Dogventures Day 15: Riding That Horse Down the Home Stretch

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.

 

Food Report

Breakfast: toast and strawberry jam

Lunch: grilled cheese sandwich

Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwich and bacon. …I love grilled cheese sandwiches!

 

Dogventures Days 13 and 14: Resting Knees and More Malibu Breeze

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.

 

Food report

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

Dogventures Day 12: Tanner,You are the Brother but I Miss My Full House

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.

 

Food report

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.

 

 

Dogventures Day 11: The real Night Walkers

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.

 

Food Report

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

 

Dogventures Day 10: Party Like a Rock Star

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?’.

 

Food Report

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.

Dogventures Day 9: Appreciating the Steady

Today turned out to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect for outdoor work.

 

?After the usual routine, we went to obedience. The instructors are backing off now and allowing us to go through the obedience routine which typically consists of two sits, two downs, two stays while the dog is sitting and I go to the end of the leash, two downs while having them stay as I go to the end of the leash and return, and finally two sits and downs where they stay and then we heel them to us. The distraction of the morning was that adorable German Shepherd who was off leash and wanting to play with the other dogs. While Treble can be quite dog distracted, she did a great job this morning.

 

after breakfast, we went to the Lounge in White plains. I was interviewed by the social media coordinator at Guiding Eyes for bios that will go up on the website. I’ll be sure to post a link when that happens.

 

The first route that we walked went very well. Treble approaches down curbs very well and her street crossings are excellent. We went to Macy’s and did more indoor work with the specific focus of going up and down escalators. We both did a great job and I was happy to know that I didn’t forget anything concerning previous escalator work.

 

I showed my instructor some pictures and an article about the Ride share bicycles that are parked haphazardly all over the Seattle area and pose a risk for pedestrians and it sounds like we will simulate the issues that Treble and I may come across during our daily commute.

 

After lunch, we did the second route. This one was filled with distractions, which made me very happy. Treble has really been testing the boundaries with me, which I was expecting and frankly am happy that she’s doing so. This gives me the opportunity to enforce consistent boundaries and rules with her. She is very stubborn, but so am I. It’s going along nicely.

 

We walked down narrow sidewalks, going around tables and lots of pedestrians. There was very loud construction that did not phase Treble at all. She simply walked past all of it. We did some reworking of errors, but all in all, it was a wonderful day.

 

On the way back, we had a lot of fun with van pool karaoke singing songs like ‘Party in the USA’, ‘Wrecking Ball’, ‘This Love’, ‘Say My Name’, and a lot of others.

 

Tonight, I’m just taking some time to regroup. I’ve been playing a game on my iPhone called Seed Ship which is a replayable game involving a ship with sleeping colonists and you must choose to colonize a planet or keep going at risk of damaging vital systems of the ship. It offers great replay value and the class teased me about making some pretty heartless decisions.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what Treble and I accomplish tomorrow!

 

Food Report

Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, slivered almonds, and brown sugar and a side of sausage

Lunch: Greek salad with chicken, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, and a yogurt dressing

Dinner: Pepper steak, brown rice, green beans, and a Gluten-free chocolate chip muffin

 

Dogventures Day 8: It Ain’t All Roses and shutting up is Free

I am really tired tonight so this is going to be very short.

 

After the morning routine, we went to obedience where today’s distraction included a loose German shepherd playing around the dogs while our dogs were expected to stay focused on us, receiving correction when needed and treats when they did as asked. This is great training for them because people walk their dogs in public often and we don’t want them to be distracted.

 

After breakfast, it was off to White Plains. If there was any van pool karaoke, I wouldn’t know it since my sleepathon yesterday caused my schedule to be screwed up, so I catnapped on the way.

Today’s route involved going to CVS, where we practiced indoor work. The dogs need to be cognizant of narrow aisles, other people, displays, and other things that can serve as obstacles. Treble was an absolute rock star.

