I was orriginally going up to an eye matter meeting today, which i had arranged for my rehab worker to take me to. We would be doing a route in Belfast anyway. On Monday he sent me an email telling me what was going to happen and what time he would be out to get me. He also said that one of the GDMI’s (guide dog mobility instructors) was going through my area anyway, and that they could let me walk with a dog if wanted. I was so excited!!! Had to re read the email a couple of times just to make sure i wasnt just imagining it lol.
Well we first of all did the route down to the college as usual. It went without a hitch which was good. I think i really know the route now.
Anyway about 10 minutes after that, we met two GDMIs. Well i had both met them at the hotel lol. Anyway i went with one of the instructors who is in her training still first. We just walked around the college car park with the
Just to remind me of the commands and such. I was amazed that i would remember the foot positions since it had been a while since i had done them. I was actually quite firm with the corrections today!!! Considering that was the part that i needed the most work on. I then went with the first instructor after we walked back to the car as she noticed that my speed had increased, so wanted to see if she was right, and it had actually increased. I didn’t notice that it had, but apparently it has!!! I asked if that was a good thing, and she said that it was grand. She was pleased with my voice too which was also good.
After coming back to the car again, they got the dog out of the back. She was called Ushi. I’m not sure how you spell it, but you pronounce it ooshey. She was a dog that was just in training. Well she was about halfway through her advanced traning. She was gorgious. She was just a little nervous at some points though, and wanted to make sure that you really wanted her to go forward. So i think she tested out the old voice a bit which was good.
Instead of going back from the college, we decided to do a longer route, just to get Ushey used to working, and to get her used to new people. I didn’t realy kknow the route we did, but i still found i was able to trust the dog.
Anyway getting ahead of myself lol.
We just walked with the trainee instructor attached by another lead while i had the other lead and the harness. Ushey was a bit fast for me, so i had to keep telling her to “Steady”. It was hard to get the tention through the harness handle as it was quite long. There was one part of the route where there was a tree on the kerb, and there wasn’t room for me and her to get round it. The kerb was quite rounded, so it felt weird to get into the “Number two position” which is the forward position, as it didn’t feel straight. The instructors explained that it was because of the shape of the kerb. So for us to get round the obsticle, the dog had to step down onto the road, and then go along a bit and step up. I just gave her the “Forward” and then told her “Over” which was pointing to your left side, and then “Find the kerb”. She then got me back up on the kerb, so i could just walk along straight on again.
At one point the instructor took my lead just to give the dog a bit more confidence. I just had the harness. I found it easier than having the lead, as the lead with the harness felt kind of awkward. The instructor said that the lead was a bit longer than the lead that we would get as guide dog owners, so that was why it was so awkward.
At one point, i thought the dog was going to “Spend”. It took me onto some grass and just stopped. I sort of panicked, but the instructor said that it was because there was a kerb, and she wasn’t sure where to go.
About halfway through the route, they changed the handle of the harness, as i was finding it hard to get the tention still. They said it would be easier with a shorter handle though which was good. I found it was far easier with that shorter handle lol.
We decided to go for a coffee in a coffee shop after a while, just to give the dog a break, and to update my paperwork that was done on the guide dog assessment. This was just to make sure that nothing had changed, and to give the trainee GDMI a bit of practice at doing this sort of thing. We couldn’t find it at first, as my rehab worker had went to his car to get something. So we spent a bit of time going around a couple more streets before we discovered where the coffee shop was. It meant that i got to do a bit more work with the doggie which was good.
I learnt that when you are sitting down with the dog, like on a bench or in a restaurant or what ever, that you take the harness off the dog. You still have the lead on the dog, which they said that you could wrap around your finger, or put it under your leg to make sure the dog wasn’t sniffing or anything. I didn’t think you would do that. I would have thought that when the harness was off, then the dog would kind of go mad, and think it could do what it wanted when off harness, but apparently the dog will still know that it has to behave. That’s probably why you need to be the boss lol, so that the dog doesn’t decide to behave badly.
Ushey lay quietly while we updated my paperwork, and chatted. Before we left the coffee shop, i got to hold the dog on her lead just to make sure she wouldn’t run off, while the instructors went to the little girls’ room. She still just lay there which was good. The instructor said that some dogs will be a bit more stubborn though.
We decided to go back to the college after that. There is an alley wway going up to the college, which me and my rehab worker have affectionately called “Suicide alley”. This is because it isn’t really a straight line, and there are loads of obsticles and stuff there. Plus, there are alot of delivery lorries there and all sometimes. I think the instructor nearly died when we said that that was what we called it lol.
I would have thought that it would have been quite complicated to get the dog to go up this alley, as you would have to “find the kerb”, and then sort of turn round and go up it that way. It’s hard to explain, though. But we just told the dog to “Find the way”. I’m not sure if we used the “Over” command, but I just pointed to the left, and said “find the way”. She was going to go into a shop that was just beside it though lol. I just told her straight on though, and then “Find the way”. She got it this time. The instructors had said that I would sort of have to get her to stay in and find the way. This would be done by moving your right hand to the right and saying “In” and “find the way”. I would then have to get her to find the kerb, then tell her straight on, and then to find the kerb again. I think it was something like that anyway. This was because there was no real straight line the dog could follow.
So i told Ushey to “find the way” and to stay “in”, all prepared for the complicated way i was told. She just found her own straight line and went straight up, and got me up on the kerb!!! I thought that was brilliant!!! She got lots of praise there.
The rest of the way i just told her straight on and then got her to find the kerb for crossing. When she crossed, She automatically turned the corner which was good. When we got to our last road crossing on the way back to the college, we sort of had to do it differently. There is like a little island thingie in the middle of the crossing, which is because there are like two car parks. So i had to tell Ushey to “Find the step”, because it wasn’t really a kerb. When we crossed that, she was grand and just went straight, until i told her “over” and “find the bus” which is what you say to a guide dog for any vehicle that you want to get into, or find.
Once we got to the car, I gave Ushey a hell of alot of praise. Even if she was a bit hessitant at first to do what i told her. I asked loads of questions at the car, like how you would get the dog to find steps, and how it would do this? Apparently when going up steps, the dog will put its two front paws up on the first step, so that you could find it. Going down, it would wait at the top step. They said that because the dogs balance would be affected going down steps, that you would hold the lead on its own, and not the harness. This means that you are in control, and if something happens where you or the dog stumble, then you both won’t end up in a heap at the bottom of the steps. That was interesting to know. I also found out that if a car drives out in front of you when you are crossing the road, that the dog will stop, until it is safe to cross again.
Before the instructors left, they let me try a wider harness handle. This is a “side fitting” handle, whereas the first one was a “Top fitting” one. I walked up and down the car park, and immediately noticed how good it was. I was able to feel the tension much better. I was going to say “Find the way” but was thinking about how much i could feel her move, and was like “find the bum!” Lol i quickly corrected that though lol. It was much easier to get the tension too.
We headed back to the car again after that. To get the dog to find something, the instructors said that i could use “Where is it?” to get the dog to find it and incourage it.
It was another great walk. I found that i could kind of switch off when working with her. Well not switch off, but i didn’t have to concentrate as much as what i would have had to do if using the cane.
That little voice at the back of my mind was saying that i maybe wasn’t ready for a dog, well not ready but was i ready for the work, but i know i am. I think that was just me starting to worry again.
I hope to god that it won’t be too long now until i get the dog.
I’m so glad they let me work with her. I was surprised at my confidence!!!
*I would have posted this yesterday, but i lost half of it, as JAWS went into “Overwrite” mode. I think that was all i wanted to write.
Oh by the way, here is the picture of Ooshey.