SDIT Meets the Last Frontier – Part 1

Posted April 30, 2020 by growingupguidepup

For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: service dog info, service dog education, service dog in training, sdit, service dog in training acronym.

Many people who follow us know that I work as an emergency veterinary technician. Usually this job doesn’t include traveling, but in January I received an email from my clinic manager that included a unique opportunity. They were looking for volunteers to travel up to Anchorage Alaska to help out an emergency clinic there that was short staffed and looking for additional assistance during their computer software transition. Alaska has always been a place that I have wanted to see and visit so I jumped on the chance to go, even if I was going to be working during the visit.
The response from all my coworkers was huge, so many people wanted to go and I feel extremely lucky that I was one of the two employees selected to go. The dates for the trip were picked out that worked for everyone involved and all the arrangements were made. I then had a decision to make. Do I take my service dog in training (SDIT) named Pixie with me? Or do I leave her home with Matt?
If you read my last blog I announced that Pixie would be staying with me and training to help me will my new changes in my health. So most would say, absolutely she should go with me, and I do agree, but there are a lot of factors that I have to consider in my decisions when I take her.
My first concern was that I would be working three days in a row; ten hour shifts. I have been working 8 hour shifts and the extra 2 hours can somedays be really hard on me without a break. I had no idea how busy this clinic was or how long I would be on my feet without a break. Also would there be areas for me to sit? Opportunities for me to sit? I can make adjustments at the clinic I work at if needed depending on my level of fatigue most days. I can do work at the microscope, I can do phone updates, monitor anesthetic procedures, and other things at my work on days that I am struggling to be on my feet for long periods. My coworkers also understand and a few do recognize when I’m not up to certain tasks and jump in now without me even asking to switch tasks with them. So going into a new clinic environment was going to be a little stressful… and for Pixie too. Pixie knows the clinic I work in and the flow, she grew up there. She has a spot under the desk at one of the computer stations where she is comfortable and she can stay there for eight hours without a problem. She requires just one or two potty breaks during the shift and she needs to be fed her dinner. She can keep an eye on me and is very happy there. She wouldn’t have the same privileges at the clinic in Alaska and therefore I considered it might be a stressful experience for her.
First step was to message the clinic manager at the clinic in Alaska to see if it was even an option to bring her with me. The response was yes, but all employee dogs were to be kept in an area where there were dog runs. Pixie does have some kennel stress when put into kennels anywhere other than our house. This is what started her being placed under the desk at my work when she was a puppy. I would take her to work with me and she would have basically an anxiety attack when I put her in a kennel there. She was fine if another dog was with her, but panicked when she was by herself. She would cry, bite at the kennel door, pant, pace and even vomit occasionally. It was easier on her to be under the desk and she was perfectly calm and behaved there. We slowly worked on her getting more comfortable being in a kennel and now I can put her in a kennel if I need to. She isn’t thrilled about it, but she is now calm in the kennel. The only other experience she has had being in a kennel somewhere else was at her scent class training sessions. The dogs were required to be in a kennel between runs. It was a 6 week course and by the end she was way more comfortable about being in the kennel there, but again it took a few weeks and I was sitting right next to her.
I weighed the pros and cons about bringing Pixie on the trip. On past trips Pixie has shown some stress signs, but does work through them as the trip goes. She doesn’t always eat well, or poop normally. She has had some barking at noises outside our hotel rooms because they are unfamiliar sounds.
The pros were that this would be a great experience for her, she already has some experience traveling, but more would be great. She could experience snow for the first time, she would be a great help to me traveling through the airports and help me conserve energy for working.
The cons were if she stressed out in the kennel at the clinic I might be forced to sedate her if needed. Another concern was whether she would potty in the snow (she is very picky where she will poop). I also had to think about if I was tired after my shift If I would have energy to take care of her. Without Matt around I would be responsible for getting up out of bed to potty her and make sure she got enough exercise before my shift. Pixie knows my coworker that came with us, but she is very attached to me. I was pretty certain that she would possibly outright refuse to go potty for anyone other than myself, another thing we are working on.
I decided that bringing Pixie was worth all the potential cons. If we are going to be a working team I had to see how she was progressing with dealing with a change in her routine and environment. Service dogs need to be adaptable and if she couldn’t adapt on this trip, then I would need to reevaluate her future with me. This in some ways was a test for us as a team. I could see what things were solid for her and what things still needed work. I am 100% happy with my decision to bring her, she stepped up to the challenge and proved that she has made huge strides since her last trip in June.
