“What It Means To: Unplug From Social Media!”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers, and Happy 2018!  Is your New Year’s resolution to unplug from social media?  The mere fact that you’re reading this blog on a social media platform tells me one of two things:  1.  You’ve broke your New Year’s resolution;  2.  You’re starting your resolution on the day that never comes:  tomorrow!

No, I did not unplug for the purposes of this post.  My social media news feeds are loaded with never-ending cycles of adorable puppy photos.  With that I ask, can you blame me?  Therefore, today’s post, a Q & A style blog, was inspired by Alex’s (my boyfriend) recent experiences unplugging from two social media platforms:  Facebook and Twitter.

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Pinella can’t unplug from social media!  Who do you think gives you blog updates on Facebook and Twitter?


Background Information:

  • What is your rationale behind maintaining a Facebook account?
    • Alex described that he utilizes Facebook as a way to remain connected with family members and friends.  He additionally described that life updates posted via Facebook appear to serve as a social lubricant when reconnecting with friends and family at holiday gatherings, parties, etc.  For example, if I adopt a dog and post about it on Facebook, this provides my friends and family with an easy conversation starter  –>  “How is your new puppy doing?”
  • What made you decide to temporarily disconnect from social media?
    • Alex stated that one of the motivating factors was to discover whether or not he had the willpower to actually do it.  He recently recognized that he was checking social media “too frequently”  and defined “too frequently” as approximately 9x/day on weekends and 3x/day on weekdays.  He explained that it was overwhelming to repetitively read negative comments, posts, or complaints from others.  Alex interestingly stated that the start of a new year also often prompts statements such as “2017 was such a terrible year, so 2018 has to be better,” which he wanted to actively avoid, hence the timing of the disconnect (New Year’s Eve).
  • Did you unplug from all social media outlets or just Facebook and Twitter? 
    • Alex continued to use Snapchat and LinkedIn; however, he now questions how his experience would have differed if he unplugged from all platforms entirely.
  • How long have you been unplugged from your social media platforms?
    • Nine days at the time of this interview.

What Happened? 

  • Did you find yourself wanting to check social media more or less frequently as the days progressed?
    • Alex stated that on days one, two, and three, for example, he had less of a desire to check.  However, as time progressed, he found himself wondering what he has missed out on.
  • How did you spend your newfound free time not spent checking social media?
    • Something that I observed and Alex admitted to was that he spent more time physically reading a book, a treasured pastime of his.  He additionally stated that the quantity and quality of time spent playing and interacting with Pinella improved.  He ultimately felt more relaxed and spent less time with his phone at his fingertips.
  • Were there any aspects of your physical health that changed upon disconnecting?  
    • Alex admitted that, with less time that his eyes were fixated on a screen, he noticed a reduction in eye strain and felt as if his eyes were “less heavy.”
  • Were there any aspects of your mental health and mood that changed upon disconnecting?
    • The mental health counselor-in-training in me was intrigued to hear about Alex’s experiences with regard to changes in mental health and overall mood.  He stated that he didn’t feel as “down,” which he attributes to the reduction in the amount of negativity that he was previously surrounding himself with via social media.
  • What was the most interesting thing you noticed? 
    • He discussed a recent realization regarding how frequently individuals prompt conversations with, “Did you see _____ on Facebook?”  (Apparently, I’m guilty of this too!).  He stated that social media posts allow people to share a similar “Facebook world,” and when you unplug from that arena, you’re instantly out of the loop and disconnected from those conversations.   He said it was surprising and amazing to have recognized how much of the “Facebook world” enters real-world conversations.
  • Were there any negative effects you experienced?  
    • Alex noted that he doesn’t feel as connected to others as he previously did and  that disconnecting from social media has also required him to lose access to minute-by-minute news at his fingertips.  While he previously may have learned about somebody’s recent job offer two minutes after it happened (Thanks, Facebook), he described now having to possibly wait days before learning about this news from other sources.

