Today was a good day but I feel more exhausted than I have all the other days.
Normal routine — Wake up, feed, water, then relieve at 7am. We had breakfast at 7:30am. The breakfast was pretty good today but not as good as the other days. It was french toast with peach compote. The french toast was amazing, but I had never had peach compote before and quite frankly, didn’t really know what it was. So I got it, and it was alright. I love peaches, just the combination didn’t quite work for me. Afterwards we got our backpacks and equipment, relieved again, and got ready to load up. As we did yesterday, we walked by a dog distraction. Today it was a huge German Shepherd. Makiko was doing really really well and not paying attention to her, only our work, so the Class Supervisor had to get the dog really close to Makiko. The purpose of this is to practice what to do when our dog gets distracted. We are starting to work our dog in more situations now so that’s awesome. In the beginning we used our cane or sighted guide with the dog instead of working her everywhere. We had to learn the basics first but now we’re really “getting our hands dirty,” and it’s awesome! We loaded the caravan, myself, Makiko, another classmate, and her dog and then our trainer. We drove 40 minutes into Portland. I had several questions that I had thought of the night before so I asked them and then she went over some class material and then quizzed us a little bit. I got them right! 😛
In Portland, we got out of the car and both worked our dogs to the center. At the center, my classmate went out for about 45 minutes with the trainer first so that was kind of nice to relax a bit. I am not a morning person. The downside of that is I got a little sleepy. Working Makiko is amazing, it’s a blast and we just cruise and I have the ability to be confident that I won’t run into anything or anybody. It’s a wonderful feeling and she takes me right up to curbs, buildings, etc. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, of course. 🙂 Working her also gets my adrenaline running so that’s not such a bad thing in the morning.
When my classmate got back we went on our first route of the day. It was great. I am having a bit of difficulty with a few things but I’m slowly working it out. It’s like dancing.. you have to do things right so your partner will do things right. I might mess up, Makiko might mess up, but regardless WE mess up in the long run in terms of getting me to my destination and getting there in a timely and safe manner. With a lot of the guide work commands, there are foot movements, hand gestures for the right hand, specific instructions on what to do with your left hand that is holding the harness, and specific verbal commands. I got each of them on their own but combining them takes a little bit of practice. So there are a few things we need to work on, but that of course is why we have 2 weeks here. I can now see why some programs go 4 weeks but as I’ve said in earlier posts, thats just too much for my life right now.
I feel bad because I trip over Makiko a few times. Poor girl. I play with her after and kibble her for putting up with me but I really feel bad. I know that’s kind of expected since we ARE blind/visually impaired after all but that’s still not very fun for the doggies.
After my first route I had lunch. It was a clam chowder. Very yummy. Then, my classmate had to take a personal call so I went on a route with my instructor. Things went MUCH better this time and it really made me feel great. I texted my sister, Mom, and boyfriend after that that had been the most free I’ve ever felt with crossing streets. It was just amazing… that’s really the best way to describe it.
Yesterday we worked on backchaining which is if you recall a way to train a dog to go to a specific destination. We start at the destination, praise the dog and kibble her, then work back a few steps, tell her to find the destination, praise/kibble, step back even farther, repeat.. for a while. In the morning route we worked on this a little more and then on the afternoon route, when we were approaching the destination I commanded her to find the door to this building and she did just that! It was amazing and she was so proud of herself. It was great. We had some fun time after that. Yesterday we worked that route in 40 minutes because we were still learning a lot. Today we did it in 15. It’s in downtown Portland and today was quite busy with pedestrians, skateboards, smokers (oh man), bikers, trains, cars, dogs, little kids, etc. Makiko did wonderfully. We back-chained the starts to the center now that we have really learned how to do it so that I won’t have to listen for the environment around me to know when we get close and instead she will just take me to the steps.
