Field Trip Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I have a doctor’s appointment. I’ll be bringing Barnum — not in to the appointment, itself — he’s not ready for that. But he’ll come for the trip.

My plan is to arrive early, so we can train in the  van and then in the parking lot before my appointment. I’ll test him on the Level One behaviors (come, sit, down, touch, and leave it) as our Level Three On the Road test, and whatever he fails (and probably whatever he passes, too), I’ll train with him more, as well as loose-leash walking in a totally new environment.

During my appointment, my PCA will watch Barnum (when she isn’t helping me with transferring, un/dressing, un/loading the chair, etcetera). I’m bringing frozen, stuffed Kongs for him to occupy himself in my absence, though he probably won’t be interested in them because he’ll be too excited about being away from home.

Because my PCA and I don’t each have cell phones (there’s no reception where I live), I’ll bring my two-way radios. That way, my PCA and I can communicate when she’s dog-sitting, and I can let her know when I need her and check in on how she and Barnum are doing.

If Barnum performs well during our “pre-game” practice session — if he is able to focus on me and respond correctly to cues — I might even take him inside the building for additional training, either before or after my appointment, depending on timing. I won’t take him inside unless he’s truly ready for that and can be calm, under control, and paying enough attention to learn anything.

Public access laws in my state don’t cover teams in training, so the clinic is not legally obligated to let me in with him to train, but I’ve been going there for many years. Thus, the staff are used to seeing me with a service dog, so I don’t think they’ll object.

If we do go inside, we’ll practice working walk, go to mat (I’m bringing one of his mats with us), and whatever else we can manage. I’ll probably use the waiting room and the bathroom. If he really blows me away, I might ask to go up and down the hall or into an exam room, for just a moment. All in all, we will probably be inside for only a few minutes.

Still, it will be a huge accomplishment if I’m able to even bring him inside. Heck, it’ll be an accomplishment if he can pay attention to me in the parking lot! He might be so distracted that I just have to click and treat for not pulling on leash or acknowledgement of my existence.

Tonight, in preparation, I dug out my “In Training” patches to put on his harness, as well as one of the “Please Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working” patches. It’s been almost a decade since those “In Training” patches were used! Whether they see the light of day tomorrow depends on how we do in the parking lot.

I felt a ripple of excitement and pride seeing those white crescent patches, with the neat black lettering, “In Training,” velcroed in place on the harness.

A lot of people focus on when the patches come off — when the dog goes from SDiT to SD. However, there’s a huge step that comes before: arriving at SDiT in the first place.

My big fear is that he has not generalized toilet training — that he doesn’t know the concept of “inside” applies to buildings other than our house — but he won’t learn that without exposure and practice. You can bet I will be extra, extra vigilant about any movement that might potentially lead to a lifted leg or a squat! Please, please, please don’t let him pee on the waiting room rug. (That’s one reason I might just head directly for the bathroom.)

Whether or not he actually enters the building, our public access work is finally beginning! Please cross your fingers and paws for us!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I remember my first official SDiT outing, it was fun! I earned a lot of hot dogs!), and Barnum (The car? We’re going in the car? Oh goody-goody-goody-goody!)

P.S. I’ll try to get some pictures or video of our adventure, if possible.

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