 

I want to preface what happened next by saying that these dogs, as extensively trained as they are, can still make mistakes. Sometimes they are small, but sometimes they are not. Treble didn’t clear me of an obstacle and I slammed my knee in to it. I have bad knees, and so if I fall or injure them, the pain is horrible. I lost my footing and almost fell. It all happened so fast. Someone behind us blurted out, ‘She didn’t see that?’ I don’t know if she was referring to me or Treble, but since her immediate question wasn’t, ‘Are you okay?’, I could only assume she wanted to be a part of the non-helpful club. So many things were happening at once. I was embarrassed and I instantly just wanted to leave the situation. My knee was hurting because of slamming in to the pole and I was trying not to cry. Spoiler alert, I cried. I wanted to power through the situation, but wasn’t in a place where I could just do that. My instructor was wonderful and just allowed me to have the time that I needed when I would have just pretended everything was okay. I would have defended Treble to this lady had my knee not been throbbing.

 

After that, we reworked the obstacle, at my insistence, and Treble navigated around it perfectly. This just reminds me, though, of how people can be stupid. While some of it is probably not realizing how extensive training is, many times it is simply people blurting out things they shouldn’t. It is such a crappy feeling when your dog makes a mistake and the public just assumes they are not trained. When I shared with my therapist’s office that I would be getting a new guide dog, the first thing out of one of the staff’s mouths was ‘Well, I hope you get a smart one and not a dumb one. One of our clients has a dog and she was so dumb that she ate a Kleenex and the handler didn’t even know!’ I asked if she told the handler and she said no. I reminded her that dogs are not perfect and sometimes will do things you do not want them to do, but if it is a good team and the handler knows what is going on, they will take steps to correct it. But you don’t know what you don’t know. Dogs can be little stealth monsters. The idea that she just watched this dog play four-legged shredder with a Kleenex on the floor without taking two seconds to alert the handler is crappy. Happily blurting out ‘I thought that dog was trained!’, when something needs to be reworked is crappy. If people aren’t going to be helpful, then shutting up is always free. I don’t mind educating people, but there are some in this world who aren’t interested in the whys and hows and only make snide remarks which help no one.

 

The second route went much better and Treble worked past dog distractions which have earlier gotten her off track. This is definitely a learning process for the both of us.

 

Tonight’s lecture was on elevators, escalators, and overhangs. I was so tired that I dozed off during it so will need to look it up online.

 

After dinner, I went to bed, only waking up for park times. I crashed hard until around 11 and so I’ve probably screwed up the sleeping schedule again.

 

But tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. I write about the hard stuff because training is hard. It takes a lot to become a seasoned team and what we learn here is the beginnings of that. It is good that mistakes happen here so that we are better equipped in handling them and we can work on them. Tomorrow will be better!

 

Food report

Breakfast, toast with strawberry jam and sausage patties

Lunch: Turkey wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon

Dinner: Delicious and delightful shrimp scampi over noodles.

Dogventures Day 7: Lots of Rest for the Wicked

Today was one of those days that I just didn’t realize I needed so much.

 

This morning, we did our usual of park, feed, water, park again, and obedience. Obedience is becoming a lot more distracting for Treble.

 

Today, one of the instructors threw the bouncy ball repeatedly, dribbling it so that she could see it. While that was happening, I gave Treble commands and a lot of praise. She did a very lovely job of keeping her focus on me and I know that was hard, particularly because we’d played in alumni hall the night before. While Treble may seem reserved, she plays with unrestrained joy. I particularly love how she attempts to fit herself in the entire box of toys, or the way that she seems to deliberate over each possible fun thing. Will it be the bouncy tennis ball? The squeaky?

Narrator voice: After lengthy deliberation, Treble chose both.

