Friday, February 25, 2011

What we've been up to recently

Yes, I have been remiss in keeping my blog updated! I could blame the weather, which like so much of the country has been cold and snowy (now rainy). I can't think of a winter with so much snow since we moved back to the Cleveland area in 1985 but it certainly reminds me of the winters of my childhood (when they had cross-country ski rentals at the local MetroParks). But the weather's not actually to blame. I've been sick since November with what is probably the same resistant infection so I've been feeling pretty crummy but, alas, that's not the reason either. To be honest, based on Hardy's age (he's now 10 1/2 months old) - prime adolescence butthead period, we haven't been doing anything new or exciting! We're working on basic obedience and good dog behavior (which he is testing fairly regularly) but I am not pushing him, just letting him grow up physically and mentally. I must say that is one of the great luxuries of already having a working service dog - I am not feeling the pressure I did when Laurel was his age to push her to learn service dog skills or the worry that any little problem was going to mean that I would have to wash her out. This time I am having much more fun watching him grow up and am much more relaxed about his prospects! 
Hardy loves to pick up things and has no reluctance about taking them off tables (something, that although Laurel will do, she still seems to think is wrong.) For now, however, he is much more interested in carrying things around than in bringing them to me - and a chase game is the best of all! But, that's okay because it shows that he has a great natural retrieve and I can work with that to make it a lovely trained one. The fact that he is willing and able to pick up things made of all different materials and of all shapes and sizes will make my work much easier in the end. Generally, I would say that Hardy is a very solid young man - physically and temperamentally with a very sweet, kind nature. He is intelligent and has a sense of humor. He is fun to work with and from my point of view, is so much easier than Laurel was!
He is not in a fear period right now and not much seems to bother him but when it does, he lets you know. In fact, he is not above pitching a regular "Labratantrum" - generally related to being stuck in his crate, especially if I'm teaching class and not paying attention to him - something we continue to work on. 
I'm considering using a head halter with him for management purposes. He does respond to my stopping and being a "tree", stopping and backing up or stopping and turning when he pulls but that requires that we not be in a rush so that I can always be consistent. Since it's so important that he not learn to pull when I don't  have the time to train the loose leash walking, I may instead manage him by using the head halter.
I haven't been going out much so he hasn't been doing much public access but we do get to most of our classes and he is doing great there! When the weather breaks and I'm feeling better, we do have a number of public access trips planned so stay tuned!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hardy and I went to church today

I am very lucky to have a minister and church congregation who are very accepting and welcoming of Laurel and Hardy. I know this from hearing other people talk about being denied access to church with their service dogs. Many people don't know this but the ADA doesn't cover churches - as long as they are not having an event which is open to the general public, they are exempt. I know people who have had to hunt around to find a church that would welcome their service dogs and I know from personal experience that not all churches have made themselves wheelchair accessible. 
We have a place at the back of the sanctuary that works nicely for my chair and a service dog (there's a spot in the center of the pews as well but sitting there with a dog gets more complicated). Prior to the service, our minister asked if it would be alright for him to introduce Hardy to the congregation - he did and also reminded everyone that although it would be difficult, they should ignore him and  not come up to pet him. Despite that admonition and the fact that I know she knows better, a friend did, in fact, come up during the church service to say hello to him. 
When Laurel first started going to church, she once sighed during the silent prayer and also liked to sing quietly when the rest of the congregation did. Unfortunately, she didn't always end with everyone else. Although I wasn't pleased, the minister and many other members of the congregation assured me it was fine and that they loved having her there. 
Hardy did very well for his first service. He was a bit more restless than he has been at restaurants or other events but, our seat is right by two sanctuary doors and people were constantly going in and out, something that doesn't happen at restaurants, meetings or seminars. After about 15 minutes, he did settle down and only popped up once towards the end of the service when he heard Brent begin to sing a solo from the front of the sanctuary. Hardy was obviously delighted and watched him for the entire song before setting down again. 
As people left after the service, a number of them came to reminiscence about times I'd had Laurel there and to comment on how well Hardy had done for his first time. 
I'm not sure our minister or congregational members know what a wonderful gift the acceptance of my service dogs is to me. Among other things, they have assured me that they enjoy knowing they are there and that I shouldn't be concerned about anything going wrong. Although both Laurel and Hardy have been very good when attending church or going to events there, it is nice to not have to worry about the possibility of people getting upset.