Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Holiday Hang-Over"

--HoLidAy hANgOvEr pHoToS--"Every year must end with a forced pose shot of the family to send out to all friends and family."

"Tradition here says: Every successful Christmas must have snow! Even if it IS 45 degrees outside, it's gotta be white!"

"Not even Border Collies are allowed at the Christmas meal table. Where's the Cheers in that!??"

"Even dogs get decorated for the holidays? Aww, c'mon mom. Don't make me wear this vest."

AND... "What D'ya mean they're not all for me? Have I NOT been good enough this year?"

I hope by now everyone has been able to recover from the winter holidays! We can rest again for another 12 months!

"Rowena's Service Tasks"

Here are the tasks that Rowena performs to assist me in dealing with my disabilities of Complex PTSD and Major Depression...

Problem/Symptom- Tasks
Panic attack, Anxiety- She alerts me of rising anxiety, will come up to me and "check me out" gets right in my face, tries to head off attacks, will at least decreases the length and intensity of an attack through "intelligent disobedience".
Hypervigilence, Dissociation & Flashbacks- She provides threat assessment (also on command) or a "reality check" to help me discern a real threat from "imagined". She alerts to and/or searches for the presence of people or pending presence of people (ie- hears cars or people enter apartment building, will search ahead while walking with me) She also provides tactile stimulation and can interrupt dissociative episodes, flashbacks, decreasing their severity, which decreases my chances of self harm.
Social Phobia/Withdrawal- She interrupts me from indoor activities (rings the bell on the door to signal) and gets me out of the house through out the day, provides an icebreaker for social interactions, acts as a social buffer, provides an outlet for "mainstream" social activities, and encourages me to get out and get physical even when I want to stay in and hibernate.
Chronic Pain- She will retrieve items and deliver them at my level "lap" whether I am lying, sitting, or kneeling on the ground so that I don't have to jump up and down when I am too sore.
Possible Future Tasks?
Dissociation- Helps handler cross the street safely and lead handler home.
Anxiety/Panic- Guide handler to a safe place (if in a mall or large group of people).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Hard at Work With Rowena"

Rowena and I attended a Christmas/Holiday party put on before Christmas by the local counseling agency. My girl, Rosie has on her old winter booties from last year as she had torn up her paws and claws playing on the ice and hard snow, trying to get her frisbee.

Here we are enjoying lunch at Subway last week with a friend of mine (taking the photo).

Rowena modeling in her new red service vest made by LDS Leather. On the sides I sewed on a couple of service dog patches I had made up at Stadri Emblems... has the Claddaugh symbol and "Love-Loyalty-Friendship" written below. The vest also has a "Do not touch-Service Dog". Topping off the Service Dog look is a metal Service Dog Trainee ID tag with the ADA on the back. Things are getting strict in year two of Rowena's service dog training!

Rowena and I will be starting a class that teaches skills for public access to dogs who are becoming therapy dogs. The trainer goes by the public access test that ADI http://www.adionline.org/publicaccess.html uses. It is a four-week class and I am nervous that Rowena will not pass it the first time. She is still nervous around canes, that includes shepherd's crooks, crutches, and wheelchairs and we don't get very many chances to work around them. A friend of mine is blind and uses one of those tall white canes. He gets around better with that cane than I ever could and is able to keep track of things... everything it seems. He is so organized that he could pretty much keep me informed of what was going on in my own life when we were last together. This past August, I had him stay with my husband and me so that he could attend the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine. It is 3 days full of music from all over the world, many bands playing at different spots along the riverfront, lots of dancing, eating, craft booths all up and down one narrow road... oh, yes and with thousands of people from all over. My friend got here on the Friday afternoon the festival was to begin. He took the Greyhound Bus to town and I met him to show him where I lived. Well that night, we walked down the riverfront to watch a band play and it was very crowded. Normally I would stand somewhere, but I managed to cram through, (my friend left me in the dust and found a place) and sat down in some seats near the aisle. Rowena on the floor in front of me, my friend put his cane on the floor along the back of the seats in front of us, down by the back legs. Well, he was getting into the music... having a foot-tapping, hand-clapping, head-bobbing good time. At one point, his foot tapped his cane and the cane moved a little. this cause my over-tired, over-stimulated little Border Collie jumping in fear. Rowena leaped up and into my lap and was trying to get as far away from that vicious can as she could. Rowena is a pretty average sized female BC according to AKC standards, which means that she is by all means NOT a lapdog, but not a moose either. She kept looking down at this cane in horror as if it would jump up and get her and I couldn't help but laugh my head off at her as she scrambled onto my lap and stared back wide-eyed at the cane to make sure it didn't come after her. The rest of the weekend was basically uneventful, beautiful weather until Sunday. My friend left Saturday Night after the last band played. As a result, Sunday was a bit more somber for me and Rowena. It was overcast and a wind blew up the river. Rowena had done really good around all the tents and awnings and flags, but the wind was whipping up the sides of a small tent where we sat to watch something on Irish dance clothes. By early afternoon, the festival was wrapping up with the last bands and people began to pack up. Foot traffic decreased and soon a rain began to fall steady on what was left of the crowd. All in all, Rowena did very well at such a crowded busy place.
Another weakness Rowena will need to work on for her public access test is her great need to seek attention from both other people and other dogs. When we are walking down the sidewalk, I can feel her pulling towards an oncoming person as if seeking some sort of adoration.... like "Here I am! Kneel before me and give me lots of attentions, or even a treat!" I hate to break it to the princess that not everyone likes dogs, and some people ignore a service dog all together (she is wearing a vest). People don't usually bow before strange dogs either. At the local counseling agency, she has been spoiled there for 14 months now. Lately, I tell people only to pet her if she is sitting or down on the floor. I am getting a bit more strict (and annoyed) with the general public as well as people continue to reach down and pet her or talk to her even with her bright yellow stop sign "Do Not Touch" patch on her back. Then there is Rowena's thing where everytime she sees a dog, she thinks it wants to play with her... or at least she knows she NEEDS to play with them! She will pull on the leash in attempt to catch up with another dog on a leash. She has begun whimpering when she feels that she should be able to play with a nearby dog instead of being forced into a sit/stay or down/stay. Needless to say, these "over- socialization" problems will be difficult obstacles for Rowena to overcome in order for her to pass her public access test.
Now armed with a Gentle Leader instead of a Halti, my distractable service do and I will head out into the community tomorrow to practice some of the things that Rowena needs to brush up on most. All the while, I wholly expect to pay another $80 to go through this course again with her.