 

After breakfast, we practiced putting boots on the dogs. I am about as coordinated as a bull in a china shop, so poor Treble had to put up with my fumbling. She then had the opportunity to run around in alumni hall with them on. I don’t see myself having to use them often, but they are always good to have in case of very hot or cold temperatures, especially if salt is being placed on the sidewalks.

 

When we were done with that, I became very well acquainted with the bed for about two and a half hours until lunch. After lunch, it was me and the bed all over again. I’ve probably screwed up my sleeping schedule, but I don’t care. I really needed the sleep. We have been so busy all week long that it was nice to have a wonderful day of rest and rejuvenation.

 

I talked with a couple of friends and then left Treble in the room while going to dinner. We are starting to leave our dogs in our rooms for longer amounts of time so that they can become used to being separated without them  barking or howling. Treble is always so happy to see me when I return.

 

I better end this here, as Treble just jumped in to my lap which is her sign for ‘let’s get out of here, lady!’ We’ll probably go do more playtime once again, which is fun.

 

Also, I am starting to get a better idea of when she is peeing or pooping, so I’m glad that this is starting to come together for me. She seems to be feeling some better and is parking more consistently.

 

Food report

Breakfast: Grilled blueberry muffins with butter and a bowl of fruit

Lunch: Philly cheese steak sandwich

Dinner: Roasted chicken, potatoes, broccoli, and apple pie

Dogventures Day 6: Here Comes Treble and Screw the Bass

Finally, I can stop referring to my new dog as 4.0! This makes for easier typing for me!

 

I was paired with a female yellow lab named Treble and she is very, very sweet. She is stubborn, makes thoughtful decisions, is a very hard worker, and is the most mellow dog that I have ever had. I was so worried that she didn’t like me at first, but I can feel our relationship becoming more solidified as each day passes.

 

After the morning routine of park, feed, water, and park again, we went to obedience. The distraction this morning was one of our instructors’ dogs who was in a crate making lots of distracting noises. Treble did a very good job of remaining under control during that time.

 

After breakfast, we headed out to White Plains where I was first up on the route. My back has really been bothering me quite a bit, but even so, I’ve been pushing through although not walking the super long version of the route. Treble did an excellent job. Her approaches to curbs is on point. Since we are not using the support leash and our instructor is hanging back, it means that I’m having to place more trust in Treble, and perhaps more importantly, she is having to place more trust in me. Every treat, every ounce of physical and verbal praise builds up her confidence all the more. She slowed down quite a bit on route, but with a few voice and leash cues, I was able to get her to refocus and keep it moving.

 

We had another dog distraction during the route, this time because another guide dog team walked on the other side of the street. She would not listen to me, and so I was able to refocus her by going back to the basics of obedience and basically having her sit and then lie down a few times until she was paying attention to me once more.

 

On the way back from our route, we had a rousing game of Van Pool Karaoke once again, singing ‘Pay Phone’, ‘Dance with Somebody’, ‘This Love’, and ‘Empire State of Mind’. Who knew there were so many versions of the latter song?

 

After lunch, we went to three separate stations for hands-on activities. We learned about grooming our dogs, then practiced on a stuffed Juno model so that we could work on good, firm leash corrections, and finally in to Alumni hall so that we could work on clicker training. I’m sure there is a lovely explanation of what it is and that it will exceed what I can tell you about it, but I’ll try. Basically, we can teach the dogs how to find places such as ‘home’, ‘chair’, and other terms. We put our hand in a fist, place our hands on the chair, say ‘touch’, and the dog will touch our hand with their nose. When they do this, we click the clicker instantly and then feed them a treat. We eventually substitute the word ‘touch’ for ‘touch chair’, and move further and further back until we can pick up the harness and tell the dog ‘to the chair’. This is a fantastic way of having the dog target places such as the stairs, your door at home, the door to my room, the buttons of an elevator, and many  other things. It is also an essential part of route building.

 

After that, I posted a picture of treble on Facebook and Twitter and have spent a big chunk of time reading comments about Treble.

