When I began this challenge, I told myself that I wouldn’t discuss Covid-19 and its effects on me or the impact that it has made around the world. I like to dwell more on the positive, but I also realize that since this is my blog, it is important to me that I am honest and authentic. With that said, please take care of you. If you don’t want to read about this, don’t worry. I’ll probably have something a little lighter tomorrow. Continue reading “UBC Day 2: Standing By, All Hands on Deck”
It is very late and I don’t know how I am going to do all of the things that need to be done. Every time I sit down to do something important, I become easily distracted.
Today was relatively easy. Obedience went extremely well with all the toys squeaked, balls thrown, treats tossed, and dogs running about while I gave Treble commands. There was a noticeable difference in her attitude and willingness to follow commands. I felt very good about today’s session.
After breakfast, our final report was read and Treble and I received positive remarks and some things to continue to work on. My instructor was excellent and I learned so much from her. Treble and I were well matched!
We practiced going through airport security. The way that I like to do it, which consequently lines up with the way the school teaches it, is to put the dog on a long leash and go through the metal detector. The dog should be sitting at the entrance of the detector. Then once you are through, call the dog to your side. When they go through, the harness will make the metal detector go off and then said puppy gets the pat down. It works like clockwork, but sometimes TSA employees don’t know the process or may ask to hold your dog. At no time will my dog be outside of my control, which means that no, they don’t get to hold her leash.
Then we practiced getting the dog in the perfect position for being on the airplane. I have always struggled with this, but ideally, if not in the bulkhead section, their butts should be beneath the seat in front of me and their head facing me. I have long legs so it can feel chaotic. I plan on having dog treats for my one-time bribery of Little Miss Trebsie.
We worked on getting in and out of cars. Treble sometimes needs a little boost, but I think the best bet will be for me to remove her harness before getting in to a vehicle, which seems like a pain in the butt, but I’ll do it. The handle is a long one and it’s difficult for long legs and long handle to reside in the same place.
I spent some time doing laundry and packing up half of what I need, but I somehow need to figure out how an eight pound bag of dog food is going to get packed in to my suitcase. I’m trying not to stress out. I’ll try to do a little more packing before I head to bed.
After dinner, we had dog massage training. I already know how to do this, and this is my least favorite part of class. I think it’s a lot to ask to have 12 students and 12 dogs sitting on a floor. Some dogs handle it better than others, but it feels very chaotic. Massage itself is extremely beneficial to dogs, but I really dislike the logistics. This also may have a lot to do with the fact that my 2nd guide dog ran out of the session, leading eleven other dogs to short lived freedom, but who’s asking anyway? It was about eight years ago but it definitely colored my experience.
Tomorrow is graduation and that is exciting. The culmination of hard work will pay off. We got our going home packets that included a whole lot of information, including Treble’s puppy raiser. I really hope she is able to come to the graduation. I want to meet her and have a great conversation with her. I want to profusely thank her for raising and then returning such a beautiful, vibrant, amazing, incredible, sassy, stubborn, cuddly, focused, sweet guide dog. I hope that she is extremely proud of herself.
before I close, I want to reiterate that this experience has been amazing. Being able to share the good and bad moments has helped me put so much in to perspective.
I want to make it very clear that this experience is solely my own. I cannot speak for anyone else. There are so many experiences that can happen when one goes to guide dog school. Sometimes, people go home without a dog because it just didn’t work out. Sometimes, the first match doesn’t work during week one and there needs to be a dog switch. I have never had that happen, but it can take place. I have never participated in the Action program, which is a program that has someone in class for two weeks and then receive home training. I have never home trained with a dog before, and so that experience would be very different. I have only ever attended guide dog schools, rather than owner train a dog. I have attended two guide dog schools in my life, but there are others whose philosophies and training methods would mean that the outcome would reshape the experience in a new way. People often think that one size fits all, when it comes to getting a guide dog but that is not the case.
I can only speak for me, my experiences, and what I have learned. I am not perfect, but this partnership is going to be sound. I can feel it.
