This weekend was packed with exciting training opportunities both here in town and down in the Los Angeles area. We spent Saturday afternoon close to home training Nihmh and Khoena at our local PetSmart and we are so proud of how far our girls have come in their training. As common with most young dogs, there are still challenges we need to continue to tackle, such as exposure to large crowds and loud noises. Since we live in a rural area that does not quite have the hustle and bustle of city life, we planned a Sunday trip down to Los Angeles to visit the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
We wish we could have made the SoCal Aussies meet-up in San Diego, but we made sure Nihmh was still repping in her SoCal Aussies bandana by Delair Designs. It was the girls’ first time visiting such a crowded venue and despite the commotion of people and entertainers, they managed fairly well. Nihmh is learning to slow down and accept the stares and interactions from complete strangers; something she’s struggled with since we first met her when she was four months old. Earlier in the week, we had a difficult day and I became extremely discouraged. I am so thankful to have friends who are fellow handlers in the Service Dog community who were there to remind me that this is simply the beginning with a young dog who has some challenging struggles, but enormous potential.
When times get tough and expectations are postponed, it can be easy to become discouraged and downhearted. It’s important to keep in mind that while there are plenty of exceptional examples out there, we need to remember the abilities and limitations of the dog in front of us. That same day, I took a moment to breathe, to recollect my emotions and to re-assess the situation. After multiple exercises, we were able to work through some of the struggles and I soon had a relaxed and stable partner walking beside me. It was an important reminder of how my own frustrations and feelings have the potential to set Nihmh up for failure and that it is in her best interest for me not to compare our successes or failures to that of teams–because they’re simply not us.
Looking back on this weekend, I’m extremely proud of Nihmh. While situations can grow stressful in the moment, it’s how we end each day that truly matters. After each of our outings, I notice a heartwarming change in Nihmh. She’s slightly more confident, vocal and vivacious–almost as if she’s proud of herself for conquering an intimidating situation. Sure, there are plenty of other young dogs that are taking the world by storm with little challenges… but they’re not Nihmh. There’s no other dog I would rather have by my side and she’s worth every moment of hard work and dedication.