 

After feeding Treble and trying to park her once again, we went to lecture. Tonight’s lecture was on how to tactically tell if the dog is peeing or pooping.

 

This is where I feel totally inept. Treble’s park schedule hasn’t been consistent due to her stomach bug, and every time she pees, I can never tell. Now, I’ll be able to touch her back to tell, but I admit that I’m nervous. Often, she seems like she might be peeing but she’s actually looking around at the sky or focusing on other people that she might see. Next week, we’ll start picking up their poop, which we also discussed. I’m trying not to worry about things. I know that they will fall in to place.

 

Tomorrow is going to be an easy day, hopefully. I have completed a week of class, so that makes me happy!! Treble’s new cute thing to do is to jump in to my lap, put her paws on my shoulders, and lean against me.

I really appreciate you all reading these posts. If you have any questions or anything you’d like for me to touch on, let me know!

 

Food Report

Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins and slivered almonds and a side of bacon

Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Dinner: Chicken Parmesan, spaghetti, and garlic bread

 

 

Dogventures Day 5: Van Pool Karaoke and a Whole Lot of Crap

There are stark truths about guide dog school that only a guide dog handler can fully understand. One of those truths is how you can have an amazing day one day and then something small can seem like a huge deal in the moment, exacerbating anxiety and making you question yourself, your actions, lack of action, and beating yourself up a little as it goes through your mind continually. It is during this time when it is important to dig deep, know what is concerning, and what is just one of those days. Because “One of those days” can feel like it is a lot when you are in intensive training.

 

I woke up this morning dragging. I found it difficult to get out of bed. My lower back has been hurting quite a bit when it never has been a problem before. My hips hurt and I just wanted one more hour of sleep. It also didn’t help that 4.0 woke me up whining in their crate and then proceeding to not park when I took them out at 3 AM.

 

They didn’t park at 6 AM either, so I fed, watered, and tried to park them once again with no luck.

 

4.0 did a wonderful job during obedience. There was a dog in a crate serving as a distraction. 4.0 ignored the dog, but didn’t always ignore the food I accidentally dropped on the ground when I was trying to treat them.

 

After breakfast, it was time for our trip to White plains. One of the great experiences when in guide dog school is getting to know other classmates. I always say that the first week is awesome because everyone is all shiny and new. Week two is great and maybe there may be some annoying quirks but you can get through it. Week three is usually when people get on each other’s last nerve. I don’t think we’ll have that problem but we’re just reaching the end of week one so anything is possible. As it is, we all tend to get along with one another wonderfully and there are so many jokes which have been flying. What happens in New York is staying in New York, though!

 

Every morning, we split up in to two vans and head to the lounge in White Plains. During the ride this morning, we got in to a rousing chorus of ‘Living On a Prayer’. it was loud and proud, I assure you.

 

As I stated before, we go on two walks a day. I was in the third group to walk and so 4.0 and I went to my favorite couch where I was sitting quietly with their leash tucked under my leg.

 

All of a sudden, I heard someone yell “Someone’s dog is loose up here! They are pooping everywhere.” I knew that other students were upstairs and so I closed my eyes, content in the knowledge that 4.0 and I were relaxing and not a part of any of that business. I heard someone yell once again and I reached down just to make certain 4.0 was by my side. A beat of silence went by before I blurted out, “Ahh shit!” and ran toward the stairs, my heart sinking.

 

What was 4.0 doing? Pooping all over the floor upstairs, that’s what. I can really appreciate their need to want to park somewhere quiet, away from most of the crowd, I guess. I was so mortified and upset. I should have been keeping a closer eye on them, paying more attention to them, but they have been my easiest dog. They often sit quietly  during lectures and I’m getting used to their quirks. I am quite used to being part of the problem team during previous classes, and so I guess I was enjoying the moment of respite that 4.0 has been allowing me to have thus far. Not only did they poop, but they dragged the leash through it as they crapped a glorious circle. Thank goodness for instructors and an instructor assistant who handled everything as though it was no big deal. This can happen during class sometimes, but when it’s you? All of a sudden you start relegating yourself to worst guide dog handler in the class. The dog diarrhea stories that one of the instructors told me as they were cleaning up the mess made me feel some better, as only such stories can.

