Gung hay fat choi. Welcome to the year of the dog!
I got a head start on the year back in November when
I welcomed Cory into my home. As I mentioned in my
last post, Cory is a black Lab in training to become
a service dog with the BC and Alberta Guide
Dog Association. And Cory is teaching me a lot
about hard work, loyalty and sacrifice. My life
changed overnight, and it was not at all what I
expected. But then few life-changing events ever are.
As with any such adventure, training a puppy comes with a whole set of challenges. Dogs don't speak English and find our fussy ways confusing and frustrating at times. Add on to this the myriad rules specific to guide dogs, and we have a recipe for mutual frustration. Cory couldn't be crated and she suffered from separation anxiety. If she couldn't see me, she panicked. And then destroyed things. We had a very rocky start to our year-long relationship. She demanded constant attention, which put a halt to my writing, my social life and even my job. Unless she was sleeping, I had to focus my attention on her. Cory did not like to sleep during the day. So my evenings were crammed with trying to catch up on work and finding silent ways to cook or clean so as not to wake her.
Then there were the nights. Cory woke up between two and four times each night to do her business. Sleep became a precious commodity that I stole in two-hour chunks. As the weeks progressed, and my lack of sleep made it harder to focus and keep smiling, I really questioned whether I could make it through an entire year with her.
Then, a full two months after she arrived, things started to improve. Small miracles appeared, like sleeping from midnight to 7 am. Her baby teeth started to fall out, and she bit and chewed less often. She took naps during the day. She stopped freaking out if I left her alone for short periods. As she matures, she is becoming more manageable and more enjoyable to be around.
But the experience so far has taught me two important lessons: I can never take on such a demanding volunteer role again while I am working and I am not cut out to be a puppy trainer. I will honour the contract I signed and do my best to make sure Cory passes her service dog evaluation. At times, the thought of her helping a person with a visual impairment or autism has been the only thing keeping me going. Because I know my year of sacrifice will give someone else a decade or more of companionship and assistance. But I also know that these dogs deserve to have the best trainers, people who have more time and energy to devote to them.
Cory will continue to teach me about compassion, patience, consistency and a few other surprises. I know I will feel proud of my efforts when it is time for her to move on to advanced training. But I also look forward to having my life back and to devoting myself to my writing again. With a little distance, I will be able to distill some of the mayhem of this year into my fiction in one form or another.