The Teenager and I left for a bizarre mini-round trip down to the atrium outside the Bass Pro Shop at the dying Harrisburg Mall. I say dying, because the folks at Susquehanna Service Dogs reported that they will soon have to find a new spot to do their evaluations as the mall will soon be razed, except for the Bass Pro Shop.
The mall provides an open but indoor public environment for service dog trainers, handlers and dogs themselves to work with people who may wish to pursue a service dog. These dogs are commitments, and the idea of navigating in the world with a large dog can be overwhelming.Therefore, it’s logical to let people considering a dog the opportunity to see how it feels, in public, to work with a dog.
I had to bring a support person with me today, and that was The Teenager. I worked with the trainer and the dog, Katydid, the same dog I worked with at my in-person interview in late November. The Teenager walked behind with the case manager, who asked questions about what I could use in a service animal and filmed my interactions with the dog.
I thought my right leg was being obstinate, it felt stiff and rickety. The Teenager reported that the right leg looked great, even faced the correct direction, whereas my left leg “looked like a worm on a string.”
Everyone had a great time, and I walked about 4,000 steps with my friend, Katydid, exploring the different between leash walking, strap walking and a hard harness. The hard harness makes it really easy to feel my place in the physical space and match the dog’s gait with more confidence than with the leash or the strap, but it may also be just as good to have a thicker, sturdier strap on the dog that could give the same feel as the harness and be easier for the dog to wear. And I bet over time, as the dog team works together, both the dog and the handler develop a rhythm.
The dog can be trained to counterbalance, to retrieve things, to find help, to empty the dryer, to bring your phone, to help you up, etc. Your dog can learn where your first aid kit is and to bring it when you fall and need to clean your wounds. It’s truly amazing to see these animals excitingly perform tasks, especially these ambassador dogs who will gladly work with anyone who has treats.
The Teenager and I made an adventure out of the day– stopping at Sheetz for drinks, where we discovered this Sheetz had an entire aisle of slushy machines. We loaded up on slushy and sodas, ranging from cherry Coke Zero to Mango Pepsi to Cheerwine.
The mall itself also fascinated The Teenager, with its taxidermy animals and its creepy trees in the Enchanted Forest children’s area. The creepy tree looked eerily similar to the one in The Teenager’s bedroom.
We also visited 2nd and Charles where she read The Unofficial SIMS cookbook and had to buy a new floormat for the porch, a Dungeon and Dragons mat that reads, “Roll for Initiative.” She is her father’s child.
And then on the way home we stopped at Cracker Barrel, because that’s just the tradition when this family goes on any sort of road trip. I think we had the sweetest waitress ever. And The Teenager picked out a gigantic jawbreaker and a roll of Bubble Tape bubble gum that came with a label maker emoji toy. And I picked out the butterscotch peanut butter cups which I shared with The Teen in the car.