topic. The ADBC has come full circle in this round, being hosted by the original host, After Gadget.

I have had the ultimate writer’s block but really wanted to submit since I submitted in the first round. I’m just going to write and not try to be organized haha! The topic for this post is “Perfect Ten”. I wracked my brains trying to come up with an idea but my inner creative chick is still sleeping apparently so I’m just going to jump in to some free form and see what comes out. Sometimes writing about Jayden is like trying to express gratitude. I tend to get very flustered when my heart is so full.

Jayden isn’t perfect and nor am I but I always say our match was perfect. Guide Dogs for the Blind was perfect in matching Jayden to me. I can’t imagine anything that is lacking from our partnership. When GDB asked me what I wanted in a dog I had no idea since I grew up with cats. I told them I just needed a chill dog who would be ok when my MS flared up and I needed to rest. I think GDB gave me the most chill dog available haha! He is cool with whatever I need. He loves to relax on the couch with me but when I need him to work he snaps to attention like a soldier. He has gotten so in tune with me that he knows exactly what I need, sometimes before I do. He’ll slow down on walks when he knows I’m tiring. Sometimes I try to speed him up and he disobeys and then I feel my fatigue. He knows before I do; it’s pretty crazy! He really was the perfect match in so many ways. I’m amazed at these schools and how well they do in the matching process.

I never imagined all the added bonuses (non guide work stuff) that would come with a guide dog. Let’s see if I can come up with ten added bonuses:

Good Potassium Numbers

When I was in the hospital when I went blind, my potassium was dangerously low. They gave me a pill and after I saw my doctor upon my release, she ordered a banana a day. That didn’t work out so well because I couldn’t make bananas last long enough; they went bad so quickly. After I got Jayden, I remember his raiser telling me Jay loved bananas. Now my potassium stays in good shape thanks to bananas and orange juice. How could anyone not want to share a banana with a dog who goes crazy when he hears the question, “do you want a banana?” (That link has audio) Oh and orange juice taste even better when it’s a banana chaser!

Tear Soaker Upper

I should have known what a comfort Jayden would be when I’m sad. Heck even my cats have soaked up tears over the years but they don’t hold still like Jayden does. Since Jayden and I have that incredibly strong bond of assistance dog and handler, he knows when I need him to just lay still and let me cry on him. It’s a good thing tears don’t hurt his coat haha!

A Schedule A Dog Makes

One of the hardest parts about going blind and being medically retired was the sudden loss of a schedule. Weekends were no longer anything special since every day was like a weekend. Working folk think this would all be a dream come true but when you’re twenty-nine and suddenly can’t be self supporting, it’s a huge loss of identity. It’s amazing what a schedule will do to add a sense of purpose, at least it did for me. Jayden is on a feeding and relieving schedule very similar to what he had at guide dog school. Working my life around his schedule led me to realize how great schedules can be for adding structure to my otherwise structureless life. I’ve since come up with workout and cleaning schedules that turn my week into a “work week” and allow me to enjoy weekends with B. Amazing how a pee schedule for my guide dog turned my day-to-day life into something more “normal”.

Fitness Lives

When I decided to get a guide dog I knew I’d have to do some work to build up my stamina. I needed to be able to walk a mile since I’m pretty sure that was one of the requirements for acceptance to GDB. Luckily the blind center has a gym and a health and wellness program and my name came up on the waiting list at the same time I decided to apply to GDB. Serendipity? My whole life I’ve wanted to be fit and healthy but it’s hard without guidance and I was never successful. I reached my goal of being prepared for guide dog school but I never stopped with the fitness. It has since become something of an addiction for me and since I no longer can work out at the blind center, I’ve developed a program for myself at home. I’m more fit that I’ve ever been and exercise has been the best form of treatment for the MS. This might be the most important added bonus!

