Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Service Dog Training: Day 3 (and a half)

A lot happened yesterday, too much for just one post.

During the parent panel, Dave asked a question which really surprised me: did the parents have any advice for spouses like him who might not be 100% on board with the idea of the dog being helpful to the family?  He then went on to say that, in his view, we already were doing many of the things mentioned by the panel, such as eating dinner together, going to family events, family vacations.

It was hard for me to hear.  (Although I'm glad he asked rather than keeping it to himself, though I might have wished for a little warning in advance.)  I found myself panicking, wondering if the trainers (who were in the room), would count his statement against us: Dad's not on board, can't send Icon home with them.

It also showed me that we have very different pictures of our family life.  I see us as barely keeping above water, with frequent threat of drowning under the demands of Alex, work, and the requirements of life in general.  (Nathan does have his own challenges, but for the most part, we don't have to deal with major changes to our life because of him.)

Clearly, Dave sees us as basically doing okay.  Probably because I handle most of the work of dealing with Alex's therapy, behaviour work and searching out options.  I'm the one who handles all the prep work for those outings and vacations, and who spent a year getting our family all in the same room for dinner.

I'll be honest and admit there was some anger in there, too.  But it went quickly.  Dave has always been uncertain about adding new elements to the mix for Alex.  He didn't think it was necessary to seek out an assessment, or start any of the therapies we've tried, or try medication.  And yet, when he saw that these things were working and improving our lives, he gets behind them.

My feelings are hurt because of a missed social implication (something I've had to get used to with Dave).  Although he was strictly speaking about his own experience, the implication is that my experience wasn't important.  Since he knows (intellectually at least) that I put in a huge amount of effort, and that I find it difficult to sustain, to say that things are okay is to imply that he is okay with me being under stress and he sees no reason to alleviate it.  I know that is not what was meant but it's not quite enough to take away the sting.

We talked about it some more at dinner and I went through my reasons for wanting the dog and how I think it will benefit Alex (more independence, an increase in safety, companionship and a visual signal to others which should prevent Alex from being physically attacked).  He raised his concerns: he already has difficulty dealing with attention from others (since he can't read their intentions, every interaction is very stressful), and adding the dog into the mix will garner more attention.  We've already seen how there are some people who simply won't understand that they have to keep their hands and comments to themselves.  And that's been only over 3 days and in a town where service dogs are relatively common place, due to the fact that this is where they get trained.

I hope that if the trainers have doubts, that they will come and talk to us.  I hope that Dave's presence here and willingness to work offsets any concerns.  After all, it's the willingness to do the work which counts and he is doing it.

I'm also spending a lot of time worrying about what comes after this week.  How will Nathan deal with having Icon in the house and not being able to play with him?  How will we work out sleeping arrangements with Icon and Alex?  It's a lot to think about and, to be honest, it's keeping me up at night, brain whirling.  But that's how it has always worked in our family.  I spend a lot of time thinking, worrying and whittling down the options.  Then, when I'm down to two or three, I can share them with Dave, who will usually not have a particularly strong opinion (since he hasn't spent weeks thinking about it).  Then I usually end up choosing what I think is best and begin implementing it.

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