Another Dog … Another Failure

Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

A couple of months ago I got a dog to train up to be my mobility helper.

He was terrified of men. So he was rehomed, and now lives the life of luxury, sleeping on beds and being spoiled. I had to seek outside confirmation that I couldn’t have made it work with him, because he was such a sweet dog, and he was the first one I had tried. But, ultimately, I cannot work with a dog who is terrified of men.

Last week I got another dog, also to train up to be my mobility helper. This time I took it slow. I went out and met him, I took my friend with me to assess his temperament, and then went home and had a long talk about him. I picked him up, and he was anxious, but he never put a foot wrong. He didn’t put a foot wrong the entire week I had him. He was sweet, lovely, willing, and just adapted to every situation thrown at him.

But he had some health quirks that could have been indicative of serious problems, and he smeared saliva everywhere. My amazing human isn’t able to cope with dog saliva, so we agreed he would not be joining us permanently.

I know it’s a process, I know the right dog is one-in-a-million, but I am feeling disheartened by this. It’s hard work to meet the dog, check them over, take them on for a bit, and then figure out how to explain to the old owner why their beautiful, lovely, fantastic, and genuinely amazing dog failed, because that’s what it feels like to them. The last owner didn’t understand, and was very upset by it, and I think that, more than anything, has led to me feeling so bad this time around.

I haven’t given up finding the right dog. Or rather, I have flights of fancy that I don’t need the extra help, that I’ll be able to figure out a way around all of this so I don’t need a dog, and life will continue on as it always has. But they are brief, and generally beaten over the head with a mallet with my leg doesn’t want to hold my weight, or when I have a dizzy spell.

But for now I am going to sit back and relax and rest up. The stress of the last few weeks is finally catching up with me.

I Got A Dog


As the COVID lockdown loomed, I sped out into the back country of New Zealand to one of the largest sheep and beef stations in the North Island.  There, I was met by a woman and a dog.  A dog named Flash.

A dog who will, hopefully, become my “helper dog”.

I call him my “helper dog”, because here in New Zealand we have very strict legislation about what can be classified an Assistance or Service Dog.  Despite the training he will receive, he cannot be classified as an Assistnace Dog until one of the named charities certifies him.  There is one named charity that certifies owner trained dogs, and they are not taking new applicants at this time.

But that’s okay.  I don’t need him certified for him to help me around the home, or at work, or on the farm.  I just need him to be gentle, willing, and trainable.

After two days with him I can confirm he has all of that, in absolute spades.  He is a collie cross, a purpose bred heading dog, bred to stare at sheep until they move.  He just … didn’t do sheep.  At all.  So at the grand age of one, he was fired from basic training, and passed over to me.

It’s early days yet, but I am cautiously optimistic that he will fit in with the rest of my hairy horde and complement our lives.

Your Feelings Are Not More Important Than My Disability


I am a people pleaser.  Always have been, probably always will be to at least some extent.  Other people’s feelings are simply more important than my own needs, and I will go out of my way to avoid doing what I think might hurt someone else’s feelings (even if it’s unlikely to actually hurt their feelings).

I also have a warped sense of what will hurt someone else’s feelings, but that’s for another time, and probably a lot of alcohol.

Regardless, I put other people’s feelings above my own needs.  And I do that now, even when my needs are great.

I use a cane to get around.  I’m fine getting around home, but if I’m walking around places like university, or the mall, I need a cane.  It hurts to take little itty bitty steps.  My happy walking is huge swinging steps where I can really stretch out my hips and swing them.  I still need a cane for that, because to do it best I need to keep my hips nice and loose, which negatively affects my balance, but I can do it for a lot longer and it’s a lot less painful.

But yeah, I need a cane to get around.  I have to be careful how I get up off chairs, sofas, and the like, because I have balance problems.  I often have to catch myself with my cane to make sure I don’t fall over.  It relieves a lot of pressure on my hips.

I’m looking into getting an Assistance Dog.  Well, a dog that I can train up to help me with my mobility issues and in the future become certified as an assistance dog when a spot becomes available to do so.  Except for one, big, problem.

My amazing human dislikes dogs.  He does not want me to get another dog.  He gets the pinchy face and says he could not cope with another dog.

Now under normal circumstances that’s understandable.  But these aren’t normal circumstances.  This is a dog that will help me with the mobility and balance issues I have now, and will help me with any fluctuations of my mobility and balance issues (i.e. what I consider to be my inevitable decline).  This is not a pet dog.  This is a working dog.  A service dog.  A dog that provides a measurable benefit to my wellbeing.

I had to say, very explicitly, that it hurt that he could not see past his own feelings to support me in something that will benefit my life and wellbeing, both now and in the future.

Now some people (like my mother) will see that as a very selfish thing, and yes, it is.  Because it’s more than just his feelings – I will also be imposing on his time, he will need to develop a solid working relationship with the dog, he will need one on one training to change his current habits, and he will need to continue to work with the dog.  I’ve suggested agility as suitable work for them both, as it involves issuing commands and having them followed while requiring no contact between the two.

Except that it’s a small imposition to him for a huge benefit to me.  I am disabled.  I will likely always be disabled.  I will likely get worse.

No one is going to stay around with me and help me get up from the sofa, or stay home and cuddle me on the couch when I’m having a flare up day.  No one is going to follow me around uni making sure I don’t fall over, or help me up the stairs.  No one is going to be there when I need help getting out of a chair, or getting up from the ground.

I have to fight to do these things.  I have to fight my own body, I have to fight gravity (damn you and your apples!), awkward chairs and even more awkward canes.

But a dog can alleviate some of that.  A dog may be able to alleviate enough of that that I have more energy to spend on other things.  There comes a point where feelings are overruled by benefit to self.

This is that point.

He’s allowed to dislike dogs.  He can continue to dislike dogs.  I am still getting an assistance dog, and he can either work through his feelings about dogs to be fully onboard and work with me and the dog, or he can go.

Because at the end of the day, my disability is more important than his feelings, and if he cannot work past his own feelings to support something that will improve my disability, then he is not right for me.