November 20, 2013: Guide Dogs for the Blind


I am very grateful for Guide Dogs for the BlindΒ (GDB). GDB is one of the best guide dog schools across the world. Their main campus is located in San Rafael, California and their other site is in Portland, Oregon. This is the site Makiko and i met and were trained at. The organization is run purely on donations and it is such a worthwhile cause. It gives so many individuals with visual impairments each year their independence (back), their freedom (back), and such companionship. It has given me that and so much more in Makiko and the people I have met, and the opportunities I have had because of her. She helps me through so much and allows me to do so much, all thanks to Guide Dogs for the Blind and the wonderful people who donate to this organization.

Today, and everyday, I am grateful for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Day 12 at GDB


Um.. what?! It’s already Day 12 at GDB?! Let me start out by telling you at the beginning I thought these two weeks were going to be crazy long. Here are my reasons:

  • I do NOT do well with waking up early, much less being fully functioning from about 6:45pm-9:30pm
  • I’m away from my boyfriend, best friends, and family and I’m extremely close to them
  • I’m still very much grieving the loss of my Daddy so it’s hard to be away from those close to me for extended periods of time
  • The amount of exercise I’ve done these past two weeks is SIGNIFICANTLY more than I’ve ever been used to… ever!
  • Upon first impression most of the students were quite a bit older than me except for one person, they were all re-trains except for me, and I really wasn’t sure how we were going to relate

So now let me address each of those:

  • I still am NOT a morning person but I have proven to myself that I can function at a reasonable level in the mornings. I have also proven to myself and everybody around me the benefit of me napping AND/OR getting Starbucks. My Guide Dog instructor found this and sent me this.. it should convey my point quite nicely:

    It's black text, in all capital letters, on a yellow background that reads "Mornings really should be moved to a more convenient time of the day."
    It’s black text, in all capital letters, on a yellow background that reads “Mornings really should be moved to a more convenient time of the day.”
  • I’ve been able to Skype Steven once, talk to my best friends all the time, and Skype my Mom and text my sister often. That’s been wonderful. I had one day that I missed them pretty bad but that ties into the next one.
  • I had one day that I was missing Dad really bad, it was the day after Dad’s birthday. For some reason I didn’t get really upset ON his birthday itself but the day after and I really wanted to be with my family on that day
  • My legs are definitely definitely more toned. I’m liking this. I don’t think I’ll have quite this level of activity at school because there really is simply not the time and I need more time for sanity once school and student organizations start back up but I will definitely keep it up. Makiko shall be accompanying me to the gym once I figure out where I’m going to fit that into my schedule.
  • I have gotten really close to one particular female student, close to another, and really like the other 4 students. We’ve had a great training together and now we’re kind of bummed that we’re all spread out all over the US. We have students in every time zone.

Breakfast: Waffles & Sausage
Lunch: Chicken salad with dressing
Dinner: Risotto with roasted vegetables (DELICIOUS!)

Our chef is absolutely amazing. On Sunday she is packing me a to-go breakfast and a to-go lunch since I’ll be flying all day. She’s made absolutely amazing meals and been wonderful about ensuring I do not have any grapes, bananas, or mayo in anything. One day somebody else prepared the meal though and put raisins in. Everybody gave me so much heck about it for the longest time (well, one student still does haha) because I picked all the raisins out. But most meals are prepared by the head chef and it’s honestly a strong motivation for waking up in the morning or from naps.. although I know I have to anyway it’s a great motivation.

Today’s activities: (I’m exhausted tonight so bullet points make this post a little easier, haha):