Makiko is starting to learn our patterns though and it’s pretty cool. Tonight we left the fireplace lounge and I just casually told her we were gonna go to my room and she turned the right way and then we started trotting to the lounge. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So at the center, I waited a little bit for my partner to do her route. I ended up taking a nap. We are supposed to hold the leash at all times although Makiko is really really really good at just staying by me regardless. She usually doesn’t even move. Another dog today got away from her handler and the handler didn’t notice and the dog went for my dog’s bone that she was playing with. Makiko didn’t really care. She just sat still with the bone being taken away by the other dog until we really soon realized what was happening. I got my dog back and Makiko went back to playing with her bone. BUT the instructor wanted to teach me the hard way. Apparently when I was sleeping the leash slipped out of my hand so when the instructor came up and saw that, she got real excited and kind of called for Makiko and so she started going for her and I got her back. Now, I know what to do. Yesterday we were given carabiners that we have attached to our food pouch belt. When we don’t have a hand free or when we want to just have her attached to us for awhile like that we can put the leash in the carabiner. You better believe I’ll be doing that from now on.
So after my partner got done we worked our way to the car and then we headed to Fred Myers. It’s a grocery store here but apparently it has stuff that like a Home Depot and a regular store like Target would have. Interesting. We needed to learn how to handle a store. I didn’t learn how to do the cart because we aren’t supposed to do that for awhile because then that takes away the hand gestures and right now we depend on those. I worked the store with Makiko with my instructor standing far behind and giving us queues as to when to turn left, turn right, do a moving right, and a moving left. A standing turn and a moving turn are different and are kind of self-explanatory. A standing turn is when you are in one position and you want to turn right there. It has a certain combination of hand, voice, foot gestures that go with it. A standing turn is when you know you want to turn but aren’t exactly sure where or want the dog to decide, such as like if you want to turn down the next aisle or something, and it has it’s own combination of hand/foot/voice stuff to do with it.
At the store I got two things: shoelaces and mittens. I brought mittens (Mom really prepared me for the cold weather) but they were a little long. They went up my arm a little too much. Normally I would love this but since I sometimes have to get them off in a fast manner, they were getting in the way a bit. I borrowed one of the instructor’s extra pair and then bought some at the store. I also bought shoelaces. I love my vans but it was suspected that they didn’t give enough support so I switched to an extra pair of tennis shoes that I brought. However, I haven’t worn them in years so the shoelaces were a bit worn and were too short. They kept coming untied. So I bought new shoelaces and still need to re-lace my shoes.
After the store we came back, fed and watered our dog, relieved our dog, and then hung out for a bit before dinner. We had dinner (I had chowder again, but this time with vegetables– not sure why/how I ordered two chowders in one day), had a lecture on the Veterinary Assistance Program and the Alumni Association. The Veterinary Assistance Program gives graduates a certain amount of money each year to spend on wellness visits and flea/heart worm medication. They also help with more serious medical issues so that the dog always comes first and the graduate’s inability to pay does not affect the dog. I thought this was pretty neat. The Alumni Association is just as it sounds. All throughout the country, but not necessarily wherever guide dog handlers are, there are clubs or groups that meet that are made up of puppy raisers, handlers, etc. There is also a Speakers Bureau, which is when an organization would like somebody to speak about Guide Dogs they contact those who are signed up to speak. I am seriously considering that.
Speaking of that, a few weeks after I return with Makiko, we will be presenting to a Girl Scout troop about assistance dogs. A classmate will bring a service dog that she works with that is a therapy dog. She is in a wheelchair so she works with the dog around chairs. That should be a great adventure.
Okay, so after lecture we went back to our rooms for a bit, watered our dog, hung out, and then went out for relieving. I took a little nap (accidentally) in there and then after our relieving I played with Makiko, talked to family and my boyfriend, and then groomed Makiko. We had a good evening.
The weather was nice today so I’m hoping for it to be the same tomorrow. No rain is great!!! Haha. It rains a lot here. On the topic of water, Oregon water is very gross tasting. I mentioned this casually to one of the staff members today and she told me not to drink it because it’s bad well water. Well.. after how it tasted I don’t think that will be a problem.
Tomorrow shall be another crazy day so I must get some sleep now. However, as always, I’ll leave you with a few pictures. Sorry these posts are kind of lengthy. I’m partially blogging for you all, but partially blogging for me so that I can remember all this very clearly. Good Night! 🙂