Sunday, June 21: Day 2
Our first real day of class.
We have already lost our first recipient. After the dinner, she decided that this was too big a commitment, and left. To be perfectly honest, we were a little confused – who would leave at that point, where you’ve already had talk after talk about how big a commitment this is but the hard work hasn’t started yet? The dinner was really not much more than a mixer, to let us all have a chance to get to know each other under casual circumstances and let us meet the people who had made our dogs possible.
In talking with one of the other recipients, I found out that his dog had been ‘out’ – been placed as a service dog – before. His human partner had passed away a little less than 2 years into their partnership, and according to her wishes he was brought back to the kennel and placed again. Not all dogs are able to do that, but as it happened, Valiant (a poodle) fell in love with his new partner, M., right away. Valiant had his head in his (M’s) lap, eyes half closed, as M stroked under his chin for most of the class.
And he was not the only one! Clint, a golden retriever, was leaned back against B.’s legs, his head lolled back in her lap as he stared up at her adoringly. Most of the labs looked quite happy to be with their new people. The two black poodles (River and Brett) and my Hudson were more aloof. I watched the other dogs happily leaning against their new people, seeking to be petted, and I thought how is this happening? I know I really emphasized that a dog wanting affection is important to me!
We do the basic obedience work that is scheduled for the day. Hudson challenges me a little – part of training – but gives in easily when he meets my insistance. River gave E. a terrible time, and flat out refused to lay down! E. had to make her, which is part of training. These dogs are exquisitely trained, the only thing is that they must learn to respond to their new partners. Part of that is proving that you will not accept anything other than their obedience to commands.
There are a lot of questions, some grounded in lack of knowledge about dogs in general, others in lack of knowledge about service dogs specifically. At one point, E. and I are talking and I assure her that yes, your service dog is supposed to come into the bathroom with you. After all, if something should happen while you are on or getting up from the toilet, how can it help it if you have closed a door between you two? (Obviously this does not have to extend to squeezing them into little tiny public bathroom cubicles). She was horrified by the idea of losing her privacy, though really a dog isn’t all that interested in your bathroom habits.
We spent much of the day on basic orientation – where everything is, the emergency preparedness talk, an idea about what we would be facing the next weeks, discussion of what we had read the night before. The 2 seizure alert dogs go home tonight, but the rest of us must wait until Friday to bring the dogs back with us.
I don’t think I mentioned before, but I will now – our host wants to feed us dinner all through training. The hosting program makes absolutely no requirement of that whatsoever, but we are their third service team and they remember how utterly exhausted the other teams were when they came home for the night. I was a bit anxious about this, as I am a picky eater, but from tonight’s lovely turkey dinner I begin to think I have no need to worry!