28 July 2012

It's Not Always Just Black and White

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival
The topic chosen by Brooke at  the RuledByPaws blog is Marchin' to Your Own Drum

When I brought Thane into my life as my successor candidate I had many hopes and dreams for us. None of them involved another journey through chronic illness, but that is exactly the cards that were dealt for us. I knew that there were great variations in the outcomes for dogs diagnosed with Lyme. All I could do was treat Thane and hope for a good outcome that leaves chronic illness behind as just a bad memory. We're still waiting for that LOL

Seriously though, in the beginning of this journey I could not think about anything but treatment for Thane. He was too sick to work at that time and so for the first time since his training was complete, I had to face that scary world full of sounds and sights I was oblivious to by myself. I had to deal with grip issues and the pain associated with navigating my guide cane while Thane recovered. The worst part was having to deal with everyone who just had to know where Thane was. Leaving him home certainly gave me a huge eye opening experience of just how much Thane really does for me as a deafblind incomplete quadriplegic.

Many in the service dog world believe that once a service dog has developed a health condition that it is time to retire them. I don't believe it is really so simple- so black and white. As a more sedentary individual and an owner-trainer, I have greater flexibility in this area. I will admit I did a lot of soul searching about what was right in our situation, but I knew going into this that every case is different. For Thane, however, having not been diagnosed early on, the prognosis was a long one of ups and downs as the spirochetes were destroyed.

The key in everything is that I put Thane first ALWAYS If he was not up for the errand, then we waited for a day when he was doing better (during times when it fluctuated) or I went solo. Don't get me wrong, it was tough going solo. I knew though that when I got home, he'd be there to help me put things away, change my smelly clothes from public access and be the in-home service dog I trained him to be. Though there is still some fluctuation in Thane's abilities, he has begun to work in public more. Lately, each week seems to be bringing with it an increased ability to be in harness at my side. There were times when I questioned whether I had made the right decision to wait the process out and see what outcome we could achieve.  Now I am watching the dream begin to unfold as Thane is returning to the job he loves. I'm so glad I don't think in just black and white!

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