Saturday, February 18, 2012

Home again

Well, we arrived home last Sunday, and have spent the last week getting adjusted to our new environment and life together! I'll cover the week's adventures in a moment, but first will talk about last Saturday's events. I'd planned to write everything up that evening, but an early bedtime and flight out of Portland on Sunday morning meant that didn't happen. Saturday was a whirlwind, but so much fun! I met my puppy raisers about noon, and it was great to hang out and talk together. They are such wonderful people, and I am very lucky to know them all! We also took some pictures, and at 1:00 graduation happened! We were each presented our dogs by our raisers up on stage, and handed the leash. After that, everyone talked very briefly about our dogs and what they meant to us. It was so much fun, and ended to quickly. After graduation we took a tour of the campus, and Lenore got very excited when we entered the kennels where she'd lived since July. One of her favorite techs got to see her and say goodbye. After this class, I have a new appreciation for all that the techs in the kennels do to shape our guides into the creatures that they are! My girl spent a long time in the kennels in Oregon, and they were her constant source of companionship, fun, and friendship. After spending some time with one of them, and hearing him talk about all he does to help relieve dogs stress in the kennels I appreciate them almost as much as the puppy raisers, and they were those behind the scenes people that I never early thought about until this class because my dog spent so long in their care! If it weren't for the love and dedication they put into her over the past six months while she was eagerly awaiting placement, I don't think she'd be where she is now. So, Thanks, Oregon kennel technicians for all you did to make my girl happy! :) When all the graduation events were finished, I went for a delicious steak dinner with my puppy raisers! It was great getting to know them better, and we had good food and great conversation. I also went into a store and showed them a little of what we learned in our two weeks of training, especially in terms of building work. It was hard saying goodbye in the evening, but I know we'll keep in touch, and they'll be happy to know how well Lenore is doing. On Sunday morning, we loaded up and headed for the airport about 5:00 AM. Lenore flew like a pro, and spent the flight curled up at my feet. When we got home, she smelled every inch of the place, and eventually settled down on her bed. On Monday, we went to Georgetown, where she met one of my coworkers for coffee. It was so great to see him again, and I know the two of them will become friends in time. When we were finished I went back to my house and worked around my neighborhood. Lenore did great, though we have a challenge at the moment, because the already couplex street crossing in front of my apartment is undergoing construction. After looking at the corner with a friend, it was decided to leave patterning Lenore to it until all the construction is finished. So I'm getting help at the corner for the moment. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in much the same way. I worked with friends to get my dog used to my neighborhood and do some routes. She is so smart! She handled everything like she'd lived here for years, and I'm just so impressed with her! On Thursday, we did some work on the subway, and again, she handled the escalators and crowds like a pro! Someone commented that we looked like we'd been together for ever, not like a team fresh out of training. So that was great to hear! Yesterday, we took it a bit easier, doing one workout in the morning, and having an afternoon of much needed downtime! The weekend holds pretty much the same thing, and it's back to work and the real world next week. I am so glad that we've had this week to adjust and bond! I really think it will make such a difference to our partnership for years to come! Thanks so much for reading! I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Training is over

Well, today marked our last day of training. This time tomorrow, we'll officially be a team. Today's routes were more relaxed than what we've previously done. We went to a park and did a brief walk on a paved path, after that we went to a mall and practiced some escalators and working Lenore through doorways. I also got to have coffee with my trainer at Starbucks, and enjoyed that a lot! We broused through an REI, and some other stores to practice narrow aisles and building work, and finally went back to campus in the van. In the afternoon, we practiced for graduation tomorrow and were given our binders with our dog's vet information and things like access laws. The highlight of the day for me came when I talked to one of the instructors in our group who'd been in class with Lenore before when she didn't match with the other person. She told me what a little rockstar Lenore was, and how happy she was to see her going home with me. She said that she just loved the energy that the two of us had together, and that Lenore acted like a "Mama dog," because she just tried to take care of everyone! She said that the other person didn't need a dog at that time in his life, he needed some education about dogs and Lenore gave him that, so he gained something from her, too. Even though he didn't do what was needed for her, she still tried hard to work hard and always held up her end of the bargin. THe instructor said that so many people on this campus know and respect my dog for all her hard work, and that they're all so glad she's going somewhere where she'll be loved and cherrished. She certainly does have that "Mama dog," quality about her, and I know she'll take care of me, and I'll hold up my end of the bargin as well! I just love this dog so much! She's so special and I hope I can give her all she deserves! I'm so glad that so many of the staff here know and like her as well, everywhere we go on this campus someone's always saying, Oh, you have Lenore! I know they'll miss her here, and she'll miss them. She spent a long time here waiting to be matched, and the instructor I spoke to today said she was just waiting for me. I think she's right! Tomorrow, we graduate! Lenore's a pro at graduation already, a couple of classes ago, she was the dog that the instructors brought out to show the audience briefly how guide dogs work and what a guide dog can do. I'm told she did great at that, and now, she graduates and starts her new life with me. I hope she'll be OK, and wish I could tell her that though her world's about to be turned up side down, it'll all be worth it in the end. That's about all I have for tonight! I'll write and tell you all about the actual graduation tomorrow !