Breakfast: bacon and cheese sandwich
Lunch: Grilled Cheese sandwich
Dinner: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and delicious red velvet cookies that one of my classmates made. I ate some of the batter and I’m still here! You can’t take this raw cookie dough away from me!
This morning’s obedience session was like trying to make it past the mini-boss before getting to fight the big boss on challenge mode.
Treats were flying, Chestnut the black lab of distraction was running around, and someone tossed a ball right at Treble while I was giving her commands. Yet, she was expected to do all that I asked of her quickly. I gave her lots of treats and tons of praise.
After breakfast, we headed to PetSmart so that they could get practice guiding and being heeled inside of the store. Now, I personally don’t like to go to pet stores with the expectation of my guide dog guiding me around. To me, it feels like someone giving me an Amazon gift card, setting me loose on the site, and telling me not to buy books. It would be a tall order. I can only speak for myself, though, and if I want to stop at a pet store for something before heading home then there is that expectation. I typically like to hang out in the front and ask someone to get what I need, though.
I left the school without my purse, so no toys for Treble. One of my classmates came back with a shopping cart full of toys, food, and a couple of dog beds. I made certain to give Treble plenty of praise though because the guilt was strong.
I have ordered a dog bed for her for work, one for home, a crate, and a couple of toys. I have to make it up to my girl, especially after I scared us both by accidentally closing the door on her paw last night. The squeal of pain that reverberated down the hall is nothing I ever want to hear again.
After lunch, our supervisor set up the nature path with bicycles so that Treble could navigate around them. This was to simulate the lack of courtesy that many who ride bikes from bike share companies display by leaving them everywhere, parked haphazardly, sometimes lying on their side, or in a huge cluster of chaos and inconvenience for pedestrians.
Treble did a great job. The supervisor also rode her bike, cutting Treble off to see what she would do. Treble was having none of it and apparently was giving her some dirty looks. My girl has plenty of personality.
We said goodbye to one of our classmates today who had to leave early due to circumstances beyond his control. I’m sad that he won’t be at graduation, but I’m so glad to have met him. I will miss his sense of humor and wit.
Tonight is pretty quiet. I hear squeaky toys in the other room and treble keeps running to the door of our room and whining, so I’m going to take her down for a vigorous play session. Three more sleeps and I’ll be heading home!
Breakfast: Pancakes and bacon
Lunch: chicken strips and fries
Dinner: Ravioli and bread pudding
Today was the big day where we use all that we have learned and set our sights on Manhattan. It is said that if we can navigate Manhattan as a team, then we can do anything.
I am not really a city girl. Seattle can be busy, of course, but I don’t associate that level of busyness to say, a city like Manhattan. There are so many sights, sounds, and scents. Everything that we have been doing has culminated in to this moment of experiential learning where we get to find out what we can do as a team.
Spoiler alert: It’s all the things our instructors have been telling us all along!
I was in the group that went to Manhattan this morning on the train. my instructor was working with another student, so I got to work with someone that I did not know. She was really wonderful and I enjoyed her. She has such a great sense of humor and helped me feel comfortable. I wasn’t feeling anxious, really, except that subways really freak me out and I was a little worried about being overwhelmed.
We took the subway, which was packed. Treble lay at my feet, her chin resting on one foot. The ride was nice and she cleared me of the doors perfectly.
Let me tell you about this rock star and our walking portion of the route. This dog knows how to move around pedestrians. People weren’t paying attention to us. Often, they were on their phones or not looking at us and Treble walked around them. She walked on narrow sidewalks with delivery trucks that were unloading. Cafe tables blocked our path. Sidewalks were often very narrow and of course, there were throngs of people.
There were also a *lot* of dogs, and this little girl can be very dog distracted. I’m learning to figure her out, though, and find what is best in refocusing her. sometimes, I can find myself correcting her several times and then realizing that I need to change tactics. In the moment, it feels frustrating, but the guest instructor reminded me that I was working with Treble using a lot of consistency and that I always seemed to know what to do. This made me feel very good about my dog handling skills.
