Day 11 at GDB

Today was eventful, but in a very good way. I wasn’t TOO exhausted but after this evening I think Makiko is.. let me explain.. but of course, I have to tell you the whole day leading up to that first!

My body just did not feel like getting up this morning. So we’re supposed to be relieved by 7am.. woke up at 7:15am… gave Makiko her food, quickly got dressed, gave Makiko water, put on slippers, and headed outside to relieve her.. then we hurried to breakfast. Breakfast was amazing it was eggs carbonera, or something like that. Then after breakfast we met in the Fireplace Lounge for a meeting with Graduate Services about the amazing services they offer us after we “graduate” on Saturday from trainers to come out and assist us if we’re having specific issues, to annual followups, on call veterinarians, veterinary assistance program, alumni association, etc. It really and truly is a great organization and they have and will bend over backwards for our success, health, and happiness. It’s wonderful. After that we relieved our dogs again and then headed to Portland. This time our instructor gave us a long list of directions and we had to follow them and independently get to the destination without her cueing us, etc. Guess what?! We made it. I feel like I may get the hang of Portland just as we are about to leave and I may even know Portland better than I do Dallas. Just kidding, but seriously, Dallas is a hard area to memorize. Portland has named streets going one way and numbered streets going the other. So much easier. My route went great, we stopped at the park bench and we had the opportunity to work through not getting distracted by dogs and other pedestrians. We did great. After that we had lunch. For lunch we had Philly Cheesesteak — delicious!

After lunch we headed to the Portland airport where we worked through Airport Security. This was a great deal because we honestly had the opportunity to learn ourselves how to take a dog through security and the TSA supervisors were appreciative that we came because they had the opportunity to learn how to work with guide dog handlers and their dogs. This one lady asked me to unleash my dog and I looked at her like, “Are you crazy?” She kept insisting so I was about to do it because Makiko really would stay sitting there until I called her but then an instructor showed me how to get through security with her leash by gripping the metal part really tight. I thought that was interesting. So we got through just fine but then they had to swab my hands, etc and so forth. I was away from my stuff for about 10-15 minutes which is a big no no. After all of us went through security we had the opportunity to give the supervisors feedback and they said they realized that I was away from my belongings too long and I also told them I was instructed to take off the leash. They said they had already talked to the lady who did this and she was a brand new TSA officer. So we were both doing this for the first time. My instructor told the supervisor, “Yeah, we tend to discourage our handlers from unleashing our dogs in public. Having a $70,000 dog run loose in an airport is generally not a good idea.” I laughed. Did you know that? The dog, at the end of training, is worth about $70,000 with all the training, veterinary services, flights, food, etc that went in to training the dog and us training with the dog. Pretty intense. We actually had the opportunity to go all the way through security, which I was surprised at after 9/11. But the supervisors were of course watching us closely. My classmates joked that of course someone who is not knowledgeable about Guide Dogs gets me whereas all the others are pretty good. They were also referring to the AA incident and just laughed that I’m really going to get a lot of experience on that end before I leave.. because they do want us to experience as much as we can with the instructors around, haha. After that we went to Jamba Juice. It’s funny my classmate and I are both with this one instructor and we all have very strong personalities. At the beginning we all really weren’t sure of each other but now everybody says that my classmate and I are like an “old married couple” or we’re like sisters. It’s amusing. Gonna miss her like crazy but she lives close to family so I’m hoping sometime when I visit them I’ll get to visit her too. For privacy sake, I am trying not to mention the handler’s names or the dog’s names. While at the airport, we practiced lots of escalators, which of course means we get to put the booties on. Makiko doesn’t mind it that much but when we’re putting them on, she’s not quite sure what to think about them. We only have to put the back two on when doing escalators.