What Happens Next?

  • Will you reconnect to your social media platforms? 
    • He confirmed he will eventually return to Facebook but cannot identify when.  Alex noted, however, that he has since deleted his Twitter account because he recognized he was only posting for the likes and retweets, received a lot of “junk” on his news feed, and had many of the same people on Facebook and Twitter which resulted in repetitive content.
  • Do you anticipate any challenges upon reconnecting to Facebook?
    • He expects that returning to Facebook will likely be overwhelming partly due to the anticipated flood of missed notifications and seemingly never-ending status updates.
  • Do you have any recommendations for individuals wishing to unplug?
    • Alex acknowledged that you don’t have to be somebody who thinks “Whoa, I use social media too much” to unplug.  Unfortunately, unplugging appears to be the primary way to begin to recognize how much time is spent on Facebook and the rationale for doing so.  He recommends unplugging from social media to anybody but especially stresses that it may be of benefit to individuals who are overwhelmed by negativity on their news feeds.

      “No matter who you are, there is something that could come out of [it] for everyone.  Any time you make a change in your life, it is then that you start to see differences.”

  • In a society that utilizes social media to stay connected and receive minute-by-minute updates, do you foresee any negative outcomes arising from a disconnect from social media?
    • In responding to this question, he shared a personal experience while in grad school where he was geographically distanced from all friends and family.  He stated that, at that time, social media was one of his primary mechanisms to stay connected with loved ones.  In that sense, Alex concluded that unplugging may be of less benefit and cause an increased sense of loneliness to those who already feel a sense of disconnect from others such as students, travel nurses, flight attendants, truck drivers, etc.

Concluding Thoughts:

Upon asking Alex if he had any concluding thoughts, here is how he responded:

“I don’t know how my phone just went down to 87 percent.”

Apparently, there are many benefits to unplugging from social media, however, a longer-lasting battery isn’t one of them! 😉


I hope you all enjoyed this style blog and found it insightful and/or relatable.  While I firmly believe that there are many positive aspects to social media (puppy photos and videos), it is important to balance your social media and real-world experiences.  Take time to enjoy nature through your own visual senses and not through a camera lens.  Don’t neglect quality time with your pets, even if it means reducing how often you innocently scroll through the most adorable photos of others’ pets on Instagram!  Most importantly, take care of yourself and the ones you love.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by negativity on social media platforms, breathe, take a step back, and reflect on your physical world!

If you are achieving your New Year’s resolution, leave a comment below and tell us about it!  You deserve some recognition for your hard work! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading (especially if you’ve read this far).  Stay tuned for the next blog post entitled, “What It Means To: Impersonate a Service Dog.”

-T.

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“Dog Gift Buying Guide”

Hello, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  In light of the holiday season, please enjoy this gift buying guide of Pinella’s favorite items for those of you doing any last minute holiday shopping, for your pet’s upcoming birthday, or just to provide a fun and special surprise to your four-legged friends! 🙂 


TOYS:

Benebones:  Pinella’s personal favorite, Benebone offers three different types of chew toys, Wishbone, Dental Chew, and Pawplexer.  They are long-lasting and especially great for pups of all sizes who are avid chewers!  They come in bacon, peanut, and chicken flavors and are sold at various retail stores.

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Her Benebone is never far from her side!

Kong Toys:  Kong rubber toys have been a game-changer for Pinella, especially those that can be filled and frozen with Xylitol-free peanut butter, organic pumpkin, or treats!  Doing so has actually helped with her separation anxiety too.  Instead of whimpering and crying about me leaving, she now gets excited as she anticipates the Kong toy stuffed with her favorites! 

Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball:   Offered in small, medium, and large, this toy is designed to keep your pet occupied and entertained.  After loading it with treats, they are dispensed as your pet pushes the ball across the floor!  Shh…nobody tell Pinella that this is one of her holiday gifts! 😉

Buster Food Cube:  I recently stumbled across this toy as I was pursuing Amazon.  Much like the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball, this toy is designed to keep your pet mentally engaged as they roll the ball around in an effort to dispense treats!   

Nylabone:  Nylabone offers various toy options for pets, large and small, in the forms of toys, chews, treats, and dental chews!  

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One of Pinella’s most enjoyed Nylabone products!

Soft Squeaky Toys:  For the more gentle pets like Pinella, squeaky toys are an inexpensive gift option.  Not to mention, they are often irresistibly adorable, and your pet will love them too! (Be sure to throw out any toys that have been ripped as the stuffing can cause intestinal blockage!) 

Tug Toys:  For Pinella, these toys initially had more meaning to them than just being a fun object to tug on!  While in training to be a service dog, they served an essential purpose to teach her how to tug on items so that she could later learn to open doors, drawers, etc. for her future partner, if needed!

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Sometimes she was resourceful and used her tug toy as a pillow!


Treats:

Marrow Bones:  Marrow bones are often sold in your local grocer’s deli.  Most often, they come with the marrow encasing the bone.  Be wary, however, puppies (under the age of 6months-1 year) should not eat the marrow off as it can cause a stomachache.  Also, avoid boiling the marrow off as it can make the bone more susceptible to splinter! (Marrow bones are NOT the same as rawhide bones…Word of caution:  Avoid rawhide bones as they are unsafe for pets!)

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Pinella especially enjoys when peanut butter appears inside her marrow bone!

Bullysticks:  From small to extra large dogs, bully sticks are a tasty, relatively long-lasting treat.  Be on the lookout for all-natural bully sticks from grass-fed bulls.  FDA/USDA approval is an additional bonus! 

Dog Food:  It may not seem like an exciting treat, but kibble from your dog’s normal food can serve as an alternative low calorie treat, especially when training your furry friend! 

Miscellaneous Treats:   Some of Pinella’s favorites include carrots, watermelon, apple slices, bananas in moderation, cantaloupe, strawberries in moderation, and oranges (Comment below if you want to hear a funny story about the first time I fed Pinella oranges!). With all of these treats, be sure to take out any seeds before feeding to your dog!

Remember:  It is always recommended that your pet be supervised when enjoying toys, treats, etc. such as the aforementioned!  🙂


Miscellaneous:

Does your pet already have their fair share of toys and treats?  Read below for some more creative gift ideas! 

  • Collars:  Personalized collars complete with their name, owner’s name, and/or owner’s contact information make great gifts! 
  • Leashes:  A new, stylish leash to match their personalized collar because…why not? 
  • Microchip:  Having your pet micro-chipped is a great way to increase the likelihood that your pet will be reconnected with you should little Fido ever run away! 
  • Water and Food Bowls:  Treat your pet to new food and water bowls!  At the very least, be sure to clean their existing ones weekly to avoid buildup of bacteria!   
  • Photos:  Get photos of your pet to create a scrapbook, photo album, or to hang their portraits on the wall! 
  • Bedding:  Sometimes a new pet bed can make all the difference in your pet’s sleep!  Pinella just got a new orthopedic bed and hasn’t “barked out” any complaints! 
  • Books:  Treat yourself, the dog owner, to a new book about dog behavior, dog language, and/or the significance of the human-animal bond!  Some of my personal favorites are Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation as well as Alexandra Horowitz’s Being a Dog and Inside of a Dog:  What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. 
  • Training Classes:  Training your pet is not only fun and rewarding, but it also makes for a well-behaved pup!
  • Vet checkup:  Although it might not be fun for Fido, you can help to ensure your pet’s health and wellness via a checkup at the vet!

As always, thanks for reading!  If you have any other suggestions for safe, pet-friendly treats, toys, and fun gift ideas, I invite you to leave them in the comment section below! 🙂

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe “pawliday!”
-T.