Her curb approaches are fabulous. Her crossings are wonderful. during one such crossing, a van blocked the middle of the street and there was construction happening as well. She had to take me all the way to the left, behind the van, and then back to the right. She was flawless.
We rocked the shit out of Manhattan! There are probably a lot of obstacles that I don’t even know about, but she really worked very hard. We both did, and I am so proud of us. This girl is solid, through and through.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we headed back to campus. We had equipment sales, which I opted not to buy anything at this time.
I chatted with classmates tonight and am starting to turn my thoughts toward packing, home, and acclimating Treble. We’re about to start a new journey, but right now? I am not worried about anything. We handled Manhattan, and thus, we can do anything.
Breakfast: Toast and strawberry jam
Lunch: brown sugar wings and fries
Dinner: Cobb salad where I opted to take out all that makes it a cobb. Also a red velvet bar wrapped in white chocolate that a classmate brought for us from a place called Empire Cakes. Wow, that was a whole new, delicious experience!
I should have written this last night but at some point, I hit a wall and was just too tired to even start this post. But, here we are!
After the usual of park, feed, water, and park again which is also known as Meka’s attempted extended nap time, Treble and I dragged ourselves in to obedience where they are pulling out all the stops when it comes to distractions. Treats are thrown, loose dogs are playing, Treble’s favorite toy ball is thrown. It’s a jungle out there!
It is a lot harder to get Treble to focus on me but I’m remaining consistent in my work and once she does focus, she is all in. We often have to redo commands. It’s very hard for her because she knows what she should be doing. These setups are very good for us because it’s great to see how we both work under specific pressure. I always try to be sure that we end things on a good note before making our escape.
In White plains, We did a street route and rode the bus. I have to say that I’m so glad that I have been blogging about this experience because there is written evidence of our beginnings and the confidence that I feel now. Usually, it’s all a big blur, but this has been very helpful.
after lunch, we headed to a train station to practice platform work. When we are on a train platform, the dog walks between us and the edge of the platform. We use shorelining techniques that I mentioned in another post to make certain that we are near the wall. If it is a double platform, we move carefully. There are light rail and commuter trains in my town but I don’t take them often. However, I never know what the future holds and so I am very careful to never say never and to prepare for any contingency.
Finally, we practiced attempting to walk to the edge of the platform so that we could know what our dogs would do. Treble curled in front of me, pushing me backwards and turning to the right. It is such a heady feeling to know that if I am in a situation that is dangerous and I’m giving a command that might put the both of us in jeopardy without my realizing it, Treble knows how to disobey.
After returning to campus, I hung out with my classmates for a good long time.
Our lecture was about access issues, and here is where I’d like to talk to you about some things that guide dog owners face in 2019.
Our school issues an ID with our names and pictures on them to show that Treble is a guide dog. While it is illegal for people to ask to see ID’s in their establishment, some may show them in order to help smooth the way. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am not generally that way. Probably because I tend to lose the ID, but also because it isn’t something that I *have* to show. We can face denial of service in restaurants, business establishments, hotels, ride shares like Uber and Lyft, cabs, sometimes housing, etc. Here we are in the year of 2019 and people still are not aware of what the laws are and what their rights entail. We can, obviously, be asked to leave if our dogs are not in control or if they are unkempt. We also face a lot of people who bring their pets to the store even when the store says that they are not allowed. People will quickly claim that it is their service dog. Yet said dog is often barking, lunging, growling, and generally being awful because their owners allow them to be, yet some store owners won’t get involved because they assume that if they ask that person to leave, they will be sued.
