June 2nd, 2007


morning ramblings

It's gonna be a great day! I woke up and popped right out of bed 30 minutes before parktime! I like it when I have plenty of time for writing after Loretta does her thing!

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My going-home plans are going to be interesting. I arrive home on Friday, June 8. That afternoon, we will just get re-acclimated to the home atmosphere. There is quite enough to do there: meet Meg, meet Alexis, meet Dad, meet kitties, unpack, set up "places," etc. On Saturday, I'm hoping to go over to campus and do some quiet work with clearance of obstacles, etc. Perhaps we will go down into the residential neighborhoods. My normal routes are all in busy areas with major crossings, so I can't walk them until the instructor comes. I'm taking her home a week early, so this is a very different scenario than what the rest of the class will be doing with their dogs or what I did with Meg.

On Sunday, we will go to Sunday school in the old North Anderson Church of God building, but she will just be heeling and not working. The idea is simply to expose her and allow me to go about life. On Monday, I'll taxi to AU, and she can work on campus in the morning, and the instructor will arrive in the afternoon and we'll figure out some schedule for the week. Loretta and I will be a fully trained team as of June 14. Whether or not we will attend the new Madison Park church services depends on how our general bonding process is going and my comfort with the building. It is likely that we will wait a few weeks and do some additional practices in the building so that she is not terribly stressed by the atmosphere or my confusion.

I was thinking yesterday about something we talked about in my pastoral theology course: the idea of creating hospitality... I remember that this was something I struggled with when I came to train with Dori. I really did not know how to make space in my heart for her, even though I wanted to. When I came for Meg, I had been through such grief with Dori, and I knew how essential a dog was to me. I needed to make space for Meg, and somehow I did. Hospitality is really about showing interest; and it was easy to show interest in Meg. She was tiny and yellow and nothing like Elli or Dori. I had to make a completely new frame of reference for her--the "Meg frame." When I came this time, I made another new frame. I called it "N.D." Eventually I began pronouncing it "Endie," and it became a running joke at home that when we did Juno walks I would say, "Endie, forward." (I just said, "Dog, forward." For several weeks, Endie became a sort of hollow image waiting to be filled.

On Monday afternoon, Pete brought this panting thing to my room. She was bigger than I would have expected if I had allowed any real image to take shape. But Endie could have been anything: a little Meg or a bigger Elli ... hopefully not some 25-inch thing! "Endie" melted away and became Loretta, who leaned into me and accepted my hugs and chin scratches. She rewarded me by giving me her paw, a quite dainty little paw for her size!

The only antidote for my Meg grief is to create hospitality for two--and sometimes I must do it daily. Sometimes, in fact, I must create hospitality for four as I still grieve for all the things I never did with Elli or Dori. The best thing I can do now is do all of the things I can with Loretta, not waste one moment, so that when her guiding days are done I am satisfied with how they have been spent.

  • Current Music
    dorm sounds
I Believe

morning trip and schedule description

At last night's meeting, we got something new: an information CD. It has all the books and articles on it, advocacy materials, and the lecture series in MP3 format. I am so glad--now I don't have to convert my tapes to CD! I can sit here and listen while I work on various things instead of dealing with the tape player across the room.

I have been recording some of my trips. Unfortunately, my recorder did not turn on this morning. The trip went beautifully! Loretta let a couple of other students pass her with very little distraction. She did not even look at a pet dog that was standing near the pet store--I passed so close that I could pet its tail. She did startle quite a bit when there was a big noise on one block, but she settled back nicely into a good working pade in response to my, "It's all right." She is extremely responsive to my emotions, and my challenge will be to help her to keep up good work when I am experiencing stress or negative emotion. This has always been a challenge for me. I am much better about not letting my emotions run my life than I used to be; but I will never be an emotional cheerleader, and that's just the facts of life. I have ups and downs, and the downs are part of what make the ups so enjoyable. I just have to remember how to make life worth doing during the downs.

I said this morning to my uncle that life here feels like I'm getting another Master's degree in two weeks. We feed dogs and relieve at 5:30 and then feed us at 7:00. That means that if I really want good writing time in the morning--something essential for me--I get up at 5:00. The morning is then broken into two trips: one around 7:45 and one around 9:30. I never know which I'm on. There is a park time at 11:00. Sometimes there is a meeting between 11:00 and noon--sometimes there are two. Lunch is at noon, and afternoon is broken into two trips. Evening feed/park time is at 4:30, dinner is at 5:00, and lecture/discussion group is at 6:30. Last park is at 8:00. All the free time in between is spent doing a mixture of things: grooming, listening to the prepared lectures, caring for harnesses (they must be oiled before use on the dogs, practicing obedience and simulating social settings--the socialization here is designed to be part of the training, not just fun and games--and whatever personal pursuits I need to attend to. Have I mentioned that I have not yet done laundry? I always hope that once in a while I get assigned to first trip so that I can go to coffee break because little things like that matter--I don't really get as much down time as I think I will have. Naps are very precious, and sometimes I do need them... Speaking of coffee break, today I get to go, and it is time! Bring on the coffee and hopefully chocolate!

  • Current Music
    vans backing out
I Believe

Loretta's stats and their emotional significance

I forgot to post this earlier--well, really, I ran out of time because I wanted that coffee! I got Loretta's stats this morning. She is a golden retriever/yellow Lab cross, 22 inches tall and 58 pounds. There are amazing parallels with this journey... I was in training with Elli, who was a black Lab and also 22 inches and 58 pounds, at the end of my first undergrad year at AU in May. Now, at the end of my first grad year, I am training with Loretta, whose personality is quite similar as well as her physical size. This just continues an amazing string of parallels in my life right now; and if I allow myself to believe, I can understand that God does, indeed, restore the years that the locust has eaten--not chronologically but qualitatively. There is no real significance to these parallels; but He does use them to draw my attention to His genuine faithfulness to me.

  • Current Music
    someone's tape player down the hall

about calling

For those who have my number and want to call, I believe that the evening after 6:00 is open and I can take your calls. If I am in the middle of the hall, I will have to ask you to hold or call me back in three minutes so that I can work Loretta to my room and talk freely.

  • Current Music

observations and choices

My dog is stressed, as exhibited by some unusual level of disobedience--I had to give her a hard correction, and she is a voice corrections dog. We went back to sitting at stairs, etc. I took her out to park because she didn't get her extra trips today since we didn't walk in the afternoon. She needed to go badly. We then came down to the room, and I rubbed her belly and played with her before putting her on tie down. Way too much stimulation--I did say she is responsive to my emotions, and I have been acting on my extraversion all day long. I am officially going to become an introvert for the evening and give my little lady a break.

  • Current Music