“What It Means To: Have a [Spoiled] Loved Dog!”

This is the story of a girl who cried and whimpered but changed my whole world…

Hey there, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers, and special shout-out to those of you who recognized my rendition of the early 2000s hit, Absolutely (Story of a Girl), by Nine Days!  😉


This is my story of how I spoil love my dog, Pinella, unconditionally.  She is the best friend I didn’t know I needed, and I never could have anticipated the positive impact she’s had on my life!

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Pinella and I just celebrated our second “Happy Gotcha Day” on December 14!

When I volunteered to raise Pinella as a service dog, I was apprehensive about how I would ever afford to house her.  As a college student with a job that paid my residence hall room and board, I worried about whether or not I could provide her with enough toys, dog bedding, or food that was probably more nutritious than my own.  Fortunately, we were heavily and courteously supported.  Family and friends took care of purchasing bedding and puppy food.  A professor of mine provided Pinella and I with training treats.  Graciously, my supervisors even donated toys galore, treats, and a brand new leash (Thank you for your support, Kathy and Sharon.)!  Worriment about material possessions aside, I was certain of one thing:   My love for animals and my passion for the service dog world reassured me that I could provide Pinella with endless, unconditional love.

 

By her first birthday, Pinella had more toys than she knew what to do with.  If you’re a pet parent like myself who cannot resist grabbing your furry friend a new dog toy every time you head to Target, you will likely relate to the following statements:  “What does your dog need another toy for?  He/she is so spoiled!”

Here is my counter-argument:  Define spoiled.  (Really, I’m curious — comment below on how you define what it means to spoil your pet!)

Instead of spoiled, I prefer to think of it as being lovedDisclaimer:  If your pet does not have a stockpile of the cutest and latest squeaky toys, does that mean they are not loved?  Of course not!  If you provide for your pet emotionally, don’t neglect their basic needs, and offer safe shelter, you are doing just fine!  In that scenario, squeaky toys or not, your dog is “spoiled” with your love and attention.

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When she can’t pick one, she picks two!

All of that aside, here are some of the reasons why I continue to “spoil” my pet with material goods:

1.  Toys keep her occupied:  A pup occupied with toys is a pup who doesn’t become occupied with chewing furniture or your favorite shoes when you come to visit.

2.  Pure joy:  Aside from the happiness Pinella displays when I join her at home after a long day at work, school, etc., nothing beats seeing her joyful, tail-wagging, playful demeanor when she is about to be presented with a new toy (which, by the way, is sometimes as simple as an old water bottle or wrapping paper tube)!

3.  Stimulation:  As a previous service dog in training, it was essential to expose Pinella to various different stimuli.   I have merely chosen to maintain that stimulation and promote mental fitness through toys such as the tricky treat ball!

4.  Health and Exercise:  Leashes and walking harnesses are necessary if you are walking your dog regularly (as you should).  Keeping a few toys on-hand is additionally useful for those rainy days when a rousing game of indoor fetch is warranted!

5.   Comfort:  I am well aware that, simply put, dogs do find comfort in sleeping on the floor.  However, if I can provide a comfortable bed and a spot to call my pet’s own, why shouldn’t I?

In quoting the famous saying, “I work so my dog can have a better life,” it has become my mission to continuously strive to provide Pinella with an enriching quality of life.  To me, pet ownership is about offering unconditional love, providing for them physically and emotionally, and “spoiling” them (as finances allow, of course).

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Thank you for reading!  Be sure to Like and Follow Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter.  Feel free to leave comments below on how you “spoil” your pets!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post coming very soon entitled:  Dog Gift Buying Guide! 🙂

-T.

 

 

“What It Means To: Have a Brother For a Best Friend!”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Blog supporters!  For those of you who are new, welcome to my blog page.  I hope you gain as much enjoyment reading this post as I have had writing it!