These access issues are frustrating and it can be hard to know what to do when you are in that situation. The first edict of staying calm is very difficult for me. I can stay calm but my anger goes from 0 to 100 when I know that rights are being denied due to lack of knowledge. I don’t mind explaining, but once we get past the threshold of having explained once, that is when I get cranky. I already know it’s going to be a lot harder to get an Uber and Lyft now, even though their policies state that we should not be disallowed rides. But once it happens, it requires reporting the driver, having them cancel the ride, waiting for another ride, hoping that the next driver doesn’t inadvertently cancel, etc. In the meantime, my time is being wasted and I have to expend even more energy. I do not say these things to be a downer, but this is part of making that decision to have a guide dog once again. I know that many of my friends will find this unbelievable, but it totally happens and I haven’t even tiptoed along the tip of that iceberg. Because of my involvement in a consumer organization, I know how to advocate for myself and to be more assertive, but it is easy to talk about it in the abstract and a hell of a lot harder to handle when you are in the moment. Along with outcry comes backlash, as I witnessed when someone recorded a restaurant’s refusal to serve an individual and her friends. It went viral and the comments were horrible. So, I’m not quite looking forward to jumping in to all of that. I am not a pessimist by any means, but I just know how reality worked when I had my last guide dog and I’ve watched my friends still go through it. Still, I wouldn’t change my decision to work with a guide dog for anything.
One of the highlights of my day was having a surprise visit from Lester’s instructor, Woody. It was so awesome to see her and catch up. We talked all through dinner and I got to introduce her to Treble. It was so fantastic. I gave her big hugs and I’m just so thrilled that during my time here, both she and Chrissy have come to see me.
After dinner, I spent a lot of time with my classmates laughing, telling jokes, chatting, and simply enjoying their company.
Breakfast: Toast with strawberry jam and bacon
Lunch: pasta with a vodka sauce? I think that’s what it was. It was delicious, but next time I’d like more vodka and preferably some cranberry juice.
Dinner: Jerk chicken, coconut Rice, and broccoli
Today has been a fairly good day. While it started out a little rough, it evened itself out.
After the usual, Treble and I went to obedience. We did this in a group setting with loose dogs that belong to the instructors running around, while treats were tossed to try to see if the dogs would be distracted. Treble did pretty well with a great deal of positive enforcement and some correction. These setups really teach me a great deal about patience, being quick to catch mistakes, and learning more about Treble’s personality.
Today was pretty cold and rainy, so we did indoor work. Treble did a wonderful job on the escalators, and walking through Target. Every day, I just feel more and more confident with my dog and it is a wonderful feeling. I know I can handle correcting a lot of her sniffing and a few other habits. She has become used to me, and I’m used to her. I’m seeing so much of her personality shine through.
After lunch, we headed back to campus and did some work on the stairs. We walked down the hallways and she did an awesome job in targeting the elevators.
Targeting is such a wonderful tool. With a lot of positive reinforcement and clicker training, I can tell Treble to target doors, stairs, or my room. She is spot on and it’s a fun way to teach her. It’s a great game and she’s always ready to play.
We then did a group activity which involved having our dogs sit on our left side while we dropped treats on the floor, getting closer and closer to them. If they did not go for a treat, we would say ‘yes’, and give them a reward from our treat pouch. If they attempted to get a treat off of the floor, we’d give a firm correction. We then walked around in a circle to see if they’d go for the treats or not, stopping every so often to say ‘yes’ and treat them. Treble did a very good job in all of these things, but when we got to the safe zone and I went to treat her, I fumbled and dropped it and she dove in like a yellow ball of thunder. My Treble is one tricky little diva.
Treble and Tanner had a play session in my room, and I got to see Treble take interest in a Nyla bone that she had no interest in until Tanner. She would hide the toy from him or jump around, making sure she had the higher ground. She also likes to flaunt her toys and run around. She is very feisty and savage in the way that she teases the sweeter dogs. Again, what a little diva.
After dinner, I spent quality time with my classmates. I’m thrilled to be going home but I’m going to miss them so much. Each of them has brought something wonderful and beautiful to this experience.
Our lecture tonight was all about what happens once we go home. The dogs have been used to their surroundings for about five months of intensive training. As students, we have been unfamiliar people in a familiar world. taking them home with us is now throwing them with slightly more familiar people in to completely unfamiliar surroundings. There are a lot of things to consider in terms of how to handle these things. For example, when I came home with previous dogs, I didn’t have a roommate, so now I will need to navigate introducing a new dog to her and limiting interactions, which is very hard for me. My roommate is incredibly supportive and wonderful, but this is new territory for me.
Since I’m changing time zones, Treble’s feed, water, and parking schedule will also need to change. It’ll almost be like establishing a relationship all over again without the buffer of instructors to help smooth the snags. I’ll have to be careful and limit the amount of freedom that she has in the house, head back in to work and handle so many things. We will be working on building our routes and jumping back in to things shortly after returning home. It takes about six months to a year to become a fully-fledged team. I’m up to the challenge and am looking forward to it, but it will be a time of growth and admittedly, patience.
I have lived and breathed training for these three weeks. I don’t know what’s really happening in the world right now. Now, I’m going to have to focus on Treble and the myriad other things that are happening in my life. It can be done, but I did not miss the part where you deal with early stages of this development of a team, that’s for sure.
I’m going to make myself a little vulnerable here. I deal with anxiety and depression and some days it feels utterly insurmountable. It is hard to often articulate why I might feel the way that I do or what brought on an anxiety attack, or why I suddenly go from being relatively happy to being in tears. This training is very intense and it’s been difficult to figure out what is just the stress of the class and what is the depression. I’m not good at voicing that I am hurting and I am really awful about reaching out. In some ways, I can be very stoic. Maybe I see it as a weakness in myself, maybe I just want to always portray that I am a strong badass of inner strength. Today, though, I feel like I am neither a badass or have an unending well of said strength. I’m tired and I am sad, and it feels like dealing with this on top of other things is sometimes too much.
I have a lot of go-tos when life feels difficult, but depression is like a wet blanket and feels like it splashes crappy water on everything in its path. It is also a huge liar in what it says that I am, and believe me, I’m great about beating myself up.
I want to be very honest about this experience, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that while guide dog school is an emotional and physically exhausting experience, it is not helpful to have to fight this, too. I only have so much energy. I keep plodding along, though, and trying to do little things when my mind is too overwhelmed to consider specific things to help keep me calm. I don’t want to minimize the stress that is guide dog school, though, so I guess I don’t always know what the hell my problem is at any given time. But hey, that’s something to chat with my therapist about next week, right?
So, hooray for the home stretch. This leg of the race is almost finished and I’ve learned so much along the way.
Breakfast: toast and strawberry jam
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwich
Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwich and bacon. …I love grilled cheese sandwiches!
There was no way I could have written this post last night and I’ll explain why later.
After the usual, it was time for obedience, or as I like to think of it as ‘why me right now!’ They threw everything at us. Dog treats, puppies, and so many other distractions. Maybe it was just those two and just felt like it was so much more.
We had traffic checks in White Plains which I explained earlier. The class supervisor was in a van and would do things like cut us off during the crossing of smaller streets, or drive toward us slowly. Treble Did as she was supposed to and backed up or stopped completely, depending on what was needed. I have full confidence in her ability to keep me safe in that regard. They have signs on the van that say that they are Guiding Eyes and are doing traffic training, because the general public has yelled at them, thinking that they were just a clueless driver.
I was in a lot of pain and so I did not do a second route. I did, however, talk to my trainer about the Manhattan trip and I’m leaning more toward going.
I came back here and honestly just caught up on sleep. I am so very boring.
We had a lecture and practiced giving the dogs pills, cleaning their ears, and brushing their teeth. I appreciate the ‘shove it down the hatch’ method because every dog I ever had has been a real pain about pills, whether hidden in cheese, drowned in peanut butter, or submerged in their food. The easiest and quickest way to know for sure that they’ve taken that pill is to just do it the tried and true way, at least for me.
After dinner, a bunch of us from class went out to the Yorktown Grill and had a really fun time. I asked for something sweet to drink and was originally brought a Cosmopolitan. It was so tart and tasted like sour patch kids wrapped in regret and despair. I was brought another drink, and hence my new love for Malibu Bay breeze drinks was firmly established. I had three of them and wow, they were so good.
I crashed hard after returning back to campus and have just spent the day today resting, icing and heating my knee, and trying to engage in reading again.
Spoiler alert: Books ain’t happenin’ right now.
