“Tell us,” one lady in the audience requested, “what a typical day is like for Beverly.”
“Wow. It varies so much,” I responded. “Some days are terribly boring. She might go for a short walk or two, but she basically spends most of the day sleeping next to me or Steve, while we’re working at our desks. Other days she might spend the morning grocery shopping or — most thrilling — at a puppy social. Or she might be giving a presentation like this one.”
Truth be told, Beverly and I don’t do much public speaking. But last week I got a call from the volunteer coordinator for CCI’s Southwest region, asking if we could appear before a class of seniors at the Joan Kroc center in eastern San Diego to talk about what’s involved in raising a service dog. Since we had nothing special scheduled for that time slot (10 a.m. this morning), I was happy to accept.
I’d guess some 50 or 60 folks filled the seats in the center’s “Rolando Room,” which made it feel like our effort to get there was worth it. Moreover, the audience seemed to hang on my words, and after I talked for a half hour or so, many asked perceptive questions. Beverly, I’m happy to report, was on her best behavior. She went Down at my command, and although she occasionally got bored and stood up, she immediately resumed her position when I redirected her. She gazed up at me adoringly, appearing to hang on my every word.
The folks in the audience asked about everything from how the dogs are named to what happens to those who don’t make it to what I thought about folks who try to pass off their pets as being service dogs (even those who’ve had no training.) I enjoyed trying to answer them all, including the follow-up question posed by that lady who asked about Beverly’s typical routine. What she really wanted to know, she clarified, was whether we trained our puppies for a certain period of time every day. I told her that Steve’s been making an effort to go out in the late afternoons for a short training session. But more often than not, the training was interwoven into the fabric of each day — Stays, Downs, Waits, and other commands issued as the context dictated. And occasionally, opportunities to try and be good in front of an audience.