Story Time:


Many years ago, my parents decided to sit my sister and I down to tell us every “baby” of the family’s nightmare….you’re getting a sibling!  My sister was ecstatic.  I was devastated.  What the heck did I want with another sibling?  It wasn’t until my mom let me in on a little secret that I finally began to gain some excitement toward our changing family dynamics.  She told me I was getting a brother, but it was our pinky swear promise not to tell anyone.  My nine-year-old self was elated!  My thoughts:  “Mom told me a pinky swear secret?  She’s awesome!”  Now, fast forward a few months.  I knew my mom had gone to the hospital in the morning before school, and when I got off the school bus in the afternoon, the first words I shouted to my sister and cousin were, “Did she blow?”  I guess my younger self had no other logical way to ask whether or not my brother had arrived, but to answer the question as my nine-year-old self, yes, she did blow!

So we met at the hospital, and the years following were pretty typical.  I got to watch him learn to sit up, play, say his first word, formulate his first sentence (“I see the moon, and the moon sees me”), take his first steps, smash his hands into his first birthday cake, and the list goes on.  As he got older, the competitive cheerleader in me took over, and we played cheerleader.  I taught him how to do gymnastics, and my sister and I threw him up in stunts (Our parents never approved of this, but what the heck did we care?  It was fun!).  We had great times together, but let me make this clear…growing up, we hated each other.  Now, I hate the word “hate,” but boy did we really, really dislike one another!  We fought with each other constantly (seriously constantly), while he and my sister were the best of friends.

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When my sister went to college, I think he realized for the first time in his whole five years of his life that he was stuck with me, and I was stuck with him.   That’s where our story of love and friendship truly begins.  We watched movies, played games, had heart-to-heart talks, learned about each other, and watched each other grow.  I helped him with his homework and taught him how to stand up to bullies.  We took car rides together when I started driving, and we laughed and sang.  One night we sang so much, and he stopped and said, “Wow, you’re really good.  You should go on American Idol!”  He boosted my self-confidence and is the reason I have no fear singing in front of people today (My sincere apologies to those whose ears may now suffer if he lied, and I am truly terrible!).

Soon enough, it was my turn to go away to college.  After the bond that we had formed, I was devastated, but he visited me often and made more friends in my college residence halls than I did!  When I introduced Alex (whom I had met at college) to my family, it was my brother who had the final say.  Even at 11 years old, he saw it as his brotherly duty to protect his adult sisters!   Flash forward to the present, and both my sister and brother are my best friends.  We are geographically distanced from one another now, but we always find a way to reconnect.  My brother continues to visit, although I’m convinced now he does so to hang out with Alex and Pinella! 😉

Truth be told, he is one remarkable kid.  He’s kind to others, stands up to bullies (I’m still proud of him for that), is aware of his values, respects his elders, always makes time for his sisters, and is the most amazing, versatile (yet accident prone) athlete I’ve ever encountered.  He makes me proud each and every day.

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He’s the friend my nine-year-old self never knew I needed or wanted.  Because of him, I’ve learned the definition of true friendship.  I’ve learned that, through thick and thin, my brother, sister, and I will always be “the three best friends that anyone could have.”  Finally, I must admit, our parents were right when they would say, “Your siblings are your best friends.”   I may have hated the thought of a brother 15 years ago, but I am certainly thankful for him today!   Love you, BK!

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Our mom always cries looking at this picture.  Go ahead now, mom, just cry! 🙂

Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter!  As always, thank you for taking precious time out of your day to support SS&B!  For all of you dog lovers out there, stay tuned for a tail-wagging good read in my next post —  “What It Means To:  Have a Spoiled  Loved Dog!”

-T.

“What It Means To: Be a Graduate Student”

Hello, all!  Welcome back to another Sit, Stay, & Blog post!

If you are a new reader or just haven’t yet figured out my posting schedule, I ideally like to make a blog post weekly.  However, it could not be any more ironic that this post is “late” for the very same reason I’m writing it — GRAD STUDENT LIFE!