  • Wakeup, feed, water, relieve
  • Breakfast
  • Waterfront: Our instructor wanted us to have a new second route and wanted to just give us directions at the beginning and have us do it independently. Guess what? My partner and I did it each independently.. yahoo! We went to the beautiful waterfront and walked along this path and then when we got to a certain set of benches we told our dogs to find the bench. We did most of the route to the waterfront together and then we split up at one point and then found our way to the benches independently. We both are around other guide dog users a lot so we needed to learn how to do “doubles.” At the waterfront we took pictures with our instructor, dealt with dog distractions and people distractions, learned how to navigate large pathways with our dogs, etc. It was awesome. On the way back my partner wanted to stop at a tshirt store but it was too far away for me so my instructor offered for me to go 3/4 of the way there and hang out at a Starbucks.. heck yeah!
  • Starbucks: I got an amazing Frappucino and then just hung out. It was dark so I had to ask where a few things were to the staff and this one guy goes “Over there,” to which I reply, “I’m visually impaired and it’s dark in here, could you please tell me where over there is?” And he goes ‘That way!” and points. I kind of could tell that time but then gently and semi humorously reminded him that he should give verbal directions instead of gestures to a visually impaired person with/without a guide dog. Then we made it past an insane amount of people and sat down, texted, called Mom, and just relaxed. This was my first entirely independent outing with Makiko. The other outings we were mostly independent but we had an instructor in sight. This time not so much. We did great though so that was a huge confidence booster!
  • Lunch
  • Relieving: I gotta start getting in the habit of bringing poop bags with me everywhere. I bring them in my backpack but often leave my backpack at the center or in the car. Luckily either my partner or instructor always has one. However, I figure most times (99.9% when I leave my apartment I will have my backpack with me so that’s okay.. it’s the other outings like when I’m in Dallas with my boyfriend or family that I’d be in trouble if I didn’t bring a poopy bag)
  • Target: Oh boy was this an adventure. Well, let’s just say my partner is a shopper, me not so much. I wanted to shop for a few things for gifts but nothing huge. She has young children so she ended up in the baby/toddler section when the instructors let us go off and hang for a bit. Yeah, she was there quite a while. I also looked at bean bags, of course, because that is like must for Makiko and I but of course I didn’t buy one because I couldn’t bring it home with me on the plane. We had a good time at Target.
  • Woods/Forest trail: Outside of the Target there was this path to a forest area and it was BEAUTIFUL. I’m still waiting for the pics from my instructor from that outing but I’ll post them soon. We walked pretty fast and had the experience with bridges and drop offs, etc. It was awesome.
  • Walgreens: We wanted to stop at Walgreens to get something but then it ended up being at a different Walgreens so we’ll go there tomorrow hopefully.
  • Relax: We then went back to the dorm and relaxed for a bit. I showed my instructor a certain poorly planned intersection by my apartments and she recommended I write a letter to the city explaining how dangerous it is. I will do that! After that I relaxed for a bit and then decided I needed to get some student organization stuff done so I did.
  • Feed, water, relieve
  • Dinner
  • Talk with Puppy Raiser: My puppy raiser called me tonight! We talked for almost 40 minutes and it was terrific. We have been emailing each other a ton but we hadn’t actually talked on the phone. After our call she emailed me to tell me that although it was evident in the emails how much I love Makiko, she really could tell on the phone. I thought that was really sweet! She also shared with me a little piece of information about puppy raising. She said one of her worst fears is that when the puppy goes to a new home, that new home won’t love her/him as much as she did but she has been calmed since she can tell I love Makiko to death. Isn’t that sweet? I haven’t asked her explicit permission to say her name on blog yet, that’s why I’m still being vague.
  • Night Route: My primary instructor wasn’t going to be here tonight so I was very hesitant about the night route. However, since I have RP I figured it would be very beneficial since the way I behave during the day is different at night, residual vision wise. We did great and everything was just fine. It’s really amusing though, daytime or night, Makiko really has a thing about storm drains. I don’t always see them but I know that when she takes this sort of leap off the curb we were passing a storm drain. Haha. It was a huge relief that it went so well.
  • Relieve
  • Relax
  • Blog/Talk to friends: It was a great day, although a busy one. Tonight was our last super intense route. Tomorrow morning we do the park and the mall and then in the afternoon we meet with the staff to go over our going home packet. I’m super excited about that. Then we prepare for graduation. Saturday morning we eat and also prepare for graduation and then Saturday afternoon is graduation. In the evening we’ll do something fun, not exactly sure what yet, because all of us stay overnight except for one girl who sadly goes back Saturday night. She is the one I’m closest to so thats kind of a bummer but ah well. After we graduate though we can of course go off campus all we want with our dogs, whereas up until today we had to leave our dogs at home if we went off campus without an instructor. Sunday I fly home and I get to introduce my baby to my Mom, my great-aunt, and my boyfriend! I can’t wait!!

