Today was a wonderful day! The weather was beautiful, everybody was very happy, and most important we got to meet our new GUIDE DOGS!! 🙂 But hold on there, let’s backtrack a second. For those of you who know me well, you know I’m not an early riser. Well, this is going to have to change a little bit to accomodate my dog’s relieving schedule. We didn’t have to be up before 7am because we didn’t have our dogs yet but we had to be at breakfast at 7:30am. I got dressed and looked cute, if I do say so myself, and made it down to breakfast. We have an amazing chef and I had a breakfast bagel sandwich with eggs, ham, provologne and mustard. It was delicious!! After that we met for a meeting where we had our first discussions and then each worked with an instructor one-on-one on corrections and obedience commands. It was a lot to take in but I think I did alright. My instructor is fabulous. She kind of has what I call a “tough love” approach because she corrects me a lot and I appreciate that, or I know I will later when we have things down really well, but for my sensitive heart sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. But it hasn’t gotten too much yet and I’m grateful for that. After that we learned how to sit in a chair with our dog, such as at the dining room table, so that we can make sure the dog is out of the way of others,we still have control of him/her, and we also don’t hit him with the chair. This was a cool exercise. After this we had about 10 minutes to relax until we met back up again for a pace assessment. This is where the instructors took us out one by one, with a harness and leash but that they held onto, and they guided us at different paces to match us up. The pace that my home visit instructor chose for me was WAY faster than what I normally walk so I’m not quite sure how that happened. But it’s okay because we had the opportunity to figure out my comfortable pace and I was quite happy with it, as was my instructor. So after the pace assessment, it was lunch time!
For lunch, I had a pita sandwich. They make their own pita bread (actually they make all their breads), and then they had this special patty inside with lots of yummy spices and vegetables. Then they had this tzakiki sauce. It was all very delicious. Later on this evening when thinking about my day, I honestly couldn’t remember what I had for lunch. And that is so unlike me. I have a great memory. I was just so anxious and thinking about getting my dog that entire time that I just kind of blanked out the lunch. Part of me remembers having another lunch too so I’m not quite sure what that’s all about, haha. Can you say exhaustion and excitement?!
After lunch, we all went back to our rooms and anxiously awaited the arrival of our dog. Well, I fell asleep because I was so anxious that I just decided to chill out for a bit on my bed and then before I know it, I woke up to knocking at my door. I had my treat pouch still around my waist and had the leash on the bed. I put my sunglasses on my head and hoped that my hair wasn’t too crazy and walked out the door anxiously with the Class Supervisor. He then had me sit in a seat and then my instructor brought over MAKIKO! Yes that’s right, my new guide dog is named Makiko. She is a beautiful black labrador around 50 lbs. Her father’s name is Fiji and I forgot her mother’s name. We will get all this information again later. She was born in July of 2011 so she is about 20 months old. After we got her we heeled back to the room. At this point, I had to be reminded of the things we just previously learned because I was just so excited. But once the excitement calmed down a little bit, I was good. Once we got back to the room, I learned how to put Makiko on tie-down in the corner. It sounds kind of like a punishment or a negative thing but it’s not. Makiko has a bed by my bed in the corner and then she has a long wire type thing that is called the tie-down. It is attached to the wall and it’s kind of like a leash but stronger. It is meant to keep Makiko in her bed at night. For the first several months they want us to keep our dog either on leash or on tie-down when we’re home to help reinforce good house behavior. After I put her on tie-down, we practiced putting the harness on Wheeler, which is like a manicon dog. We then practiced obedience with our dog and at some point during all that we also harnessed the dog up. Then we went outside and took our first walk together.
Our first walk was amazing. It was very sunny so I couldn’t see so well, but at the same time I felt so free. She has this little trot to her and when we got going at a good pace, her trot came out and it was adorable. We have this beautiful area to walk around outside. The instructor had a cat leash that she had attached to the dog at the same time to help correct the dog and encourage her while we are learning. Since I am partially sighted, the instructor will try various techniques with me to make sure that I am able to work regardless of what my vision is, especially since it fluctuates. One of those techniques that we are doing is closing my eyes for an extended period, opening them for an extended period, and repeat. We want to make sure that the dog doesn’t know when I can see some and can’t because we want her to always guide me around everything. Pretty cool, huh?
