Never in a million years did I think I would actually be training my own service dog, but it’s happening! I even found an expert both in dog training and mental health. Right now we are working on manners and basic commands but I can’t wait to keep going. Dembe is so smart and so intuitive already. We went to Walmart one day and I felt my chest tighten and my legs get wobbly which are just two of the signs that a substantial panic attack is on its way. So many people were getting in my face, wanting to pet him and I even got a couple “Oh well, you don’t look sick.” Ugh. So what does Dembe do? He guides me back to the ladies department where we had just been and he walks to a quiet little space. He sat on my foot, putting all of his 25 pounds against my leg. This is so special because that small thing he just did? It is an integral task that I will need him to perform when I am feeling anxious. How did he know to do that?
My mom and Van and therapist tell me they can see a bond between Dembe and myself already. And our stellar trainer, Rachel, seems to agree.
Mom and I went to Ulta yesterday and I wasn’t sure how he would do with all of the makeup that would be at face level. He was amazing! We would walk to a brand I was interested in and lay on my feet. He stayed out of the way of other shoppers, ignored everyone (he is very good at ignoring people which will come in handy down the road when he becomes a Full-Service Dog).
I love being out with him. My go-to behavior when I am not feeling well is to crawl inward as much as possible. My brain starts overthinking and social anxiety kicks in and often I find myself disassociating in order to deal with the overwhelming feelings and thoughts I’m experiencing.
Rachel let me know that it is my choice whether or not I allow people to pet Dembe. I’ve let a few people pet him while he is working because they were very sweet and I thought it would lead to a positive social interaction. Then there are the people who interrupt me when I am trying to focus Dembe or the man in Costco last night who out and out whistled at Dembe and said: “Here, service dog. Look at me.” Dembe ignored everyone! Even the whistler! But, I need to gain confidence and tell people no or not to do those distracting things. Luckily there are more nice, lovely, polite people that there are ignorant, rude folks.
Dembe is one of the best things to ever happen to me. He is my protector, my support, my best friend…he is going to save my life and he already has. I have been struggling for the past 5 months or so which is probably obvious from my other blog posts. I wanted this entry to stay positive, but sometimes things take a unexpected turn. I struggle with suicidal thoughts every day. Most every night I pray I won’t wake up. Why? I know this sounds so simple, like an easy fix, Like “just like yourself, you’re so sweet….” can’t you get over these thoughts? I mean, you’ve had them for a long time, shouldn’t you be cured?” Things like that.
Truth is, no, I do not like myself. Whoever said you can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself, I would like to have a conversation with them. Because I truly love other people. I do.
Back to what I was trying to say before my tangent 🙂 The other day I felt completely overwhelmed. I still could not figure out the baby gates, Dembe started teething and began biting me at every chance. I felt like my puppy hated me and that I was a bad person for such a sweet dog to bite me it must mean I am evil. So I called the Suicide hotline but couldn’t get through and then tried the online chat on their website and there were 45 people ahead of me. Van was out of town and I didn’t want to bother him even more than I already do. I called my Mom hoping she wouldn’t pick up and she didn’t. The overarching theme with me is that I am a burden and anyone close to me would be better off without me. I only cause pain and suffering and I am very annoying.
Anyway! I was looking through the knives which are all pretty dull, but I found one. Many thoughts went through my mind and I almost felt peace, knowing it would be over soon. As I readied myself, I felt something fuzzy plop on my feet. I looked down to see Dembe. What timing he has. I couldn’t do that to my little buddy, the one who was going to love me, protect me, stabilize me, soothe me…he looked at me with his beautiful little eyes and I felt warmth and I felt love. This is not unlike what happened in 2006 when Grover (my beloved cat/protector who left us a few years ago) stopped an attempt almost exactly like this one. I know I have guardian angels in heaven (Grandpa, Uncle Mark, Grover), but I have one here on Earth.
He is going to be the best service dog around.
Thank you so much for reading!