You know when you’re a parent of a young baby and you go through the debate about whether you should wake them up to feed them right now or whether you should have someone wait in the car if they are asleep with them instead of bringing them in the store, etc? I kind of am getting that way with Makiko. I sat down for a few minutes and then was going to take her outside to relieve and poor baby is SOUND asleep. I really don’t want to wake her but we haven’t had any accidents yet and I don’t want tonight to be the first so I will go relieve her now. Pictures and then good night! πŸ™‚

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Makiko is laying on the ground on my side of the car and her left is beneath my leg and then another dog decided he wanted on my side of the car too and was going to put his head on top of my leg.. well I can tell you that my leg was definitely secure in that spot and kept very warm. πŸ™‚
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My instructor, me, and Makiko at the waterfront
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I know this is a bit of an odd picture. I was sitting there next to this dog though and I realized that this looked a little odd. I asked the instructor and she said it was normal (his pads are just spread more apart).
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I really don’t look very good in this picture because I was mid-word I think and my eyes are closed but this is us working doubles.
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Makiko and a classmate’s dog laying on each other under the table while we ate dinner.

Day 4 at GDB


First of all, thank you all for reading my posts. The traffic on my blog is fabulous. I want to encourage you to leave comments here. Most of you have been leaving them on my Facebook and that’s great, but it would be cool for you to leave them here too so others can see them and hopefully be encouraged to comment and/or ask questions themselves.

Today was a good day, overall. I feel that Makiko and I made some good progress. We had a few hiccups which got me a little emotional. Today is Dad’s birthday and most of you know that he passed away on January 2nd. So while I do okay day-to-day for the most part, it is still very fresh and it hurts. I miss him like crazy. So I tried very hard to focus today and in route I did pretty well. Β However it was when we had down time that I started getting a little sad and my mind got foggy.

6:30 was wake up, which is just a perfect amount of time. I get up and get Makiko eating, water her, and get dressed while she is doing that. Then at 7am we go out for relieving, 7:30 is breakfast. I think I’m getting the hang of knowing when Makiko is done. We have to do something called “casting,” and I think I explained that in another post but that’s basically where we bring our leash from side to side in front of us to get her to walk in sort of a semi-circle back and forth to get her bowels moving. I keep her going for awhile, as we are instructed to do, but I am getting pretty good at telling when she is done. The interesting thing is most dogs don’t want you by them when they are going to the restroom. These dogs are trained so that we can slowly go up to them and feel their back. We know if it’s arched one way they are pooping and one way they are peeing. I can SOMETIMES see the poop, sometimes not. So once we figure out the dog is pooping, we line our foot up with the poop but out of the way, and then move the dog around, kibble her so she stays at your side, and then pick up the poop. I’ve never had to carry poopy bags around so I gotta get in the hang of that. For breakfast I had a strawberry smoothie. It was really a strawberry BANANA smoothie but since I hate bananas, I am just pretending they weren’t in there. She said we wouldn’t be able to taste them and she was right. So that was great. After breakfast, we had lecture, went back to our room and got our stuff, went out to relieve (in the rain– oh boy!!), and then to board the bus. This time Makiko didn’t have anything to relieve, haha. On the way to the bus, they had a dog distraction planted. The class supervisor has a dog and as we’re walking to the bus often times our dog will get distracted by the dog. This is a purposeful distraction so that we can learn how to control our dogs. We pull them gently to our sides, kind of like reeling them in, and just hold them there for ten seconds. This is called a “time-out.” It’s really a lot less intense looking than it sounds. We don’t talk to our dog or anything during those ten seconds. Then we keep going. As soon as we clear the distraction this time, we kibble her and then keep going. We learned how to board a van and how to position our dogs in small spaces. That was pretty neat. I also learned something between the van ride there and back about my dog but I’ll tell you about that later. πŸ™‚

We started our route a little rocky because it was our first time going down stairs and my trainer didn’t want me to confuse her because stairs aren’t particularly easy so instead of stopping and talking about it she wanted me to keep going and we’d talk later. We did some work with Juno and wheeler before we did the stairs though, but it wasn’t on the stairs. That all went fine. The part that bothered me was the fact that after I got confused at the end of the stairs I was told very strongly not to stop.Β This is not my preferred method (continuing and not stopping to talk) but it’s the best method for the dog so I understand. It made me a little emotional though to start things off.

