I’ve not written about my Elly May in a while (the Corgi, not ‘the Clampett’).
Elly May is not only our pet, but she is Adele’s service dog.
I have learned a lot about service animals in the last year and counting. For example, generally speaking, there is a two-phase system of certification for such an animal. The first has to do with accessibility training. That seemed to be a sort of personality assessment process combined with building familiarity with a plethora of environments.
This experience involved training, logging copious hours under the watchful eye of a certifying organization, and an extensive and rigorous (3-4 hour) final exam. The process was almost 1 year.
The 2nd level (which started more informally in the final stages of the 1st level) has to do with the actual skills Elly May is being trained for – her hearing tasks. She will ultimately provide about a dozen hearing services for Adele.
Although she recently passed phase one with flying colors, she still has enough dog in her that – absent the vest – she will easily become distracted by a handful of very specific stimuli. To be exact, there are three that drive her crazy:
The first is pretty much only this time of year. She loves almost all weather – she doesn’t care that much for direct summer sunlight, but she is silly over snow, relishes rain, and wild about the wind.
Which brings me to her Autumn distraction: leaves. If she is de-vested, on a simple walk around the neighborhood, she jumps at leaves, chases leaves, grabs a mouthful of leaves and tosses leaves into the wind. She is no respecter of color… green, yellow, orange, red… her only weakness is she loves the next one more than the one she just caught.
Her second distraction is year-round, inside, and exclusive to our house. She can be anywhere on the 3 floors of the townhouse, but it you flap open a plastic trash bag she will come charging – barking – bouncing. It is very entertaining. It can’t be the sight of the white bag filling with air before dropping into the trash can because she comes to the sound. I guess it could be that wind thing on an interior level.
Now, she has seasonal relief from the leaf distraction. And, she has days of relief between trash bag exchanges. But her last distraction is sadly always with her.
Farmers in Pembrokeshire, Wales believed that the shorter the tail the less entangled a herding dog might become with various animals that s/he herded or with other environmental dangers.
So, over the years, the tail was all but bred out of the dog. If the nub is longer than 2 inches, breeders today will still bob or dock the tail within 5 days of birth.
All of that detail to say, by the time we saw and picked up Elly May she was tailless. She has no memory of ever having any sort of tail. In fact, I don’t know if her tail even required bobbing. All I know is she doesn’t have one.
Which brings me to her third distraction: She chases her… uh… well… where her tail could have been!
She will, when de-vested, at random times and requiring no specific stimuli, jump up and start running in circles in a senseless attempt to grab hold of that which does not exist: her tail.
It is a distraction precisely because it is imagined – maybe she suffers from tail envy after going down to the dog park.
In spite of the fact that Elly May is focused enough to pass the rigors of accessibility training as a fully certified service dog, she is still – from time to time – distracted!
I’m pretty sure I could not pass the accessibility training. I have no desire to ride up and down elevators endlessly or lay on the floor at a busy restaurant for 2 hours. And I certainly don’t want to walk beside a buggy at the local Wal-Mart for any length of time.
So, while I am amazed that Elly May could be so easily distracted by leaves, bags, and tail-less-ness, I’m not too surprised that I get distracted.
But I do wonder why I find distraction so attractive. Why does an hour of silence seem like a year? Why do I have to make noise in the car when there is no one there but me? Why is it that I simply cannot sit still for a very long period of time? I stretch and wiggle and make “spider on a mirror” hand motions and…
What is so darn (PG version of the post) attractive about distraction?
Obviously distraction can provide some relief from excessively intense assignments and defuse heated moments and remind me of a world much bigger than me. And those all seem like good things.
But, when I really do want to focus – maybe to sit with Our Father or really listen to someone else – why is it that I am so easily drawn away from the moment by distractions?
I am early in my pursuits here. Join me?