We have reached the home stretch. I am really going to miss my classmates so much. This week is going to go by quickly. Will I do the smart thing and do laundry and pack up on Friday so that I’m not rushing to do it Saturday night/Sunday morning? I hope so!
Narrator: Reader, this will not happen. Don’t trust this new leaf attempting to be turned over.
Saturday Breakfast: bacon and toast with strawberry jam
Saturday Lunch: Uh, this is why I have to write these the day of! Maybe grilled cheese?
Saturday dinner: baked chicken, couscous, and zucchini. I do not believe that couscous and I will have a long-lasting relationship. I do not think that I can be friends with the first cous or cous the 2nd, but it is because of the texture!
After party: fries, onion rings, Southwest egg rolls, and all the breeze on Malibu.
Breakfast: grilled blueberry muffin
Lunch: skipped it because I was so tired.
Dinner: vegetable lasagna and garlic bread
I never know how to begin these posts, but here we are again on a Friday that does not feel like a Friday.
Today’s obedience session with Treble started off with a bang. Not one dog but two were running around her, often moving next to or in front of her. I also think that kibble was being tossed around as well. I kept telling myself, ‘okay, she’ll get this last down stay sequence and we can head to breakfast.
Narrator: It took six down stay sequences.
After breakfast, I took a nap and then headed out to do our country route and shorelining, which I think I explained in a different post. We walk with the dog in an area that has no sidewalks and they stay on the left hand side, close to the curb. If a car comes, we stop, turn left to the curb so that I can make sure that she hasn’t drifted, and then click and feed. I’ll be honest, shore lining is not my favorite but it’s one more tool in the arsenal. I was so glad when we were finished.
After that, I went to the souvenir shop and purchased a water bottle (apparently I want a collection of them), a collapsible bowl with the Guiding Eyes logo, a keychain in the shape of a bone which I’m sure I have and have probably lost much like I’ll likely lose this one, and a black lab stuffed animal. Don’t judge me. It was cute and soft, damn it!
I killed some time and then after lunch went to our vet lecture. Dr. B. discussed the importance of choosing a good food for your dog, getting them physicals, making sure that they are vaccinated, choosing a good vet, and a lot of other good information, but I really want to get to my favorite part. More about Treble!
Guiding Eyes has a veterinary facility on campus. They are able to keep their finger on the pulse of every dog, communicate with guide dog handlers about their dogs and work with your own vet if needed. They are supportive and can often provide a second opinion.
I took Treble over and got a year’s supply of Vectra and Heart Guard. Heart Guard is a pill that you give them once a month as a heartworm preventative. Vectra repels mosquitos, ticks, and fleas, and prevents the latter bugs from bothering your pup.
It turns out that Treble is 58 pounds. We want the dogs to be within three pounds of their target weight, which for her is 57. Her birthday is June 15 and she will be turning two years old.
Treble’s brother is also in class. Spoiler alert, his name is not Bass.
He is also a yellow lab with a brighter coloring than Treble. He is a very sweet boy and his handler and I enjoy calling them the dynamic Brother and sister pair, but not the Flowers in the Attic kind. We would have been so disappointed if they weren’t related!
The day was pretty easy. Tomorrow is traffic check day. I don’t feel nervous about that, but I’ll be glad of when we’re done.
This is the time during the class where people have hit a brick wall. we have our portion of graduation to plan, class is stressful, we’re tired, we are ready to be home, and frankly, I want to work on building new routes and establishing patterns with Treble on my own. I’m glad to be here, the instruction is excellent, but I’m just wanting to be done and introduce Treble to her new life and all of the people who will adore her.
to that end, I’m having to find ways to keep myself calm. I am doing this by taking myself away from others, watching a fun show, talking to friends. I wish I had my go-to of reading books right now, but I think I just need to listen to some podcasts.
Next week will pass quickly, but I’m just ready to be home and doing my own thing. This is just a reality of class. It isn’t anyone’s fault, but sometimes tempers can fly. I think we’re doing okay for the most part, but I am feeling irritated and antsy, but can’t necessarily give a good reason as to what caused it other than what I wrote above.
