Dog Guide Diary: Monday Madness
by AFB Staff
In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly will chronicle her experience in attaining a new dog guide.
Today was our most action-packed day, so far. All was going well while I was getting ready, and I figured things would continue that way. I had already fed Tyra and took her out. It was raining, but that’s nothing new. On my first day here, we had the obligatory fire drill practice, and I thought that was the end of it. I was putting on my makeup when a strange sound that I’d never heard began. I didn't think much of it. About five minutes later the fire alarm sounded and flashing strobe lights went off. I did not even grab Tyra's harness. She was still on tie down, so I quickly clipped her leash in place and headed for the backdoor of my room into the dog run. I was not sure where the gate leading out of my run was. As I said, Tyra was not in harness and I did not have my cane. I finally found the gate, but there was a minute or two of panic involved. I told Tyra that I was not sure where I was going, and it was still dark outside. I asked Tyra to find inside. She took me along a narrow sidewalk and past some bushes and, lo and behold, we found the relieving area and the rest of my class. I was unbelievably proud of my girl. She has already saved my life once that I know of. We were all hanging around outside speculating about what had caused the alarm, when one of the members of my class appeared and told us that the alarm had been triggered by her blow dryer. The blow dryer yanked part of her hair out. It began to smoke and set the alarm off. We only had to stay outside about five minutes.
We drove into Portland, where we were supposed to work on buses and trains. I got out of the van, and Keith, our class supervisor, followed me. When we arrived at the lounge, about a block away, Keith told me that he was watching us, and we looked like a team that had been together for about 20 months. I took that as a huge compliment. If the rest of my week goes this well, I will be very pleased.
We walked a short distance to a local bus stop and boarded. The bus that picked us up was new, with a wheel chair ramp that extends from the side of the bus. It made a hideous noise, but Tyra was not bothered by this at all. We rode for a couple of stops and changed buses. While we were waiting to board the new bus, Amy, my instructor, told me that there was another Guide Dog team and a man waiting at the bus stop. This lady had also graduated from Guide Dogs and had a Yellow Labrador. She spoke to us, and right away, I could tell that there was something different about her speech pattern. I found out that she was deaf blind. She could hear some, but I don't think she could hear me. When the bus arrived, she and I, along with Amy and the mobility instructor she was with, got onto the bus. The bus was very crowded and at first I thought I would have to stand up. Someone gave up their seat for me and Tyra, and I was very grateful. A couple of stops later, several other people got on. One of them was a man with a small fuzzy dog on a leash. This dog stood right under Tyra's nose. I held her head, so that she would not be able to sniff. Her body was tucked neatly under my seat, so there was no danger of her being squashed. All was well, until a strange man sat down beside me. He kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I know he petted Tyra. She never moved and I asked him not to touch my dog. He said he hadn't, and I was too nervous to argue, but I know he did. Luckily, a couple of stops later, he and several others got off.
At our stop, we got off the bus and headed for the train platform. Amy could see that our train was coming, and because it was rainy and cold, she asked me to grab her arm, and we walked even faster. We made our train with no problem, and Tyra did great on the train too. We walked a couple of blocks back to the lounge without difficulty. I was glad to get inside, because it was very cold and rainy. I have never before successfully worked a dog in the rain, because it makes me nervous. I am much more comfortable now.
Our afternoon route was to a local Wal-Mart, where we practiced moving turns and holding onto the back bar of a shopping cart, while Amy pulled the cart. We were also able to work on the follow command, and I know that can be a useful tool if used correctly.
We returned to campus and after a rest period, Amy and I had a goal meeting to talk about what I have already accomplished, and what I still want to try. I had dinner, took care of my dog, and got ready for our final adventure of the day. As I may have alluded to earlier, tonight was to be our first night route. We traveled in the Guide Dog bus to a neighboring town, Gresham. We went to the same lounge we worked from last Tuesday and worked an eight block route. It was totally dark, with puddles and curbs, and the sound of water flowing into the storm drains. The sidewalks were also brick and slippery. I worked individually with Keith, as Amy had tonight off. Keith walked either on my right side, or slightly behind me. It was very dark, so everything I could have seen during the day was gone. Tyra had never guided at night, but still, her work was awesome. I was proud of her. When we got back to the lounge, Keith told me that our route had been text book perfect. I have never had such a high compliment from a person with so much experience. Keith even gave me a hug. That was the end of the most amazing day thus far.
Winking dog guide photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Re: Dog Guide Diary: Monday MadnessPosted by jajoe411647 [http://www.samobile.net/users/jjoehl] on 2/18/2013 at 4:54 PM
Wow that's excellent! I have always been a cane user, but a few years ago I was asked if I'd ever considered getting a guide dog. I was never really a dog person to begin with, but within the past several years I'd say I've warmed up to them. Having said that though, a guide dog is not for me and others have even told me so. My O&M skills have more or less gone downhill within the past several years. I won't bore everyone to tears with the reason for this, but suffice it to say I don't think I'll be getting a guide dog anytime soon. However, my former roommate had one during the last few years of his life and she worked out great.
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