Friday, December 23, 2011

Coping with the environment

I am currently in the process of flying across the eastern half of the country towards New Hampshire. As if any has to ask, of course I hated leaving the dogs in Mississippi! I left a substantial amount of instructions regarding their care and, while I am sure that everything won’t be completely according to my directions and plan, I am sure that they will survive until Tuesday morning. The big question is going to be what will Steel be like with basically FOUR days of not doing anything. It is a scary thought as that has never happened before.  Calix will be fine as he will feel more important than ever, with the weight and entire responsibility of the house resting on his broad german shepherd shoulders. Or maybe it will be relaxing for him; he won’t have to keep track of me for four days. I am sure I am out of site/out of mind to him right now as all of his german shepherding skills appear to be visual – I don’t think my being gone bothers him as much as my coming and going and moving in seemingly random directions.
At any rate, as I was making my way through airports I got to thinking about what a challenging dog I would be right now for a trainer. First of all I don’t fly often; the last time I flew (and left a dog overnight for that matter) was when Dugan and I went to California for SAR training. That was in 2006. So I am not exactly a well seasoned traveler. I can get through the airport, because they are relatively idiot proofed, but I have to think my way through the process.
I am also not a big fan of flying.  I once was in an airplane in a thunderstorm (with a tornado nearby but the pilot didn’t tell us that until he had given up trying to land and diverted to another airport). It is not a disabling fear and I know all the stats, safer than driving etc etc, but if I could get from point A to point B WITHOUT being 35,000 feet off the ground I would be happy.
I am also traveling two days before Christmas. I have never left most of dogs overnight before so it was a project getting that organized. Plus doing last minute baking and then stuffing gifts and food into my suitcase (no way does that baby weigh 50 pounds!). So far things have gone smoothly (wishing I could take that thought back as soon as I wrote it, talk about jinxing yourself) however it is crowded. There are a lot of people. Many “festively” dressed (and I use the term loosely). Lots of people traveling with small children.  And lots of people wandering aimlessly around on their smartphones. The guy in the seat next to me actually called someone TWICE after our plane touched down – once to tell them he was on the ground and then again to tell them that we were at the gate.
So here I am, in an unfamiliar chaotic environment, moderately stressed, slightly nervous and trying to use a barely honed unfamiliar skill set. Hmmmm…I wonder why my mind drifts to dog training? I even arrived in the Chicago airport at lunchtime, not having eaten much for breakfast, and found my stomach turning at all the options at the food court. Good luck trying to reinforce me with food!  I feel perfectly normal, I just feel as though I have less brain cells, like I can't focus. I keep feeling I am going to set something down and forget it, like I did with my boarding pass in the Jackson airport. I had big plans to do some educational reading during the trip and even brought paper to take notes. However my brain could barely manage the reader’s digest I bought in the airport giftshop. I even had to bail on Sudoku, as it seemed to require too much mental effort.
If I were a dog I was training I would be suggesting that the trainer either lower the skill set required so I could be successful in the current environment, or move me further away from the stress/distraction or expect a lower than normal level of performance. I guess we are going to have to settle for the third option which would be my last choice for dog training!

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