I think it was this past Thursday night. – Casper and I went out to the back patio for our last walk. This one is on-lead so he knows that he is to finish and come in directly. Off lead will lead to a goofy puppy running around like a bunny. It’s December, I’m cold. So. we walked out and I asked him to “do your business”. This is the time I don’t watch him. I like to take a look at the night sky and enjoy the phase of the moon, the stars, what have you. It’s my moment to thank the Universe. Tonight, my eye is drawn just beyond our fence line, to the telephone poles that carry our utilities. My neighbor’s pole has something different, large… it takes moments before, a hoot…hoot echoes our way. Immediately I think, “oh how cool!” we are blessed with an owl visit. Thank You. In that same moment, Casper thinks, “Oh HELL NO!” He is back at my side in a flash. The owl leaves his perch and flies to a neighboring oak. I say to Casper, He (I assumed he…who knows) is awesome, did you see that wing-span?! Apparently he did because he pulled me two feet from the edge of the concrete to the door. He pawed the door and couldn’t wait for me to disconnect the lead before bounding in the house. He ducked in like he was a widdle about to be carried off. Then stayed in our room that night, and I’m sure on-guard for most of it. The next morning as we reached the back door, I opened it as he dropped his head looking left and right to make sure the scary bird was gone. Once the coast was clear, we went out to a relieved pup who held his bladder all night, and was happy to do it.
There is your funny…Now a bit more serious.
There are times that I feel like a bad handler. (There is a theme with me it seems. I have a hard time “letting myself off the hook.) I want to work Casper more than I get to. We went from working nearly every day back when we lived in Connecticut to, a lot less, now that I work from our home. Don’t get me wrong, we’re active-ish; and I do make training opportunities if I feel like it’s been too long, but Casper likes to work. Anyone with a working dog will tell you there is a difference in the dog as they move from play to work. Typically I get to use an active trigger. I take off his Planet-Dog Harness and hold his work service vest for him to pop his head into. That’s largely the pet/work switch.
Then there is life, where the unexpected happens.
Friday night I pulled my back doing nothing. For me doing nothing is usually something. This time, I was watching TV, so actually I was doing NOTHING. I must have gotten up for a drink, or shifted, I don’t know, what I do know is suddenly I couldn’t move. I struggled to get past the large trunk we use as a coffee table, to the floor. I flopped out as quickly as I could, to stretch out. I figured laying flat for a minute would let the knot out, it didn’t work. I couldn’t take a deep breath. To describe the feeling, all I can tell you was my entire core was firing all at once, all the way around. My stomach, my back, the entire family of muscle, all at once, and continuously. If you’ve ever touched a 9-volt battery to your tongue, it felt like that, the quick little pulses you get as you short the terminals? You know, right? Now multiply that times 10,000 or so. (maybe it was like a cattle prod, or a taser, I’m not sure. I’ve never been tased.) I never make a big deal about any pain. I can mask almost any discomfort. This time, I know it was apparent. I was on the floor when Lauri got home from her holiday stage show she has been doing at the local theater and was actually visibly shaken because I couldn’t act like I didn’t feel it. For me, that is a BIG deal. Casper while usually in virtually complete play mode at home also knew something was up. He switched from lounging on our bed in the back of the house to full-on working service dog. His ears perked forward as he looked down on me. (asking ‘what’s wrong’ and ‘what do you want’ at the same time.) So you know, I have full on, out loud, conversations with him. I assume that’s normal. I told him I was okay but my back really hurts. So brace for me. He braced and I grabbed at the handle his harness makes and I threw myself over his shoulders to stand. He braced until I was as fully vertical as I was going to get. I then asked him to “walk-on..slow” Instantly, and slowly we went to the kitchen for water and a half dozen ibuprofen. Every time I needed to move the rest of the night he was there to walk with me. This is not normal for me at home. I use the walls and door moldings if I feel unstable. It’s more automatic for me, I imagine because Casper is my first Service Dog, and old habits die hard? I woke up Saturday morning and the pain was still there. It was down from the previous night to a manageable 80 percent so I made it to our on-suite shower. When I needed to complete other tasks like feeding and walking animals Casper assisted. We made coffee and loaded up to drive Alyssa to her horseback riding. (Don’t tell Lauri, but I don’t think I could have done that without Casper, or even with a cane.) By the time Saturday night came, I could move about on my own, and I made sure to do so when Lauri came home from her performance with her Dad and step-mom. She was a bit scared and I didn’t want to add to it. My pain threshold is decent, and I hope my acting is as well.
Now that Sunday is here the pain is just a dull ache. The repeated firing of the entire muscle group is finally gone. I can move at 95 percent of my normal range, and Casper is on low-alert. I think that my next step in training is going to be putting Casper on a regular home/work schedule. I am going to try calling him to brace for me when transitioning from seated to standing. Having him walk me around with coffee and food, those sorts of tasks. I’ve already tested him in the past, I can walk the house with a mug of coffee in my right hand and Casper on my left without spilling. (Miss Carlene, at Service Dog project, once gave me that task as a goal. When she did, I questioned whether it was attainable; it is.) We ‘one-step crawl’d it. (I ran the first tests with cool water, in case you’re concerned.) It will make Lauri happier too, she points out dirty hand prints sometimes. I point out that I don’t care. She lets me win.
Happily I have tomorrow off so I can go back to bed once the early morning routines are run and the kids are off to school. I should be back at full charge by Tuesday and ready for whatever else gets thrown our way.