Saturday, September 20

Wednesday recap

Greetings. At long last, we've reached the Wednesday recap. I thought I was busy during training with taking care of and being trained with the new dog, taking care of my own needs, which often included sleeping, and other things; and I thought I'd have enough time to do all I wanted to do when I got home. Wrong! Now that I'm home, we've got taking care of the new dog full time, keeping her active and alert with new challenges, settling in, running a few errands, and catching up on rest, along with all the usual distractions for me such as Cable, computer stuff, and reading. In other words, take a few of the last few things I listed here and that's why I haven't posted about Wednesday and the rest of training until now. Some interesting things have happened with "new dog" as far as being home and taking her to work yesterday as well, but we're not there yet.

Wednesday was a neat day and a good one to end training with. In the morning we went to the Morristown Courthouse to practice moving through an office like setting. Anyone who has been in that courthouse remembers that there's all sorts of twists and turns, sets of stairs going up and down, ramps, and narrow passages all over the place. In other words, it's challenging for even the most memory sharpened person to keep track up. What happens is my instructor, named Ralph (I figure that since I'm done with training, I can reveal some names to you), walks behind me and to my right giving me directions, such as, "Go straight, turn left at the end of the hall, and go through the doors which will immediately lead to a set of stairs going down. When you reach the bottom, ..." and so on. Okay, he did break them up a little bit more than that, but you get the idea. The goal here is not for me to memorize the route, but rather to learn to work my dog through these types of office settings and to follow the dog wherever she goes. I'm half afraid though that one of these trainings, we'll go through the courthouse and at some point, the instructor will say something like, "Okay, good job. Now, meet you out front."

Anyway, the dog did very well, even weaving me through some narrow gaps beside people or between spaces from one door to another open doorway. When we were done, we came out on a set of stone steps leading down. I later had Ralph take a picture of this area and of me and the dog with my cell phone. He had taken other pictures in New York the day before. I'm not sure if they're magazine quality, but it was fun. It will be neat to go over them with someone later to see how they came out and look. I mean, all due respect to Ralph, but to see if they really do look good.

Wednesday afternoon, we went to a really neat place. This was the point at which we would see how my dog would react to horses. Ralph had tried to contact a certain horse farm near The Seeing Eye but wasn't able to connect with them very well. So, he and I and another student and dog team drove out there that afternoon. Ralph went in ahead to ask permission, and then came back to get us. The place was called Foster Fields. It sits on 200 acres on the other side of The Seeing Eye's 70 acres of land. Both The Seeing Eye and Foster Fields are beautifully landscaped and have an equal number of rolling green hills and other scenery, along with the required number of buildings and modern things.

Foster Fields is one of those "old time" farms that allow you to go back to the 1800's or 1900's and see how life was. It was a full farm with roosters, geese, cows, horses, and other animals. There were dirt paths that we walked down, not sidewalks, and it really had a laid back country feel to it. We were basically told we could go wherever. This was one type of training that Ralph said he had not done before. It all went very well though.

When we were walking down one of the dirt paths, we neared a goose. It seemed as though the goose had friends that it was telling of our arrival, and pretty soon, quite a few more geese were crowing and clucking at our passing. Makes you wonder if they had ever seen two guide dogs walk by before and not even pay them any attention. Oh sure, the dogs looked, but they were focused on their work of guiding. At one point, we passed a lot of sheep, at which point my dog, being a German Shepherd, stopped and pointed them out to me turning toward them and showing them to me. I encouraged her to move on and finally had to tell her, "Yes, I know the sheep are there. But today is guiding, not herding. Herding work is tomorrow."

When we found the horses, we were in for a treat. Ralph the instructor then took first the other man and his guide down to meet one of the horses, and then he came back and got me and my dog. He recommended that I heel the dog over there, to ease any stress for her. We had no reason to worry as it turned out. The horse was a tall 17 hand Belgian draft horse who put his massive head down to check the dog out. My dog, doing what the first guide had done, then put her two front paws on the fence and rose up to sniff the horse. It was quite a site seeing those two different species leaning down or up to meet each other, look and sniff. My dog then got back on all fours and sat when I told her to, and she was completely calm about it all. It's like after she checked the horse out, that she decided it was a new thing but nothing to worry about, and then she simply just looked around calmly.