After that first walk, I went back inside and I had about an hour to hang out with Makiko. We sat on the bean bag in our room and played a whole bunch. We cuddled a whole bunch too and then I started moving her around the room to take good pictures. I did that earlier too because the lighting in my room wasn’t the best and everybody was asking for lots of pictures! Speaking of which, my sister, Mom, and boyfriend have been so incredibly so supportive of this decision as have my best friends. I’m so fortunate and that makes this experience that much more awesome! So lovely people, thank you!
Then came dinner. I honestly can’t remember what I had for dinner. It was delicious though. I remember I had a chef’s salad at the beginning and a delicious cupcake at the end but what was the entree? Hmm.. I’ll have to find out tomorrow lol. This was our first opportunity to eat with our dogs so I was a little bit distracted making sure she had good placement and such. After dinner we went back to our rooms. The instructors were gone but the class supervisor was still there. We then met up with the group for some more discussion, went back to the room and watered our dogs, which means gave them water, and then I had about an hour of free time. The “re-trains” or the people who had guide dogs before went to a tribute, or most of them did, which they had the opportunity to talk to the staff counselor about their dogs that they retired. This is a very emotional thing for them because they have worked their previous dog for several years and they have a very close bond, one that not many can describe. The staff counselor is also visually impaired and a guide dog handler. During this time that they were down there, I cuddled with Makiko and skyped Mom. It was so funny.. as soon as I started Skyping with Mom Makiko got a huge burst of energy and was quite playful so that was fun for Mom (and me) to see. For a lot of the time, all Mom could see was Makiko’s legs up in the air. She was rolled over on her back and I was scratching her belly. So after that at 8:30 we had relieving time.
Oh, that reminds me. During our evening meeting I learned that my puppy raiser is named Jennifer and she is from Fort Collins, Colorado. I am often in Colorado and so this was pretty cool. The puppy raisers really lay the foundation for the dogs. They teach them the basic obedience and expose them to all sorts of situations so that when they get ready for guide work, they hopefully don’t have any major quirks that make them disqualified to be a guide dog.
For those of you who don’t know, we have scheduled times that we water our dog, feed our dog, and relieve our dog so that we can have them on a schedule. This is beneficial because we don’t want them to all of a sudden need to go to the restroom when we are working them out in public, in a building, or in any situation which it is not convenient for them to use the restroom. They used to have a relieving technique called the relieving circle and some puppy raisers still do that. However recently they have started preferring something called casting. It is where you just bring your dog back and forth in front of you so that you get them moving and therefore their bowels moving. We do that for about ten minutes. This is incredibly long and sometimes I’m like, my dog is obviously done can we just go in? But they want us to make sure that the dog is really done so we have to stay out there longer. Luckily, as a newbie, I don’t have to pick up the poop yet. But they have a very strategic process for this. When the dog is going to the restroom, you trail the leash to them and then feel their body. There is a very distinct way the dog feels when she is urinating and when she is defecating. Then, if the dog is defecating you put your foot in line with where you think the poop is (close to the end of the dog’s body) so it’s not on the poop but close to being in line with it. This helps guide you. Then you can get a baggy and stick your hand inside and then strategically move your arm around and find the poop.
After relieving, we were done for the day. We went back inside and to our rooms and I hung out with Makiko for a little while, ended up falling asleep. Then my boyfriend texted me and he wanted to Skype so I woke up and Skyped with him and introduced him virtually to Makiko. That was a whole lot of fun. He got to see her adorable attitude. After that, I took a shower because I had this allergy attack. I’m not sure what it is but I’m going to get some medication for it in the morning. Now, I’m here writing this blog.
The way feeding works — we each have an amount that we are told to feed our dogs. They then split this up into three portions. One portion we put into our food pouch for the day. This kibble is used as treats. That way we can manage their caloric intake and so they don’t gain weight or have vast changes from day to day. We give them a certain amount for breakfast and then a certain amount for dinner. What leftover kibble we have in our food pouches we put in their dinner. Pretty nifty huh? Most of the re-trains received their dogs when GDB wasn’t using food rewards. They used praise and touch but now they use food reward. That presented the added complication of making sure the dogs weren’t weird around food but they have mastered that really well with the dogs. Also with the harness and dog today, we got booties and a Gentle leader. We haven’t messed with either of those yet though so I’ll talk about those tomorrow or whenever we learn more about them.
Alright, so that’s enough text. Wanna see some pictures? Of course you do! 🙂 Tomorrow is a crazy day. We go into Portland. Good night! 🙂