This week has been really eventful. It feels like I’m constantly on the move between training Tank, going to appointments , and keeping my family happy with a clean house and good wholesome meals. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone and I can feel the effects. My anxiety is through the roof, the pain in my back is damn near intolerable and the nightmares won’t stop. I have to keep pushing through my comfort zone in order to learn how to deal with my PTSD because I’m tired of letting it affect everything in my life.
Tank and I had our first public training session last Tuesday and I’m excited to say we did better than I anticipated. We met Lindsay and Josh at a nearby Walgreens. It was ten below outside with a wind chill of negative twenty, so it was cold to say the least when Tank and I jumped out of the car and ran over to a bank of snow to pee. After a few seconds of being on the concrete,Tank started hollering out every step he took limping on his paw. I rushed him inside as quick as possible and stood around the corner of the entrance away from the doors. He stopped whimpering when he started warming up.
Lindsay had me walk through the store at a slow pace taking everything in as we saw it while she watched. Tank did excellent following my cues to “leave it” or “let’s go” when I wanted to move. He was also really calm which kept me calm. I felt better in that moment out in public with Tank than anytime by myself since coming home from Iraq.
Not much happened on Wednesday. I stayed inside the house with Tank to keep from the bitter cold. I woke up tired as ever, like I never fell asleep. I’m glad Tank slept through the night though. I hate having to go out in the freezing cold in my PJ’s, especially in the middle of sleep.
I’ve been dreaming a lot these past few months. Sometimes nightmares, but usually it’s a weird story line like I’m leading a school group on a field trip or fighting other people with magical powers. My mind is always busy thinking whether I’m awake or sleep and it is draining.
I’ve noticed that Tank has dreams too. Right before I go to bed he usually sleeping with his nose twitching and sniffing as his paws jerked fast, like he’s prancing on the ground. Sometimes he growls or moans. I wonder what he dreams about sometimes. I make sure to lay my hand on him gently, it usually gets him to calm down without waking him up.
Patti from Project Delta text me that night to let me know she received Tanks working vest and I’d get it on Thursday for our public training at Lowes. That text made me happy because yay! Tank gets to start rolling with me everywhere I go, but at the same time I’m on the edge because there will be a lot more people, blind corners and noises than in Walgreens, so I thought I couldn’t handle it.
After taking a step out of my comfort zone, Tank and I had an experience at Lowes that wasn’t joyful or disappointing. Tank got his black vest with ” Service dog in training!” and ” Do Not Pet” patches on it. It fit him well and he looks super official in it. I was nervous at first being in a huge store with tons of people and loud sounds, all huge triggers for me.
Tank was real calm and collected when we first went in. He stayed by my side without yanking on the leash to sniff stuff. I liked the fact that he looked down every isle when walking past. It took some of the burden and fear away from me, but I still felt the need to be aware . My anxiety went through the roof a couple of minutes into the store because there was a guy driving around on a floor cleaner and people kept walking suddenly around corners in front of us. Tank put some distance between us and them. I had to stop for a minute to recollect myself. Tank placed his forehead on my leg with a good amount of pressure. It felt like he knew I was distressed. I reached down and started petting him until my anxiety subsided.
When I was ready I tried giving Tank the cue to walk, but he wouldn’t listen. Josh said it was because he was telling me that I wasn’t ok. It took a few minutes of grounding myself before Tank sat next to me on his own, looking up at me ready to listen. The rest of the time was spent walking up and down isles. Josh showed me how to use clutter in the isles to my advantage to keep distance between us and people.
We stopped in an aisle to take a break when I noticed that before Tank sat next to me, he sniffed around and mad sure no one else was around. It’s nice to know that this stuff comes naturally to him. I feel like my anxiety doesn’t peak as much when he has my back. I noticed that he didn’t pay any attention to Josh’s dog the whole time we were in the store, he just did his job. Usually he’s whimpering or barking at her when their in the same room.
I was disappointed that we didn’t get to keep the vest today. Josh said we needed more practice in public before we go out on our own. I hate the fact that we have to wait. Every time I have to leave him at home I notice a change inside of me. I think dark things like hurting people or afraid something is going to happen to me. It makes me angry and highly anxious all the time. I’m not in such a dark place when I have Tank with me. It’s like there is a dark side of me that takes control of my emotions when I’m on my own and I feel drained by the time I get home.
I head straight for Tank as soon as I walk through the door to see his excitement to see me when I let him out of his crate. After playing with him and giving him a good scratching, I felt a little bit lighter and happier inside. It’s like magic!