Ex-Smoker

Ok this is easily a tie with the fitness as one of the best added bonuses. Anyone who smokes or used to smoke knows how hard it is to quit. For me it was easier to quit drinking than it was to quit smoking. Jayden became another motivation however, when I thought about what would happen to him if I wasn’t around. I also hated exposing him to that and I’ve now been quit over a year.

Someone To Watch Over

I’ve never wanted children. Ever since I was a teenager I didn’t want children. It’s almost as if something prepared me for my future. It’s not that I can’t have kids now,I’m fully capable, but I wouldn’t have the energy. The MS is definitely my primary disability, not the blindness. However as a woman, it’s in my nature to want to care for something. I worked in therapy about the choice not to have children because even though for years I told myself I didn’t want them, there was still this huge sense of loss when I realized I would never carry a child and rase an adult. Jayden has filled a huge part of that void and that is something I certainly never expected. I knew going into this partnership that Jayden would look to me to fill his needs but I never expected the fulfillment I get out of being that person for him! I take pride when the vet tells me how good his teeth look or when a fellow dog lover tells me how great he looks. Yes, he was raised by another before he came to me, but I’ve continued to mold and shape him and care for him and I think of him as my child. I think most animal owners think of their pets as their kids, I know I always did with my cats, but this goes so much deeper. I never expected my guide dog to fill most of the void left by the child I’ll never have.

Fear Management

The first summer after I went blind we had an insane monsoon season and during one particularly bad storm, I asked B to go into the spare room and get the cat out of there. I can’t remember why I wanted her out. B went to go get her and then I heard shattering glass and the door slam and I started screaming, not sure where B was. The wind had been howling and whistling, sounds I had never heard before. B was ok, he had just come out of the room when the wind blew the window in and caused the door to slam. After that I was terrified of wind. I was afraid I would transfer this fear to my dog so I asked at school what to do about that. I was told to just try and be as cool as possible and make storms fun for my dog. I never imagined how this would cure me of my fear! Now the wind has to be really bad to scare me but I don’t panic like I used to. I just calmly take Jayden with me to a safe spot in the house and “cuddle”. I feel safer and he doesn’t get freaked out. I love this added bonus! That fear of wind was getting debilitating before Jayden came around.

Ultimate Feet Warmer

As I’ve been writing this off and on over the last few hours, Jayden has been in several positions on the couch next to me. While I was writing the last bit, he got off the couch and lay down on my feet. It’s almost like he was saying, “don’t forget to include how much you love it when I lay on your feet!” There is just something so comforting about the weight of him on my feet and nothing is better at warming them! I love it when he does this. The only negative about when your dog is comfortable with some part of him resting on you is that you don’t want to disturb him and therefore don’t move. I’m pretty sure my feet are going to fall asleep haha!

Attitude Adjustment

It’s really hard to stay in a bad mood when you have a goober head constantly cheering you up. I might be feeling depressed and then it’s time for Jayden’s afternoon Kong Wobbler treat. I’ve taken to pronouncing “wobbler” so it sounds very French and you can’t stay in a bad mood when you’re asking your dog if he wants his Wobbler in a high pitched silly French accent. Then when he’s done with it and I ask him to show me and he takes me to where he left it, I get so proud and excited and he gets thrilled to get his reward “cookie”, that I find myself grinning so big my cheeks ache.

Fellowship

When I decided to apply for a guide dog, I told my friend Chupa that I wanted to start a blog to document the process. I jokingly said I could call it Doggy Diaries or something. She said I totally should and my old Blogger blog was born along with the Doggy Diaries category. Before I knew it I was a part of a fellowship of other guide dog handlers and puppy raisers and I felt so apart of the blind community, finally. I felt so alone when I went blind since no one I knew understood what I was going through. There was one woman I spoke with on the phone, a friend of a friend and it was actually her guide dog who was the first guide dog I met. This blog though, led me to the people who helped me feel not so lonely and they came with me on the journey of getting a guide dog. Some of those people are still my closest friends today and I bet some of those people are submitting posts for this very carnival. The fellowship in the guide dog community is certainly one I never in a million years expected when I applied to GDB in September of 2009!

