Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Years Resolutions 2016

  1. Get a job! I've just graduated from PTA school and REALLY need to get a job. I've applied to 5 jobs and no word so far.
  2. Buster becomes Therapy Dog Certified: It's kind of a main theme of my blog here. We're working on it! Right now the earliest Therapy Dog Training class is in April '16, but hopefully we can find something in Feb or March so we can get the ball rolling.
  3. 30 Days of Yoga: This was a previous unmet new years resolution. Yoga classes are up to $20 each so this will be done with videos/books at home.
  4. Move: I want to move back to my childhood city and rent a home there during my first year of work. My must-have is a fenced-in backyard for Buster.
  5. Zumba Once a Week for 2 months: There's so many cheap Zumba classes (as low as $4) so there's really no excuse.
  6. ASL Class: I'd like to become fluent in American Sign Language. I've always been fascinated by the language. I still remember (and have) my Sesame Street Sign Language book.
    I also read a great non-fiction book in 2013 about sign language called "Talking Hands" by Margalit Fox. I will most likely never become fluent in a second (speaking) language, but I think I would enjoy becoming fluent in ASL and it would be a valuable skill to add to my resume. Not many PTAs could treat a deaf patient. I'm considering taking classes through a local community college in Winston Salem, a church I don't belong to whose classes are free, or through the Communication Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Greensboro. Will blog about my choice later.

  7. Bustle Reads Challenge: I found a website that posted a reading challenge to encourage readers to read out of their comfort zone in 2016, but also to explore more women and non-white writers. The book world is still dominated by white, male writers. And there are some excellent books by them. But I find that I rarely read books written by non-white people or from a non-western country. I read books about other countries, but they're usually by Americans. There are 20 challenges and I've done many of these, but not in one year. So here it goes:
    1. Read a book by a woman under 25
    2. Read a book on non-western history
    3. Read a book of essays
    4. Read a book about an indigenous culture
    5. Read a book before you see the movie
    6. Read a young adult book by an author of color
    7. Read a book set in the middle east
    8. Read a book about women in war
    9. Read a graphic novel by a woman
    10. Read a book about an immigrant or refugee to the US
    11. Read a children's book aloud
    12. Reread your favorite book from childhood
    13. Read a memoir by someone that identifies at LGBTQIA
    14. Read a work of post-apocalyptic fiction by a woman
    15. Read a feminist sci-fi novel
    16. Read the first book in a series you've never read
    17. Read a book set in Africa by an author from Africa
    18. Read a book in translation 
    19. Read a contemporary collection of poetry
    20.  Read a book by a modernist woman writer

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advanced Obedience: Week 1 & 2

Ongoing post about what to expect from Advanced Obedience classes at Petsmart:
Week 3 & 4
Week 5 & 6

Buster missed the first week of Advanced Obedience at Petsmart due to me having a prior engagement. But we made it to week 2 and had a makeup for our missed class the next day as well.

For week 2 we worked on:
  • Stay with distance: Buster prefers a down-stay over a sit-stay, so I put him in a stay at the back of the store and walked around the aisles our of sight and came back. Buster remained in his stay the entire time.
  • Heeling side by side: Buster had to heel, pause, and continue heeling with another dog nearby.
  • Bow & Crawl: Buster already knows these, so I'm working on being able to give the hand signal from a standing position (me, not him) and not having to get so close to him and the floor for him to perform the trick.
For our week 1 makeup we worked on:
  • Impulse control games:
    • I offer a treat with an open palm and Buster has to leave it until I give him permission to eat with a "take it" command.
    • Buster has to leave food on the floor/tables/bowl/etc. unless given the "take it" command.
    • Buster has to heel/loose leash walk towards a line of food on the floor. If he lunges, we go back to the starting line. When we get to the food, he must wait for me to give the command "take it" to be able to eat the food.
Buster is extremely food driven (even more so since he's on prednisone), a fast learner, and eager to please me. All this makes him very easy to train. 

