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. 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. 🙂
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. 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? 🙂 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!! 🙂 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! 🙂