Owen and I had our first official day all by ourselves. We didn't have to check in with anybody, we didn't have to meet anybody for training, we were all alone. And we were busy.
This morning, Owen and I had to go to the chiropractor. He was a rock star at the chiropractor, he stayed where I put him and I really needed him afterwards to help me walk out. Sometimes, when I get adjustments, it makes walking really difficult for a day or so. Owen did his job perfectly, helping me get back out to the car.
After the chiropractor, we left to go get his dog food. He eats both kibble and a dehydrated-raw food, and I had only purchased his kibble before he got here. He lost his mind a little bit in the dog-food store over these giant bones, but other than that he did his job well. The owner of the store was a little too chatty for my liking, and she was very curious about Owen. It was the first time he was mistaken for a guide dog puppy today (we would have three misplaced comments by the end of the day). On a side note, I'm still totally confused about how people mistake my 2.5 year old Labrador (who is giant) for a puppy in training.
After we got Owen's food - he was very relieved - we went to Hobby Lobby. I want to make a tote for his orthopedic mat that he has for going out before we start traveling. It's really unwieldy to carry around, and as I'm quickly learning, I need my hands as free as possible to use the harness and steward Owen in the way that I am supposed to. When I was with Darcie she helped me carry things, and I know I can use my family when we are on vacation, but soon we will be on our own and I will need to be able to juggle everything I need in one trip. Yikes!
Owen and I had some quality down time at home; because we are still new and figuring each other out, it's important for Owen that he has down time and that I don't push him to work all day. Eventually, we will build up to a work day, but for right now he isn't supposed to be working all day.
Travel plans never seem to go as planned when you need them to, and my dad's flight was cancelled this evening. They claim it was because of "weather". They are lying. Regardless, he isn't able to get here until tomorrow evening, so Owen and I found ourselves with a night off.
Instead of crashing at home like I might have before Owen, I texted my friend and we went out to dinner. Owen was fantastic at dinner, I had to hold him back a little bit to keep him from diving under the table before I put his mat under it. The staff were phenomenal, there weren't any tables where I would have liked to sit (in a corner), so they moved a chair for me so that Owen could fit comfortably under the table. The other patrons however, were not so phenomenal. As my friend and I were finishing dinner, a couple sat at the table directly behind Owen and I. They saw Owen as they came to sit down, and as the man sat down he reached over his chair and started petting Owen! Without even looking at me or talking to me or anything. He pretended like he couldn't hear me the first time I said: "Please don't pet him, he is working." So I had to raise my voice and repeat myself. The whole time my friend was rolling her eyes. The man then goes, "Oh, is he a service dog?"
Really? Like I would just bring my giant dog who is in a mobility harness (which looks a lot like a guide harness to an untrained eye) to dinner with me? Ugh. I was more shocked than anything. I was taught to never ever pet an unfamiliar dog. And I know that Owen is completely bombproof, but Owen was sound asleep when this guy invaded his space. I'm sorry, but you are asking for it if you pet an unfamiliar dog while they are asleep. And yes, by "it", I mean a dog bite. Owen would never ever bite, but you don't know with an unfamiliar dog, so why would you risk it?
I just can't understand how selfish somebody has to be to think it is appropriate to reach over and pet somebody's service dog (because really, what else would Owen be? We were at a restaurant for crying out loud). Did he think I was blind and wouldn't notice? Did he see a young girl and think I wouldn't speak up for myself? Did he think at all?
Trust me. If you touch my dog without asking, you will be hearing from me. At least he stopped and turned around, and at least my friend and I were almost done with dinner. I totally ignored him on my way out because I'm sure that my facial expressions wouldn't have been nice given the chance. I don't respond well to people touching me without me expecting it, and I really don't like people I'm not very familiar with touching me. It's asking to get hit - if you touch me and I'm not expecting it, it will interrupt the thought process I use to control my tics, and tics will get out of control. I already view Owen as an extension of myself, so I view touching him as invading my personal space. And I don't take well to people invading my personal space.
There are a lot of people in the service dog world who embrace the persona of "ask before petting". I disagree. Asking implies that I will say "yes", and it puts me in the position of having to be the bad guy and say "no". And I will say "no". Every time. I'm sure that there will be times where Owen can "say hi", and at school in my graduate level classes, after we have gotten into the swing of things, we will probably allow Owen to take a break (take his harness off) to say hi to my friends at school. But the general public? Heck no.
Just don't ask. Admire us from afar. Comment to whoever you are with about how pretty Owen is or how well behaved he is. Don't get in his face and tempt him to break concentration. Don't pet him without even asking me first. But really... I'd appreciate it if you were able admire Owen from afar and be thankful that you don't have to walk with a service dog. And let me and my dog do what we are supposed to do.
Owen is totally passed out right now (he worked really hard today) and I'm sitting on the floor next to him because he still isn't allowed up on the couch and he was acting like he wanted some cuddles. So I obliged. :) Toby is on the prowl, he is acting like he wants to follow us outside each time we go somewhere, so I am having to keep a closer eye on him than normal. He has made it out of my apartment once (last winter). He made it a few feet down the hallway before he stopped and had the look that said "I think I made a mistake", but lately he is looking like he will make another try of it. Owen and I are going to bed soon, we are both really really tired. I had forgotten what it felt like to be tired from actually going places and doing things! I was thinking about it today, and I realized that in the last week, I have been more places than I had probably been in the last month. And when I was going places, it didn't involve the hours of mental preparation to get myself out the door and into the car. Wow!
Owen and I are going to take a short break from blogging, but we will definitely keep you updated on how our travel and vacation goes. Wish us luck!