27 April 2011

The little Redhead from Indiana

So now that I shared who Met was- where he came from- what he became to me, its time to share about Thane. After all this blog really is his. smile

Thane is one of four puppies born to Scarlet and Finn, both red and white Border Collies out of Indiana. He spent the first nine months of his life as Shane; living with his mom and co-breeder amidst their varied pack of dogs- from toy to giant breed.

Following the passing of Met, he came to live with me in the hopes of becoming my future service dog. The trip from Indiana to Oregon, was tumultuous at best for this Indiana country boy. He had so many changes to adjust to- no longer part of a pack as the low man in it, he became the solitary dog in his new home life. From country to town where just the presence of regular traffic flow was something to be in awe of- he had a lot of adjusting to go through.

Re-named Thane- a type of noble man in the Shakespearean era, this little red and white smooth coat boy, had a long way to go before fulfilling his name.

For me, it was a huge eye opening experience to witness just how much I had at one time taught his predecessor- Thane was close to that of a blank slate. He had, for the most part, pretty awesome household manners and behavior for such a young Border Collie. What he had in manners however, he lacked in training. It was going to be up to me to either make or break him as a potential guide and service dog. Only time would tell though which way this was going to go.

At first, the most we really accomplished were the very basics of obedience training amidst the constant reminders that this little redhead was anything but my Met. He had different mannerisms, different likes and dislikes, different pluses and minuses. He was definitely NOT my dog that I so desperately missed and wanted the void of to be filled in the snap of my fingers.

At first, Thane's real role was that of keeping me busy and giving me someone- something that needed me and my care. I will admit, his early life here was anything but stress free as I wrestled with what I sorta coin *my demons* in the journey of letting go of Met and accepting him for who he was and could become to me. This was anything but an easy process.

I suffered from what is often known as *second dog syndrome*. It is that difficult condition, if you will, of relinquishing your first dog and journey with it- allowing oneself to accept, bond with, and work with the new and often times very different successor candidate. It was the letting go of the innocence one had as they trained, bonded, worked, and lost their first service dog and allowed that self to move on with the lessons of yesterday without allowing them to overshadow the joy and good in what lay ahead.

When one can come to such a *letting go* and *moving forward* in the journey of the bonding process- allowing themselves growth as a trainer and handler in the process towards a successor partnership, amazing things can and often do flourish.

I will be the first to admit that Thane is no Chimette. There may never be again in my life, that magical kind of partnership, bond and love that I had with my first special man. Thane though is very special in his own ways. He is an awesome guide dog when his energy is not busting out his seams. Living in an apartment in rain central USA does not do much for energy expenditure. I've learned to give him the long walks to stores in town or to the bus so that he can expend that energy and thus be more effective in that crucial *crowd* work we often encounter.

Most people recognize Border Collies as awesome hearing dogs, but are quite surprised by a guide dog of the same breed. Thane is an interesting specimen for sure. To date, he has turned out to be a much more responsive guide dog than he may ever be as a hearing dog for me. All of this of course came as quite a surprise to me after my previous dog was just so good at everything along the progressive path of my disabilities over our years together.

Met was very much in the game for what he could do for me. He loved his job- sometimes too much. Thane on the other hand, is very much a guide dog in that same light but when it comes to indoor tasks in his obsessive toy environment of our home life, it becomes very much one of *what can I get out of doing this task for her*. I will admit, its not necessarily the kind of work ethic one wants for a multi-disability, multi-environment needed service dog, but at this stage of the game- it works for us because of just how toy obsessed Thane happens to be. I guess in some ways that little obsession of his, is a good thing. LOL Do I wish he had a little more the ethic of his predecessor- sure, but then there is probably a lot of things that he is for me, that he just might not be.

I had said at one point following Met's passing that I never wanted to depend on a dog so much again that in their absence I could not function. Perhaps Thane's gift to me is just that- making me keep my promise to myself that he would never become the *only* functional tool I could live my life by.

For now, I am just grateful for those wonderful people in Indiana who had the ability in their hearts to let go of the little redhead they had raised for the first nine months of his life. For without them and their generosity, my life today would be a very different one. Thane truly was and is a gift- one I hope I never become so accustomed to that I take advantage of what he does for me.

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