23 October 2013

Lessons Through Healing

This post is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Brooke at Ruled By Paws

I wasn't going to do this round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) because recently my life has been a full time job, and then some-- but I think the lessons I am learning in my partnership are also just as important. When I saw the topic for the carnival is Lessons, I could not pass this up.

For the past month, I have been working with a program to recover my health (and it is happening). In the process of this, I have been taught some interesting, unexpected lessons about how I work/ed with Thane and the inadvertent teachings that my avoidance behaviors have conveyed to him.

I always knew that Thane was one who really was connected to my emotions. More times than not, if I was having difficulty in working him, all I had to do was check in with myself and know where the problem lay. He taught me to really relax and stay in the moment, which I felt to be a very good thing for the entire partnership. He would not have made a very good candidate for an individual recovering from the traumas of war or other PTSD impacts, but for me, with less impacts in that area, he has been a great teacher.

So, I thought we had this all figured out!

I mean, I was relaxed thanks to him and thus we worked great-- right?


One of the first benefits of the program was the development of a calm and relaxed person who was able to live in the moment more. Once this began setting in, I could not even wrap my head around how tightly I had been wound for so many years. As I relaxed (and I mean, truly relaxed), the partner at my side transformed into someone I did not even recognize.

We were just getting started at that point. I pondered what other lessons were in store for me/ for us as the program progressed.

The next realization wasn't such a good one. I discovered that there were unintentional teachings going on due to my need for avoidance of heavy exposure. The result of this teaching was that I had inadvertently taught Thane that in all high fragrant environments, we must high-tail it out of there at the fastest possible speed. While I was living it and experiencing the impacts of the exposures, I could not see that the quick exits I make in living this very isolated life, albeit necessary ones, were inadvertently training Thane that any place there was high fragrance, we were to behave as though we were jumping out of the starting gates at the Kentucky Derby!

Needless to say, part of our work now entails some serious retraining to slow down and move along at a more normal speed. This isn't just retraining for Thane, but for me as well. I have had a strong aversion to crowds and have avoided them for much of our partnership by shopping only in the morning hours. As I have regular *homework* with the program I am doing that must be performed a few times a day, it means to get out early would require getting up at an unspeakable hour. Needless to say, Thane and I are getting our exposure to situations where we must work at a more natural pace (to others). It's definitely giving us more training opportunities where we can succeed together as a team in earning the jackpot.

There is still a time and a place for our enjoyment of higher speed working, but right now it is a matter of using my common sense to teach him which places we should work more slowly and which ones we can cut loose and enjoy the wind blowing through our hair.

There is so much more than the unintentional training that is being addressed right now. Part of Thane's training/ work has been in the area of medical alert to very specific triggers I have/ had. In the process of the program I am doing, some of these triggers have either improved or gone away. As a result, the alerts for them are either not as critical or not necessary at all.

For those who have never been around a Border Collie on a regular basis, it can be quite challenging to undo training. I've learned through experience that accidentally clicking in training when the dog lets out a woof (Met) as it closes the door can be much harder to extinguish than it may seem. In Thane's case, I have had progression of my blindness and have had to work very hard to extinguish simpler approaches to awkward curbcuts or turns with awkward placements of sidewalks in retraining him to do what may seem inconvenient, but conveys more to me about my position/ location. Now it seems, just as changes to his guide training were necessary, so are changes to his alert training, by using the alerts he provides in different ways-- essentially backchaining the unnecessary ones out of his repertoire as I progress for the better.

I will say that the one part of all of this that I/we am/are really enjoying is exposing him (and me) to new situations. Sometimes it is easy to transfer training from other situations to the new environment or experience and other times, it is completely new training. This is a really fun part of the program-- getting to experience new things/ environments with my sidekick.

1 comment:

  1. thanks so much for your post. You'll have to tell me more about this program. I'm so glad to hear that it's helping you with your health and with your relationship to Thane.