I hope you all had a wonderful Easter - I know I did! I didn't get to go home to spend this holiday with my family, but I was so blessed by getting to spend it with Josh and his family (and it's very important that I pause now and say hello to Josh's wonderful Uncle Caleb who was kind enough to open his home to me yesterday! Hi Uncle Caleb!) Hopefully there will come a time when our families can meet, because it would be so much fun to have so many amazing people come together!
Well, now that the weekend is over, it's back to the grind for me and Claire! We've been working on a lot of things that we learned during session #2 of Delta training - staying focused while walking through a crowd, and more neutral dog. I have to be honest, last week's training was tough for me, and subsequently, it was a little challenging for Claire. I had a lot on my mind last week from a very emotionally trying day at work, and I knew as I rushed to training that I wasn't fully focused. Because of that, Claire was feeling anxious and having trouble reading my cues. She did a good job, but we just weren't as in sync as we both would have liked. At the end of the session, one of the instructors pulled me aside and reminded me that, though I can put on a happy face for the people around me, I can't fool Claire. We had a good discussion about the importance of good self-care (which my boss would have fully agreed with), and she reminded me that the best and most effective way to alleviate Claire's stress is to take care of myself and decrease my own stress. That way, I can communicate more effectively with Claire, which will help to reassure her that I'm okay and she is okay.
I have also realized that Claire and I may have to start volunteering somewhere outside of a hospital. Or outside of any medical facility, for that matter. Eventually, I would like Claire to be able to come to work with me and help me in counseling sessions with my patients, but not while I'm in the setting that I'm currently in. Working with a therapy dog in any setting requires mindfulness, calmness, and good verbal and non-verbal communication with your dog at all times. My current work environment is a stressful place for me, and when I am there, I am focusing solely on my patients in a very fast-paced and complex setting. Because of this, I have decided to seek another volunteer placement for me and Claire. I'll let you know what it is when I've found the best possible match!
Session #2 was more about self-awareness and realization than technique, but I think this was a very important step in our training. Since then, I have really been focusing on how my emotions impact Claire so that I can be in tune to her as she tunes in to me! This will actually help me explore and work through the things that are causing both of us unnecessary stress and anxiety. You know, Claire is already a therapy dog in her own way - she continues to help me grow in ways that I couldn't have even imagined before she came into my life!