Wednesday, February 14, 2007

All Dog Night - Part I

I attended my first ever "All Dog Night" last night. For those of you unfamiliar with Helping Paws, All Dog Night is the venue used when a lesson plan applies to all the dogs in training. The Monday Night Class, the Tuesday Night Class, the Thursday Morning, Afternoon and Evening Classes all met to discuss the dynamics involved in placing our dogs. Lots of dogs at varying ages, lots of foster folk and three Helping Paws professionals. Intense, to say the least.

The discussion ranged from administrative (expense reports and vet records) to final placement and beyond. There were so many excellent points, but what struck me the most was the direct approach taken to the emotions experienced during the training and placement of a service dog - by all involved; the foster home, the graduate, the staff, even family and friends of the foster home. The point of all this was to relate how our emotions affect the new graduate, ourselves, and our dogs and to provide "best practice" information and coping mechanisms.

Of all the emotions covered I was surprised most by fear - and how it manifests itself in all of the parties involved in this complex process of providing a well-trained service dog:

The Foster Home: Fear of failure is right at the top (at least for me). What if I can't train this dog to come immediately every time it is called?

Helping Paws Professionals: Fear of health issues precluding a dog from placement; fear of not having enough foster homes to receive and train an HP pup; fear of a foster home not meeting the high expectations required in training a service dog; fear of an unsuitable placement.

The Graduate: Fear of not being disabled enough; fear of "taking" another's dog; fear of coping with the daily needs of their dogs; fear of the stress and physical toll of learning all the cues necessary to work with their dogs - cues that took the dog and foster home two plus years to learn but which the graduate must assimilate in a condensed, intense three week period.

What I also heard, though maybe not in so many words, was "we are all in this together. We, to the best of our ability, will help you succeed". I heard it, I saw it, and I felt it from all that gathered last night. Rob summarized this feeling best when he said, "I'm not so much giving up, I'm giving to". Amen!

No comments: