Tuesday, September 9

Learning continues

Greetings. Well, here we are near the middle of the week. We're going to have our second solo tomorrow. My route is modified from the original due to constant pains in my right knee, but my dog and I will still get some good work with distractions from other dogs, possible people obsticles, traffic checks, and going around other obsticles. We've gotten better as a team, and seem to be communicating better and supporting each other more. I can tell, somewhat, when she's leading me around an obsticle or when she's working out how to navigate around a barrier. One particular barrier has us walking in the street for a short time before we get back up on the sidewalk. This morning, there was a barrier like this and then a short distance later a real construction site barrier, which presented much the same challenge as the first barrier, which was constructed by the instructors to test the dogs. My dog is still struggling with confidence in her decisions, and I've taken the role of encouraging her to make the right decision, or to continue with the decision she's already made. Sometimes, she's wanted to turn around and go back, or go in the grass around the obsticle, neither of which was the right decision. I'm more confident about reading her swerves and interpretting them as real obsticle avoidance responses or simply an attempt to take a shortcut or turn before we get to the corner, which she has tried to do a few times. As an experienced handler, or one that has worked with a guide dog before, these feelings I get through the harness are not as tough to figure out, however there's still that question if she's really avoiding something or just goofing off. For instance, she drifted left when approaching a series of obsticles this morning. I wasn't sure and paused, trying to interpret what her moves were telling me. I was ready to dismiss them as goofing off when my instructor said from behind me, "Go with her." And I did. Later, after we passed through the obsticles, my instructor told me that instead of trying to weave in and out of the obsticles, she chose to take me completely around them to the left. These are things we're still working on though, since she still makes mistakes in her judgment and might compensate for an upcoming series of obsticles, but compensates too much and runs me partly into a pole or trips me on the base of a pole. Over all though, my instructor says we're doing well, communicating well, and beginning to click with each other.

Personally, I'm ready to be done with routes. I know that routes are necessary since that builds the initial confidence in the student and dog, but I'm ready to start applying some of these things to "real life." Tomorrow afternoon starts what they call "freelance," which means that we're given chances to work on those "real life" skills by doing a variety of activities. For instance, we might visit a nearby mall to work on working through crowds, in and out of stores, escelators, and other things. The mall is not on the agenda tomorrow, but the work for tomorrow does sound interesting with a good mix of real life with traditional travel skills, such as crossing and dealing with more complex intersections. One of the goals of freelance work is to give the student conditions that will mirror what they will face at home. So each student's goals for freelance work may differ. For instance, since I go horseback riding on a regular basis, part of my freelance work might be to go to a stable and see how my dog reacts to horses. Or, since I ride busses on a daily basis to commute to and from work, my freelance may include learning how to ride and find seats on busses with a dog.

There are so many things that are happenig in training, between instructors and students and the like, that it would be impossible to list them all. Plus, with the current privacy concerns, I would be crossing lines by mentioning people by names, so that's why you will see this man or that woman referenced in these posts. I am enjoying talking with and relating to my student peers and other instructors. Particularly one woman that has a strong northeastern accent. She soundslike the typical New Yorker, or the New Yorker that you've always heard of. instead of saying "coffee" she says, "cwaffee." Yesterday morning said instructor was reading the morning's breakfast menu. I entered the dining area toward the end of this reciting, but with enough time to hear her pronounce sausage, which was more like, "swausage," but spoken forcefully, like "swausage!!" That word and the inflection has become a running joke between my instructor and I. Now, whenever my dog does something right, we start talking about "swausage" or "swausage sandwitch." This may be one of those things that doesn't translate well when reading it, but bare with me. When I took my dog out today for the 4:30 park, and she made her deposit, before I could even start praising her, I hear from the opposite end of the park area, "Swausages!!" To which I start laughing pretty hard and have a hard time praising the dog. I cleaned up and bagged the evidence, harnessed my dog and then started walking over toward the group of instructors. When my instructor called out to me that I had passed the door, I held up my bagged deposits and called back, "I've got some swausages for you!" To which all the instructors laughed.

On Monday at lunch, my instructor was getting me some desert, which happened to be ice cream Sundaes with hot fudge. Apparently he got in an argument with one of the kitchen workers over the size of the cup/glass used for my Sundae. The kitchen worker insisted on a taller glass, but my instructor grabbed a short glass, and even said, "Trust me, Wayne's not going to care. All he wants is the Sundae and hot fudge." He brought me the short glass and I enjoyed the first Sundae. I then ordered a second, which was brought to me by the kitchen worker in a tall glass. After she brought it to me, my instructor came over and gave me some instructions. He then directed another kitchen worker over to me and she asked what I needed. My response, "You know, this is good, but I liked the first glass much better," to which she and several other instructors laughed loudly.

I'm getting to the point where I'm beginning to look ahead to returning home and working with my dog in my own environment. However, I'm still trying to keep my focus here and enjoy all the day's activities as they happen. My training will go through September 17, and then I fly back early on September 18, so I've got about a week left. It will really be hard to leave, not just the new friends from around the country, but also the whole mind set and environment here. ideally, students may only be at The Seeing Eye for their dogs for several weeks of training in an 8-10 year period. However, that short time is fabulous and hard to describe. not just because of the new partnership formed, the training, the great treatment afforded to anyone who stays here and to the staff, but all these, and more. Those that have been to The Seeing Eye or participated with them in any way likely know what I'm talking about here. And, to those that haven't, what I'm talking about and trying to describe, is hard to describe. You really have to be here to experience it. As they approach their 80th anniversary next year, their track record truly shows that they know what they're doing and how to do it.

One of my problems in packing for going back home will be packing all the stuff I brought and stuff I've bought while here. I've ordered some equipment to use at home, which I'm probably going to have shipped ahead of me.

Tonight we learned how to oil our new harnesses. When i came the first time, we were given new harnesses for our dogs. This time though, we're given the body part and the handle, and have been told to oil them each three different times, and to allow ample time to have them completely or nearly dry by Thursday morning, when we'll assemble the two pieces into one.

Not much else to write for now. until next time, happy tails, :)

No comments:

Post a Comment