Today was a good day. I’m not mentally exhausted really but more physically exhausted. But I’ll get there..
Makiko did wonderfully last night. She slept through the whole night without waking me or anything. She does snore and it’s funny because when we’re just hanging out and she naps, I have recorded her snoring. However, this snoring doesn’t bother me when I’m sleeping so that’s good. 🙂 At 6:30am, I popped out of bed and fed her, then watered her. I got dressed while she was doing those things and then at 7am I was out by the doors ready to go relieving with the group. Then we brought the stuff back in and at 7:30am we had breakfast. I have had to start writing down what I have to eat because I’m so exhausted and so busy with thinking about things related to Makiko that it’s hard for me to remember. The food is always delicious though so you would think I would be able to remember it. 🙂 We had this casserole thing for breakfast and believe me, when I first picked that I didn’t think it sounded that appetizing but it was better than the other options. It turned out to be fabulous. It was eggs and sausage and a lot of other things. I know I’m jumping around here a bit but last night– I had penne pasta for dinner. Remember I couldn’t remember if I had the pita thing or penne for lunch? Well, silly me, it was because one of those was for dinner. Okay, now.. moving on! 🙂
After breakfast we met for a group lecture/discussion about street crossings and orientation. We then were presented with distractions as we went outside. We relieved our dogs and then were told to make our way towards the bus. It is important to note that most of the exercises we have done up until this point are without the harness. We are just working on learning the foundation and obedience commands. As we approached the bus, they had the class supervisor there with his dog. This was a pretty surefire distraction for our dog. This was used to teach us how to put our dog in time-out. It is more powerful than a verbal command and less intense than a leash correction. We basically just reel the dog into our side, count to ten slowly and while doing that we completely ignore the dog. Then we keep going and when the dog does it right, we praise and reward him/her lots with kibble. We then learned how to board the bus with our dog. Now comes the tricky part. This was the first time our dogs had had to stay sitting up on a bus. I imagine they have road the bus before but I’m not positive. So the whole 15 minute drive into Gresham, we had to keep our dogs sitting. We used a lot of positive reinforcement, lots and lots of kibble. and catching them before they went down. Because getting them to sit up after they are already down is a lot tougher than when they are halfway down. And remember, it’s not harmful that we’re giving them lots of kibble because it is just out of their daily ration. Makiko did pretty good but we did have to reinforce the sitting quite a bit. Once we got into Gresham, we had to offload the bus. The school has set guidelines in place so we can safely maneuver with a bunch of blind people. There are “rules” or strong suggestions about how to leave buildings, go in and out of vehicles, etc., so that we don’t injure another person or dog. I’m telling ya, GDB has just about thought of everything!
So as soon as we left the bus we went inside the center in Gresham. It’s kind of like a small house. There are two big rooms, one with crates and chairs and the other with booths and couches and such. Then there is a small kitchen, a drying room, and a chill out room with bean bags and such. First, we practiced our commands and learning turns, etc., on Juno/Wheeler. I think I may have mentioned them before but they are basically things that look like a dog’s shape but they are fleece and are on wheels. This way we practice the verbal command, the hand gesture, and the footwork and the instructors shows us how the dog will react. Pretty cool, huh? While we were doing this, Makiko was in her crate. She does such a good job at all of this. So after I got done with Wheeler, the instructor took me a few blocks around Gresham and we practiced all of this out in public but she held onto the other end of the harness instead of the dog being in harness. Makiko was still in her crate. After we finished this I went back inside and my instructor went out with her other student. Each instructor has two students. It is a very nice ratio. After she went, it was lunch time. When I am not out with the instructor, Makiko is always with me. We have a lot of great bonding time. Lunch was yummy. The kitchen staff brings the food to us at the center so I had a chicken salad with a slice of bread and a yummy cookie for dessert. After lunch my instructor did a short refresher course with Wheeler and then we went out. This was my first real real walk with Makiko. Yesterday we did a short walk but this was much more intense. It was awesome!! Some have asked me if I can see a huge difference and the answer is kind of. I can see how she WILL be a huge difference but we still have a little under 2 weeks that we need to consistently work on our bonding and communicating with each other through verbal language and body language in order to make us successful as a team. While I am out with Makiko, I have the harness and the leash and the instructor has a little cat leash also attached to help encourage Makiko (and the other dogs) to do what they are supposed to do. That walk was wonderful.
