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LJIdol: week 5 [Apr. 13th, 2014|07:56 pm]
[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]

I stood in the middle of the sidewalk and prayed I would not burst into tears. Sidewalks are for walking, but that was not what my guide dog and I were doing. Instead, we'd take a few very hesitant steps. He would stop, look back, and refuse to move forward. I coaxed him. i corrected him. I broke the golden rule of guide dog use and actually stepped out in front of him, hoping this would convince him to move. None of it mattered. He wasn't moving, and that was all.

My friend, who is now my partner, and her guide were up ahead. She knew Acelet and I were struggling, so she turned around.

"Do you want to go back?" she asked me.

"I'd like that, but who knows if he'll move." was my rather curt reply.

Somehow, we made it back to her house. I unharnessed my dog and began to sob. I was done. I simply couldn't handle any more of this dog and his stress and all the things he refused to do for me. I wanted a dog who wanted to work, who was a willing participant in the partnership. Obviously, Acelet was not that dog. I had to let him go.

I called the school, and had a tearful conversation with my instructor.

"Bring him back," she told me. "Working is too stressful for him. We'll find you a better match."

I heard this, and a part of my heart soared. If they found me a better match, I'd get the female dog I'd really wanted. My previous guides had been female, and bad experience taught me to be wary of large, male dogs. Granted, Acelet isn't very large. He doesn't even weigh sixty pounds, but, to me, he was large and male and scary.

As part of my heart soared, another part began to break. He wasn't very good at guiding, but his psychiatric assistance work was wonderful. He was a male, but he wasn't aggressive. He didn't growl at me, or try to bite other people or dogs. There was something about him I found myself loving, even as I hated all the ways this match wasn't working.

We made plans to find me another dog. I would keep Acelet with me until I returned to Long Island for training.

I cried that night. I cried for myself, and for this dog who had seemed like such a good match for me. His trainer had pushed hard for the match, working hard to help me overcome my fear of male dogs. I felt like I had failed, or he had failed, or someone had failed something.

As I cried, the lovely Kristeen's mind began to work. Her previous guide dog had developed the disgusting habit of eating his own fecal matter. Not only would he eat it, but he would strategically plan where he would leave it for easy eating. She solved this by having him wear a relieving belt, and she wondered if this might prove helpful for Acelet. True, he didn't eat his poop, but he was extremely concerned about pooping while he worked. This was the reason for all the stopping, all the looking back, and the refusal to move forward no matter what I did.

Are you wondering what a relieving belt is? It looks like a collar with two buttons on the top and a clip hanging down. You attach the handle of a plastic bag to the clip, fasten the belt around the dog's backside, and put the tail through the other handle of the bag. You then pull the second handle up, and hook it to the buttons that are now resting close to the dog's tail. When done correctly, the dog wears a plastic bag on his butt. The poop falls in. You take off the bag, and throw it away.

We had no way of knowing if this would help, but we figured there was no harm in trying. If it didn't work, things would continue on as planned, but, if the belt could be the answer, Acelet could keep working.

With great trepidation, I put the belt on for our first walk. He'd worn it around the house, and didn't seem to mind the rattling of the plastic bag, but would it be the same once we were outside working?

We walked out the door, and I gave him the forward command. Amazingly, he began to move confidently down the alley toward the street. He didn't hesitate. He didn't look back. He just kept walking like he'd worn the belt and bag all of his working life. I was amazed. My dog was working like a real guide dog. Was it a fluke?

It's been almost exactly a year since Acelet wore the bag for the first time, and I am pleased to report that it was no fluke. I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that the bag has made a world of difference. He still walks by my side, and he does it with confidence. We live near an incredibly busy road, and it doesn't phase him at all. What was once so stressful is now just another part of life, no big deal, certainly no reason to be stressed.

I'm not sure what people think when they see me walking down the street with my little black lab with a purple harness, and a plastic bag covering his butt. My family has laughed about it, and I imagine we get more than a few questioning looks as we zoom by, but I don't care. My dog works for me. He may not work the way most guide dogs do, but he keeps me safe, both physically and emotionally. I couldn't ask for anything more.

This is my entry for week 5 of
Thank you for reading, and, if you think I deserve it, remember me when the polls open tomorrow evening.