I want to start off by saying that, while being a graduate student can entail a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have led me to where I am today! 🙂

“But you’re just a graduate student!  How hard can it be?”

Have you ever heard a statement similar to this?  Perhaps you are a secretary or a sales associate, and someone has said to you, “How hard can it really be to work as a secretary?” or “You’re just a sales associate, dealing with customers can’t be that hard!”  Maybe you are even a high school student and continuously hear, “You’re only in high school, how hard can your life be?”  Here’s the thing:  It IS hard work.  We all have unique experiences and accompanying challenges, and it is the right of the individual to determine just how difficult their job is, be it as a volunteer, student, part-time worker, full-time employee, or perhaps as a stay-at-home parent!

So what does it mean to be “just” a graduate student?  For starters, it means never leaving work.  The weekend arrives, but that does not erase your 10-page paper deadline for Saturday at 11:59 p.m.  It means experiencing total exhaustion after a night of class but somehow still finding the motivation to read your textbook materials at midnight for the next day’s classes.  It can mean factoring into one’s schedule the hours of time spent on the road commuting to and from classes — precious time which cannot be used to finish assignments, read textbooks, work a part-time job, or “catch up” on sleep.

Here’s another interesting point:  Many graduate students I know, including myself, are forced to work multiple jobs (often in addition to an internship).  That means bouncing from one task to the next with little time to engage in self-care.  Words cannot describe how dangerous this can be for the mental health of students, but we do it for one reason….because we have to.  The cost of graduate school is astronomical, and unlike when one is an undergraduate student, the federal government does not offer grants to graduate students.  Society’s future doctors, nurse practitioners, licensed professional counselors and social workers, etc. are often forced to pay for graduate school solely with loans whose interest rates I’ve seen as high as 15 percent!  In a sense, the cost of schooling and accompanying loan interest rates are sadly designed to financially set people back before they even have a chance to get ahead!  Thus, the need to work multiple jobs emanates from a need to survive, pay for gas to get to and from school, for course textbooks, to eat, keep a roof over their heads (and the list goes on).

I have had many people challenge me about my decision to attend graduate school by making statements such as, “You don’t need an advanced college degree, just get out and get a job instead of digging your debt hole deeper.”  These kinds of statements deeply sadden me, and here’s why:  I would not trade my experiences in graduate school for anything….not even less debt.   I recognize that it is an intense time commitment and whirlwind of emotions, but it has undoubtedly molded me into who I am today (and who I will become).  It has provided me with unimaginable experiences including an invitation to present research at a national conference, opportunities to meet and network with resourceful colleagues in my cohort, and being blessed with professors who are supportive and committed to providing their students with a quality education.  To me, it is less about the money and more about the experience, and I am forever grateful for everything I have experienced thus far as a graduate student….and, yes, even those dreaded 3:00 a.m. study sessions! 🙂

I owe a world of thank yous to my family who supports me in every aspect possible, to Alex and Pinella for their patience with my often hectic schedule, and to my professors who continuously support and inspire me!

I thank you for the precious time that YOU took to read about my experiences as a full-time student!  I am so appreciative of my readers and thoroughly enjoy reading your comments and feedback to my posts!
Don’t forget to “Like” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!   Click the “Follow” button in the lower right-hand corner of the Sit, Stay, & Blog page and enter your email address to receive updates every time I post! 🙂

As Thanksgiving grows nearer, I want to take the opportunity to blog about things that I am thankful for, beginning with family.  Next week’s post will feature my little brother!  Stay tuned for, “What It Means To:  Have a Brother for a Best Friend!”

-T.

“What It Means To: Train a Service Dog (Going Into Public)!”