Afterwards I think I got into swing of things pretty fast. I’m starting to get the hang of the feet position, hand signals, voice commands, intonation, harness pressure, etc. If you think getting a guide dog is an easy task, let me tell ya — it’s not — but it’s WELL worth it. I can tell that already. Most guide dog schools are four weeks BECAUSE of the complexity of having a guide dog and using her effectively. I like that this program is two weeks though because it allows me to get what I need and return to my normal life. I may elaborate on this a little more in an additional post. I don’t want this to go on forever.

I am starting to learn Portland as we go on our walks. If you know me, you know I am absolutely, positively, without a doubt, NOT good at directions. I have lived in Dallas my whole life and I STILL have a lot of issues around integral areas that I often travel. Okay so now imagine me going to Portland, a place that I just stepped foot on for the first time TODAY and trying to learn the streets. Yeah, a little confusing. It is cool though that they have either west/east or north/south streets that are numbered. And then the other streets I just make up ways to remember them. I’m not doing so bad but I do get a little confused. We worked the route and we discovered that I have two main issues, as of right now, that I need to work on: halting and up-curbs. When we cross the street we tend to go a little bit to the left and we still line up with the curb but not where we ideally want to be. And then when we halt, I have to have a specific foot positioning and this is proving a little difficult for me to get into. After I did my route, we went back and it was my other classmate’s turn to go out with her dog. I chilled out in comfy chairs and ate lunch while this was happening. Lunch was delicious! They also brought kitchen staff to the center. I am finding that I get a lot of the vegetarian options. (could be the influence my wonderful sister had on me). I got the veggie stuffed baked potato. Oh man it was good. We also had this delicious salad, a roll, and a chocolate cookie. I’m not sure if I’m going to gain weight from the delicious three meals a day, which I often only get like one or maybe two, or lose weight because of all the walking. I will build muscle, that’s for sure.

Then when they came back it was time for the instructor to take lunch so while they did that the class supervisor gave us a lecture on Dog Encounters. That was interesting… and quite frankly dog encounters scare me to death. When I’m talking about dog encounters I’m talking about when a stray dog approaches your dog and you or when a dog lunges at you or your dog, etc. We are told that if our dog does get attacked to call the police and say “I am blind and I have been attacked.” And NOT to say that your dog has been attacked because they won’t take you very seriously. I thought this was interesting. So after lunch we went out again and it was great. A lot smoother than the first time around and we were working out some of our kinks. She safely navgitated me around mailboxes, trash cans, pedestrians, bicylists, etc. We then found a huge glass building and we’re going to start learning a method called “back-chaining” which is a method that teaches the dog to find a building. We started a little bit today but didn’t have that much time. Guess what is inside this building though? A Starbucks! Yes that is right.. ooh I’m excited. My instructor says we may be able to chill in there one day while the other does their route. That’d be cool.

Afterwards we worked to our car, loaded up, and then headed back to campus. On the way home, another classmate was in the car with me and we discovered that Makiko really needs a pillow when we go home. She loves to use her foot as a pillow. This classmate also told me to figure out whether my dog was a nester or not. A nester is someone who curls up in this little ball. If so, she told me I should get one of those little beds with the soft walls for her. I really liked this idea. GDB sends us home with this little fleece mat thing but I would like to buy her something maybe a little more comfy. And this classmate said sometimes these have pillows in them so that’d be cool. I have some pictures below of her nesting. There we fed and watered our dog, relieved our dog, and then went to dinner. I was a little zoned and I forgot about the relieving time so the instructor had to come get me and that was a little embarrassing. Everything else I’ve been on time to or pretty early. Ah well, stuff happens. Dinner was salad and this delicious mushroom soup. It was a HUGE bowl and was quite delicious. We had lemon bars for dessert and I love lemon bars. Yes, that’s right.. I said plural lemon bars. We usually only get one dessert but she gave my table 2 because we asked. Hehe. After dinner we went back to the room and watered our dogs after a while and then had the opportunity to do yoga. I wanted to do it but then I was just absolutely exhausted, physically and a bit emotionally from missing Dad, so I told them I wasn’t going to do it. That was fine because it was optional. After they got done with Yoga we went outside to relieve our dogs. I was so out of it and tired (I had taken a quick nap) that I wasn’t too thrilled about going out in the cold rainy weather but such is life now that I have a dog, right? πŸ™‚ As I have said many times, it’s worth it though.

