Continuing Education

I made a promise to tell you everything that happens with regards to our favorite speckle-kneed ghost. Sometimes that’s great fun, other times it’s difficult. This seems to be one of the difficult times. I didn’t think it would be, but it is. Now, don’t worry he’s fine, we’re all fine. (Lauri will say I always say that. I do, but it’s true.) I wasn’t sure how to explain this blog post to you, or maybe more importantly to myself. So to shift my focus I opened social media for a distraction and saw a quote that helped.

Do the best you can until you know better. 

Then, when you know better, do better.

~ Maya Angelou

That being said, we are doing better, and I feel lighter about this post. I can never say this enough. Casper is an amazing dog. He is smart and learns so fast. Maybe it’s a mantra for me? Maybe I say it because I have had people question his “service dog” status because he has a couple “ticks.” We are actively working on those issues. If the process we’re working through needs validation, I will present it.

As you know we made big changes in our lives and moved over a thousand miles from the place I called home for a very long time. With that change, I went from working in an office to working from home. We moved from a condo to a ranch, and many, many other changes. With these changes also came changes for Casper. Everything about life and routine changed, for all of us. The people in our family needed that change. The animals, maybe not so much, but I know they love us so they came along. Well, mostly because we put them in a car and drove them here, but whatever.

Casper is rock solid in so many ways, and a bit like drying concrete in others. He will be solid, once we allow it. In order to allow him to be the best he can be I had to admit that I need help (again, still…). So, this post is again, me admitting to my human-ness and what we’re doing to keep me from failing my dog. If we still lived in New England I would enlist Service Dog Project to get the help I need, but we’re over a thousand miles from them. Instead, we took the time to find the right group a little more local. This was not an easy task, and took a bit of work on our part to find someone who saw Casper and I as something more than a chance to make money. It was actually tough to even get some to return our emails and phone calls. If anyone displayed anything less than being caring and genuine, I thanked them and moved on. Lauri found us Spirit Ranch in Tulsa.

Casper loves Miss Amy. She is patent with him, and with me. I’m sure I require as much patience as him, so that’s good. She has helped me to identify his anxiety and suggested ways of helping him work through it. We are working on socialization and we are getting back to basics with the “one-step crawl.” I am working on taking advantage of opportunity. For example, this past weekend, during a horseback riding session, we laid a blanket out and I sat down, ignoring him, while he figured out he can be comfortable with the smells and the sounds. He had dogs barking at him from 200 feet away behind a fence for forty minutes. The only time I corrected was when he pulled and barked back (once). I ignored him the rest of the time. That was difficult for me. We also brought him to see 3 horses and a miniature donkey that our church has adopted. I allowed him a loose long lead and the opportunity to take it all in, greet the horses, sniff the smells, and allow him to just be (again, harder for me than you might imagine). Another day, with the weather not being so great we worked in the mall. We happened to arrive before the stores opened so we joined the “mall walkers.”  We “one-stepped” the mall. Then we sat at a café table. I didn’t put him in a down-stay with a command. I just let him be and ignored him. He was confused and anxious. As we waited the tail came out from the tuck that he had it in. Not long after the mall opened. The fountain I sat next to purposely, turned on and spat water up in the air. People walked by and chatted with me about my dog. The roll-up gates opened storefronts to welcome shoppers in. All the while Casper kept looking to me for a command, or reassurance, something. When nothing came he let out a big yawn and relaxed. We did another lap while we stayed in step. I stopped at random seating areas giving no assurance or commands if none were needed. It was a learning experience.

I was not aware that Casper was anxious or pulling out of a need to lead. Now, that I’m aware of his hyper vigilance it is my turn to let him know that all he needs is to be with me, and I will take care of the rest. I want him to be comfortable and happy in every situation and I am determined to provide just that.

We are getting there.

4 thoughts on “Continuing Education

  1. hilda April 15, 2015 at 6:44 am Reply

    Do you keep in touch with Megan and Carlene? I’m sure they can give you great advice on anything you need for Casper. He’s been trained to “downstay” all of these years; why would he get anxious? All dogs adapt to change. I’m glad that you’re both getting help and it’s working for you and Casper. We all want a happy Casper and Dan. Love you, little ghost. ❤

    • Casper April 15, 2015 at 10:50 am Reply

      Hi Hilda
      We keep in distant contact with SDP, and yes they are always helpful. I’m sure you are aware how much we love SDP and the dogs.

      The problem, like I stated in the post, is we are now over 1,000 miles from SDP so returning to the farm is not an option; at least not at the present. (we have a lot going on)
      Casper is awesome with his commands. The issue I’m seeing is that he doesn’t have a comfort level with other dogs, etc. He’s over excited to see, meet, and play. We’re working to get him comfortable with just seeing a dog go by and staying calm. Then if/when he is released to play, then he can be “happy puppy” and not be “working”. He’s anxious and feels like he has to lead. I’m working with a trainer locally that also trains service teams, so we are very confident that she can help us stay on track. The last thing in the world that I want for him is to be just a very well trained pet. I can see that he loves his work and we want to be the best team we can be. I want to be the positive example, not the handler that failed. We will be the successful because mistakes are leading us as much as successes. I’m learning, and I want to share so that maybe other teams can as well.

      Thank you for caring,

  2. Sharon kbtz-AZ April 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm Reply

    That was very enlightening, thank you. I’m sure it has been an interesting journey on both your parts as well. Sounds like it was harder on Dan than Casper. Kudos to you for realizing things were not where they needed to be and for seeking help….the right help it sounds like. Hope other service dog pairings will read this because it could help them as well. My best to the whole family with an extra hug for my Little Ghost.

  3. Laura Fahey Hron April 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm Reply

    I think I have heard more than once from Carlene and Lynne and Renee that you are always training with the service dogs so it sounds like everything is normal at your house. Thanks for sharing with us. Glad things are going well though and that you were able to find someone that works well with you AND Casper.

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