I am in a lot of pain. I tweaked my knee again and it just hurts all the time. I am very frustrated with myself because I seem to feel like I shouldn’t let out a single complaint. I just take my ibuprofen and try not to mention it, but today felt damn near unbearable. I’m used to knee pain, but having an injury be exacerbated is just hard. I also had an epiphany that hey, maybe I don’t have to hold all of that in, but here we are. I try to be optimistic but I’m just not feeling it right now. Hopefully a good sleep will clear up some of these doldrums that aren’t all class-related that I’m quietly struggling with right now. It is hard to even write this out because there is no concrete reason, it just is.
The bright spot of my day was having classmates tell me that they have been reading this blog and teasing me to post twice a day. I told them that they are lucky they get once a day. It makes me happy that people who are going through this process are finding my words helpful in some way.
After a meeting tonight, I had a very good play session with Treble, who is now sprawled out and sleeping.
Breakfast: bacon and toast? I honestly don’t remember! Wow!
lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich
Dinner: shrimp over rice and zucchini and the last strawberry shortcake popsicle.
I want to start by thanking all of you for your comments, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or via this blog. I am so glad that I have been able to write consistently about this experience. It has been very, very good for me and I am so thrilled that people are learning more about what it takes to go through this training.
An earlier comment asked me to explain more about the process of going up or down an escalator. First, I lower the harness handle and hold the leash, heeling the dog next to me. I put my foot on the beginning of the escalator, holding my right hand out so that I can touch the rail. If the direction of the slide of said rail is coming toward me, then I’m about to go the wrong way on the escalator. If it’s going away from me, I step up or down, telling my dog ‘let’s go’ as I heel them aboard. I personally like to have Treble slightly behind me for this. I slide my hand forward and when I feel the incline of the escalator rail level out, I step down and say ‘let’s go’ once again.
My first dog, Lexus, had been trained on escalators but when I went to get on to one, he plopped down and refused to move forward. So there I was, getting further away from him. I tossed the leash back up to the top so that I wouldn’t drag him down and then had to hurry back up the stairs to get him. That was quite a harrowing experience, but he sat at the top and was like ‘hey that was fun!’
Today’s obedience challenge included a black lab on the loose, wanting to play. I gave treble a series of instructions that she needed to follow, which she did quite nicely. She really loves dogs and I’m getting so much better at reading her cues and finding what works well for us.
After breakfast, we headed to Yorktown to work on a route that we repeated later on tonight. Dogs have great vision and it’s great to know that while I hate traveling on foot at night, I can do so with Treble. The route was relatively easy and we also got some practice walking through a parking lot.
When we returned, we had a traffic check exercise to prepare us for the real thing on Saturday, and really, any time that we are working with our dogs. These dogs are trained to do several things, depending on the specific circumstance when it comes to cars. They can either stop, slow down, or they will back up. It depends on what the car is doing at the time. Today, we simulated this experience with shopping carts that were pushed toward us as we were walking. On Saturday, instructors will be driving cars and doing traffic checks so that we know how our dog will react and trust them to follow them in such a harrowing moment. If I am crossing a street and a car pulls out in front of me, Treble will react. These dogs have been trained extensively in this.
Unfortunately, especially now, distracted driving or drivers who just don’t seem to care about anyone’s right of way except for their own can make for dangerous interactions for guide dog teams and other pedestrians. It is extremely frustrating and terrible.
After lunch, we prepared for picture day. We took a class picture and I want you to imagine getting twelve people plus instructors in the proper pose for pictures, while expecting the dogs to remain sitting nicely. squeak toys were used to keep the dogs focused on the camera. Treble wanted that squeaker so badly!
After pictures, I played Seed ships for a while, took a nap, and listened to some music.
