While I was on a blogging break, a very special day passed. It did not go by without notice, despite not being able to mark it in writing. It was such a special day that I feel the need to go back and at least give it some recognition.
If you have been reading this blog for a while you will probably be able to recall me talking about the first day I met Glacier, my current Leader dog. I knew the day he bounded into my room, planted his huge paws on my chest and covered my face from chin to forehead with one slurp that he was a big goof and that I would love him. It was September 24 2008 that my life changed forever, again. I won't go into detail here about our training days. A lot of the things we did in our first formal session were repeated in our retraining class we were enrolled in at Leader Dogs for the Blind back in April. A "got ya" day is important to most pet owners, especially those who adopt and don't know their new pets' actual birthday, but a "got ya" day to a lot of handlers is a day to celebrate for years to come. Sure, I celebrate Glacier's birthday as well as Jetta's, but on September 24 or July 03, I always take some time with my dogs and thank them for the tireless and selfless work they are doing or have done.
This past September 24, which marked our third year anniversary, was no different. I woke up and sang some silly song I had made up to Glacier about it being our anniversary and then spent the rest of the day doing fun things with him. We worked quite a bit that day and I think that in and of itself is appropriate. Glacier loves to work and even though we've had some very rocky times, I think we've both learned from each other.
Upon talking with Mr. K about Glacier's guiding issues, I was able to take a step back and realise that I was being a great dog Mom, but not a great dog handler. There is a difference and I think because of how quickly I fell in love with this dog, I missed the handler part and went straight into dog Mom mode. I would let him get away with things because it was cute. I forgot to look at Glacier as a mobility aid rather than just a pet dog. I don't really know how to describe the difference between the two, but suffice it to say that even when he's not working, Glacier is expected to maintain a level of responsibility and good behavior. Yes of course he relaxes and plays when he is "off duty," but in order to keep Glacier aware of how important his job really is, a certain amount of structure is needed. I had to change my mindset and the best way for me to do that was to pretend that I was training him for someone else.
I realised through my interactions with Roscoe and other working dogs, that I was able to maintain structure and discipline because I knew that if I didn't that I could potentially endanger someone else. So, with Glacier I started taking the same approach. I still love him beyond words, but our third anniversary was different from the two previous ones. I gave him more responsibility and let him do his job. This was a skill I learned at LDB, but didn't realise exactly what was happening until we arrived in Scotland and our past came back to haunt us.
I'm not saying we're perfect, but every trip out I feel safer and more confident in Glacier's abilities. The more responsibility I give him, the stronger he becomes. So, perhaps our third anniversary wasn't all warm and fuzzy, but it was another stepping stone that we managed not to slide off of. If I want to make it to four, five and six years, I have to work in tandem with Glacier, be his partner and not his Mom.
So, here's to another five years you big Yellow Fellow.
Your girl, not your mom.