Ok wow, my arms are aching something awful but look, I wrote the post! Haha, and it turned out more organized than I thought it would. I’ll come back and add a link to the complete carnival post when it’s up.

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Carnival Post – Walk the Halls

I’ve been writing so sporadically I’m shocked I’m writing for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. It’s time for the 8th Carnival already. Eighth? How did that happen? I must have missed the last several rounds. I thought I’d write something up today since an idea just struck me out of the blue. Nice how that works eh? Be sure to check out this round’s host for details.

The theme for this round is “Marching to Your Own Drum”. This topic really had me stumped and I hadn’t the first clue about what to write. I thought I’d just skip this round like I have the last several but I kept seeing reference to the carnival on Twitter and every time that nagging little voice said, “write something!”

So I thought back on my day. Jayden and I went to the blind center where I worked out and he napped. As Jayden went to walk into the lobby where we wait for our ride I angled my body right and said, “let’s walk.” I felt him move in the direction I indicated and pressure on the harness handle as he took off down the hall. We live in Arizona. It’s late July. It’s hot! So we don’t go walking outdoors right now. Instead, we walk the halls at the blind center. There’s usually at least one person we pass who asks, “doing laps?” I think it’s kind of become a thing to see Jay and I aimlessly walking up and down in the nice cool building after I’ve worked out. “Yep, it’s time for Jayden’s exercise,” I always reply.

Blindness is my secondary disability. The more dangerous disability is multiple sclerosis, which caused my blindness and could cause a whole host of other problems. I purposely don’t read about the possibilities, and hush people when they jump into telling me about so and so relative or friend who has MS. I don’t want to know, thanks. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing my disease and one of the most important things is not getting hot.

Not getting hot? But you live in the desert. Crazy, I know, but it’s really not that hard. You just stay inside and go from air conditioning to air conditioning. The hardest part of this is finding creative ways to exercise my guide dog. I suppose that fits into marching to a different drum, eh?

Aside from walking the halls where it’s air conditioned, Jayden and I are big fans of crazy play. The crazier I can get him the better. To me it hasn’t been a successful play session if he isn’t fast asleep and dreaming five minutes after I sit down. He just thinks it’s fun chasing after the squeaky football or going limp and letting me pull him around. Shhh, don’t tell him, but we’re both getting exercise.

You might think the play is my favorite part of our different ways to exercise, but no, it’s the working. I don’t think there’s ever a time, even two years after our first walk together, that I don’t smile when he pulls into the harness. I love the feel of him slowing down and walking me around something. I love how quickly he responds when I tell him to “leave it” when we encounter another guide dog as we do our laps.

Life with a guide dog and two disabilities means constantly finding new ways of doing something. If that’s not marching to our own distinctive beat, I don’t know what is!

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Filed under blog carnival, desert life, Doggy Diaries, guide dogs, Jayden, jayden quirks, spoons, twitter me this, weather, working dog

Doggy Diaries – Year ago recap 31 – Reunion and Blog Carnival announcement

Yay! A year ago today was our first lesson with Dave! Sweet. It was also reunion time with my friends at Saavi and just an all around good day.

I’m feeling much better today. I woke up in a ton of pain and skipped the gym. Sometimes it’s the second day after a workout that’s painful and even though the last one was abbreviated, I still felt it today. I guess I just really needed some major recovery after the MS walk. Another friend of mine with the spoon thief did the walk, and she said if she does it next year, she’ll need Monday off from work, so it hit her pretty hard too.

I spent the morning listening to baseball and then set to work on tidying the house after a long play session with Jayden. We went and got the mail, but that’s the only work we did. Tomorrow is laundry day and Friday is shopping with Georgie, so I’m conserving right now. There was something else I was going to mention in this post and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was…oh well.

When I started getting Jayden’s dinner ready, I had psyched him out. He was on the couch and when I stood I told him “not yet” in a soothing voice. When it’s dinner time, I get excited and ask if he’s hungry. I totally fooled him tonight hahaha! He heard me getting his food and came running and I thought, God I love that dog.

Seriously, how did I manage without my Mellow Yellow?

Oh and also, we had fun with the word banana earlier. At least I did. I took him out to relieve this afternoon and he started doing his obedience routine. He never knows when he might get a treat after afternoon relieving. I bent and pet him and he bowed and I said very quietly, “I think I need a waffle…with banana.” At this the boy lost all control of himself and started doing his impression of Tigger, boing boing boing up and down and then started running in circles hahaha! It was soooo funny. He gets half a banana when I make a PB and banana sandwich on waffles. What a lucky dog.

That’s what it was! As I tabbed through windows to my Blogger dashboard I came across a window I had left open to remind me to post. The third assistance dog Blog Carnival has been announced! Sweet!

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Check out the 2nd Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

The 2nd Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is here! Thanks L^2 for hosting this round! I just started reading and already it’s fabulous!

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Carnival Post – Wait until you get your dog

It’s time for the second Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, can you believe it? For details, visit L^2’s post about this round, as she is our current host. The topic for this addition is ‘Decisions’. I have thought long and hard about what to write, since my first carnival post discussed my decision to get a guide dog. I decided to write a bit about decisions I made concerning how life would be with a sixty-five pound lab, since I’ve always been a cat person. 😉

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For some, the biggest fear in the decision to train with a guide dog is probably something like, can I really trust a dog to get me across a six lane intersection with speeding cars driven by people texting and talking on cell phones? Or, will my dog really run me out of the way of that darned silent hybrid car? Or, will my dog really get me home once we start to venture out? Or, what will happen if I get us lost, I mean, I can’t afford a fancy GPS, what happens then? Or, will my dog really refuse to step off a curb that’s really disguised as a thirty foot drop?

Sure, I had those thoughts. My biggest fear though? How will I keep my dog from eating cat droppings?

If you were a reader of my blog back when Jayden was affectionately called ‘Insert’, you’ll most likely remember all the things I worried about. If you were a member of the guide dog e-mail list I was on, you were probably one of the people who’s answer to just about every question was, wait until you get your dog. Should I get a kennel? Wait until you get your dog. Should I baby gate the room where the litter boxes live? Wait until you get your dog. Should I put the cat food up high? Wait until you get your dog. Do you know how maddening that answer was for someone like me? I’m a planner. I don’t like the what ifs in life and I will do everything in my power to eliminate the unknown. Getting a guide dog has broken a lot of the desire to control life, let me tell you.

When the service rep from GDB came for my initial interview, I asked him those very same questions about dog proofing my home. His answer? Don’t constrict your movements around your home and change everything in relation to your cats until you get your dog. In other words? Wait until you get your dog.

I asked my instructor towards the end of class, during our transition meeting, because I just wasn’t satisfied with wait until you get your dog. I had my dog. My instructor’s answer? Much more to my liking. He made sure I understood that cat food is harmful for dogs because it’s higher in protein, etc etc etc. To me, it seemed like he was on the same page. Finally, some validation! I was pretty sure I’d begin the dog proofing when I returned home with Jayden. I had him now. I didn’t need to wait anymore.

GDB recommended that my dog be restricted in the home for about two months. I had discussed this on the guide dog list, and it seemed everyone had different experiences with this time frame. Some went exactly two months, others did not with disastrous results, some waited a few weeks, some went beyond the two months. The horror stories about some of the dogs scared me to death.

When GDB asked what I wanted in a dog, I had no preference for color, sex or breed. My major requirement was good house manners. I did not want to fall victim to counter surfing or a torn up mattress, or delicates being chewed up. Because of my auto immune disease, I explained, I need a chill dog who won’t take a lot of maintenance. My fatigue levels just won’t permit a crazy dog. Once again, I was more concerned with having a dog in the home than trusting my life to one. For some reason, I just knew the latter would be fairly easy, and it was, after some transitioning.

