Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. Proverbs 17:17 (The Message)
I’ve known Cory was special from the minute I picked her up at the airport. We started obedience classes right away, and she sailed through the beginner programs. She earned her Canine Good Citizenship Award at six months old and earned her Beginner Novice and Novice titles in the Fall of 2013. When Cory finished her titles, we moved into Nosework while I waited for her to turn two when we could begin Open Obedience work that requires jumping. In the Nosework class, I met a woman who used to train Guide Dogs. When I confided that I had M.S. and that my balance is sometimes unsteady, she encouraged me to consider training Cory to be a Service Dog. I wrestled with that decision for several months. I knew that once I put the service dog vest on her, not only would my illness be highlighted, but Cory would be required to work at a level that was harder than I initially expected. Did I want to put the dog that I love with all my heart in that stressful position? Recently, my balance became worse, and I found myself walking against walls. It is harder for me to go up and down the stairs in my office as well as at home. I hold on to counters or cabinets when I stand for long periods talking to someone. I needed assistance and after some reading and study, I decided that Cory and I can navigate the grey areas between service dog and pet which would allow her to continue to enjoy life and have fun while serving me. In May, I decided to put her Nosework and obedience training on hold and begin service dog training. All the things that I was most nervous about, her interaction with children, her ability to lie quietly under a table while we eat in a restaurant, her sometimes vocal expressions, have turned out to be nothing to worry about. What has been surprising was how frightened she was of escalators (not that I ask her to ride them, only walk past them) and how people react to us. It is amazing how many people want to talk to her or pet her despite the harness that says, “Do Not Pet.” Both of us are learning to cope with that distraction. Me, with a glare and a request not to approach her. And Cory, with utmost dedication to take her cues from me. If I am nervous, she is nervous. If I am relaxed, she is relaxed. I am also training Cory to pick up things that I drop, to open doors and to turn lights off and on. We still have a long way to go, but she is eager to learn. I hope she will be ready to take her certification test this fall. Until then, we will continue to work and train. I am comforted that she will be my companion and my partner as we journey through life together.