Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Lens of our Experience

Today Coco and I went for a walk in our favorite park. The usual soccer game was going on. Lots of families dogs on leashes. No worries, lots of smile and the sun was out.

When Coco and I were rounding a trail I could see ahead that there was a woman with a lovely looking Golden Retriever on a leash and I thought, eh, we'll take a right and curve around and take the long way around. Its a beautiful day and it will be nice to walk a little longer. Unbeknownst to me the lady decided to catch up with us. Coco saw this happening and while she was friendly and the Retriever was very sweet I decided to make this a training exercise and because Coco was not focused on the path I walked away in the opposite direction of the lady and her dog. Usually Coco steps right into heel and is focused on where we are going. Which I need her to be. She is my service dog and she was wearing her vest and because sudden light can temporarily blind me, I also had my dark glasses on. But Coco kept pulling. So I turned to see what was going on and the woman was continuing to not just walk in our direction but she was trying to get the dogs to meet.

I faced her and said told her to please stop and said it twice. Coco immediately came to heel and she was calm and still very friendly. I told the lady Coco was working but if she wanted to stay where she was we could let the dogs see each other and enjoy a little relaxed look at each other.

Coco was calm and friendly and so was the Retriever. The lady was very nice. She just didn't understand that a working dog isn't to be approached. I was friendly with her as well and did not apologize but after a minute wished her a nice day and Coco and I went on with our walk. Coco was completely relaxed and focused.

And this is a perfect illustration of something I have been thinking about. We see life through the lens of our experience. The lady had no idea that what she was doing was inappropriate. And I could tell she had a good heart and she loved her dog and wanted to meet us. She didn't know what it is like to be peripherally blind and not know what it feels like to be unaware that someone is approaching and how unsettling that can be. Coco, being park of my pack, like my grown children too by the way, will compensate and close in to make sure the pack is safe. With her body language she was protecting my back and letting me know something was happening. As soon as I acknowledged this and the lady stopped and I allowed her to see the dog and be there for a minute and everything was fine. In fact, pleasant. I think what people who don't know about service dogs don't understand is when their vest is on, they are working. Usually, if a person is moving, walking or in a wheel chair, the dog is working. Most people do not want their service dog to be approached - ever. I enjoy it as long as I feel comfortable and I'm not moving and I feel the situation is okay to allow people to meet Coco. I always ask if they'd like to meet her or they ask if they can pet her and at that point, if it works for Coco and me I'll tell Coco to greet and she knows exactly what to do.
It was so interesting to see how all of us saw life through our own lens of experience and all were good creatures and yet, a little distance was required for Coco and me to function properly.

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