The day I arrived home from GDB, it was cold, windy and rainy out. It was March in the desert, and I felt like I hadn’t left California. I entered my apartment with Jayden on a long leash since I had just relieved him after our flight home. Upon walking into the entry way, I heard my boyfriend say hi to Timmy, the cat, and I felt a strong lunging motion on the leash in my hand. Thank you, hitch hiker’s grip! Jayden received a strong leash correction, a firm NO! and the command to sit. Timmy ran and hid. I think he might have come out three days later. All the cats, three of them, vanished for quite some time.

I believe to this day, that the correction given to Jayden in our first minute in his new home, showed him I was boss and lunging after cats would not be tolerated. Even now, after Jayden has made best friends with the cats, he never lunges after them or chases them. He cuddles with them and loves them.

That first night home, I fashioned a tie down in my bedroom using the cord GDB had given me by wrapping it around the leg of a solid oak dresser. It would work perfectly for the time being, since I hadn’t gotten a kennel. I hated the tie down at night however, after a night at school when Jayden woke up with a shriek; he had gotten tangled in his tie down. I knew a tie down at night would not last long and within a couple days, I had gotten a kennel which he picked out. Wait until you get your dog. No really. Because your dog will tell you which kennel is comfortable for him or her. The first few were too small and he wouldn’t go in. The one we bought was all Jayden’s choice, after he walked in, turned around, and lay down.

I felt much better at night, knowing he had plenty of room and would not get tangled up. The only thing I didn’t like was that once he was in there, I couldn’t touch him. Our nightly ritual was fun however. After nightly relieving, Jayden would happily go into his kennel because he knew I’d be giving him a few pieces of kibble. A handler at GDB had suggested this when she showed me how to use a kennel. A few pieces of kibble just keeps the experience positive.

During the day when we weren’t working or doing obedience or interacting, Jayden was on tie down. After I had gotten the kennel, I wrapped the cord around the couch leg. This didn’t give him much room however, so I eventually clipped the leash to the tie down. The school had recommended not using the leash for this purpose, in cace the dog chews it, but Jayden hadn’t shown any signs of chewing so after the first experimental day with the leash, that served as his tie down. He was able to stretch out on the floor or even get up on his designated spot on the couch. Jayden immediately knew that if the towel was down, he was permitted to lay there. At first it took inviting from me, encouragement that he was allowed, before he’d climb up. Eventually he understood that it was ok. Now that couch is basically his, but that’s a post he wants to write for you.

So what about the cat food? I had left it on the floor in the kitchen in its usual place. I would walk Jayden near it while he was on leash since for the first few weeks, if he wasn’t on tie down, he was on leash by my side. If he made any inclination to approach the food, he got a mild correction. Soon he was walking past it without a second glance. Same for the room where the litter boxes are.

Even though he showed incredible self control, I decided not to tempt fate. I wanted to let him off leash soon, because I just knew he was a great dog and could handle the freedom. I decided to put the cat food up anyway, using a dining table the humans don’t use. Before I got a baby gate, I put a brick behind the door of the cats’ room. This wouldn’t keep him out if he really wanted in, but it dissuaded him enough. When I received the baby gate, I mounted it in the doorway about six or eight inches off the floor, so the cats can go underneath it. These precautions were more just for peace of mind rather than a lack of trust in Jayden. I just didn’t have the mental and physical energy for the worry that he might possibly forget his manners and have a snack. I didn’t care if the cats got angry that the strange dog thing ate their food, I just didn’t want Jayden getting sick.

