Dave and I had the first round of training for the service dog (more of an information session) over the weekend and our brains are stuffed full. I have eight pages of notes, a folder of documents and a 50 page training manual to read.
There were some surprises. I spoke to the trainers about the timing of getting a kitten for Nathan and they strongly recommended not getting the kitten before the dog arrives. If the kitten doesn't react well to the dog, that could strongly jeopardize the dog's ability to settle into our household. Nathan is disappointed and I'm a little worried. The crucial point for wanting the kitten is the first two to three months. If we can't bring it in, I am worried about keeping Nathan away from the dog. But making sure the dog adjusts well to our household is the priority.
The second surprise/disappointment was that the dog will not be able to accompany Alex to school for the first year. They want to make sure that only the parents are handling the dog for the first year, to maintain the training and keep consistent expectations. They also stressed that the dog and Alex need to be visibly bonded and working together (which reduces the opportunity for the school to claim that Alex doesn't "need" the dog). And that it's critical that the school introduction go smoothly (again, to reduce the possibility of the school objecting).
At the same time, the dog needs to be with Alex as much as humanly possible. Which means that I'm going to have to go with him on outings with his grandfather and to the cottage this summer, times that have normally been respite opportunities for me. That is going to make this a difficult year.
And final surprise, only trained handlers are allowed to have the dog out "working" and in jacket. Which means Dave and I, unless we can find a way for my father to be trained so that he can continue to take Alex out. But it's not something that we can look into for the first year, so I'm trying not to worry about it too much.
The rest of the information was very helpful and encouraging. (And even the disappointing stuff is helpful, since it helps us to adjust our expectations and plans.) We got to work with some dogs in training, and discovered there are a lot of little things to keep in mind (I'll go into that in more detail tomorrow).
I still think this is the right thing to do and it's going to make a huge difference in our lives.
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