I had been so looking forward to therapy dog training for Sophie. In my imagination, it was a combination of the classes we enjoyed in Arcata, plus some of the approach and style from one of my favorite books on dog training, Through A Dog’s Eyes, (<–affiliate link) by Jennifer Arnold, who trains service dogs.

In reality, not so much.

I took an online personality test recently which was somehow related to branding, although I can’t find it again. As I hit Return on the final question, I confidently expected to be told that I was a people-pleaser, highly motivated to get good grades and approval from other people. Literally, I’m the kind of person who pats myself on the back when my car insurance app praises me for my good driving. Instead, the personality test told me I was a rebel who didn’t like following other people’s rules. Whoa! Everyone I’ve told this to in real life has laughed, I think in agreement with the test. And, in fact, with a little more thought… well, yes. It is perhaps more apropos than I would have guessed.

It’s relevant, because the therapy dog classes are heavily obedience-focused. Dogs must obey. I felt not great when they were passing out prong collars as class began — okay, it’s one thing to say that people can use them for a little while, another entirely to provide them. When a dog was whimpering and crying behind me, I felt more not great. It wasn’t my dog — obviously, the moment Sophie is whimpering, I’m absolutely done — but still…

And then I obsessed about it all weekend. I didn’t do any of my happiness certification training, I didn’t do any of my branding and marketing research, I didn’t write, and I wasn’t happy. I kept thinking that I needed to give the classes more of a chance. That they were for Sophie and that I should see whether she enjoys it before making any decisions.That I’d already paid for the first month and all the accoutrements, and so I should at least stick it out for a few weeks. That I need things that get me outside of my house and opportunities to meet people, and that Sophie would just make such a good therapy dog, and she also needs stimulation…

Sunday afternoon I had to force myself to go to the writer’s group in downtown Sanford that I loved in November and December. I kept telling myself that I really liked it before and it’s not like I could just do it later if I didn’t go, but I was just in such an off mood. I wanted to crawl under the covers and be grumpy. But I forced myself to go, and within the first ten minutes, someone said something that triggered the thought, “Trust your instincts.”

Trust your instincts.

Have my instincts been wrong before? Maybe, but I don’t remember a time. Have they been right before? Absolutely. Multiple times. The moments when I knew something felt wrong but I did it anyway. Sending R to summer camp once, ugh. 

This therapy dog training program feels wrong to me.

Also, trying to make my dog “obedient” is not how I want to spend my time and use my energy. I’m not convinced it makes sense, either — why does a therapy dog need to be a perfect loose-leash walker? Why is a good “heel” the priority? Why should dogs walk in circles and be forced to sit? It’s a “do what I say because I say it” attitude, when Sophie, and my relationship with Sophie, has thrived on trust and communication. 

So, yeah. I suspect that Sophie is not going to become a therapy dog, at least not through this program. I did do some more research on other dog training programs in Orlando — my whole goal was for her to have fun and stimulation, because she loved the classes we did in Arcata and was learning so much, and doing so well — but, unsurprisingly, Orlando seems to lean a lot more to the obedience, discipline, shock collar schools of thought. It is just not me. 

Anyway, on this cold gray Monday morning, I am extremely over-tired — my brain was running in circles through most of the night, it felt like — so I am not going to make any decisions today. But I think it’s probably not going to be much of a productive day either, which is a pity because there is so much I could be working on. So many things to learn, so many things to do. But they’ll all still be there tomorrow. 

After walking in circles for a while, Sophie was tired enough to be a peaceful dinner companion for pizza over in Mount Dora. But when I tried to put her harness on her for some more training time the next day, she went and hid under the bed. Not a great sign.