Another Successful Day Out in the World
Bradley and I ventured into the city for the second time this week. We were out a couple more hours than we stayed out, the other day, and had a far more robust experience; almost all of it was extremely positive!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the same city that Bradley was raised in. While I know it’s not “home,” to him, there’s no doubt that he’s very much in his element, in this environment. Not only is it a pleasure to know how at ease he is, among all the hustle and bustle, but it’s also extremely beneficial to me, to feed off of that soothing energy. It makes an experience that has the potential to be so stressful that it wouldn’t be worthwhile, the exact opposite: Rewarding and psychologically liberating. (Remember, this is coming from someone who doesn’t have access to the outside world at least 5 days out of each week!)
Coffee With Bradley
As it does, every time Bradley and I go to the city, on our own, the day began with coffee. And, of course, free Wifi. I always seek out a seat within reach of an outlet, so I can plug my Mac in. That usually lands me in the same seat, each time we go there, unless it’s already occupied. Today I noticed that a little nook, right by the entrance to the coffee shop was completely unoccupied and came fully equipped with an outlet with my name on it.
I always prefer, not necessarily to isolate myself, but to strategically seat myself where I’ll have my back ‘grounded’ to a wall or any placement that will grant me the greatest sensory awareness of the rest of the establishment; I want to be able to see, hear and otherwise take in everything that is going on in front of me, rather than worry about what’s going on around me. So, today, instead of taking my usual seat near the outlet, in the middle of the seating area, I chose this relatively secluded little nook. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much with anxiety, as there was a locked entrance to another part of the building about a foot away from where my table was. Every time someone approached that door and went in, I jumped out of my skin. I still think the change in perspective was worth it though.
Not only did I get to maintain the awareness of my environment that serves as a security blanket, but I also got to observe so much more than I usually do, at the other table. I was able to infer which customers were regulars, listen to some interesting conversations between them and the baristas (Hey, I’m blind- if I can’t “people watch,” I’m left with “people listen!”) Being as far at the end of end of the introversion spectrum as I am, this was about as exciting as it gets for me. I’m not embarrassed to admit that!
I sat and observed for a couple hours, in between sipping my coffee and “Facebooking.” I had planned to use that time for blogging, but I was too entranced. I found myself wishing I had a reason to sit there every morning, so I could habitually drift away in my introverted euphoria. I suddenly had a nagging urge to be a writer. There are many things I am, but don’t let what you’re reading fool you; a writer is not one of them. If I do ever take up “real” writing of any value, at any point, I’ve decided it will be entitled Coffee With Bradley.
Time For a Stroll
After we wrapped up all of that important business at Starbucks, we headed out, without a clue as to where we’d go. I say “we,” Because sometimes Bradley actually does know. Sometimes we both know, but usually, at least one of us knows. This time neither of us did.
The decision was made for me. Bradley was giving me that special look. It was time for his mandatory *second* morning potty break. Surrounded by sidewalk and storefronts, we had to wander a bit to find a place that would work. I’m still not sure whether or not Bradley forgives me for my choice of locations, but he was a trooper and did make it work. Good boy.
We took the long way around, to get back to where we started and proceeded to the large Town Green. Once we got there, it was, of course, time for pictures.
From there, we moved on to our final destination, with an unplanned pit stop along the way- I had to satisfy my curiosity about a new-ish tattoo studio that I had yet to become acquainted with. The artist I spoke with adored Bradley and didn’t breathe a hint of denying us access upon coming in for an appointment. Bradley was mildly annoyed that it was hotter in there than it was outside, in the breeze.
Again, our journey to our final destination: the smaller park, in the historic Italian part of the city, where we used to live. We encountered a myriad of navigational challenges (i.e. training opportunities) along the way. Dealing with confusing traffic crossings, uneven sidewalks, bicycles passing within inches, obstacles in the sidewalk and road rage were among some of Bradley’s most impressive performances. One of these days it’ll sink in that I actually did train Bradley well enough to know what he’s doing, but his proficiency will never cease to awe me.
After safely arriving at our destination, we sat at a bench and relaxed. I took some more photos and we did some more sitting. Bradley got off-duty time to walk around the area surrounding the bench and sniff…and potty again. While I was cleaning up after him, we were graced with the presence of a Flexi-Dog (at the end of the line, as usual). Fortunately, in this particular situation, Bradley was off duty, so he was allowed to greet another dog and the other dog was, short of the forwardness of the approach, very well mannered.
Chaos In the Park
Shortly after, I put the harness back on. It was getting closer to the time I would be picked up and I thought we may go for a short stroll before meeting up with my mother-in-law. Before leaving the serenity of our bench, chaos erupted and things went downhill rapidly.
There is an elementary school across the street from the park and they use part of the park for recess and other outdoor activities. Today, unfortunately, I happened to be in that area, when the kids were released from school for the day. I had no idea that the children would be coming into the park. Before I knew it, the park was filling up with screaming elementary school-aged students. A huge group of kids, screaming and acting as crazy as students just released from school could be expected to, they practically stampeded over to the bench where Bradley and I were seated.
In hindsight, I really wish I would have gotten up and walked away as soon as they started coming in our direction. I’m really not sure why I didn’t. Children, in general, have been a challenge, in the past, for Bradley and I. When he was younger and still in training, even once he got past the tendency to solicit attention from strangers, he maintained a soft spot for children and would turn into mush, upon the approach of a child. Tackling that challenge was an uphill battle, that I wasn’t sure we would ever win. However, after many months of hard work, Bradley eventually reached the point in his training, proofing and maturity where he was able to ignore a screaming, wild toddler, just as effortlessly as any other environmental distraction. Today, until the scales tipped against us, I was completely confident in his ability to dismiss the children, just as casually as he had glanced at the pigeons that had previously inhabited that space.
The large group of young children were quickly upon us. I had no tangible escape route, so I had to manage this recipe for disaster. I should point out that I was far more disturbed by the situation than Bradley was. He wasn’t worried or fearful, but, being aware of my own rising anxiety, I was terrified that he would experience the same reaction. That was my second mistake. I awkwardly juggled the best handling techniques I could bring to the front of my mind with regulating my own acute anxiety, while managing the generally out of control group of children on my own. It was certainly a scenario I would have sworn I never would have found myself in, before it happened.
I made every effort I could to remain calm and answer the kids’ demanding “questions,” while assertively instructing them to keep their distance and to stop yelling at Bradley. I admit, I fell short. I wish I handled the situation better. I was able to capture some of the experience on video, once the children had begun to disperse. The group began to form again and I stopped recording so I could handle it.
Here is the video I got. I welcome and appreciate any feedback about what can be observed, in this video, from those who are in a position to make such an assessment. Please remember, I was near the end of my threshold and was doing the best I could, in that moment. (Note: The salivation is the result of getting treated- it’s entirely typical for him to salivate like that when receiving treats. The head scratching, on the other hand, is likely a displacement behavior.)