13 November 2013

Six Years of Love, Challenge, and Devotion

The year was 2007, I had just lost my first combo trained service dog two months prior. Here I was in eager anticipation readying my home for a beautiful red and white smooth coat Border Collie boy to grace me with his presence.

I love to focus on the memory of our first connection. My mom opened the crate door from behind and he places his muzzle into my outstretched hands. He was so beautiful, so innocent, so confused by the changes that took place this day

and yet

This is the day when I was able to allow my heart to begin to heal as I rejoined that circle of training again which led to my wonderful, albeit challenging, partnership with Thane.

Here I am 6 years later. We learn lessons from every partnership we have, but I think that the lesson of most impact for me today is that you can never predict the future accurately.  You can learn from the past in order to prevent future similarities, but you can't know what tomorrow will bring for sure.

I thought I would list some of the lessons I have learned through my training and partnership with Thane. I won't be listing them all, as I would be here typing a very long time to do that. The lessons shaped our future are important though.

It can be overwhelming when you get a dog who is basically a clean slate after you have been partnered with a dog for many years (from adoption to passing I was with Met for over a decade). You have to relearn how to communicate with clear commands again grin

I can not nor should I mold this dog into a carbon replica of Met. Thane is his own self; a very different dog and I need to let him work in his style.

Emotions run down the leash-- learn to manage your own stress for a better partnership (especially with a soft dog)

Backchaining a task can lead to much greater reliability than if a dog just learns the task by example watching another dog or with fine tuning a behavior offered.

A less *natural* dog can test one's training abilities. The successes also are that much more exciting when the breakthroughs happen.

A vet's competence can go a long way to either supporting or challenging the longevity of a partnership

When a dog begins having symptoms that encompass many systems of the body, treating symptoms is not going to be life affirming. One needs to get to the bottom of things quickly with a knowledgeable Veterinarian.

Ticks can be diseased wherever you are in the world. You do not have to live in Massachusetts to develop Lyme disease from a single tick.

Treat the individual, not the lab reports, otherwise a partnership may be sidelined (even lost completely).

Similarities in health issues at the onset, do not have to mean the same result over the long haul.

Healing myself can result in a much healthier, more focused connection between dog and handler.

How I deal with  situations in life has a direct impact on the pull into harness that my dog presents with-- relax and enjoy yourself!

Today I have found great joy in taking really long hikes through various areas we can access directly or via the public transit system. I love having a dog that enjoys these adventures as much as I do.

I don't know what the future holds for Thane and I-- where we go from here is anyone's guess. What I do know is that by being partnered with my challenging redhead, has made me have to become a better trainer and handler than I had to be with my first dog. I love that about this partnership, but most of all, I just love Thane's ability when we get lost, to make us found again so easily. It's like anywhere we go, he just has this extra sense about the surroundings that I will never have.

So today, we celebrate the six years of life, both the good and the not so good, because when you put all these events together, they present with a partnership that has had to grow and learn hard lessons to be who we have become.

C'mon my redhead, time to throw that ball