Welcome back to Sit, Stay, & Blog!  If you’re a new reader, I assure you that your paws clicked on the right page! 🙂

As part of my “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog” series, I am writing today to provide a little insight into exactly what it means to take both service dogs in-training and pets into public spaces.  When you train a service dog, there’s this general “Rule of 12” in which you should actively expose your dog to 12 new stimuli (people, smells, sounds, etc.) per day which helps with the socialization process.  This of course includes, but is not limited to, introducing your service dog in-training to public places such as  grocery stores, malls, meetings, family reunions, college classes, etc.  When I tell people about my experiences training Pinella, the most common response I get is, “Wow, that must have been great to have a dog with you everywhere in public!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, it IS unbelievably awesome to have a dog with you when you’re strolling down the produce aisle, and if it were up to me, everyday would be take your dog to work day!  However, here’s where reality kicks in:  Taking a dog into public is more than just putting on their leash and harness, getting them in the car, and walking into a store.  Let’s pose some hypothetical scenarios:  Before going into the store, your dog did their business outside.  Did you remember your scented Halloween-themed poop bags?  Your dog got so anxious, they peed…everywhere.  Did you pack the paper towels?  The restaurant manager approaches you about having your furry friend near others’ food.  Did you remember your Public Access forms that grant you and your in-training service dog access to all spaces where the public is allowed?   You see, there is a lot to think about, pack, plan, and remember before even stepping foot into a public space with your service dog.

So what actually happens when you’re in the public venue with a dog?  Do you get stared at?  Absolutely!  Do you get asked a lot of curiosity questions about what you are doing with that clicker in your hand?  No doubt!  How many times do you get asked (or not asked) if you can pet your hardworking dog who is clearly training?  Millions! (Okay, that was an overstatement!).

From my experiences, if you are training a service dog in public (or perhaps your pet in pet-friendly stores such as Lowe’s or PetSmart), it takes a great deal of undivided attention.  Your eyes are fixated on the dog’s every move, making sure you offer a click and a treat (a method of positive reinforcement) at the right moments.  Because of this intense focus, attention, and concentration, I often find that I am oblivious to others around me (Safety tip:  It’s often a good idea to have somebody with you to help stay alert to your surroundings).  This becomes especially problematic when an individual approaches me and my dog and begins petting and distracting the dog without giving any warning or indication to me, the human handler.  Whether the dog is working or in-training, distracting them and their handler can be not only dangerous, but it can also require a lot of follow-up work to regain the dog’s focus and concentration.  This is why in the service dog community we often educate about the importance of speaking only to the human, refraining from distracting the dog on all occasions, and NEVER petting the dog without obtaining permission first (and if you do get permission, always pet near the lower back, below the vest–this allows the dog to keep their eyes focused on the human handler!)

For those of you who are interested in or currently take your dog into pet-friendly stores, please read on:
As businesses become more accepting of pets in their establishments, it will become especially important to be mindful of exactly what taking a dog into public entails.  For example, if your dog exhibits signs of stress (panting, barking, aggression, etc.), it is likely in the dog’s best interest to keep him/her at home.  Additionally, if you are in a pet-friendly business and see an in-training or working service dog, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to respect that working dog’s public access rights and refrain from allowing your dog to distract the working dog from their handler (even if this means leaving the establishment altogether).  Many people do not realize that going into unfamiliar spaces can cause your dog to experience stress because they have not been prepared and socialized to the various sights, smells, sounds, objects, people, other pets, etc. that they are being immersed in.  If your usually well-behaved dog begins exhibiting behaviors that are out of the norm when out in public, this may be an indication that they are experiencing stress and not yet prepared to be in public.  Always keep in mind that, as a dog owner, it is your responsibility to recognize these behaviors and remove your pet from the stress-inducing environment!   Remember:  You always want to set your dog up for success, even if it means a little extra training and socialization before entering a pet-friendly establishment/store.  🙂

DISCLAIMER:  As with all of my blogs, my experiences and opinions may  differ from others.  However, I aim to provide insight into what these experiences were like for ME in a respectful, yet informative manner.

