02/01/2013

Image of person with guide dog, suggesting forward movement.

In this new series, guest blogger and Center on Vision Loss volunteer Holly will chronicle her experience in attaining a new dog guide.

Day 1

I was in a hurry, as usual, when I left the house with my parents to go to the airport en route to the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Oregon Campus. I left Pollyann, my retiring guide dog, at home because, I thought if she saw me walking away with my cane, she would get upset. I flew with a man from my area who will be training with his first dog. He has been totally blind for less than a year. The ticket counter staff, security personnel, and flight crew actually seemed to know what they were doing, as far as having blind people around — that is always nice. The flight itself was dull, which is how I like it!

It was sunny when we landed in Portland, and I've heard that we will have good weather for the next few days — fine by me! Two airport employees helped us navigate through the crowds to the baggage area and then the information desk, where we were to meet the representative from the school. He was a very nice person. He used to work full-time for GDB, but was now in college, studying to become a nurse practitioner. He also teaches English to international students at a local community college.

As for the others in my class, there are five other "students," including someone from Hawaii. I've never known anyone from Hawaii to train with a guide dog — something I hope to learn more about. There are only two people in the class who are training with their first dogs. I am always glad to help people learn the ropes, as I think I might be the classmate with the most vision.

The dorm is great. It is built in a straight line, so it is hard to get lost. The rooms were originally built as doubles, but are all private now. In half of the room, there is a double bed with a rug, and a tie-down for my dog. The headboard has shelves and a desk next to it. There is a lot of storage space in drawers and open shelves. Across from the bed, a flat screen TV is mounted on the wall, almost like what you would see in a hospital. There's a small refrigerator in the far closet, like what you'd find in a college dorm room. There are doors that lead to a patio, which can be used as a dog relief area, if needed. There's also a large bathroom. The dorm staff and volunteers I've met so far are great. I am a picky eater, and they don't seem to be bothered by that.

Meetings are generally held in what's known as the Fireplace Room. It is very comfortable, and I have noticed a couple of neat things: a statue of a dog wearing a harness, and on closer inspection, I discovered the famous Wheeler. He even has a long tail. There is also another dog statue that really feels good to hold. He is yellow, and there is also a black dog who is wearing a gentle leader [Editor’s note: this is a muzzle-like device the guide dog wears to easily pick up cues from the person]. I think a few people who have worked with other dogs had never seen one of these up close.

Our night was highlighted by receiving our treat bags and leashes. The next morning, in our lecture, we are to have our leash and treat pouch with kibble in it. We are supposed to have lectures on Monday morning, do some Juno walks, and have a fire drill. Just before lunch, we are to gather with our class supervisor and learn about meeting our dogs. We will actually meet our new dogs at 1:30 pm. We will have some time to bond before starting guide work. We will also feed them ourselves for the first time. I will keep you posted!

Read Part 2 in the series: Meeting Tyra on Monday

Dog guide image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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