First let me just say that I can’t believe we are at Elf Training Day 7—it some ways the next 4 days seem like forever as I miss my daughter and my fur babies back home but in other ways I’m absolutely horrified that we take our test on Friday and possibly head for home with Elf. Interestingly today is Dan’s birthday as well as our 6th anniversary. I can honestly say that 6 years ago when we were standing by that beautiful rock in Tennessee I never imagined that 6 years later we would be training for a service dog for a son that I also didn’t anticipate. Of course I also didn’t expect the snake that was hanging in a tree near the beautiful rock or all of the bear warning signs that we’d see in the area. I guess you can plan your life and be miserable when things don’t work the way you planned or you can just live for the journey that life takes you on.
At least today, we spent most of the day running to follow the next chapter in our life’s journey. We were able to do 2 outdoor searches this morning. Caden and I hid for the first one. We could have hid behind a lovely pine tree or over by the soccer nets but instead Caden wanted us to hide behind the port-a-pot. Yep, we hid behind a portable potty out in the middle of field—thank goodness it was still early in the day. However when Dan and Caden hid, they managed to find a lovely camping spot out in the woods complete with chairs to wait for Elf and me….go figure. We each handled our own track and it was pretty amazing to watch Elf and realize that we are starting to recognize the signals that he is giving us. Of course I not only forgot bug spray (again) but I also forgot to change from sandals into my tennis shoes so when Elf found the trail, he ran and I sort of grass sled behind him. I’m starting to think though that a few good tracking practices a day will do double duty as a work out plan because it definitely takes a lot of arm muscles to hang on to the flexi-lead as well as leg muscles to keep up with a dog who absolutely loves to find his boy.
We went back to Elf’s school for an hour or so and worked on some of the behavior disruption commands. These are trickier in that the dogs know them but we now need to figure out which disruptions will be most appropriate for which activities we either want to encourage or discourage in Caden. I think we’ll have to wait until we are home to really figure out what Caden likes and doesn’t like during meltdowns and stims. At the moment the only thing he really wants is to go home and he is talking more and more about wanting to see his sister. (Thankfully Dan found another plug and play game—sponge bob- so tonight Caden is fairly well distracted.) I don’t think he’s alone though in his wishes as I notice every morning down at breakfast parents seem to be moving a little slower and drinking a little more coffee and the kids are melting down a little more. I know the process will be worth it once we are all back home but that doesn’t make the minute by minute aspects any easier. I made the mistake of looking at the calendar this morning and realized that when we get back home we have appointments for the kids or work meetings for the next 2 weeks straight and school will be starting right after Labor Day weekend. Silly me brought all of the materials to work on my classes for fall but honestly my mind just hasn’t quite been able to make the switch. I can’t really explain it but it seems like we are in a rather surreal isolated bubble at the moment and “real” life is kind of on hold. I think leaving here on Friday will open the floodgates to real life but maybe that rush will keep us from having time to get nervous about having Elf with us.
This afternoon we went to the mall. I was pretty proud of Elf; he was down under the table in the food court and when we released him to get up several people were actually rather startled that a dog was under the table. That’s awesome because it means we all did exactly what we were supposed to. Much to Dan’s dismay we spent the afternoon tracking inside of stores. An inside search seems like it would be easier but all of the clothing racks and people are like roadblocks and you have to search around them and avoid running into or over anyone. Elf was a pro during the 3 searches we planned and the 1 we didn’t plan. Dan took Elf to potty (yep on command) and Caden and I wandered over to shoes. When Dan came back in, he couldn’t find us so he decided to try a search. It was challenging since he had no idea where we might be (which made it even more realistic) but Elf did a great job.
Caden actually said today that he loves his dog Elf which was adorable to hear and he seems to feel important when he is tethered to Elf—we explained that they need to be attached so that Elf doesn’t wander off and he accepted that as an important task that he is very serious about. Caden also seems to enjoy hide and find since we’ve convinced him he wins if Elf finds him (true enough statement if we were in a real search situation).
In celebration of Dan’s birthday, Caden has perfected his use of the word whatever and we all know how much Dan appreciates that word. I mean he knows when to use it and how to pack full attitude into it. If he just learns the eye roll and shoulder shrug it will be a perfect replica of Ryley and me which I know that Dan will really enjoy.