Sunday, August 7, 2011

Elf Training Day 6

In one of the classes that I teach we do an activity where students rank which jobs they feel are most important in society.  I can usually guess how they will rank the jobs and I’m fairly confident that dog trainer wouldn’t end up high on the list.  I’m honestly not sure how I would have ranked the profession until last week.  How many people can honestly say though that their job actually saves lives each and every day (directly or indirectly)?  As we headed back to the park today to practice tracking and Jeremy reviewed different scenarios with us and how we would track in various conditions (tomorrow we will try our first indoor track at the mall) I started to realize that every service dog that 4 Paws trains to track most likely saves a life at some point in their service dog career. Those dogs are only able to successfully track and find children because of the devotion and hours and hours and hours that trainers spend with the dogs. I started to wonder what other professions we would put lower on that list because we don’t really understand what or why they do what they do.  Although I don’t know how yet I am hopeful that somehow I can bring this realization into the classes that I am teaching this fall. 

After our tracking activity we headed back to the facility for more Elf school (as we call it for Caden’s benefit). This afternoon was really spent on basic dog care as well as covering the additional health considerations and grooming that are required for service dogs. I continue to take notes even though they give us printed out notes each day (I guess all of those years in school have trained me to take notes when the teacher is talking..then again honestly I think I’d rather defend my dissertation again than take that service dog test this coming Friday). 

One thing that came up today was a discussion of dogs as pack animals and how they will follow the lead of dogs around them if we aren’t careful.  This worries me a bit because I’m pretty sure our beagle and border collie mix qualify as the hounds of hell from Greek mythology. Door bell rings, our dogs bark. Someone walks or drives down the street, our dogs bark. One of the kids walk downstairs, our dogs bark. Crud, they don’t even run to the same door to bark, they spend life so clueless.  Our border collie mix actually got stuck in a snow drift last year (and yes she barked about it).  Jeremy is confident that we can work with our dogs so I’m trying to remain optimistic.  

Felt pretty confident tonight. We conducted 3 tracks tonight (2 in the hotel and 1 outside) on our own and although the outside one was challenging Elf was able to find his boy each time. His boy however has had a rough day.  He kept getting distracted when we were laying a trail so consequently while everyone else efficiently got to their hiding place  we chased a few butterflies and picked a few clover flowers along the way.  During lunch he fell racing Elf and was convinced Elf pushed him. Changed his clothes only to have him then spill coke all over himself without another change of clothing with us.  He has interestingly picked up a few new stims from the other children; I think though this confirms our belief that we want him mainstreamed. He really responds well to modeling and it now appears that he will model either from neurotypical (yep just a fancy word that is for some reason easier for me to say than normal) children or other children with disabilities. I think this is something important for us to remember as we decide what activities to enroll him in during the fall as well.  Just because I know you expect a potty story to somehow make its way into my blog I should also share that this morning’s meltdown (Caden, not me) was because Elf’s poopsie was bigger than Caden’s.  Honestly how do you even respond to that one???  Of course he also melted down because we left Elf hit the handicap door button instead of Caden—great we are no longer going to just hear how unfair life is between Caden and his sister but Caden and the dog as well.  

Finally he was getting upset because Elf always wins hide and seek (yep, not fair either) so now we call it hide and find and are trying to convince Caden that he actually wins if Elf finds him.  Tired and itchy since I seem to have added a few new mosquito bites to the collection (darn bug spray still isn’t working---of course it hasn’t left the jeep yet either…oops). So I guess that just about sums up day 6!