Then it was time for bed. We had play time and then grooming time before bed though. That was great. Grooming is a lot of fun and it’s just a sweet time to spend with your dog making her feel pretty and look good for her work out in public, and with you and your friends/family. Playing was a lot of fun too! I’m hoping I can upload a video of her playing at some point. She can be so silly/goofy. She really likes her Nylabone. I’m going to post a few pictures below of her grooming tools so you can see what we use. Of course, this is what GDB recommends and we’re always welcome to go buy our own products if we find we don’t like these. However, so far, I do. We are supposed to groom our dog everyday, bathe our dog as needed (most say like three times a year if we groom everyday) and then get their nails trimmed relatively often. I need to find a place to do this.

This evening I joined a GDB Yahoo groups list. A classmate is on it and it is for puppy raisers, handlers, and prospective GDB students. I loved it because I got to read others’ posts, including my classmate, and also I found my puppy raiser’s posts about Makiko! I’m hoping she sees my introductory post and responds. She is in Ft. Collins, Colorado so I don’t think she will be able to come to graduation, although that would be really cool if she could!! πŸ™‚ I got to see little tid bits about Makiko and that was sweet. I look forward to this group. It’s like a listserv so it’s all done mostly by email but you can also post using the web form. My classmate had said that this can be a little overwhelming because they send so many messages. Each month I saw averages about 2,000. I set mine on “digest” so I get a message a day with all the messages. I think that will be neat.

Okay, I think that’s all. Now here are a few pictures. Good night! πŸ™‚

Cutie pie! Like I said, she's a nester.
Cutie pie! Like I said, she’s a nester.
Isn't that adorable? I have officially figured out she IS a nester!
Isn’t that adorable? I have officially figured out she IS a nester!
Classmate is a pillow!
Classmate is a pillow!
This is my classmate again being a pillow for Makiko.
This is my classmate again being a pillow for Makiko.
She looks tiny in this picture, and she is tiny, but she looks a little smaller than she really is in this pic. She is so cute and in harness. :)
She looks tiny in this picture, and she is tiny, but she looks a little smaller than she really is in this pic. She is so cute and in harness. πŸ™‚
Makiko was falling asleep on me/the seat on the way home. How cute! She was exhausted.
Makiko was falling asleep on me/the seat on the way home. How cute! She was exhausted.

 

This has all the grooming items in it.
This has all the grooming items in it.
I haven't learned how to use these yet but they were also in the grooming pouch. There is a toothbrush, sometime to put over your finger to brush the dog's teeth, and doggy toothpaste.
I haven’t learned how to use these yet but they were also in the grooming pouch. There is a toothbrush, sometime to put over your finger to brush the dog’s teeth, and doggy toothpaste.
Sorry guys. I didn't realize that there was this much hair in it until I uploaded the picture to my computer. This is a Zoom Groom and it's their preferred tool for grooming and, as you can see, it does a good job. This tool is soft and squishy and kind of massages the dog. After this, we can use the soft bristled brush to continue to groom her and bring the oils to the surface so they don't build up and make her smelly. The purpose of grooming is to prevent the smell, make her look professional/nice, and so that she doesn't shed over another person, their car, etc.
Sorry guys. I didn’t realize that there was this much hair in it until I uploaded the picture to my computer. This is a Zoom Groom and it’s their preferred tool for grooming and, as you can see, it does a good job. This tool is soft and squishy and kind of massages the dog. After this, we can use the soft bristled brush to continue to groom her and bring the oils to the surface so they don’t build up and make her smelly. The purpose of grooming is to prevent the smell, make her look professional/nice, and so that she doesn’t shed over another person, their car, etc.
This is a picture of the back side of the Zoom Groom.
This is a picture of the back side of the Zoom Groom.
This is a two-sided hairbrush. On one side is a brush that they don't recommend. It has metal bristles with the little rounded dot on the end. The other side is soft and is what I used to groom Makiko after the Zoom Groom.
This is a two-sided hairbrush. On one side is a brush that they don’t recommend. It has metal bristles with the little rounded dot on the end. The other side is soft and is what I used to groom Makiko after the Zoom Groom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 at GDB


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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚ 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.

