Guide Dog Instructor, New Roommate, End of the Semester

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much lately, I should have been better. I do have a lot of stories from the past couple of weeks (and more free time now) so as I remember them I will try to blog about them. 🙂

Today was an eventful day. GDB sent an instructor out to help us with a few things that I didn’t know if they were okay and to just generally check up on us, as a new guide dog team and since I’m a first time guide dog user. I was initially a little intimidated because I thought they were “evaluating” me and for some reason I had this notion, although I’m told it’s crazy, that they could take her away if we weren’t doing everything correctly and just the thought of that broke my heart. I mean, we are doing everything correctly as far as we knew but we have a few little mess-ups now and then. However, I expressed this concern to the Guide Dog Instructor, Larissa, at the end of her visit and she emphasized again and again that she is really just here to HELP us, not evaluate us. The only “evaluating” she does is to determine tips and strategies she has to make us an even more effective guide dog team. That was a relief. Larissa was SO impressed with how well Makiko and I are doing. She kept telling us how we are a strong guide dog team, Makiko is obviously “super intelligent” and “eager to work,” and how we have a good working style and make a great team. That was so wonderful to hear. There were a few things that I asked Larissa to look at.

1) Crossing certain speeds Makiko’s speed decreases DRAMATICALLY and it’s like, “whats going on girl?” — Well, Larissa said those are very difficult crossings for a dog and she’s just taking the time to think. She is evaluating which way to take me and a lot of the times the crossing is diagonal and there are grates/sewers, etc for her to work around. I am grateful that it is just her taking the time to determine what is the safest route for her to take me/us and not an issue.

2) Sometimes I want to travel on the right but they are taught a left-line and Makiko really, really sticks to that left line. — Another easy solution here. I never really thought about gentle cues for this situation. I practiced on several different wide paths gently cueing Makiko to the middle and the right and she did it and stuck to it! Woo hoo. I DO have such an intelligent dog!

3) There are a few areas that there aren’t really upcurbs and the crossing is whacky, I wanted to get Larissa’s advice on where is the best place for us to make our “upcurb.” — Larissa helped me figure out a few of these wonky crossings. All of the ways that I was doing it would have worked and were fine, but she showed me a few alternatives too.

4) Every once and awhile Makiko would make an oops and forget about the right side of me on certain doorways. I would try to rework it but it wasn’t being effective — Oops, again, this was my error. I forgot that I should have her sit, tap the thing that we bumped into, say “careful” and keep going. I would say “careful” but I wasn’t having her sit every time and so my point wasn’t coming across as clear as it could be.

5) Our campus is wonky for a guide dog. Larissa admitted that our campus was one of the more challenging campus’ she’s seen. So sometimes Makiko will think that we’re supposed to be taking the left fork when really I want to go straight. I catch it soon enough, say hop-up, and then we get back on track but Larissa gave me the tip that stopping fully, saying “hop-up” and then keeping going would be more effective.

All in all, these are minor things. We have never had our safety jeopardized, she takes me at a great pace and in a safe manner from point A to point B, is healthy, happy, motivated, intelligent, and wonderful. These were just a few little things that we can work on to make us an even more amazing working guide dog team. I was very appreciative of Larissa’s support today. Even despite the tips that she gave us, she kept telling us what a wonderful, solid, working guide dog TEAM we are. Woo hoo!

I found out about 36 hours ago that I would be getting a new roommate today. I have been roommate-less since December. I just had to rearrange a few things that I had taken over “her” space in. I had also been trying to figure out how to introduce Makiko to my new roommate. Well, I was just chilling and suddenly there is a person in my apartment! Well, OUR apartment now. Haha. So Makiko just happened to be off leash, went up to her rubbed against her a little bit, circled her, my roommate pet her a little, I called Makiko back to me and she sat by my side and was amazing. I then put her on leash and it was great. 🙂 I don’t know my roommate really well yet and haven’t talked to her about guide dogs and whatnot yet, but we’ll get there soon I’m sure. 🙂 Great first meeting so I’m optimistic.

AND… I finished this semester. This has been a very trying semester for me, full of new challenges and new opportunities. Of course you all likely know right before the semester started, my father passed away. He was my best friend and incredibly dear to me so that has made this semester very difficult with the grieving and sadness. And then of course, I got Makiko in March which has been one of the best things that have ever happened to me. There’s been a lot of other stuff among those two things, both challenges and opportunities. But this semester is now over and I think I should get all A’s (hopefully!) so I’m 1) proud of myself, 2) relieved the semester is over and 3) ready for a fresh start, aka new semester.

Much love to everybody out there that reads my blog. If you’re in school, I hope you are having a good end to the semester. If you’re not in school (and really even if you are), I hope you and yours are healthy and happy.

To the victims and families of the West explosion and the Boston Marathon bombings and MIT shooing, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and for your pain. I am thinking about you and your families. If there is anything that I can do for you, although I don’t know what that can be, please let me know.


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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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