This may be long, it may be short, I am not sure yet. I will write what I know and talk about a lot of things I don't like to admit, but they are things I need to face if I want to be successful in my therapy dog work.
Here's how it needs to start. I am Lindsay. I have a Traumatic Brain Injury and have a disability from it. I hate it. I don't like to admit that I have a disability. I have fought it hard since I was 15. It affects all areas of my life and the nicest way I can explain having to live with it is that it sucks. I am embarassed of it. I don't like to be different and I will go to great measures to not let others know I have a brain injury. I am slow. I stutter my words sometimes...okay, a lot. I trip on my feet. I cannot multitask. My fine motor skills are impared. I can't concentrate. My memory is not the best. I get my feelings hurt easily. I have a chronic pain disorder from it. I have a movement disorder from it. I am alive. I function pretty well given my injury, and I have a strong desire to succeed. I love life. I love to help others. I try to get past my disability and live to my full potential. I try not to be different. When I fall, I get back up and try again. It took me five years to get an associate's degree, but I did not give up. If the next person can do it, so can I. I have a lot of set backs. People judge me. I am different. I try to be normal. I am Lindsay and I have a brain injury.
Now that's out of the way, let me explain how this brain injury is getting in the way of my life once again. I used to work in nursing. I had to quit after sustaining a mild concussion a year and a half ago and it broke my heart to not be able to do my passion anymore. (brain injuries are cumulative, so it made what I already had worse) I have always wanted to work with dogs. I love animals. If you have known me longer than 30 minutes, you know that is one of my many passions. After having to quit my job, after having to give up driving, I went into a depression over my lost ability to help others. Then Blondie died. Then we adopted Topher for a companion for Tanker. Topher couldn't be a better dog for Tanker and Tanker couldn't be a better dog for Topher. They literally were made for each other. Topher is calm and won't hurt Tanker. Tanker is laid back and won't intimidate Topher. More than anything, they both LOVE people. This isn't just a love as in they just want to be petted. These two dogs have a passion for people. They sense emotion. Their love for people makes me believe they want to help others as much as Wes and I do. Topher and Tanker are meant to be our dogs in every aspect you can think of.
As you all know, last week was a horrible week for me and Topher in CGC class. Every dog was off key last week. They were hyper, agressive, and wild. I was intimidated. Topher was intimidated. Last week was the best class ever. It taught me what I need to be for Topher and what I can and can't be for him. Once again, I have a movement disorder. I am slow. I do not react quickly. Topher is intimidated by bigger dogs. The combination of Topher's lack of confidence and my slowed reactions made for a really bad class last week.
Wes is the most remarkable man I know. He is confident. He is smart. He has a good head on his shoulders. He is compassionate in what he does. He has a heart of gold. He is a leader. Dogs can sense that about a person. Wes is a dog whisperer if I ever knew one. Wes took Topher tonight to work with him in class. Topher did awesome. Topher did the meet and greet with the neutral dog just fine. Wes had to give him some stronger commands and work the leash a little different than I know how to do, but Topher passed with flying colors. I was so proud of him.
What we discovered tonight was that Topher sometimes needs that extra boost of confidence in situations he is not sure of. The only situation we have had him in like that is around bigger dogs. Because I have a difficult time with movements, multitasking (giving commands and holding the leash like I need to), we decided that when I work Topher as a therapy dog, I need to use the Halti leader on him. I don't know why, but Topher and I are both more confident when using the Halti. Maybe because we both know that I have ultimate control with a Halti. Topher is very sensitive to my needs. I couldn't ask for a better dog. He is trained in both hand signals and verbal commands. He doesn't mind that I switch back and forth. He is really in tune with me. That being said, when I am not confident around other dogs (in which I am not due to being bit when I was younger), Topher feels the need to be the protector and he reacts badly. When using the Halti, he feels my every movement and he trusts me better. It's really hard to explain. I can only try to explain it the best I can.
We did a mock test tonight. Wes and Topher passed with flying colors. Tanker and I passed with flying colors. (Who wouldn't pass with Tanker?? A 3 year old could pass a CGC test with Tanker!) Wes only used a buckle collar on Topher and passed the neutral dog part just fine. Because we are only allowed to use a buckle collar on the CGC test, Wes will probably test with Topher and I will test with Tanker. Canine Good Citizen Certification is through the American Kennel Club and it tests the dog, not the team; therefore, it doesn't matter who tests with each dog. We are taking our Delta Therapy Dog test on March 13th. I will test with Topher using the Halti because they are allowed in therapy dog work. After a year or two of me gaining my confidence and of Topher becoming a little more experienced, I hope to retest in a regular buckle collar.
My name is Lindsay. I have a disability from a Traumatic Brain Injury. I have an AWESOME husband who helps me, loves me, does not judge me, lifts me up, and encourages me in every area of life. I have two amazing dogs who read my body language and understand me. I will not let a disability keep me from helping others through therapy dog work. I may have to do things a little different, but I will succeed.
And that is my story.
About The Foster Zoo
- Lindsay, Wes, and The Zoo Crew
- We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.