Thursday - First outing.
November 16 1995 San Rafael, Ca.
For the first few days after getting our dogs, when it came time to let them do their business, all we had to do is open the door that lead from our room directly onto the fenced dog run. Each room had a dog run. If I remember correctly it could of been possible to turn the single dog runs into one huge dog run because I seem to recall the trainers making their way through the runs, passing through each one via a gate.
It was very nice those first few times. Especially in the morning. All I had to do is water Gerard, and then scoot him out into the run. Whilst he was out there tending to his morning toilet I did the same. Fixed my hair, got dressed, even some times grabbing a shower.
I never gave much thought to picking up after my dog having observed my friend picking up after her dog. She went to GDB and if she picked up after her dog, it stood to reason we would as well.
All these years later, I’ve come to learn that while the several guide dog training programs have some things in common, training guide dogs, some of the programs are vastly different, in several shocking WTF sorts of ways. I am so thankful I picked GDB…
I knew somebody who had a dog from back east. Their school, according to them, didn’t teach basics of dog care. They hadn’t a clue how to groom their dog, had never seen a zoomgroom, standard issue at guide dog schools world wide, well. Okay at least the UK Canada and the Us. It’s a common enough tool every guide dog owner should have regardless of did your program issue one. Some schools, I’m sure this has changed by now, didn’t teach picking up the dog’s poop. And judging from some of the guides I’ve seen over the years, doing daily obedience drills with the dogs wasn’t pounded into the heads of students like it is at GDB.
I’m digressing slightly so hang with me…
We were trained that obedience was the foundation our dogs’ training is built on. And it can be the thing to “reboot” the dog if he or she isn’t minding.
I had to do this several times in college with Fleming. I’ll get into all that hot mess soon enough. But right here, say Fleming started to sea pats from strangers whilst guiding. To fix this I reverted to the protacall GDB advises each student to follow directly after coming home with their new guides.
This is 1. Keep the dog on lead or tiedown at all times. They have to earn the privilege of off lead time. 2. drills in obedience so you can establish yourself as the alpha dog of the team. It doesn’t take, or I should say for me it didn’t take much time at all to progress back up to where we were just prior to the bad behaviors starting.
Okay my off road adventure in blitherland is done. Thursday. We were talking about Thursday right? Right.
After dogs and students were ready for the day we went to breakfast and then to the loading lounge where we placed our dinner and supper orders, went over what was to happen that day and Lord only knows what else.
Shortly after oh about nine in the morning we harnessed up our dogs and lined up in the hall to get on the busses to head out to a nice quiet residential neighborhood.
Our goal for the morning was to walk in a straight line and focus on how it felt to be guided by a real live dog. I think we worked on turns as well. We had to of because we had to turn around and go back to where we started from. If we didn’t do turns I’d still be trotting the earth to get back to where I started from. *smile*
I was kind of a lot nervous. I watch d people head off and return with their dogs. It was rather emotional. Some people were teary eyed but in a good way, not in a sad, drink a whole bottle of boons farm screwtop wine you can get for like a buck someplace.
Several students had the trainers take pictures of them on their first outing. I did but lost the pictures in one of my several moves…
Finally, did I happen to say a good part of guide dog school back then was hurry up and wait? it was my turn. My trainer, the trainer who worked the most with Gerard in his training helped me to the starting point and told me to tell my dog forward.
I am not sure what I was expecting. As a child, when my vision was much better I’d take our pet dog Maggie Mae on walks around the neighborhood. She was a dingbat, she pulled on the lead and didn’t know any commands. I figured it might be somewhat like that in regards to the pull. I also thought it mint be like being pulled along behind a speedboat.
Turns out it was a bit of both.
At first I was afraid of tripping over, falling into or otherwise being beat up by some element of nature, dirt, trees, cracked up sidewalks…
Gerard didn’t go in a straight line, he kept swerving in and out. I wondered if maybe he nipped around to a pub or something to fortify his nerves prior to our workout.
We reached the end of our sidewalk all too soon. I wanted to keep going but we had to turn round and go back so other people could do their first walk.
My trainer asked me how the walk was. I told her it was really cool! Save for one thing. I asked her why Gerard didn’t walk on a straight line like he was meant to.
She then pointed out something I completely missed but wouldn’t of missed if I had to use my cane. There were trees all along one edge of the walk with head high branches. Gerard. was. guiding me. around the branhes. No more hair styles inspired by tree limbs. I know the all natural look is in I get that but come on, really? Hairdoos via a random tree branch? Too much I’m not a nature girl…
When I realized what this very ever clever dog at my side had done for me. I was speechless. Not my factory default setting. I was on cloud K9 and couldn’t wait to do more walks!