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Where has the time gone?

Well, today was our last full day of traiing, and we made the most of it. It was a very busy day, with a route to Starbucks in the morning, with a stop at a mall on the way back to the Portland center to do more escalator work. I really feel that I've got a good handle on this now, and that we'll do great at escalators on our daily commute when we get home! We also went to the airport, and practiced going through seccurity. I had no problems with this, and my dog was a rockstar, as usual! After the airport, we went to a residential neighborhood, just to practice a route in a different kind of environment. This neighborhood only had stop sign traffic controls, so it was different from the typical routes we've been taking. Once we finished this, we went back to campus where we ate a quik dinner and went on a night route. Lenore seemed to love this and went very fast once again. I think she liked feeling the wind on her face and just walking briskly in the night air, just as I did. I ended my evening with a relaxing soak in the hot tub, and am now headed to bed. We have one more route tomorrow morning, go to the mall in the afternoon, and pack up in the evening. I need to do some laundry, and get ready to head home super early Sunday morning. Just, how'd the time fly so fast? I hope everyone's enjoyed reading about my experience as much as I've enjoyed writing about it! I will of course tell you about tomorrow and Saturday's events, but the real hard core training is now complete, and I've got a beautiful dog! I can't wait for you all to meet her!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Training, day 8

Today marked day 8 of training, and our final full day in Portland! Tomorrow we spend the morning in downtown Portland and go to the airport to practic going through seccurity in the afternoon. I'm not at all worried about this, I'm kind of an old hand at it now, though it's a good thing to work through with a new dog just to see how they do. Friday, we hang out and pack, as well as take a quick trip to a park and another mall. Lenore is completely recovered from her alergic reaction, and she did great work for me today! This morning, we went on the lightrail system and a city buss. She handled both of these situations beautifully, and was good at getting herself out of the way when I needed her to. After lunch, we went back to the mall, did more escalator work, and went into the Apple store. Lenore was completely unphaised by the crazy Apple store environment and heeled and worked well in the crowds. She also did great escalator work once again, I know taht she'll be ready for the DC metro when we get home on Sunday! On our way home, we stopped at a large off set crossing, very similar to the one by my house. We were able to pattern Lenore well using food, and show her exactly where to stop at the down curb, island, and up curb. We showed her each individual portion, worked her through that particular poartion, and went onto the next sighted guide. We repeated the process a few times and eventually worked her through the whole intersection. She is such a smart girl! She got the instersection correct onthe very first try. The key to success when I get home will be to have someone work with us a few times, take me across the street, show her what's expected,and then work her through. I'll probably do it in a couple of sessions, I'm thinking one before lunch, have lunch, and work her through it again. My instructor said she should get it after only a few times, but the trick will be getting her patterned the first time, to avoid any errors on either of our parts. I feel good about htis plan of action, and will look forward to working this through! The highlight of my evening came about an hour ago when her puppy raisers from Colorado called! She was primarily raised by a high school student, now in college, and her mother, both of whom can't wait to come this weekend and see her graduate! I am so honored that they're coming all the way from Denver and glad they're so excited to see her. I'm also really looking forward to spending time with them! They seem like really wonderful people, and I can't wait to meet them and learn more about them this weekend! That's about all I've got. I'm very tired, but ready for tomorrow! Goodnight from Portland! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Training, day 7

Well, I can't believe we're on the homestretch of class now! We've only really got Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday left at this point, and I'm hoping to make as much out of them as I can! Today, we did our traffic route in the morning, which Lenore did great on! She stopped and reacted appropriately at every traffic check the instructors gave her, I was really happy with her work! After that, we had our vet checks. Lenore was a healthy puppy, she did need some alergy medication at the puppy home in Colorado, but was taken off the medication once she got to Oregon. The vet said that she was alergic to something in the climate in Colorado, which wasn't in the Oregon climate. We're hoping that she will be OK in DC as well, though I plan to follow up with my vet in Arlington once I get home to make sure that there aren't any concerns that she sees. Speaking of alergies, Lenore had to take it easy this afternoon, because her swelling came back a bit. She took some pills, and the swelling's now completely gone. The vet wasn't worried about this, he explained to me that sometimes dogs still have a bit of the alergin in their systems for a day or so after something like a spider bite. She has her last doce of pills in the morning, and that should be the end of it. This afternoon I heeled her and did sighted guide with my instructor around a sidewalkless area just to get a feel for how this kind of travel would be done. I was sorry I couldn't work her through this, but my instructor didn't think it was a big deal. We also heeled around a parking lot by a petstore so that I could work on good heeling position and corrections. My instructor showed me how to correct her in a way which will let me gain control of her, but also not look bad to the public. My instructor is great, she's very concious of how much I have to interact with the public on a daily basis and has really helped me prepare for that in many ways. Tonight, we had some pork for dinner, I went back, snuggled witht he girl on the beanbag, and ended my evening with a relaxing bath! That's about all for me tonight. Bed comes early, because the day starts at 6:30. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dogs have sick days, too

