Joey. What do I possibly say about him? Of course he’s awesome. Everyone who sees him, especially when he’s in action, is stunned by his perfection. And he is all of those things. Beautiful, well-behaved, loves me, knows 200 commands, extremely impressive blood line.
And we naturally thought, because we had lived with a labrador for twelve years before as a much-beloved pet, that this would be similar. Oh no, not at all. Well, just not much. There’s a huge difference, apparently, between a pet dog and a service dog. Especially one from this place.
He has been, for me, extremely overwhelming simply all the time. It’s slowly getting a little better, as I’m getting faster at caring for him, he’s adjusting to our routine here, and we’re establishing a pattern together. I’m learning to read his signals; my husband used snow fence to create a “fenced yard” out back so that sometimes I can sit out there and throw a tennis ball to him, and he can toilet outside.
Joey became my full-time job. I, who had my hands full just caring for myself, and was so proud of beginning to do a few little jobs around our house again, couldn’t do any of that. Not only that, but my husband was having to chip in to help with Joey several times a day as well. There wasn’t time in my day for my self-care routine, let alone cleaning or cooking. It was all consumed by Joey tasks.
This really took our entire family by surprise. In the first place, we have never been close friends with anyone who had a service dog. In the second place, this place in St. Louis takes great pride in being far more thorough than any other dog training place in the entire country. I’m having to learn to balance all that, because I have struggled with being a real perfectionist myself.
Here are just a few of the dozens and dozens of rules about their dogs: not ever off the leash outside, unless you have a fenced yard; groomed daily; teeth and ears cleaned weekly; exercised twice daily for twenty minutes each time; kenneled 2x daily to prevent separation anxiety; nails maintained with a battery-powered Dremmel 2x a week. And because he knows so many commands, the challenge of not using one of those words in casual conversation is very great.
We had installed an invisible fence for our previous dog, Remo. That wouldn’t be a possibility for Joey, it seemed. Ever.
Our first week home, I had to hold his leash all the time, except for two brief kennel times each day. Given that he had come home with me on Wednesday of the first week, and had been on the leash all evenings for a week and a half, this meant 2 1/2 weeks of holding Joey’s leash.
The second week home, he was allowed to “drag” his leash. This was really weird for him. He was used to being no further than a leash length away from me, so he would follow me around all the time. Having been in the bathroom with me for almost three weeks and being trained to “bump” things…..including doors….didn’t allow me any more privacy this next week. It just had the added disadvantage of surprise.
The third week, he graduated to a shorter leash. This was still weird. The 4th week, he was bare in the house. This is how we’ve been for several weeks. Joey is still obsessed with me. He follows me from room to room, from side to side of the room, is right behind me when I turn around.
At this point, until it warms up and I can walk outside, he won’t be much use to me. I can’t take him in public unless my husband is with me, because I’m not yet improved enough to handle him on my own. So my days are pretty much complicated with Joey care right now, for no return. Vacuuming up his hair, cleaning and washing his paws when he goes our three times a day, grooming, exercising, brushing his teeth…..
I believe we will be a great team. We will walk together outside, without me having to cling to someone’s hand, or wait until someone has time to walk with me. I LOVE to walk. That is the only form of exercise open to me now. I would walk for hours if I could.
When I am able to go with him in other people’s cars, we will go and be able to be dropped off places. For example, the mall. Even with my hiking stick, it is far too overwhelming and open for me to maneuver on my own. But with Joey, maybe someday it will be possible. He is lovely and strong, and very willing to help me and take care of me. I can definitely see that.
On days like this, though, in March when it’s muddy, no one can come and see me or take me places because of our stupid road,and it won’t stop the darned precipitation…..it’s so hard to hold on to that vision of summertime walks. Our bible reading a few weeks ago was about Noah building the ark, and our pastor reminded us that it took Noah over 100 years to build the ark.
I just hope I don’t have to wait that long.