I had mentioned in a previous post that I was considering different therapy organizations to test with. Buster's trainer says she can not administer the test, but she teaches her class to the Therapy Dog International test because it's the most difficult. It also seems to be the most respected and requested. For example, if you want to volunteer at Baptist Hospital, they request dogs that are TDI or Delta (now known as Pet Partners) certified. I'd like for Buster to be accepted at any place he wants to volunteer and I'm not sure our previous choice of Love on  a Leash (LoaL) would allow that because it's the easiest test to pass.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Therapy Dog Training

As I stated in my previous post: "I decided to get back into blogging because I couldn't find any blogs about the journey to become a therapy dog. Buster and I are about to begin that journey." So here is the plan for the journey to make Buster a therapy dog. 

(*Note: I often say "we" and "us". It's a habit of speaking for both myself and Buster that's just stuck.)
Buster and I tried Agility training. It was fun and we might have kept up with it if PTA school hadn't got in the way. It just wasn't possible to have anything scheduled outside of school. Upon reflection, I don't know if Buster truly enjoyed it.

 This is Buster's best run during agility.

As I get close to graduation and have seen therapy dog visits during my last clinic in a nursing home, I've decided to pursue therapy dog training. I kept saying I'd do it "when he gets older and slows down" but why not now?

Thankfully I was crazy about getting certificates when we took obedience classes the first time around in 2013/2014 and he got Canine Good Citizen certified.
AKC CGC certified
 I think we've decided to get certified with Love on a Leash which has a local chapter (Winston Salem, NC). I went to a therapy dog event with my godson where he read to a dog at a library and they recommended LoaL. It helps that their requirements are more lenient than Therapy Dog's International. ;-)

On  12/2/15 Buster joined me at my clinical at a nursing home for a visit. He was well behaved in the therapy room so I took him on a tour to visit some patients. He did very well and showed no fear. He tolerated people coming at him from all directions, including behind, and tolerated patients grabbing at his face. Two patients patted their laps, asking my 60 lb dog to sit in their lap. Luckily he knows not to get in laps. I was so pleased with his visit and his good behavior. I contacted his old trainer as soon as I got home and said "Let's fast track this!"

Here are our steps to becoming a therapy dog:
  1. Beginner Obedience
  2. Intermediate Obedience
  3. Advanced Obedience
  4. Canine Good Citizen test
  5. Therapy Dog Class
  6. Therapy Dog test
We have completed steps #1-4 already, but I decided to have Buster re-take his Advanced Obedience class to refresh his obedience with distractions in busy places and around other dogs. Because we took all our obedience classes through Petsmart, we can retake any of the classes again for free. We had to miss the first class last night due to a prior commitment, but we will be there for the other 5 weeks and finish 1/17/16. Had I gotten Buster as a puppy (he was 2 when I adopted him) we would have taken a puppy obedience class before beginner obedience. Buster came to me already knowing 'sit' and 'shake'.

For #5 & #6, if Petsmart offers the therapy dog class we'll take it there because I love our trainer (Dulcey Trimble at Petsmart on Lawndale in Greensboro, NC) otherwise we'll go to the Winston Salem Dog Training Club. They are the home of a Therapy Dog International Chapter so they might require you become TDI certified. We'll find out!

So Buster and I are looking forward to him following in his mom's footsteps and being a therapist. Hopefully we'll be both certified/licensed therapists with jobs by Spring 2016!

PTA Graduation

As I look through my old posts I saw this one about my fears of starting PTA school. I can't help but smile since I am graduating in 5 days. PTA school had its terrifying moments but I have conquered every one of them and come out stronger than I ever thought I could be.I never got anything below an A on practicals, I never got below a 75 on exams, I lived through videotaping in the 3rd semester and "shirts off" days in lab that first semester and I've enjoyed my time with my "family" (we became that close) of 13 other PTA students. I have been class historian so I took pictures and videos throughout the entire program and am making a photo book after graduation.

First and last day of PTA school. Aug 2014/Dec 2015

There's a line at the end of that old post that says "I hope I come back to this post a year and a half later, after graduation, and laugh at myself." Well, I'm not laughing because it really was a hard and scary program. But I'm smiling BIG because I did it.

Graduation Day with my family

 Walking across that stage