After Jamba juice and escalators, we headed back to campus for our Transitional meeting. Basically we each individually met with our instructor to talk about many (almost all) of the parts of transitioning home with your guide dog. That was a very informative meeting. After that I fed and watered Makiko, relieved her and then right as I was going to lay down, I get a knock at my door. At this point I never know who to expect so I answer it and it’s my classmate wanting me to help her with something. We get to talking and then realize we are late for dinner.. oops! So we rush to dinner and everybody laughs because we play it off. After dinner, my classmate wanted me to take a lot of pictures of her and her dog around campus so we went around doing that. That was great fun! Then after that she came back and we hung out for a long while, she used my phone to call family, we let the dogs play, and just had a good time in my room. It was quite nice. Makiko is so cute. if the other dog(s) decide they want her toy more than she does, she’ll let them have it. And they are also a little more rough than I think she likes although everybody tells me that’s just how they play. Well, I’m not comfortable with that because Makiko is such a sweetheart so I break it up and then give her her toy back if the other dog has had it for awhile. Makiko went to town on that tonight for like 20 minutes.. she usually stops for a break sometime in there. Eventually another friend and her dog came into my room so here we had three dogs, Makiko and two other dogs. The two other dogs tend to flirt/play with each other and can kind of get rough but Makiko was just like “I’m not getting into that.. I’m just gonna curl up on my Mommy’s lap” I was quite fine with that.. she IS my sweet lap dog (off-duty) and guide dog (on-duty) after all. It was cute though when one of the other handlers was trying to get their dog under control and would give them an obedience command, occasionally Makiko would think she was talking to her and so she would do it too. Tonight after all the playing around, even though Makiko did only a little herself, she was EXHAUSTED. She was laying down and I decided I wanted to shower. I was going to relieve her first but I got up and her eyes didn’t even open. That’s very strange for her. She is usually quite in tune to when I get up, she pops her head up too. So I let her sleep and I went to the shower and kept the door open. I kept looking and she was still sound asleep. It was adorable. So I showered, took a picture for her puppy raiser whose birthday is today, then talked to family and friends for awhile, took her out to relieve, and now we’re both pretty tired.

Been emailing back and forth with my puppy raiser a ton. She is an absolute sweetheart, with a huge heart, very intelligent, and lots of fun! She is sending us several gifts and I am so appreciative. She has already spent so much of her own money, time, and love and she keeps on giving. 🙂 She won’t be able to make it to Makiko’s graduation but that’s okay because we’re arranging to meet up. Just so you know, the puppy raisers only get notified their dog is in class after many days of the dog and handler working together. They want to make sure that the match is likely to stick and then the puppy raisers have a certain time they are allowed to contact the new handler because again, they don’t want any emotions to get in the way if the dog needs to get switched.

I’ve discovered I need a lint roller. So I had a red shirt on all day, played with Makiko a bit before dinner, went to dinner and I came back and I had black hair ALL over my shirt, so I changed into another red shirt because one of my friends who is visually impaired but has very little sight said she thought I looked good in red. Well, I think she was trying to get something else out of me, which I’ll tell you about in a minute, but later that shirt was covered in black hair too. Normal working the hair would not shed because I groom her everyday but Makiko loves to sit on me, back up into me, etc and therefore leaving a lot of room for hair to spread.

They are thinking about switching me to an Ergonomic harness for many reasons. 1) They think it works better for me in terms of my positioning in relation to the dog’s positioning, 2) It helps with joint/muscle etc issues that may develop from using the harness. I like it and I’m trying to decide if it’s better or the same or worse as the regular handle. The ergonomic handle looks a little funky but I’m trying not to focus on that when deciding.

Other notes:

  • You know you’re a dog owner (and a visually impaired one at that) who frequently kibbles their dog when you find kibble in your bed. Oh joy!
  • I’m really bonding with one of my fellow classmates who is only a few years older than me. She is super awesome and we have hung out a bunch and that is making these last couple days go even faster.
  • Most of the instructors are really impressed at how much I know. I think that’s because I read and re-read the lecture material since I was so new to it and SOME (not all) of the re-trains assumed since they had already done this, they didn’t need to read it again very well. Well.. that’s not true because so much of the way GDB trains their dogs is different nowadays that they really did.
  • Makiko is still doing great at tug-of war.

I’m exhausted so I’m going to go to bed but as always, here are a few pictures.

This is a pic to wish “J” a very Happy Birthday! .
Makiko and another handler and I went out onto the Oregon Trail to take pictures of our dogs separate and together! SO cute!
I was supposed to be taking pictures of HER but she turned it around and decided to take a picture of me when Makiko was in my lap. She was using my iphone (she doesn’t have one), without voiceover, and is pretty great at taking pictures, wouldn’t you say?
Makiko and another GD (Guide Dog) chilling out. Makiko is using the other dog as a pillow.
This is a picture of one of my friend’s/classmates Guide Dog. He is in front of the fire and just looked pretty cute. He was only there really quick for photography purposes.
Us cuddling on a bean bag in the lounge!

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Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

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