I think Pixie knew that this was a test for her and went into work mode as soon as we stepped out of the car at the airport. I also think that she wanted to show off her skills to my coworker who was traveling with us. We checked in ourselves and our luggage first. She waited patiently at the counter as the airline representative asked the two questions, is she a service dog? And what is she trained to do? Pixie still wears her “In Training” cape and will continue to do so until she is super solid on all of her behaviors in public. Next we went outside for a last chance to potty before we went through security. She went very quickly and was eager to go back in and head to security. At security she was absolutely perfect in her behavior. She waited patiently in line, sat and waited for me to pass through the metal detector before calling her through and accepting of her pat down. Once we gathered our things we were off to our gate. She was excited but also very focused not only on me, but making sure my coworker was sticking close by to us. She kept looking for her and as soon as she knew she was still with us, she focused on where we were going.
We got to preboard. I do enjoy this option to get everything I think I will need for the fight without feeling rushed with a line of people behind me. Having a dog at my feet means no room for a bag under the seat. Once I sit down in my seat I am there for the duration on the flight. I don’t want to risk disturbing my dog and having to get her resettled mid flight if I want or need to get something out of my bag in the overhead compartment. I had the window seat and my coworker was next to us in the middle seat. Pixie quickly settled in her spot and seemed ready for the adventure to begin. Once boarding began a nice woman in a flight attendant uniform sat in the aisle seat. She was flying to Seattle to catch a different flight that she would be working. But one of the first things she said as she sat was “now that is a real service dog” and pointed at Pixie. That is one of the best compliments I could have received on this trip. As a flight attendant, I’m sure she has seen her fair share of dogs that should not have been on a flight.
Take off was no problem, but a few minutes into the flight Pixie did shift and moved to my coworkers foot space and stayed there for the entire 2 hour flight. Not sure if she was feeling uneasy herself or picking up on something from my coworker. This was the first time Pixie sat at the rear of the plane. In all her other fights Pixie sat in the bulkhead area so maybe the noises and vibrations were different for her behind the planes engines. At the same time my coworker suffers from anxiety and perhaps Pixie was one step ahead of her. Pixie multiple times checked in and even gave her a few nudges during the trip. I asked how she was feeling when this happened and she said that she felt her anxiety levels were increasing each time Pixie checked in. Pixie was definitely picking up on something and helping not only me, but my coworker as well. This was a bit of a surprise for me. Pixie was willing to notify someone else of a change in their body.
Pixie remained settled on the flight but alert, which was a little odd, because normally she would sleep. Once we landed in Seattle we had just under an hour to catch our connecting flight in a completely different terminal. We got off the plan and Pixie remained in work mode. She had just the right amount of pull for me and navigated the people and environment like a pro. We had to get on a tram to go to the next terminal and again, no problem for Pixie. When we exited the tram there was an indoor relief area for dogs. It was a piece of artificial turf on a raised platform and a plastic fire hydrant. This was Pixie’s only opportunity to pee before boarding our next flight that would be about 4 hours. I walked her over and gave her the cue to potty and she quickly hopped up and peed and hoped off. She had this look of “ewe, that was gross” on her face. It was probably the equivalent of how I feel of using a porta potty at events that don’t have an actual bathroom. You gotta go you use it, but as quickly as possible. I was surprised but very happy that she went, since she is very particular about where she will potty. Relieving habits are one of the biggest reasons some dogs don’t go on to be service dogs. Some dogs will potty where and whenever they want freely which is a problem; others will only relieve at home or familiar places which is also a problem. A service dog has to be comfortable relieving where and when an opportunity is given. It is a huge and important part of puppy raising and service dog life.
When we got to the gate for the next flight they were already boarding, so no pre board option for us. It is more challenging to navigate boarding a plane with a dog when people are already sitting in their seats and people standing in the aisle in front and behind you. A dog can feel crowded and uncomfortable. You need to be mindful that your dog isn’t trying to sniff or say hi to people. And you have to make sure people are not trying to pet your dog as you are standing still or moving down the aisle. All of this while trying to move to your seat in a tiny space that isn’t large enough for your dog to walk in the position it is used to which is right next to you. You have to choose, does the dog walk in front or behind you. Once we got settled in our seat and everyone was boarded, we were asked to move by the flight staff. It wasn’t a full flight but the row we were in was full. They said that they wanted to give Pixie more space and sat her and I in the last row of the plane in the window seat. There was someone in the aisle seat but not the middle. So we had to get up, gather our things and leave my coworker behind and get resettled. Pixie took it all in stride, but I was a little annoyed by it all. But what are you going to do, you are supposed to follow the direction of the flight staff. Pixie did settle quickly though in the middle seat foot section and finally fell asleep after an already long day for her and slept the duration of the flight.
For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: service dog info, service dog education, service dog in training, sdit, service dog in training acronym.
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Issued By growingupguidepup
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Categories Business
Last Updated April 30, 2020