Hi Everyone! I'll start with the events of yesterday. Basically, yesterday was a day off, so no training took place. I relaxed, ate way to much brunch, and went out for a couple of beers with a classmate to watch the superbowl. We had fun, and it was really nice to have a day of rest, after all, that's what Sunday was made for, right? :) This morning, I went outside to relieve my dog at 7 as usual. We were standing in the hallway, when her eyes and face started to swell up. We took a look at her, and my instructor concluded that she'd had an alergic reaction to something, probably a spider bite. We drugged her up to bring the swelling down, but the shot we gave her made her very sleepy, so she couldn't work much at all today. Instead, we went into Portland with the rest of the group, and I had some good snuggle time with her on the beanbag in our lounge this morning while she slept. We were curled up together and actually both fell asleep for a little while. In the afternoon, I worked with my instructor on some little things, like my positioning when I direct my dog to the left. My instructor held the harness, and pretended to be Lenore, and off we went. Working with her this way was actually really productive and a good use of time while my girl rested back at the lounge. When we got back to campus, Lenore began to feel better, the swelling was drastically reduced, and she was feeling much less sleepy. We decided to practice positioning her under plane seats, we have some here that an airline donated to the school for practice. She did very well at this, and I was proud of her. After dinner, everyone went out on a night route, and Lenore was feeling much, much better and behaving like her old self. She clearly wanted to go, so we decided to take her and see how she felt. I took out my harness and she jumped into it, so we decided that she was ready to walk a short route. We walked her for a couple of blocks and she absolutely loved it! She walked so fast I had to concintrate on slowing her down at one point. My instructor said she was really hapy, wagging and wiggling. I could tell she loved being in that harness, too. Now, she's had her last pills of the evening, and the swelling has gone. I was really worried about her this morning, but she seems to have recovered just fine. We'll watch her, but assuming she still continues to do well, she should be back to business tomorrow. I asked whether dogs get sick pay, and everyone laughed. Tomorrow, I think we have vet consultations, and do traffic work. Not sure what else tomorrow holds, but I'm going to have some coco and go to bed, so I'm ready for it. Thanks, as always for reading!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Training, day 5

How is it already day 5 of training? I can't believe that I'm half way through class at this poingt, or that things are going as well as they are! Today was a short day, vecause it was Saturday. We went into Portland in the morning and did escalator work. Lenore did great with this, and handled the escalators like a pro, which is great, as she'll be doing thema lot when we get home! When we got back to campus, we were given the opportunity to let our dogs run free in a fenced area. Lenore loved this, though I've learned not to interact with her to much when she's playing outside, as this causes her to jump and get very excited! She ran around for a few minutes, and also spent some time sniffing and being a dog. It was great to see. When we got back inside we had a meeting where my instructor asked me how things are going with the new dog, how I liked her, and whether I had any questions. I said that I absolutely love my girl, and we talked about some things I need to do a little differently with my new dog. One of them is that I need to let her guide me and go when I say forward rather than me using the harness to direct her. This is a habit I'm eager to work on braking next week, because I want my dog to work as effectively as possible. I also want to make sure that she's able to run free somehow a couple times a week. That's one of the drawbacks of living in the city, no real great place to take her to run. GDB doesn't recommend dog parks,when I asked why, they explained that it's because you don't know the dogs there, and whether they are friendly, have had their shots, etc. This makes sense to me, but I do think that walking with Mom and Yahzee girl in Rock Creek eventually would be good, because we know the vast majority of the dogs we meet there, and that they are a good friendly bunch! I also think that I should be able to walk my dog on leash after we've bonded at home, and I feel like she's doing her routes well. Not sure what the official line is on this one, though I think that with a cane it's OK as long as I'm not asking her to work. This would at least give her an opprtunity to get some sniffing time in every evening and let me be the one who gives her fun and play as well as work. She seems to walk very well on leash from what I've observed and I just really feel like she needs to have some outside time where she's not expected to work. Do any other guide dog people out there have thoughts on this one? How do you give your dogs outside play time when living in the city? Anyways, back to my day. When I was done with my meeting, I did laundry and had dinner. After that I chattted with my classmates for a while in our living room area. I got down on the floor with my dog and she promptly did a summersalt into my lap! It was the cutest thing ever! I just love her! Now, I'm going to bed. Tomorrow is a day off, so I'll take it easy, maybe go out to lunch, but not quite sure what my plan is yet. I'll write and let you all know how it goes! Thanks for reading tonight's installment!