I can rarely get Makiko to smile for the camera but this one turned out to be just precious!
Makiko feeds in the same corner that she sleeps in in my room. I just remove the mat.
photo 2-2
Makiko getting watered. She gets her water on a towel so it doesn’t splash. The sink area you see is the dog sink and directly above it is the human sink. When Makiko is done, I pour out the water. The dogs are trained so that we can put the food or water down and they won’t go for it until we give them permission. It’s pretty cool.
Here is a picture of a Kong. At the top and bottom are rather large holes. We can give them this to just play with or we can moisten some kibble and stuff it inside. I think that sounds like a fun game.
Here is a picture of a Kong. At the top and bottom are rather large holes. We can give them this to just play with or we can moisten some kibble and stuff it inside. I think that sounds like a fun game.
Makiko so far isn't that fond of this toy. What you do is you hold onto the yellow handle while the dog bites the big blue part and you play tug of war. This is just a way to exhaust some energy and make sure that your fingers are safe.
Makiko so far isn’t that fond of this toy. What you do is you hold onto the yellow handle while the dog bites the big blue part and you play tug of war. This is just a way to exhaust some energy and make sure that your fingers are safe.
photo 1
Makiko’s so far favorite
photo 4-1
Makiko playing with her kong
photo 3
As I lay on the bean bag thing with Makiko, I gave her her choice of toys. She wanted the nylabone and then came and sat with me chewing on her nylabone with her paws on my lap. I was obviously in my PJ’s by then. πŸ™‚
photo 4
Another pic of Makiko with her nylabone on me
photo 5
Another picture of Makiko with the kong
photo 5-1
This is a bit hard to see since the bag is navy blue and she is black but this is her playing with her nylabone on the bean bag.


Day 1 at GDB


Oh man, today was a LONG travel day but well worth it. I was out of town for a wedding so I had to fly out of the other city, which then happened to fly into my home town, and then to Portland. I had to be at the airport at 5:20 or so this morning. THAT was early. And of course I didn’t get the greatest night sleep last night because of the excitement of the wedding and worried that I was forgetting something. Turns out I was.. I had forgotten to get cash, but we took care of that easily in the morning.

We arrived at the airport, Mom was able to come through security with me because I have a disability. She stayed with me until I preboarded. American Airlines at the Austin airport had a little vibrating buzzer thing that let you know when it was time to go up. I was the only one pre-boarding though and I just stayed in the “Special Needs” seating with Mom so they motioned to her when it was ready for me. Still, I thought this device was pretty cool and high tech for an airline/pre-boarding. (Pictured below)

American Airlines Pre-boarding Pager

The first leg of the flight went by without a hitch. I was asleep before take-off even. I wasn’t told that I had to transfer planes for the second leg but then I soon figured that out when EVERYBODY was getting off. So I went out and there was somebody to assist me to the next gate. That is when the crazy stuff started happening. So all of a sudden, there is this lady in front of me with a wheelchair, taking my cane, my bag, my boarding pass, etc. She hadn’t introduced herself to me, said not a word, just started grabbing things. So I said, “what’s going on?” and she said she was going to put me in the wheelchair. That is when somebody that was working the desk said, “The wheelchair is for somebody else. She is blind and just needs your arm.” So then I asked her for all my belongings back. So then she like grabbed me in this really awkward position and practically started dragging me. She wasn’t angry or anything, she just legitmateily thought that was the way to guide me. I really think that may have been her first experience with a person with a visual impairment. Then I told her I would prefer to just grab her arm so she let me but then she tried to do this awkward thing about grabbing my arm too. I just wasn’t going to win with this one. So then when we got onto the passageway between the airport and the plane, she started manually guiding my cane back and forth. Well, that practically makes the cane useless for me because I am no longer able to detect anything by using the cane. So then she started telling all the flight attendants. “She’s blind. She’s blind. She’s blind.” Oi. She stressed me out. So then once I got on the plane, I found my seat and I put my cane over to the left side since I was at a window seat. That is where the previous flight’s flight attendants told me to put it. Well, this flight attendant said that wasn’t allowed so she took it from me. See, I was in the bulkhead so I had to store everything overhead but apparently this time that included the cane. Okay, now I’m settled and I try and get some sleep. I fall asleep and then all of a sudden I wake up FREEZING! Apparently they turned on all the air blower things overhead. I tried to turn mine off several times without any luck. The passenger next to me was asleep. Since I was short, it was difficult to even reach and try to turn it off and then once it didn’t work I needed to call the flight attendant. Well, I managed to press the button and she came immediately. She couldn’t even turn the thing off. So then I asked for a blanket, and of course they didn’t have any. So there I am freezing for another hour or more on the plane. I was so ready to get off.