After about two weeks at home, I started easing in freedom while my boyfriend was home and could keep an eye on what Jayden was doing. For the most part, he just wanted to be wherever I was. However if he heard a car or a dog outside, he was free to run to the security door and look out. I was so happy he had that freedom and it was fun to experience it all as he realized he was free. He would lay by the door for a bit and then come running to find me, staying by my side until the next outdoor noise was too inviting. I’d hear his tags jingle as he walked and when he came back to me, it was always a mini reunion.

Not long after those first experimental days, he was completely free during waking hours. The only time I put him back on tie down was if I was going to shower. I think in those first few weeks, I took two minute showers, terrified to leave him. What if he got tangled in the tie down? What if he found a cat toy I hadn’t picked up and choked? What if a cat got frisky and scratched him?

Once again, I had no fear in the possibility of getting lost when we checked the mail, my only fears were of him swallowing something and needing emergency surgery.

These fears passed slowly as I adjusted to life with a dog. His house manners were and still are, impeccable. Thank you, thank you, thank you puppy raisers!

Night time was a different story for a couple of months. Jayden slept in his kennel until I decided to try letting him out at night. He had gotten sick not long after being home and there were a few nights that he messed in his kennel. I had left him out on those nights and nothing bad had happened.

When the time came to let him start sleeping outside the kennel, he was terribly confused. When he knew it was time for bed, he went right inside. I left the door open. He’d walk out and stride around the room, coming up to the bed as if to say, mom I’m confused. Where do you want me? Eventually I gave him an old comforter which he promptly fell in love with. He still gets kibble before bed. It’s just a little tradition I’ve kept and he always wags wags wags after nightly relieving. I hear him lick his chops before we head into my room.

Only about a month ago, he’s realized he can go back out to his couch even after I lay down to read at night. I love the fact that he’s gained independence and can happily be where he wants. There have been no issues whatsoever, to which I am so grateful to his puppy raisers.

Jayden is completely free in the house all the time. For the most part, he still stays near me, but sometimes I find him curled up on his bed in my room, or laying on his crochet mat under the breakfast bar.

The decision to give house freedom is a very individual one, and just comes down to what the dog is like. I feel very lucky to have gotten the dog I did. He takes no energy from me, none at all. The decision not to wait two months to let him be free turned out to be a good one. The decision to dog proof as far as cat food, toilet and toys was one I made at the time, not knowing if I’d keep it that way, but one I have stuck with, again just for peace of mind. There have been the occasional hairball licking incidents, but that’s to be expected when you live with a dog and three cats.

In closing, if you’re waiting for your first assistance dog and you’re wondering all about house freedom and dog proofing and kennels, you know what I’m going to say. Wait until you get your dog. Every dog is different and you just have no idea what he or she will be like when you bring him or her home. Unless that is, you train the dog yourself. Then I suppose you won’t necessarily have those questions.

If you’re working on making your decision to train with an assistance dog and all those fears are plaguing you, not just freedom questions, but service related questions, or if you’re wondering if you’re cut out to be a service dog handler, trust your gut and take the plunge. Just wait until you get your dog; your life will never be the same. Doors will open up, you’ll never be lonely again and you’ll suddenly have the courage to do the things you thought you’d never do.

Feeling a hole in your soul that you worry might never be filled? Wait until you get your dog!

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Filed under blog carnival, cats, Doggy Diaries, GDB, gratitude, Jayden, puppy raisers, spoons, Timmy, working dog

The next AD Blog Carnival

The next assistance dog blog carnival is coming up next month! Check out L^2’s post, as she is our next host.

I’ll try and remember to post reminders as we get down to the deadline of mid January. 🙂

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Take me out to the carnival

Woo hoo! The First Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is here!!!

It’s just awesome! I couldn’t wait to see it all put together and I just love the way it turned out. Each entry was given an intro and each one hooked me. I’ve already read a few since they were written from bloggers I already read, and now I get to go read the rest. I kept stopping myself from checking them out as they were submitted by comments hehe. Please go check it out, spread the word, and check L^2’s blog for the next carnival in January.

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Filed under blog carnival, working dog