Man, I was writing out all we did today in an email and in list form it sure looks like a LOT (and I even forgot some on the email!): Light rail, new route, bus, shopping, walk by the lake, water fountains, several dog distractions, playing, grooming, teeth brushing, relieving, food, water, night routes, my breakfast/lunch/dinner, learning airplane seats, backchaining, reworking errors, overhead clearances.
I also wanted to point something out. As I’ve said in an earlier post, WordPress isn’t the most accessible. On the right hand side of your screen it shows the Top Posts, but that doesn’t mean that they are in chronological order or that they are all of them. So what you should do is just scroll down the page and read the text in the center. It will go from the most recent post to the oldest post. Sorry for any confusion.
So now let me explain what I just listed off to you. Of course twice a day we go through the feed, water, relieve. Other times throughout the day we water our dog and also relieve our dog. This is, as I’ve already mentioned, on a schedule so that it doesn’t interfere with her guide work. Every evening as I’m getting ready for bed I brush and groom Makiko and brush her teeth as well. We play at different times throughout the day because when she is off duty she is just like a normal dog. She is incredibly sweet though and isn’t really rambunctious unless I get her going on purpose. She really loves the Nylabone and the Kong is a close second. I’m going to try, if I remember, to fill the Kong up with several pieces of kibble after I’ve put a bit of water on them and freeze it. I’ve heard the guide dogs like it a lot. The tug of war toy still holds no interest. She’ll gently bite it and then just let it go. It’s pretty cute. Throughout our walks, both at night and during the day, we passed several small “yip-yap” dogs that distracted Makiko. We had to give her a “time-out” to let her know she can’t do that and keep going. It would be nice if dog owners didn’t let their dogs so free around guides that they just ran up to them but ah well.
Our very first task of the morning was to walk to where we can get on the light rail, get on it and practice having Makiko in a safe position and keeping her calm and happy while it is moving, get off of it and walk to where we can shop a little bit. We shopped then we took the bus to a different place. There we worked on backchaining. It went so well. Jaymin didn’t even have to tell me how to do it this time.. I’ve only done it once and I already caught on and using the clicker I taught her in 10 minutes to find this certain mailbox. It was fabulous and afterwards I rewarded her and played with her a little and she got very cute and silly. My instructor said, “Oh man she is so dang cute!” And she is.. and she is all mine.. mwahaha! Just kidding, or am I? On our second route we went a completely different route that we had never been before. Makiko did wonderful and it was awesome, once again, to know she can handle whatever I throw at her. (Figuratively, of course). We went to this lake area/busy area of town where we manuevered around a LOT of pedestrian and we also had some wild animals and water fountains around. It was beautiful and very neat. We then walked back by ourselves and did a great job! When we got back to campus in Boring, we practiced overhead clearances since I was sick on Saturday and didn’t have the opportunity to work on them. Makiko missed them the first time but I told her to be careful and then reworked them and she got them the second time. So then when we finished them all and hung out for a bit I told her to do them again, just with the reverse route, and she did them just fine! 🙂
I can’t remember what we had for breakfast but for lunch I had a salad and this cous cous dish. It had raisins in it and everybody laughed so hard because I dug all the raisins out. Raisins are just like grapes in my mind — the devil’s food. Haha. It was delicious! For dinner I had potato pancakes with kale, feta, ands something else. It was really good.. never had kale before. We had lunch at the Portland lounge and dinner back in Boring of course.
In our dorm building, there is a setup of what it is like to board a plane with the bulkhead seating and the normal seating. It’s the exact same spacing and everything so we can see what we prefer to do with our dog, what our dog prefers, and practice getting them in there so that their tail or feet don’t get stepped on and that their cute little heads don’t pop out into the aisle. All of that could be dangerous for the dog, other passengers and staff, or both. For the regular seating, you have area under the seat in front of you to put your carry-on baggage. Well, with a guide dog they can fit under there and then you tuck their tail in. It’s cute, a few times my instructor has heard stories of their tail just popping out under the person in front of them because the dog is technically under their seat. We don’t HAVE to inform the passenger in front of us about the guide dog and many times the flight staff will, but I think I will just for everybody’s peace of mind and safety. In the bulkhead in most planes it is uncomfortable for the dog and for you but basically you make the dog curl up really tight right in front of you and you put a leg blocking the dog from the aisle and a leg blocking the dog from the other passenger. There are some very grumpy passengers so you want to make sure that the dog doesn’t touch one of them. I know American has horrible bulkhead room on the flights I’ve been on and they’re not very accommodating. Southwest, however, has always been super accommodating and they have larger bulkhead. Now, I’ve never travelled with a guide dog but this is what others have said as well and it was my experience with the cane. Some airlines, if the flight isn’t full, will rearrange seating so you have an extra seat beside you that is empty so you can let the dog stretch out. That would be ideal but I doubt that’ll happen with how grumpy American is being. So we practiced getting Makiko under a seat and it took a little practice but we got there.