 

I took 4.0 out to park, which they totally didn’t, and then we went on our walk.

 

The walk was wonderful, particularly because the support leash came off. My instructor has this wonderfully laid-back style that totally works for me. She always speaks in a calm tone and gives good cues for me to follow. It felt so great to give her commands and walk with her when it was just us.

 

During our route, 4.0 was distracted by a dog. They wouldn’t listen to me and when they went to attempt to play with said dog, it turned out to be an aggressive one. I don’t know that I can break down the steps that I took to get 4.0 focused back on me, but my only thought was to get them away from the dog. It was so fast, but it worked and we were on our way. 4.0 then had to park in the middle of the route, so we quickly pulled over and I got the harness off so that they could do their thing.

 

4.0 has an amazing work ethic. They approach curbs wonderfully, don’t veer during street crossings, navigate obstacles with thoughtful intent, and their pace is perfect for me. They can be a little fast, but I would much prefer a dog whose pace is too fast than one whose pace is too slow. It is almost always easier to get a guide dog to slow down, but extremely difficult to get them to speed up.

 

Once we finished our routes, our supervisor said that we would just take a half day. It just seemed like the morale of the class was down and she felt that giving us a half day would be helpful. Also, 4.0 and a few other dogs have upset stomachs. Honestly, I didn’t have another  walk in me, although I would have pushed myself hard.

 

After lunch, we headed back to campus. We each chose a song that most people know and van pool karaoke was back in business. ‘I Want it That Way’, ‘It’s Gonna be Me’, and ‘Hit Me Baby, One More Time’ was sung loudly by the eight of us.

 

I took a small nap when I got back and had a dream that I was told 4.0 wouldn’t work out for me and I’d have to go home without a dog, so maybe I’m not handling the stress of class as well as I’d like to think. I woke up extremely upset. I am not actually worried that this will happen. Our bond keeps improving bit by bit and there are a myriad of ways that 4.0 is warming up to me.

 

I’m fasting 4.0 tonight and they will be put on bland dog food for probably about a week. 4.0 also does not appreciate being pilled, at all. They did not trust the treats that came after for their good behavior. Stubborn is 4.0’s middle name.

 

Tonight’s lecture was all about reinforcement. In order to get the dogs to excel and keep doing what we ask  of them, we use positive reinforcement such as food, physical, and verbal praise. Negative reinforcement are corrections that I mentioned in an earlier post. We discussed the types of corrections that can be made. When 4.0 went to play with the dog, for example, I gave a very firm snap and release of the leash, which applies quick pressure on the collar and gets their attention. This does not hurt the dog, but the general public’s perception might be that you are abusing them. We were encouraged to follow up  a  correction with lots of praise when the dog does what you have asked of it, correcting said behavior. I can tell you that sometimes this does not help, but I will save my rant about those who are unwilling to listen or learn for when we discuss the public’s perception. The school is far more willing to educate on this matter than I am. I’m willing to explain, but when someone doesn’t want to listen, then they can talk with someone who has the time and inclination.

 

I have got to find some other ways of de-strrressing. None of my go-tos seem to be working.

 

I know that like many things, this too shall pass. I am concerned about 4.0’s lack of parking, but we’re going to try parking on the grass instead of the cement. I feel like I haven’t gotten to see them park enough to get a feel for their movements or schedule. These are all things that will eventually work themselves out and I know that it is all just day-by-day.

 

Food report

Breakfast: Bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich on a roll

Lunch: chicken soup

Dinner: Steak, spicy waffle fries, grilled asparagus and a chocolate chip sandwich