I hope you enjoyed reading my second post in the series, “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog.”  I certainly enjoyed creating it and absolutely love sharing my passion and imparting my knowledge with you.  Stay tuned for my next blog post, “What It Means To:  Be a Graduate Student.”  As always, thank you for your continued support!  Please feel free to leave me suggestions in the comment box for future post ideas, and don’t forget to “Follow” Sit, Stay, & Blog (SS&B) on Twitter and “Like” the SS&B Facebook page!  🙂

-T.

“What It Means To: Run a 5K!”

Welcome back!  If you’re a new reader, I would like to welcome you and thank you for checking out Sit, Stay, & Blog!

At the beginning of this year, my good friend, Cara, and I established a goal of running a marathon together (someday).  Lacking the initiative to begin training, we set out to run 5Ks  and ran our first one together in June of 2017.  Having been my first official 5K, I was a little unsure of what to expect and whether or not my body could actually physically handle it!  To say it was a successful load of fun would truly be an understatement.  In fact, it was such a success and so rewarding that I decided to embark on another 5K last weekend!

Here’s what I have noticed about running 5Ks:
The environment is unlike any other.  You arrive with both so much excitement and apprehension.  If you’re like me, you ignore the suggestion to arrive two hours early and get there with little time to spare before your run wave.  You’re frantically looking for the check-in tent and observing others doing the same.  This is when it gets interesting.  As the race time nears, you begin to notice that you are among hundreds of other individuals who share the same goal:  finish this race!  For some, it’s their first race.  For others, they’ve lost count.  As you begin running, you realize that for the duration of this run, you are experiencing something that has become so lost in today’s society.  You become surrounded by hundreds of strangers who are so supportive of YOU.  A runner yells behind you “Good job, girl!” or “We can do this, let’s go!”  When was the last time you felt truly supported by the stranger walking next to you in the grocery store?  The driver beside you on the road?  A co-worker at work?  That’s what is so amazing about running a 5K.  You get to experience what should be occurring in everyday society:  Support.

As if communal support isn’t enough to get you up and running, would a truly judgment-free zone get you motivated?  Many of us have experienced what it’s like to step into a gym and feel like all eyes are on you.  Gyms claim they’re judgment free, yet you can’t help but feel as if the person across from you lifting a 75-pound bar is judging you for your eight-pound dumbbells.  Here’s where my love for 5Ks is introduced.  When I’m running and need a five-second break, I don’t feel as if the runners behind me are judging me for my inability to push through.  I don’t feel like all eyes are beaming on me or that every step I take is being judged or ridiculed by a passerby who has clearly trained more effectively than I have.  Instead, I hear, “You’re doing great!”

The bottom line here is that 5K participants all have their individual goals:  to run nonstop for 20 minutes, finish the race in 35 minutes, beat an old finishing time.  The concern when you’re running is not what other people are doing, it’s about what you’re doing and how you can support others who embarked on this 3.1 mile journey with you!  When you cross the finish line, you’re overwhelmed with a flood of adrenaline and gratitude for your ability to physically participate in such an amazing experience, and you silently acknowledge those who can’t.  You look around at all the participants with their well-deserved medals and beam with pride.  It doesn’t matter whether you walked or ran across that finish line, all that matters is that YOU did it!

I truly hope you enjoyed reading this snapshot of my experiences running 5Ks.  If you’ve ever contemplated running a 5K or if it’s on your bucket list, I say go for it!  Nobody defines whether you run or walk, your finishing time, etc.  The joy is, YOU decide.  Go accomplish that goal, and do it for YOU!

Thank you so much for reading and  for your continued support!  Stay tuned for the second blog post in Sit, Stay, & Blog’s service dog training series, “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog (Going Into Public)!” Please feel free to leave me comments or suggestions for future posts, and don’t forget to like/follow Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter!  🙂

-T.