Plane landed. I didn’t wait like the flight attendant’s prefer for everybody to get off. I instead got off close to the start and there was somebody waiting to guide me. He was a good guide. I think he’s had experience because he automatically guessed that I was here for the Guide Dog school and he was very good about guiding me. I appreciated that. I told him I was supposed to this certain place in baggage claim. He was leading me there when suddenly I heard, “Jessica?” It was a married couple who are volunteers for Guide Dogs for the Blind. So they helped me get my luggage and then we waited around for another student. She was about an hour later. Meanwhile, I got Starbucks. I was so ready for it! This other student, “R”, has been blind since birth and is on her like 9th guide dog or something. It’s incredible. I hadn’t met any of the other students yet and we headed to campus.

Once we got there, the volunteers brought in our luggage and showed us around our room. It’s very nice. It’s a converted double room but it’s now private. We have this super long desk and several chests of drawers, two sinks, two areas to fill and dump the dog’s water, a tie down and a mat for the dog, a patio for relieving, two closets, another super long desk on the other side of the room, and a really nice bathroom. Oh, we also have a really nice TV. These rooms are really nice. Also in the room is a nice recliner and a bean bag area. I’ll talk more about that later.

So as soon as we got our stuff in the room, the nurse came by and discussed our medical needs with us and then she took me down to lunch. “R” and I ate lunch, they had turkey sandwiches for us, and then I went back to the room to unpack. I met Laura who helped me learn a few more things about my room and then told me I needed to in a certain room at 4:30pm for our first meeting. I skyped with my family, took a shower, and then headed down there. That is where we learned about basic rules and how things work. We also did introductions. I’m the youngest here. There are 5 other people, two older individuals, one male and one female, a middle-aged man, a middle-aged woman who is a mother and then another mother who looks younger. They all seem like a cool group of classmates for these 2 weeks. We are sure a chatty bunch though.

So after that, we took a tour around the facilities so that we would know what’s where. It’s very nice. We have a library, nurse’s area, music room, public restrooms, dining hall, grooming room, several lounges, etc. After the tour, we went to eat. I had ordered Chicken Marsala. It was delicious. We placed our order for Monday and Tuesday meals as well. I’ll tell you about them as they come though. After dinner, I had Laura, the Resident Adviser who has been helping us all evening and leading the meetings, help me with my key because it was being stubborn. Then we went to another meeting where we learned more about the equipment we will be using. We were all issued a leash and a food pouch. The food pouch is for treats. We take a portion of the dog’s daily food rations and put it into the pouch and we use that for treats throughout the day. It’s a way to regulate the dog’s caloric intake and therefore their weight. The leash is very nice leather.

Equipment

The above picture is of equipment we have here to use or we are issued. The top left picture is what we had in our rooms upon arrival. It’s a medium-sized bin of kibble, a cup, and a Guide Dogs for the Blind fanny pack. I think it has grooming equipment inside. The top right picture is the tie-down and doggy mat. When we are sleeping, we tie-down our dog so we make sure they are well-behaved and they learn that we are in control, etc. The middle picture on the left is something I thought was really cool. It’s a HUGE bean bag and a recliner. I’m told that the huge bean bag is so that we can cuddle up and lay with the dog. And then the recliner is just a really nice area to sit. The middle right picture is the food pouch which I described above. The bottom left picture is the nice leather leash, which we can make into a short leash or a long leash depending on what we need to do and then the bottom right picture is where we fill up and dump out the dog’s water bowl. Pretty cool, huh?

So after the second meeting, we were dismissed. I called a few friends and then sat down to write this blog. I think I’m going to pass out soon. This time is 2 hours earlier than my normal time zone so that will work out to my favor right now. I just can’t believe how early it is and how tired I am, but then I think about the long day I had and it makes sense. Tomorrow my day starts at 7:30am with breakfast.

