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The start of a new adventure - Service Dog world...

Meet Dazzle. She is a Golden/Lab mix from ECADS (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities). She is slated to go to the VNA where she will provide support to people in their homes, hospice, etc. She'll be great! Dazzle was the first dog I met and "worked" with at ECADS this weekend.

We had 2 days of training as ECAD volunteer weekend handlers. The model is to attend this initial training, then take potentially a different dog home to help them socialize for 2-4 weeknds/month for at least 6 months and to attend at least 1 class per month with the pup. Driving up to the facility in Winchester, CT, I was excited and a bit nervous. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but welled up numerous times during the first evening - these animals are spectacular and their trainers are brilliant. Friday night was a lot of introduction, a video and some brief demos with a trainer and "Zen". "Zen" showed us how he can unzip a jacket and tug on the sleeves to help someone get their jacket off. We toured the building which included several handicapped accessible bedrooms with hospital beds, lifts, shower rooms and a huge open common area and kitchen for the clients. Very impressive! I have a lot to learn, but am excited to do so. I met very nice and welcoming people and looked forward to Saturday. Saturday started off with 12+ adorable blonde dogs coming into the room in a pack. All of the volunteers could not take their eyes off of the pups. How can there be that much cuteness in one room at one time?!? We each were given a dog and spent 3+ hours learning lots of commands and getting to know our pup - grooming, easy, stop, jump up, down, off, my lap, get busy, stay, yes, no, okay, that's it and more. Then, Dazzle hopped into my car and off we went. Home we went...for our overnight adventure.

Dazzle and I enjoyed walks, short hikes, playing fetch and meeting friends. What a great dog! I especially love practicing "show belly" and "my lap" where we exchanged lots of love! Supposed to make service dogs work for the affection... After just getting to know each other, it was time to drop Dazzle back off on Sunday. This was a little odd, but ok - clearly everyone had done this many times. Just another day at the office...

Friends asked me about the weekend. I loved talking to them about the mission and the amazing nature of these dogs. I did not like to talk about what it means and where this may lead. I feel as if one of my challenges is not to make this mean anything or not making everything mean something. My head keeps wanting to run scenarios, how can I make money at this? Is this what I am supposed to do next? How can I get a therapy dog to go into different facilities? Sounds trite, but stay in the moment and stay open, Pam.

So, maybe I'll just say this instead when people ask about my weekend... I love witnessing these creatures. I love thinking about how much love these animals give and how many people benefit. I love learning new training skills. I love learning about a new world. I love the feeling of stepping into a new place. I love filling my heart in new ways. I love learning about myself in new ways. I trust I will learn more and more. I trust myself to feel my way through this world. I trust I don't need to know everything now. I only need to trust in my ability to feel. I know I am in the exploration phase. I do not need to know the answers. I only need to be willing to explore and trust my feelings. Just feel this out. I've done this before and I know I can do it again. I love trusting in myself. I love trusting my heart. I love opening my heart more and more. I love loving. I love trusting. I love knowing. I love following my heart.

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