We then were taken to the barn to encounter more horse like smells of hay, leather and things, and to meet the other horse, another Belgian draft horse. The second horse looked at us and walked back and forth in his large stall. The dogs looked at the second horse briefly and were still calm. The people who met us at this area were surprised that the dogs were so calm, especially when around such large horses. In fact, Ralph, me, and the other student were also a little surprised, but Ralph also explained that the dogs and students were finishing up 2 and a half weeks of intensive training with each other. As it turned out, the two horses were called Calvin and Hobbs.

We then started walking back toward our van, but we were intersepted by another worker,a woman, who told us about the cows we were passing. We took the dogs over to check out the cows, and had a similar experience as with the horses, where both species leaned toward each other across a fence. There were no problems though. As we learned, these were Jersey cows which are smaller than other breeds, but apparently produce better, more high quality milk than other breeds. I'm a country guy at heart and it was neat for me to see some cows after many years. I've seen them before, boht in sight and feel, but not for like 15 or 20 years, or more. My grandfather and some other relatives used to have cattle which I was taken to visit when I was young and in my early teen years. So seeign these cows, even if they were shorter and even if there was a fence, was kind of special for me.

Anyway, the woman explained the history of Foster Fields to us and gave a good lesson about some of the more notable figures in their history. Such as a Mrs. Foster who lived to the age of 102, dying in 1979. To my knowledge, this was the first contact between Foster Fields and The Seeing Eye, but I don't think it will be the last.

This was a neat way of ending our training, and we soon headed back to The Seeing Eye. The rest of the afternoon was spent packing, or as I like to call it, organizing. Dinner was a sad and somber time. Toward the end, some of the trainers that we had not seen all that much circulated among the retrains to offer their congratulations. Among them was Tom, the training supervisor for our class. Even though most of us finished dinner at half passed 5, no one wanted to leave. So we all sat around and talked more. Eventually people started trickling out of the dining area, the retrains headed back to their rooms for more packing, and the new students going other places. The night instructor went around to the retrains over the next hour or two, helping them way their luggage and handing out travel packs she had put together with a couple pick up baggies, some treats,and some paper towels for the trip. We had our normal evening park time at 8 and then after that, there was a big gathering among anyone who wanted to come for a good-bye for the retrains. This gathering/party lasted a good 2 hours, and even longer with some people. I stayed for nearly the whole time, not leaving until 10:30. There were brownies, a delicious chocolate/peanut butter desert bar thingie, and what the night instructor called "cake in a cup." There were also sodas and plenty of wine. The wine being supplied by various students. I'm not much for wine, so I didn't really partake in this part of the evening. Plenty of other people did though. Toward the end, Ralph, the night instructor and I partaked in another few rounds of the interpretive lyrics, speaking choruses and verses to popular pop and rock songs. That was fun as well and we all got some good laughs. At about 10, my dog got to play with her best friend, another dog in training. Both dogs were really tight when they were trained by Sue, the northeastern accented instructor,, which is kind of interesting considering that mine is really tall and this other one is short. At any rate, they often played together in the kennels, which included my dog playfully biting the other dog's neck. There was never any fear that my dog would bite hard, it was just one of their games. Another game was rolling around on the floor and wrestling all while making low noises in their throats. Ralph said that this play was still okay and not to worry about. However, it ended when both dogs got too close to a third dog's space and a warning bark was sounded by the third dog. It was hard to leave, but we all had an early morning coming so we had to leave at some point.

Even though I didn't get to bed till around 11 and had a short night of sleep, it was hard to go to sleep with all the good memories from the whole day, especially the afternoon's farm trip and the evening's party still fresh in my head. I finally did fall asleep though with the assurance that I had accomplished all that I needed to do from that morning. It was a good day all around, and a good one to end training with. I'll put Thursday and Friday up in separate entries hopefully by the end of this weekend, or at least before tomorrow night's Cowboys game. Until then.

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