It was a bit rainy so I borrowed a rain hat. Mom had packed me well with just about everything else. I kept really warm. I had brought several pairs of gloves on this trip but for the trip into Gresham I packed a particularly thick pair of gloves. I soon learned that I couldn’t really use those. It made it hard to harness Makiko and hard to get the kibble out relatively quickly. I had a shirt on, then my sweatshirt, then my jacket, then my rain hat that I borrowed. On the bottom, I just had jeans and my shoes. This kept me pretty warm but I got to remember to bring thinner gloves out with me tomorrow.
So after I went, my classmate went again. While she was going I took the opportunity to take a nap. It was very nice. We are supposed to hold the leash for our dog at all times and apparently when I slept I let go of the leash. Most of the time I do a good job at keeping hold. So the nice nurse came over and sat next to me but let me kept sleeping and she just watched the dog. It was very nice. So after my classmate went, we did re-working. Re-working is where when the dog makes a mistake by bumping us into something, not paying attention and us brushing up against something, we stop immediately. Then depending on the situation we either back up or turn around and re-work the situation. However, we want to be a little bit of “drama” queens when we bump into something so the dogs realize that that was not a good thing. We then say careful and go at the area again after taking several paces back and if the dog does it right, we really praise and reward her. We did this with Juno because it’s hard to make it happen with the dog. After that I got to take Makiko back out and had another good walk/route, then my classmate went, and then we all met up for a meeting about tomorrow. We went back to our main building in Boring where I got a personal one-on-one grooming lesson by my instructor while all the re-trains were with the other two. After that, we fed the dog dinner, watered the dog, and then I think went to dinner ourselves. I had a dish that I don’t think I’ve ever had before: Quinoa. Look it up if you don’t know what it is. It’s hard to describe but really quite delicious!
After this I went to the nurse. We had been warned about shin splints, or what they call shin splints. A few people have told me you can only really develop them over the course of months so who knows. It is where your shin starts hurting a lot. They say it’s common, with re-trains and newbies alike, to get shin splints when working with a new guide dog because of the pace, gait, etc. It is only in one leg so the nurse gave me a little pain meds and a nifty ice pack. Then we went to another lecture with our Resident Advisor. The instructors go home around 5ish. The Resident Advisor discussed how to properly play with your dog, do”s and don’ts as far as toys and playing. Then she passed around a whole assortment of toys, not necessarily that GDB sells, so that we can learn and maybe get some more for our dog in the future. After that, we were dismissed until 8:30 when we had to relieve. I wanted to take a jacuzzi because I was sore but the nurse said we really aren’t if we may have shin splits for 48 to 72 hours. Bummer.
So I went back into the lounge where we were and continued talking with two lovely students there and then we went back to our room to get our rain jackets. It was relieving time and we could hear the rain on the ceiling. Makiko is sweet and awesome. I have to encourage her to “do your business” for a while even after I think she is all done because we want to make sure. We have different ways of telling whether the dog has pooped or peed and I’m picking up my own dog’s poop after she goes now. So after this, I headed back inside and it was night-night time. I crawled in bed for a bit then got out of bed to go see what Makiko thought about the toys. She was a big fan of the nylabone, followed by the kong, followed by the tug of war apparatus. I have pictures below. I think it’s really cool how when it’s hot or when you want to, you can moisten the kibble and put it in the kong and then freeze it. It gives the dog a nice cold toy to play with/eat. So Makiko and I played on our bean bag mat for awhile, talked to my boyfriend while Makiko slept on my mat there and then after awhile I began to get uncomfortable so I went back to my bed and put Makiko on tie-down and said goodnight. And that is where I am at! 🙂 See below for pictures. I am sorry I write long posts but I just want to make sure you have a clear picture of what we are doing here and for future guide dog users to have a little heads up.