I got up and went to dog obedience training this morning.
No part of me wanted to. It was freezing. I am hurting in every joint. I wasn’t feeling very social.
And I have lost my way to my goal – to certify Elke as a Service Dog. Achieving this is going to be very difficult now, because my service dog trainer is leaving. I keep telling myself something will work out. I will figure it out. I just need to stick with the training program, keep working with her, and it will work out. One way or another. I will find another trainer. I could travel to get her certified. There will be a way.
But it’s hard. To keep telling myself to hang in there and keep going. But I do, for lots of reasons.
Mostly because training her is good for her, and it’s good for me. It’s important to stay connected to the real world. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I feel like I’m faking it.
So off I went. Good for me.
The truth is, it’s a huge blow to lose my service dog trainer. I would honestly have rather never started this than start, and then to lose my trainer after a few weeks.
I’ve spent a lot of money on equipment and training materials. I have become very emotionally invested in the idea. I had a solid plan that all came together quite magically, and it felt so karmic-ly ‘good’.
And then, it all got whipped away. And replaced with a vague ‘we’ll work it out’.
So this morning heading off to dog obedience classes wasn’t quite as exciting. There isn’t that shiny goal that I’m taking baby steps towards. There isn’t a clear and present REASON to put myself through extra physical pain. Because standing on that oval for an hour and walking around in circles and doing sits and stays and drops and recalls and waits, in the freezing cold is really not much fun for arthritic joints. It is most definitely the source of much physical pain.
And Elke is progressing slowly. She has quite the stubborn streak, my beloved German Shepherd girl. And she’s not shy about telling me when she thinks what I’m asking is a silly idea. Or that she’s done ‘sit’ enough times now thanks. Or that she’d really rather watch the OTHER German Shepherd dog in the intermediate class, and try to ‘talk’ to him with her interesting vocalizations of barks, and yaps and squeals. Yes, she actually squeals. Happy squeals. Very funny.
After seven weeks, she is still very easily distracted and it is taking her a long time to settle. The problem is that I’m not taking her out into public areas often enough. Socialising her, and exposing her to lots of noisy, people filled, and dog filled situations. Exposing her to the kind of distractions that she is going to have to ignore as a service dog.
The reason I’m not doing this is because I can’t walk very far. So I have to put her in the car, drive to the local shopping centre and then walk around outside with her. I can only manage about ten minutes, because the pain in my feet and knees and hips gets too much. And then I put her in the car and drive her home. And then that’s me all done for a few hours.
So for the last several days I just haven’t been able to do it at all. I haven’t been mobile enough to do even that. So days and days go by and she doesn’t get walked, and she doesn’t practice and she doesn’t get socialized, and she doesn’t progress.
And then next time I take her to class, she gets all over excited and its obvious I haven’t done any practice with her. Outdoor practice. Once she calms, she’s great. She’s one of the better behaved dogs, and she knows her stuff.
But she also gets bored and then to the point where she refuses to co-operate anymore. I can almost hear her say ‘Nope. I’ve dropped and laid down six times already, and I’m not doing it again. I’m sniffing this tuft of grass, cos its amazeballs. Plus I don’t want to lie down. Again.’
Point being, I’m not sure she has what it takes. I’m not sure WE have what it takes.
To break the cycle I need to get a bit more mobile and have a bit less pain, or I need to finance a powered wheelchair. Or both.
Or maybe I’m just letting the whole ‘my trainer is leaving in a few weeks’ thing get to me.
Anyway, we went. We saw. We barked and whined and yipped and yapped. And then we conformed. We got treats. We sat and stayed and waited. And we conquered.
And I tell myself, again, that I have to take Elke to a well populated area every day, and practice walking her. Every. Day.
That’s how this dog training thing works. Slow and steady. Small daily progress. Little steps. Reinforcement. Every day.
Just like most things. Doesn’t come easy. Doesn’t happen fast. But one day you look back and realise just how far you’ve come.
So we’ll keep taking little steps. And there isn’t a time limit. And we will get there.
*** That’s Elke and me, second from the left. (Patting the head of the german shepherd – Elke). Unbeknownst to me, a friend took this pic of us at obedience training today. Seeing it made me so glad that I went to training this morning. I so very nearly didn’t. I nearly gave up. Nearly just went back to bed an allowed myself to be overwhelmed by losing my service dog trainer. We’ll finish the course 🙂