GDB (Guide Dogs for the Blind) does this every two weeks so they have thinks worked out so well. I will tell you little things that they do that I think that are neat as I think about them. But one of them is we have phones in our room. We can call a certain extension and it tells us our schedule for tomorrow and the discussion questions we should be ready to discuss tomorrow. Isn’t that neat? As everyone probably knows, I am very schedule oriented and I like to have all the details. So, I am very excited about this feature. The Resident Advisor, Laura, also said she is going to email us the schedule and a map of Portland, where we do a lot of the training. I appreciate that because I am also a very visual person (ironic?) and so I like to have everything in writing. I haven’t listened to it yet but all I do know is that 7:30 is breakfast, we have lunch in the afternoon and then right after lunch around 1:30pm we get to meet our dogs. Oh man oh man! I’m excited/nervous!

Everything is really nice. The people are amazing, facilities fantastic, food wonderful, it is just a great atmosphere. I was a little hesitant about being away for two weeks because of all the emotional stuff that has gone on the past two months but I don’t think it will be that big of an issue. I hope not, at least. πŸ™‚ I had heard all these things about GDB and that is why I chose to come here. I think everything I heard will prove to be true. I mean, the nurse manager came by and said she was going to the store and is there anything she could pick up for us. What did I ask for? Some Dr. Pepper of course! We even have our own mini-fridge in our room. (Forgot to mention that earlier). I’m just so impressed by this place so far and I’ve only been here like 6 hours!

I think that’s all for tonight. I’m exhausted. I’m really hoping the weather doesn’t get too bad this week because I am very much a Texas gal and Oregon weather just doesn’t sound like it would be too pleasant most of the time.

Hope you enjoyed my first post and I hope you continue reading!

Anticipation is building…


I just can’t wait to get a Guide Dog. There are so many situations nowadays where I was like “See, I wouldn’t have to deal with this frustration” or “This would be SO much easier” with a Guide dog. One of my friends, Skylar, is in a wheelchair. She has been working with a therapy dog to expose him to wheelchairs and get him used to working around them because he is a Camp dog for Camp Craig Allen. With the dog being around us for the next several days, it just increases my desire and longing to get a guide dog. It also shows me how so much friendlier people are when you have a dog around, especially if you have a disability. I am definitely looking forward to that.

I’ve been reading the lectures that Guide Dogs for the Blind sent me over email. It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s awesome because I am already learning a lot and it just makes this whole thing more real. American Airlines Special Assistance to tell me that they usually have individuals with guide dogs in the bulkhead if they are okay with it so the dog will have more space. They made sure to tell me that I am required to keep my dog within the confines of my normal space in front of me. I was like “yeah, sure.. of course.” Haha. This is just becoming so much more real and I am so excited. But I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous too. This is such a big change that is about to happen, so that’s normal, right?

Everybody back in Denton is onboard with my decision to get a guide dog. Not that they CAN say anything legally, but it’s nice that they are all so supportive. All my professors and department know that I am going to get a dog, my apartment complex knows. It will be good.

The big packet is supposed to come today with the packing list, what to expect with Oregon climate, etc. These are things that did not come in the email. I am away at school and I have everything sent home to my parent’s address so I’m hoping when Mom gets home from work she’ll find it and read it to me. I want to know what to expect!

Flight is… BOOKED


Holy moly GDB works fast. They have booked my flight and good gracious they were right, I am flying out early. Like I said in an earlier post, I will be flying out of Austin because I will be there for my cousin’s wedding the night before. I normally live in Denton/Dallas. The flight will leave Austin at 7:20 in the morning and then it will go through Dallas and then to Oregon. I should arrive around 11 or so and then I’m there for 2 weeks.. woot! The 7:20am flight is going to be brutal though because that means after being up into the morning hours the night before, I will have to then wake up and be at the airport by like 6am at the latest. I am NOT a morning person but I guess this will be good practice since we’ll have to wake up every morning at 6:30 am anyway. The flight there won’t be that interesting, although I do still love flying. The flight BACK however will be interesting because after only 2 weeks with my dog, I will be flying with it. Although, from what I have seen and read I’m sure we will be ready!