Our lecture tonight was on obesity in dogs, and I will try not to get on to my soap box. People would often stop me during my travels to tell me that my previous dog looked under weight. Each dog in the class has a target weight that they need to maintain. I am very rigid about my dog only eating dog food or occasional treats or carrots. Please, puppy, eat every baby carrot because God knows I won’t. If they gain excessive weight, it can put undo stress on their organs, their skeletal system, and be a detriment to them. Many dog owners have it in their mind that excess food equals love and this simply is not the case. Excess food for dogs likely means that they are begging at the table when you don’t want them to be, or struggling to do the very basic of tasks without being miserable. However, I cannot change the minds of people who are set in their ways of doing this, so I just worry about what I can control. The general public can be quite insistent, though, and people will try to feed guide dogs without even asking the owner. That is another rant that I’m far too tired to commit to this evening.
Our night route went very well. Treble worked hard and I had to slow her down just a little. I am so glad that she has such drive and confidence.
I appreciate your comments and your questions. Tomorrow will be the vet lecture, which I am sure will be quite lively.
Breakfast: pancakes and bacon
Lunch: kale salad with apples, pecans, chicken, and feta cheese. Maybe it was walnuts. Maybe I do not have a sophisticated pallet if I don’t know the difference.
Dinner: sausage and peppers over rice and a vegetable medley and apple pie
Hey look at this! We have reached the double digits which means that I have a week and some change left of training. We also have a whole lot of consistent writing which makes me extremely happy.
After the usual routine, Treble and I made our way to obedience. I have to tell you that I’m struggling with getting up on time but I am sure it has to do with making bad life choices in staying up late.
Today, treble had to follow my commands while the instructors liberally made use of the sacred squeaky toy. The instructors told me that Treble had this look of ‘I really want to do the right thing but it’s so hard’ on her face. She did a wonderful job.
After breakfast, we headed off to White Plains. Today’s route included working past some distractions and heading to Starbucks, where my lactose intolerant self finally asked for dairy alternatives in my drink. Look at me being a responsible adult!
My instructor took time and asked me about the things that I am hoping to do more of before I go home and I said that I’d love to work in more crowded areas such as stores, narrow sidewalks, etc. I’m not sure that I really had a good answer but those were the things that I considered. I also mentioned more bus work and indoor work. It was very nice to see how far Treble and I have come since the first day of meeting her.
During lunch, some people were talking about difficult routes that they experienced today. I reminded all of us that it can be that way sometimes and said that last week around this time, we were struggling to keep our dogs in control while attempting to eat lunch.
After lunch, we did a relay route. One person would leave to head toward the van which was a few blocks down, then another person would leave. Up until that point, the instructors have either been right next to us or directly behind us. It felt great working with Treble and realizing that I really do have this. I am making clear decisions, I know when she’s getting off track, and I know when she is doing her very best work. I am able to read her cues so much more now. We’re really working with her to stop air scenting and ground sniffing.sniffing.
Once we got back to the school, we had an optional distractions exercise that I took part in. We sat outside in chairs while the instructors threw balls and frisbees, and crushed pine cones. sometimes the ball would be bounced right in front of the noses of our dogs. If they didn’t move, we’d give them food to reward them and continue to establish where their focus should be.
The lecture involved traveling in areas where there are no sidewalks. Ideally, you want the dog to be on your left, while you are between them and the cars. You stop, turn to the left, and make certain that you are still on the side rather than having drifted on the road.
After dinner, a lot of us went back outside on the patio, playing music and singing. Let me tell you, a class can sometimes make or break the overall experience. This class is hilarious. We are always singing, laughing, and admittedly, we are pretty loud. I’ve gotten to know so many students and it’s been wonderful.
Later on, we gathered around the piano and one of our classmates played. He is very talented. The dogs do so great with the noises. None of them are afraid or make noises when there are loud sounds.
I have had Treble for a full week now and this experience has been fantastic. I truly love this dog and am very happy about our progress. The parking is getting much easier although sometimes I’m still like ‘is she peeing?’.
Breakfast: omelette with ham, cheese, onions, and peppers along with a side of toast and strawberry jam
Lunch: Grilled Cheese sandwich
Dinner: Tilapia, baked potato, and asparagus? I don’t remember. I started this post last night and now it all seems like a vague memory.