Tuesday, September 2

First working walks

Greetings. Well, today was the day that we got to harness our dogs and make the first two trips in town with them working. The route was not very challenging for them, and is mainly designed to build their confidence in guiding a new person. However, it's a step up from the boring leisure path we did on Monday. For those familiar with the walks and routes taught here, we did the Maple Avenue route, making a rectangle on Maple between several blocks. Can't remember off hand which ones. The morning walk was a little fast, and likely the dog and I were both nervous. The afternoon walk went much better and even the instructor said that the edge seemed to be taken off from the morning session.

After the morning walk, I went to the nurses office to get some ice for my right knee and leg. Being pulled by a guide dog is a different sensation and different walking style than just walking by yourself. It's common for students, new and retrains alike, to get treated for leg pains in the beginning. While there though, I asked the nurse what she thought of my dog. Granted, any dog coming out of this school is going to look presentable, even good, meaning they don't put out ugly dogs. This being the case though, the nurse paused, and then in a whisper she said, "She's beautiful. She's gorgeous." Hearing these words spoken in a low voice or whisper nearly made me cry. It brought tears to my eyes, and I nearly broke down right there, and for several minutes afterward. I wanted to get another opinion aside from a trainer's opinion, and did I ever. I've also been told by another instructor, the one who trained the dog, who said she saw us working from the other side of the street and she said that we looked good together. I think that was in reference to the dog's coloring, but it might also refer to our early working relationship.

Even though the dogs are still on leash when walking around the house, I've talked with several people that agree with me that the dogs are already starting to pick up on patterns and point towards certain objects. it's too early to get them to point out chairs or doors, but I've observed several people, including me, talking to their dogs and asking the dog, "Where's the door?" Or, "Find the door," or even just simply, "Door." I even observed one student who's dog stopped her before she ran into a wall. Considering that we're working purely from the leash, this is quite impressive. Makes me wonder what actual guiding in the house will look like. Even my girl is starting to turn in certain places, or anticipate turns if she thinks we're going toward the men's lounge or toward the stairs. She also has gotten into a habit of pointing out, or stopping, at a bedroom on our hall, even though its not our room. I'll simply tell her that it's not ours or something similar, and she moves on.

I made the observation to the trainer at lunch that it's interesting how calm all the dogs were under the tables. Considering that normally, when you take the harness off a guide dog indicating that they're not working, the dog usually goes crazy. Anyone who has seen this knows exactly what I mean. It's like someone flipped a switch and now the dog has a completely different personality from its working one. Anyway, considering that the dogs were all on leash, they over all behave as if they are working. Now consider that there are 20 dogs in this particular class as a whole. That's a lot of calm doggies.

For those interested, here are some quick stats of the dogs that make up this class. There's a lot of shepherds. Out of all the dogs in their pool, which numbered around 50 or 60, about 60 percent of those were shepherds. The rest were a mix of pure Labs, Lab Golden crosses, and a couple of Goldens. For whatever reason they've gotten lots of shepherds recently. I've talked with some people about this and the school apparently goes through phases when they have lots of one or two particular breeds of dog. I don't know the exact number of each dog breed or variation in class, but for those that say the shepherd is going away, that's far from the truth at The Seeing Eye.

Finally, any nervousness I had about working a dog after my 9 year break, is quickly disappearing. the main reason for this is my dog; she's helping me to fall in love with her. Some ways that she's doing this is by, in no particular order: licking and sniffing me all over, especially my face; giving me doggie kisses, and even going so far as to put one or two of her paws on me. Last night she put first one then the other of her front paws on both of my shoulders. When i asked my trainer about this, he said that she's getting comfortable with me, and I suppose in a sense, telling me that I'm hers. She has also put one paw on my hand or leg or shoe at various points in the last 24 hours. She practically laid the front part of her body in my lap today. She's rubbing and leaning against me, and she even used my legs as a tree tunnel earlier this afternoon. I sure hope this keeps up, even after we leave here, because I'm really beginning to like and love this dog, and we havent' even done real guide work yet. Tony wasn't as affectionate with me. We had an understanding, but he never licked me or interacted as much as this new dog. He did rub against me from time to time. Anyway, it's going to be a fun next few weeks here in class.

That's about all for today. until tomorrow, happy tales, er trails, grin.

1 comment:

  1. Darragh9:27 AM

    Hay Wayne,
    Your blog posts have now been posted to www.digitaldarragh.com

    I'm also oging to inform the subscribers of the Irish GuideDogs Mailing list that they should read these. There are a few perspective users that might find your posts informative and useful.

    Maybe you'd post a quick link to my blog somewhere?

    Well done. Keep it up.