So I’m having a lot of guilty feelings surrounding Sid lately, mostly because I have a lot of really fantastic dogblogs in my feed reader, like Katie at Save the Pit Bull, Save the World and the Food Lady over at Wootube.
Why does this cause me guilty feelings about Sid? These people are fantastic trainers, and have worked their dogs in agility, obedience, flyball — they have dogs with TITLES. Like Katie’s eeevil red dog, who is ARCHX Siren’s Eleusinian Mystery CD CD-H RA RL3 RLV RL2X RL1X CGC TT.
Meanwhile, Siddy, despite being brilliant and brave and willing, is just Blackthorn’s Obsidian.
This is, I realize, totally irrational. Siddy doesn’t care if he never gets the entire alphabet after his name, what he cares about is whether he gets to go places with his person and take care of her. But I keep feeling that I am letting him down, because if I was a more systematic and dedicated trainer, he definitely could have a pile of titles. He is smart, willing, and has heart and courage in spades (along with a large helping of goofy sense of humor and general good nature). In the hands of a trainer who would, say, work through the Levels with him in an organized fashion, he could be out there in the rally obedience ring no problem. Well, small problem in that his handler would have to use her cane and some speed changes would be impossible for us — does rally require anything faster than a quick-step gimp? I have no idea but if so, it’s a no-go — but no problem in the dog’s ability or capacity.
The problem is that I have this deep and weird aversion to competing in things like obedience, and that systematically working behaviors in the backyard here at home is also not the most thrilling thing ever for me. I put Sid’s public access foundations on him here at home, but as soon as he was cleared to work and I was 95% certain of his ability to not be a total dork in public, we took our show on the road. It was more interesting for both of us, that way.
And I don’t know why I feel like we ought to be doing structured competition obedience and the like. I mean, both competition trainers and I put hundreds of hours of work into teaching our dogs, but for, say, a rally obedience dog all that work culminates in an event in the rally ring that takes, what, 10 minutes? 15? Whereas the pinnacle of Sid’s achievements thus far was working for four hours straight at the state fair, in crowds of people, amid fascinating smells, new noises, with occasional livestock. He worked for two hours at the National Museum of the Marine Corps on Veteran’s Day, where he handled immersive videos featuring machine gun fire and screaming, several new floors that were cold and metal and wobbled and made noise under foot, drastic temperature changes between rooms (the Chosin Valley room is heavily air conditioned, the Viet Nam room is heated), people using wheelchairs, people using canes, and a taxidermy German Shepherd (that one really weirded him out but he didn’t make a fuss).
It makes me sad that he will never get official recognition for these things, that because of my aversion to the competition field, no one will ever give Sid a big bright ribbon or a shiny trophy. There are no organizations that officially sanction the titling of service dogs in the work they do, although if there were he’d surely have his PA (Public Access) and SDN (Service Dog Novice) and be well on his way to SDA (Service Dog Advanced) with an eye to his SDE (Service Dog Excellent) before the end of 2012. Or maybe, given the wide variety of tasks that service dogs do, we’d have to break up the titles to specify the work he does, and so take the “S” off and replace it with an “M” for Mobility. Which would then give us the opportunity to, say, work on him getting his Wheel Dog titles if I decide to use a wheelchair.
I don’t actually know where I’m going with this, except to say that I recognize that it’s irrational to simultaneously want applause for Sid’s good work and also people to ignore him when we’re out in public. But it sure would be nice to get a big bright ribbon to recognize all our hard work, you know?