Arriving in Colorado Springs

We arrived in Colorado Springs on Sunday, after a 900+ mile drive.  Sunday afternoon was the welcome session for our group of families receiving Angel Service Dogs.  There are families and individuals here from California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Virginia.  The individuals here are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, sage, soy, wheat, and even more.  Benjamin felt fast camaraderie with the gang of 7 to 13 year olds hanging around together, and he was reflective about the fact that others shared severe allergies – and that some others here have food challenges that are potentially more complex because of their multiple allergies.

The first formal session was an “operational risk assessment” session.  The facilitator teaches strategic theory and other courses at the Air Force Academy, and he walked through how to “optimize operational capability and readiness by managing risk to accomplish the mission with minimal loss.”  (I think that’s military-school language for: Our goal is to live as full a life as possible by making good risk decisions.)  I really liked his approach of describing a metric for measuring the possible hazard multiplied by the vulnerability of the victim equaling the risk level – and then you decide if the risk is acceptable by asking whether you can implement sufficient controls to minimize the risk to an acceptable level.  Again, that’s a long way of saying that the facilitator described a process of assessing the likelihood of the situation for a potential deadly allergen, the vulnerability of the person (Benjamin) to that allergen, and the level of “controls” that could be implemented – and then asking whether the situation was still worth doing.  We talked with Benjamin that this is a method of decision-making that we’ve been trying to do for him and with him for a very long time, and that we’re trying very hard to hand off to him.  We have always wanted him to live absolutely as full a life as possible while avoiding unnecessary risks.  That’s a very hard thing to balance and figure out.

The last part of the session for the evening was an exercise where Benjamin had to simulate the thought process of thinking through a risk situation and assessing it.  He did a great job identifying potential problem spots and how he would try to avoid or fix the problems.

Benjamin was disappointed that he did not yet get his dog Tracy.  BUT, he did a great job with the very large carnival-sized stuffed animal dog that they gave to him to keep up with (wearing a service-dog vest and everything).  The thinking is that he needs to start taking it everywhere he goes already, taking it to potty and eat etc., so that he gets used to the dog right now.  He will get the actual dog Tuesday night.  The “wait” is just so that there is enough time to teach him (us) how to handle the dog properly so that the first meeting is really successful and sets the tone for a great working relationship, rather than letting the dog and handler settle into any bad habits from the beginning.

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  1. First full day « Benjamin's BlogDog

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