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  • Writer's pictureClinton

Continuing the Journey: at times a Ruff Ride!

Some of you have seen pictures of Erin, my English Black Lab. Some of you have even had the opportunity to meet her. She is now just over four months old and is transitioning from an absolutely adorable puppy, who at times has gotten away with almost anything, into adolescence. I am not a parent, but I was a teenager. I’m amazed by how reminiscent some of Erin’s emerging behaviors are of my own teenage actions or thoughts. She’s starting to sleep considerably more than what adult dogs already sleep. She’s starting to approach being lanky. She’s testing boundaries. Yet she is also an absolute blessing and blast to have in my life, even if at times she creates a great deal of frustration!

I want to publicly recognize that Erin came to me through the generosity of others. The caliber of her family lineage includes dogs who have been trained to work as Therapy Dogs and others who work as service dogs for Autistic children. While the primary goal for Erin at this point is socialization, beginning obedience, and learning to play appropriately and self-regulate with her “sister” Charlotte (a seven-year-old beagle rescue), she has many hours of training and work ahead of her. This will be to her benefit as well as mine. Soon, Erin will begin group classes, working towards an AKC certification as a Canine Good Citizen, as well as with a private trainer in a one-on-one setting.

Eventually, Erin will work on advanced obedience, including public access training (elevators, automatic doors, long quiet-down stays), and additional disability-specific training that includes work and tasks that help mitigate my disability. This may include such skills as a technique known as “deep pressure therapy,” as well as the ability to sense and gently awaken me when experiencing nightmares. It is also possible that she will be trained to check and signal to me if spaces are clear and safe to return to, such as home, when I have been away. It has been reiterated to me that regarding a lot of this training, “slow is the new fast.” It is easier to train a positive experience than to untrain a negative experience before being able to move forward.

I am grateful for the advocacy group, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, including all the information and support they have openly shared with me. They have provided information on training, legal requirements, and best practices for Service Dogs and for Service Dog Owner/Handlers. They are also incredibly supportive, helping me understand the absolute value a Psychiatric Service Dog can have in my life, and what really strikes a chord in my heart, is how to advocate for the proper understanding and use of Psychiatric Service Dogs for those who truly need them. The wait, cost, and need for fully trained Psychiatric Service Dogs is incredible. Wait lists average three to five years. Some estimate the cost of a fully professionally trained Psychiatric Service Dog to be anywhere from $25,000.00 to $50,000.00.

That in part is why groups that advocate for the proper training of Service Dogs by those who are capable are incredibly important. It lowers the expense to a somewhat more manageable level, and further, research has shown that the act of training a Psychiatric Service Dog can also be beneficial for the owner/handler as well. So, as Erin and I continue this journey together, I would be open to any prayers or positive thoughts you would be willing to offer up. It is a long journey, with very high standards, to become a full-fledged Psychiatric Service Dog and team. However, it is a journey I am willing to take, one day at a time, leaning heavily on Grace, as well as the encouragement of friends, family, and my very very soon-to-be spouse, Diane!

As I wrap up this more light-hearted blog post, I would like to mention that in future posts, you might find you don't agree with every thought, idea, or potential solution I may offer. While challenging, it is also most assuredly a good thing. If you find a point of disagreement, I hope you don't just disengage, never reading another word I write. Take a moment, give thought to where we hold differing opinions, and please reach out via my contact page. We are all sisters and brothers, bound by our humanity. I am open to dialogue, particularly that which begins from the point of our shared nature. Too often, dialogue fails to occur, varying positions are entrenched, and any exchange that does occur begins with hate instead of love.

Again, life itself is a precious gift. So how we decide to care for ourselves, as well as others, has tremendous implications for our well-being, sense of joy, and that of future generations. Until next time!

Grace and Peace,

Clinton & Erin


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