Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three Months of Learning

Shiloh (It has recently come to my attention I have been spelling it incorrectly, I hope she can forgive me.) and I have now been partnered for three months. I still feel I have much to learn about Shiloh, and I am positive that I regularly baffle her. As I write this she is sound asleep, snoring, on the chocolate brown corduroy dog bed behind my chair in the living room. Recently, I was working on the monthly progress report I must turn in to Summit and I realized just how far she and I have come together in such a short time span.
In the first month we went from complete strangers to companions with a lot to learn on both sides. I regularly confused her cues with those of my previous service dog, Bastien, leaving us both wearing puzzled looks. We conquered her uneasiness about skateboards. She learned to live with cats, though, the cats will tell you her idea of family fun leaves a little to be desired. She accompanied me through the loss of my job of the last four years, reminding me that there is much more to life than one's job.
In the second month we worked to gain a common language training everyday multiple times day. We went on outing several time a week, even if I had to invent a reason to go out. We spent a lot of time in coffee shops. I would sip my coffee or tea (depending upon my mood) while reading, studying for the GRE, and applying for jobs. It was during this month I discovered that Shiloh and I still needed to build trust. I took her out to a few after dark events and Shiloh, while she worked well, clearly showed she was uncomfortable being out after dark. We then had to plan regular outings where we were out after dark; fortunately, this is college town so there are a lot of evening events. I never expected to be out of work when I got my second service dog, as it turns out though, it has been helpful because I had the time to ease her into working and her new life at her pace. At the end of the second month, I finally felt I knew her well enough to introduce her to my favorite dog park. Shiloh LOVES the dog park. She likes to play with the dogs her size or smaller and run full speed. I am not sure there is a sight I love more than seeing her tear full speed across the park when I call her!Many other park goers are jealous of this sight as they chase their own dogs to go home.
The third month has been non stop. We started a new job working as an office assistant at the university for 12 hours a week. (I know not much, but it's better than nothing.) I decided to spread my hours across the week for the benefit of the office and Shiloh. We go to work four days a week for three hours. Most days after work we go to the dog park. This month we also went on our first trip (Christmas in Portland). She really loves to travel and it shows. We also went to the vet and our first Puget Sound Assistance Dog Club meeting. I have been a part of this club for nearly a decade now. I raised and trained my first service dog with the help of the members associated with this group at the time. I was ecstatic to see my friends and have them meet Shiloh. I am astounded at the progress Shiloh and I have made in such a short time! I look forwarded to the new experiences to come. The world and it's challenges provide us endless opportunity to practice and perfect the ballet of a well matched service dog team. I have seen this show many times in my years in the service dog world and look forward dancing with Shiloh for a very long time!

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