Saturday, April 19, 2014

Service Dogs and Self-Esteem

I think Isaac has, on the whole, been good for my self-esteem.  But it's not a simple issue.  So little is with me, huh?  But really, it was not like, get service dog, get self-esteem.  I wish it was that easy, but no.

When I first got Isaac, I think in some ways it was hard on my self-esteem.  I felt guilty and bad about myself when he was not a perfect service dog and when I was not a perfect service dog handler.  Of course, neither of us were perfect.  We still aren't, though we are better at working together after nearly 18 months of practice.

And I still feel guilty if he does something I think I should have prevented.  I'm trying to think of an example.  The last thing that comes to mind at the moment is last Halloween at that Halloween party when his happy wagging tail knocked a dish of candy corn off a table.  I wasn't angry at Isaac for that.  I was upset with myself for not noticing the dish of candy and positioning him where his tail wouldn't knock it off.  And yeah, that was six months ago.  It seems like there should be something more recent than that but if so, it's not coming to mind right now.

The fact that I'm having trouble thinking of a more recent incident, I guess, shows those things don't happen much anymore.  When I first got Isaac, they happened a lot.  I'm not sure it's a matter of me dealing with those things any better now.  I wish it was that, because we are all imperfect beings and, you know, shit happens.  But I think maybe it's just that it happens less often these days.

I don't think this is unique to having a service dog.  It's more about just learning something new.  When we first learn something new, we make mistakes.  Often, a lot of mistakes, until we learn and get better at it.  Well, that's hard on my self-esteem.  I feel incredibly guilty about making mistakes, even little ones.

Now that Isaac and I work better together, though, and I don't make so many mistakes, I think he's good for my self-esteem.  Unconditional love always is, isn't it?  And not just that, but Isaac thinks I am super terrific.  After all, I give belly rubs, I have thumbs and therefore can serve up hotdogs and other treats, and I came up with great ideas like let's spend the afternoon at the doggie beach.  There's something nice about someone always thinking you're the smartest, funnest, most wonderful person ever.

Of course, I also have a cat.  Cayenne will make sure I don't get a swelled head.

Now, sometimes I feel guilty about not being able to take better care of Isaac.  Rationally, I know he is a very well cared for doggie.  But, like, if I have a day or two when I am in a lot of pain and very fatigued and have to spend most of the day on the couch, I feel bad because I know Isaac would rather be going for a walk or doing something fun. 

At times like those, I think cats would be better for my self-esteem.  Years ago, when I lived alone with Cayenne and my other cat, Eileen, I loved the fact that neither of them minded in the least if I wasn't able to get out of bed.  In fact, Eileen was delighted if I spent the day in bed.  She loved bed.  She would just curl up with me and snuggle all day.

Isaac doesn't do that and I think he may be disappointed if we don't get to have a long walk or play much for a day.  But even then, it doesn't feel like a judgement.  It's more like being disappointed if it rains all day and we can't play outside.  He doesn't think I'm a bad person if I am in pain and exhausted and spend most of the day sleeping, just like he doesn't think I'm a bad person if it rains all day.  And that is good for the self-esteem, never to be judged that way.

I think the fact that Isaac allows me to be more independent is also great for my self-esteem.  I hate asking people for help but I don't mind asking Isaac.  The other day at Mike's, when I knocked a book on the floor and Isaac was able to pick it up for me, I felt really good about that.  I felt really good that I didn't have to get Mike to help me.

And you know, although the learning curve was steep for me, though it was stressful learning how to handle a service dog, I do feel a sense of accomplishment and pride about it all now.  I love teaching Isaac something new.  I love the feeling I get from being able to accomplish that.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about how Isaac doesn't think you're a bad person if it rains made me smile. I have a dear cat named Lelou, and she goes outside with me very often and sits on my shoulder. We have gotten stuck in the rain a few times, and every time it happens, she gets very offended and seems to think that I'm the one raining on her. Dogs and cats are so different from each other; it's funny.