The night route.. was amazing. There have been a few times the past couple of days where I have gotten teary-eyed because of the freedom that Makiko has already provided me and is going to continue to. After the night route was one of them. I started out incredibly nervous and stressed and ended up having a great amount of fun and rather confident. I even hugged my instructor for the first time.. I couldn’t tell if she liked hugs or not but decided to take a leap of faith at this point because she worked with me and Makiko so well on this.
There were a few times during the day where we didn’t work something quite right so we had to re-work it which basically points out to Makiko what we didn’t like about what just happened and giving her the opportunity to fix it by approaching that obstacle or whatever it was again. This gives her the opportunity for success and doesn’t leave her feeling like she failed at something. It’s a very positive way to approach an “error.” My instructor actually wants us not to be perfect, although I still try to be, so that when we go home we have the knowledge and problem-solving skills to approach our routes or issues by ourselves. Neat, huh?
American Airlines never called me back.. no surprise there. So I’m just going to attempt to handle it at the airport on Sunday and will fill you in then. I think that’s all for today. Tomorrow we are going to be driven at by cars, especially quiet cars, and learn how Makiko reacts to traffic encounters. Then we have a meeting with the staff vet which I am excited about to learn about Makiko’s past medical history and see how she’s doing health wise, although I think she’s doing just fine. She also will probably get shots, as will the other dogs, poor sweethearts.
There is something going around with a few of the dogs and they are trying to figure out what it was. A few months ago one of the dogs had these hives/swelling. Two days ago one of the dogs in class got it. It’s also been in the kennel, etc. It goes away but they can’t figure out what it is and since they give the dogs Benadryl when they see it, you can’t work the dog after that for the day so it’s a little tough.
There have been several great questions that I want to devote a blog post to but I haven’t had the opportunity yet. It takes everything in me to sit down in the evening and write these out before I go to bed. Makiko is already LONG asleep snoring so very loudly right next to me. She is such a precious gal. We are going to have to get a bean bag when we get home because when I sit on one, and they have plenty around here, she gets right on top of me or snuggles right up beside me. We’ve taken several naps that way and I just love it so indescribably much! Makiko also does this other thing that I think is pretty cute/considerate. Dogs have this nasty habit of sniffing/licking/chewing their dog poop sometimes. Well we obviously don’t want our dogs to be doing that and Makiko gives me kisses so I most definitely DO NOT want her doing that. But that’s okay, because she doesn’t. She was kind of trained to do this trick and then I reinforced it and now she does it perfectly. Whether it be pee or poop, whenever she is done with one she comes and gets on my left side and looks up at me. It is my responsibility to know if she is just done or if she went to the restroom. Makiko is funny though. My instructor says that she almost always will find a way to poop, she finds it somewhere and even if it’s a little bit she will. She’s pooped almost every time I’ve taken her out so that’s proving to be pretty true. The dogs are also taught to let us approach them and touch them when they are going to the restroom. If Makiko has a little hump in her back, she is pooping. If it is more straight down, she is peeing. Most of my classmates aren’t able to see the restroom activities so this is very useful for them. If it is high contrast and great lighting, I am able to but in the grass I’m usually not able to so I use this method. Once we have discovered the dog is pooping we line our foot up with the back of their body, but out of the way, so that we can just take our back and clean it up, because we know where it is. We have this sweeping method that we use to find the poop. So when Makiko comes to my left side after using the restroom, I praise and kibble her. At the end she does this again to let me know she is done. What a great girl!
All of us are really warming up to each other, unfortunately we only have a few more days together. I’ve helped many of my classmates with some things and that’s what I love to do- help other people- so it’s a great feeling. Today I was in the car with my trainer and my classmate and we laughed so hard we cried. It was awesome! Our trainer has started rewarding us with “kibble” or chocolate when we really do something well. Quite fun!
I think that’s all about today. I do have an announcement to make though. A guide dog in Garland has been lost and as you know, she is so crucial to the well-being, independence, and safety of the handler.
“One of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Guide Dogs was lost on 3/7 in Garland,
TX. “Anka” is a 5 year old, female, Black Lab. She escaped from her yard
without her identification, but she does have a tattoo. Please spread the
word as quickly as possible. As you can imagine, her partner is very
distraught. Please call Guide Dogs at 1-800-295-4050 if found.”
There is a Facebook page about her being missing at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Missing-Guide-Dog-Anka/280362668762516?ref=hl. Please spread the word and repost because this is just so sad. Nowadays, the dogs are microchipped but apparently when this person got Anka they were just tattoing them with numbers.
Now, as always, a few pictures! My instructor got a few pictures of us today working but I haven’t gotten them from her yet and then some of the other staff have sneak attacked pictures of us. How dare them take advantage of our visual impairments?! Haha just kidding. They do tell us later and send us the pictures. So I’ll post them as I get them but for now, here are the ones that I have taken. Again, sorry for the long post. I like to make sure you all are very aware of what we do!