[User Picture]From: irradescent
2014-04-14 12:20 am (UTC)
:) I was wondering how it was going with acelet. i'm glad you were able to figure out how to get him to work. i know the anxiety part of your dog's job duties is probably at times more important as the guiding part.
and i feel like there was something else i meant to say but i forget. oh, well. you'll get another comment if i remember. :)
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[User Picture]From: irradescent
2014-04-14 12:38 am (UTC)


not the thing i couldn't remember, but this story sort of reminds me of when i was doing my internship at BVRS and got a phone call from someone who wanted to know if they made doggie baby wipes. Apparently her coworker, who had a guide dog, was really worried that the dog was not clean from behind and would take the dog into the bathroom and wipe him down with paper towels each time he went park.
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[User Picture]From: x_disturbed_x
2014-04-14 12:22 am (UTC)
It would indeed be an odd sight but it if works then it works!
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[User Picture]From: similiesslip
2014-04-14 03:50 am (UTC)
I would have never thought of this, but hey, if it works, it works. I'm glad something did! :)
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From: faerie_spark
2014-04-14 01:03 pm (UTC)
Dear Acelet, It's very bad to make your mother cry. If wearing a plastic bag on your butt keeps you from doing this, then bag away!

Seriously, Kristine's brain sounds like it churns out some good ideas.
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[User Picture]From: millysdaughter
2014-04-14 01:42 pm (UTC)
I am glad the bag worked to relieve his stress. Because my mind works in weird ways, I picture this as you are diapering your dog!
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[User Picture]From: lilmizmombassa
2014-04-14 02:45 pm (UTC)
I am so happy that you and the Acelet have been able to continue your partnership. He sounds like a snazzy dresser, with his purple harness and a bag on his tail. But if it works, it works, and I'm so glad that you've been able to keep your sweet boy by your side.
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[User Picture]From: ryl
2014-04-14 05:33 pm (UTC)
That relieving belt is a brilliant idea! That way the poop is pre-bagged when you dispose of it and you don't have to worry about the neighbors' lawns.
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[User Picture]From: kajel
2014-04-15 12:15 am (UTC)
Nicely done.
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[User Picture]From: reckless_blues
2014-04-15 02:39 am (UTC)
This was really interesting to me. I never really thought about how efficient guide dogs are (and how efficient they have to be), even though they're sensitive living creatures (and even though I can't get my own dogs to do a single thing).

It's nice to see everyone trying to work with the dog, understand its psychology and emotions. If people can't work because of depression, anxiety, fear, they mostly just get called lazy. We can learn a lot about how to treat people from the way we interact with dogs.
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[User Picture]From: roina_arwen
2014-04-15 06:10 am (UTC)
I'm glad it was such a simple fix for you and Acelet!
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[User Picture]From: n3m3sis43
2014-04-15 11:08 am (UTC)
Awwww, yay. I felt for you and your guide dog in this story and I'm really glad you were able to find a solution.
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[User Picture]From: jem0000000
2014-04-16 09:59 am (UTC)
Awww. I'm glad you found a way to help him work with you. *smile*
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[User Picture]From: coachpeg
2014-04-16 02:54 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written, solstice singer. Great example of working together creatively & thinking outside the box!
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[User Picture]From: rayaso
2014-04-16 07:19 pm (UTC)
I'm glad such a simple fix worked, and that you did not give up on Acelet.
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[User Picture]From: eska818
2014-04-16 07:50 pm (UTC)
This was really beautiful, and I really admire and love that you went that extra mile to stick with this dog. :)
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[User Picture]From: poppetawoppet
2014-04-17 12:48 am (UTC)
I'm so glad it all worked out for you and Acelet
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[User Picture]From: eternal_ot
2014-04-17 12:19 pm (UTC)
Aw..a nice read..made me happy..:) glad you found a solution! well done!
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From: catwomon
2014-04-17 01:42 pm (UTC)
You make an awesome team whether or not Acelet wears a bag on his butt. He is simply raising the fashion bar for other guide. Mendle loves walking with him, o that's just fine.
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[User Picture]From: kehlen
2014-04-17 01:50 pm (UTC)
Does he actually poop in the bag? :)

I am glad it worked for you both, but also glad that it would not have been the end of the world... only part of it... if it did not.
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[User Picture]From: i_will_not_say
2014-04-17 04:56 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you found something that worked for you and your dog! :)
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[User Picture]From: veronica_rich
2014-04-17 06:05 pm (UTC)
This is really nice. A far better mousetrap, indeed!
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[User Picture]From: halfshellvenus
2014-04-18 01:26 am (UTC)
I'm glad things worked out in the end, because even if he had been a poor match and unable to get better... you still would have felt awful about sending him back.
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[User Picture]From: alycewilson
2014-04-18 01:50 am (UTC)
You capture well the emotional component of this experience. I can only imagine what it must feel like to try to get the perfect canine partner match.
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[User Picture]From: amazingstar
2014-04-18 03:55 am (UTC)
I use one on my pet dog when we go for walks and it is possible that he'll poop. I don't really care if it looks funny. The people at the complex can't complain that I'm not picking up after my dog and I don't have to find his leavings....something I consider to be an advantage. I'm glad that this has eased the Ace's worries, since he sounds like such a good beast.
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