Training My Own Guide Dog

Training My Own Guide Dog: Sagan, 11 1/2 Months Old

Warning! This is one of those posts where I do truth-telling. It is one of those “authentic” or “vulnerable" emo posts that you either love or hate to read.

I think I may be suffering from post-puppy depression. Winter has never been great for me because of the lack of light. Some of you know it as Seasonal Affect Disorder or SAD. I have encountered this type of depression off and on all my life. Years ago I took antidepressants but I decided that is not the way I wanted to handle it. With a lot of searching and experimenting with different methods, supplements, acupuncture, exercise, and diet, I have learned how to manage myself through the winter months. So here I am again with a moderate case of the blues and an adolescent dog who requires routine care, exercise, training, and lots of attention. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted which means my body feels tired. All I really want to do is crawl into bed with a giant novel and nothing else. Fortunately, my husband is well aware of my blue days and he can pick up the slack. This works okay for a day or two here and there but when the days run together, it feels wrong to be a blob in a bed.

The picture above shows Sagan laying on the living room floor. The Sun is shining through the stained glass beaming colorful rainbows onto his fur.

Usually, I can avoid the blue days by exercising regularly, meditating for an hour or even more a day, getting out in the sun, or even traveling south to visit my family. Sagan has challenged my ability to do the things I know work for me. What I am trying to say is that my enthusiasm for training is at a low ebb right now and my fear is that Sagan’s training is suffering as a result. I feel he is not getting the quality and amount of training that will allow him to move ahead at the speed I want him to.

The picture above shows Stu training Sagan in the living room. Sagan is receiving a praise and a treat after his successfully went to his bed. 

There is a less critical voice that lives in me also which is a good thing. It is saying, “Calm down it is okay to slow down.” This helps me relax a little for a while until the demons rise up again. I keep telling myself that maybe Sagan needs a break too. Maybe he needs to catch up with himself and a break is just what we both need. I am still working with him daily and Stu is walking him. We even had a playdate with a dog which was great fun. I have decided that for now I am going back to foundational commands and making sure they are solidified. This way I don’t need to think too hard and Sagan enjoys the games.

The two picture above shows Sagan in the kitchen after getting groomed.

What I am saying here is that committing to training your own dog is not easy even with the smartest dog in the world which Sagan is for sure. The constant vigilance to keep them safe and healthy can be overwhelming. It is different from training a puppy meant to be a family pet. The investment on all levels is huge and should not be taken lightly. The moral of the story is, do not decide to train your own guide dog without planning and thinking about the details. There is no way to foresee the future or all the challenges that might arise along the way, so commitment to the project must be absolute. I am totally committed so I will move through the blues as gracefully as I am able to while calling on support when I need it. I want people to know that training your own dog takes a lot of time, energy, and devotion to reach the desired goal. I am extremely happy that I have made the choice but it does come with some tears along with the laughter.

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