A cold, brisk April day arrives, and my excitement emanates from me, from the inside, out. My second meeting with potential service dog suitors makes my smile rise. As we get closer to the PAALS Training Building, I realize so many options are available, and change is upon us. Casper, wagging his tail steadily beams with enthusiasm as we enter the building, letting everyone know he has come home.
Upon saying our hellos, Casper goes on to play in Jen’s office. On the way there, he gives a wag to his new buddy, PAALS Cat, Eli. I move into the training room, my nerves rising in tandem with my excitement. As I look around the room, there are multiple trainers and PAALS staff there to observe. In my mind, I am thinking, “Please don’t let me mess up!” You see, in spite of having three previous service dogs, it can still be nerve wracking working with new dogs. Imagine having a 2nd date, with various observers watching. While your mind is trying to focus on the cues and skills you need to utilize when working with the dogs, your heart is attempting to bond with each dog, and determine which one(s) could best suit your needs. All the while, six pairs of eyes are watching your every move.
For this session, I want to respect the privacy of my bachelors and bachelorettes, so we will not be revealing any names. Each dog has such brilliance and personality; their southern charm charismatically shines through. Our adventurous second dates remind me why having a service dog is so vital.
As my sweaty palms reach up to take the halter for my first suitor, I grin as he arrives. His golden hue shines in the bright sun filling the room. I am quite thrilled with his calm, patient demeanor. In spite of my faux paus of giving a correction for rising during a sit, I forgot there was no stay attached. Nerves make all of self-conscious because we want to do our best. We made it through our cues with minimal mistakes. His quiet charm still draws you in like a moth to a flame.
I sit back and take note of my next bachelor. His exuberance brightens the room like the sun on the horizon. He jumped up on my footrests to give me a happy hello. After I got him dressed, we set forth about running through our cues. He heeled alongside me, and wagged his tail as he followed along. Captivatingly, he retrieved keys and a cell phone for me. To end, he tugged the door open.
Pondering, I look up and my first bachelorette arrives. Cute, cuddly, yet, focused, this raven beauty scampers in and eagerly does cues. She sits, downs, and heels magnificently. Retrievals are done, and she tugs the door open with a tail wag. Hugging, we part for the day with a smile. She sure knows how to catch your attention.
My final date walks in, and she is filled with astounding energy. Bubbly and effervescent, she leaps up and gives me a hello. We get her dressed, and she heels with a happy glee in her step. Going to the retrieval, I watch her problem-solve as I drop the keys ten times accidently as she tries to give them to me. She never gives up until I finally get them. Feisty and steadfast, she has the willpower of a train, moving forward to reach her goal.
These meet and greets are true learning experiences for me. I grow each time I work with a new dog. Each dog has a passion, just as each human seeking a service dog does. When we put our willpower together, any great feat is imaginable. As the date session ends, I have to evaluate the strengths of each dog. To me, they are all wonderful, and each would meet my needs in different ways. I truly believe each session brings me closer to meeting the “one.” The bachelor or bachelorette who selects me will make me the luckiest woman, ever. The observers in the room truly are another set of eyes, who can offer ideas, and insight into a service dog team match. In the end, I believe the dogs choose their ultimate partner. A service dog team is a close knit bond and a years long partnership. As Gary Zukav said, “When two beings in a relationship look at their interactions as opportunities to learn about themselves instead of change each other, they are infusing their relationship with the energy of spiritual partnership.”