Where puppies can get you…

March 4, 2010 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

I’m not sure if I am a substitute para educator for kids with severe disabilities because of Trego, but I know I wouldn’t be one without her.

Had I not had a puppy to keep me company, I probably wouldn’t have attended the substitute recruitment day. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure that I was qualified. And I was lonely. But when the day came to attend the event, I knew I’d at least have a puppy by my side. So I dressed her up, gave her a stern “Don’t cost me this job!” talk, and drove across town for a two-hour info session and a 15 minute interview.

Trego was wonderful. She down and undered and kept her mouth shut for the whole experience. And she gave me confidence. Her good behavior became an important talking point during the interview. I explained that Trego had exposed me to many different kinds of people. And that while I was teaching her how to be a good dog, she was teaching me how to teach. I didn’t know then how true that really was.

I’ve been subbing since October, and every day I put my puppy-raising skills to use. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that children, or children with disabilities, are the same as puppies. No, I’m saying that I treat my puppies-in-training to be assistance dogs like children. Like people. And these furry “people” in my life have taught me that consistency is important. And that having expectations is not the same as being mean.

A large part of puppy raising, also, is explaining what I’m doing to all different kinds of people. Trego taught me how to tell children about her job and her future. And how to tell adults. And how to tell people who don’t believe puppies-in-training should be allowed in public places. The patience and ability to concisely explain puppy-raising that I have gained through these interactions helps me to interact with teachers, other para educators and students’ parents.

I know that I work as a para educator because of Trego. And I know that I’m good at my job because of Trego.

But I love my job because of me.

I love that every day is a puzzle. Every child is a puzzle. And every day and with every child, I have the chance to truly make a difference.

I am starting to look in to master’s programs in special education so that I can bring these two loves (my dogs and my job) closer together. I think I’d like to have my own classroom and a social dog to assist me. Right now, that’s the life plan. And it really is all because I raised Miss Trego.

This week, I expect to hear the results of Trego’s health evaluation. Her hips, eyes and pretty much everything else needs to be in working order so she can go on to have a long working life. If she does not pass this health test, then she will be “career changed” as a pet*.

Trego helped me prepare for a career in special education. And today (or tomorrow, or sometime soon) I hope to hear that I helped Trego prepare for a career as a service, guide or social dog.

I’ll let you know when I know!

Love from Sacramento,

Becka (Beale is at work with Dad)

*I have asked that KSDS put off notifying me of a career change for Trego until after she has been placed with a family. I know that I would love to have Trego move in with us here in Sacramento. However, when I took on Beale, I decided that Trego would need to find another home. Trego loves wearing her vest and going out in public. I am not willing to make her stay home while Jack and I take Beale out in public. If Trego is career changed, she will go to a family that has never taken her in public. Maybe (I hope) that will be easier for her to understand.

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