A little over a month ago I got a call from my trainer, Scott. Mya had been demonstrating some behavior that had him concerned about her viability as a service dog. Specifically she was showing signs of anxiety in new or highly stimulating situations. Two triggers he mentioned were dense crowds of people and shiny tile floors. We talked about some possible root causes of her anxiety which included psychological trauma from her spaying, an early second-fear period (dogs go through two or more major “fear” periods in their early development), or a unknown medical problem. Either way he needed to slow down her training to avoid overwhelming her and risk making her anxiety permanent. He said there was also a chance this might be a temperament issue and she could turn out to be a poor candidate for service work which would mean starting over with a different dog. I know Scott felt badly having to tell me this but I appreciated his concern and professionalism.
Needless to say this was a sad day . All my plans and hopes were suddenly put on hold. I had to take down the paper-ring chain that my youngest son and I had been trimming each day to help him (and me) manage our excitement for Mya’s homecoming. In the weeks that followed I distanced myself emotionally from my hopes for Mya and focused on day-to-day activities. Scott promised to give Mya a little more breathing space and slowly reengage her training in hopes that she just needed more time.
We’ve been in touch several times since then and our optimism has gradually grown. Scott has seen definite signs of improvement in Mya and feels confident that she will be able to overcome her issues with time and patience. He has been gradually exposing her to situations that challenge her – a process that will continue after I take over as trainer. At this point we don’t yet have a specific date for when Mya will be ready, but hopefully she will continue to improve and we’ll soon be able to celebrate her first homecoming.
On May 2, I’ll be traveling to Oxford, Mississippi for the 2013 Wildrose Kennels Diabetic Alert Dog Conference. This is a yearly event run by Wildrose Kennels and provides an opportunity for the small DAD community to gather, inspire, and learn from each other. This will be my first year attending and I’m really looking forward to it. Scott will be there along with many other trainers and people I’ve met online but never in person. Most importantly Mya will be there and I’ll get to meet her for the first time and spend lots of time getting to know her and learning how to handle her. You can bet I’ll have something to blog about when I get home!