Flashback Friday: What do I do with My Dog When…? Part 2

Original Post Date 6/6/2009

The original post this one came from was definitely too long. Here’s the second installment of that info-dump. Catch up with Part I here.

What do I do with my dog when I’m on stage?

It’s one of the questions I asked instructors at lunch today because I’m a singer in the UAH choir and planning on a career in business training and development. That means a lot of time up in front of people, on risers or at a lectern or otherwise pacing strategically in front of an audience of some size. Dogs don’t do well with pacing, and they don’t really fit on risers. So…what do I do with the dog?

As an aside, I ended up going into counseling instead of business development, but I give regular presentations to organizations on service dog access and etiquette and other disability-related issues, so this is still an important part of how I plan for events.

After some back and forth with the instructors about the setup of the UAH performance halls and dressing rooms, we decided that Prada should be crated in the choir room, or unharnessed and left with a trusted friend in the audience. This allows me to work with her within seconds of going on and off stage, minimizing our separation.

TSE places a great deal of emphasis on never separating a service dog from her handler. I lived and breathed by this rule for a long time, stressing over even mere three hours it took for the groomer to clean and trim and spiff up her coat and nails every couple of months. I turned down events where she wouldn’t be comfortable or welcome, my fear that the bond I believed so tentative between us might be severed by her deciding I’d abandoned her. TSE’s explanation that service dogs usually have strong separation anxiety confirmed this.

Anybody see the problem here? This strategy protects the state of anxiety assumed to exist in a dog’s mind and body instead of looking to heal it. But a calm dog, a dog who can self-soothe, whose comfortable sleeping through a separation, is both mentally and physically healthier than one who howls the minute the door closes between them. One can argue that TSE doesn’t have time to teach their graduates how to counsel their dogs through separation anxiety, but I shouldn’t speculate because I know nothing of running an organization of any kind.

What I do know is that these days I don’t worry about Greta being left alone. When she’s at the groomer I get “mommy time.” Due to her mental health and physical health issues I’ve had to go back to work with her curled up on my bed at home. And you know what? She’s still making recovery progress and still greets me at the door every afternoon. Our bond is fine.

So these days my strategy looks a little different. When I give talks on service dog access or disability rights, and maybe someday if I take on teaching future counselors (one of many things I’d like to do when I grow up), I ask the host about the venue. I see it in advance if possible. And I don’t pace strategically.

I ask Greta to lie down, drop her leash, and step on it, and then stand my ground and deliver my talk. If I need to move, I tell her with a hand signal to rest. She usually shifts her posture so she can watch me move, but I rarely step more than one or two paces away. Free movement isn’t something you should do a lot of when you can’t see one step in front of the other, I’ve learned.

This is actually Part 3 in my series (click Here for part 1). I moved material around because I ran out of emotional energy and part 2 is about service dog access laws. It’s something I’d like to put a lot of research into so I can cite specific segments of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I knew I wouldn’t do a good job of that this week, so you get a short treatise on whether or not to handle canine anxiety like a problem.

With that in mind, your favorite blindfluencer says you should take two separate 30-minute breaks for yourself this weekend. How hard can that be?

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