The Journey Continues

A Disclaimer: Please bear with me as I learn to use this site! Although it was created in 2020, the blog hasn’t been used until last weekend and I have much less sight now than three years ago. The fact that I’ve figured out how to post and edit five entries in five days is very impressive to me!

Okay, on to the post. Today is the day I am allowed to announce Guide Girl’s real name! I told you it was perfect. My sweet yellow Lab guide dog is named JOURNEY! So I am on a journey with Journey.

Today was a stormy day so we planned to work indoors. We started at Costco. In a normal day, a trip to Costco wouldn’t just be the beginning ofa day’s activity, it would also be the end of the day’s activities. Going around Costco can be exhausting, especially if you end up standing in a loooong line at the cashiers. But the thing about training is you want to expose your guide to as many of the places you go and as many of the things you do in order to catch the mkstakes you’re making. Reworking situations with a trainer is sooooo much more productive than trying to figure it out on your own. (I should include that the guide school–at least Guiding Eyes for the Blind– is incredibly willing to send an instructor to where you live anytime you need assistance with an issue. That was part of the reason I chose GEB.) We spent about 45 minutes at Costco then walked across the shared parking lot to Home Depot to work through another store. Home Depot, like grocery stores, has displays sticking out into the aisle, free-standing displays, and the dreaded metal poles. Those of you who are fully sighted simply walk around them. Those of us who are fully UNsighted smack our shoulder into them and wonder what the heck was that I just ran into? My trainer told me the commands to give Journey and when to cue her to upcoming turns so we zipped up and down the aisles clearing displays and poles with no injuries. Then we set up “a traffic stop.” Yes, in a store and no, not with a car but a cart. You’ve seen people with loaded palettes or carts and limited visibility just trudging right on through the intersection of aisles. Again, a fully sighted person sees them coming and stops. An unsighted person would smash into them and possibly trip over the low palette and get injured. Not with a guide dog. These smart dogs are trained–don’t ask me how– to process the situation quickly and decide to ignore your Forward command. It’s called “intelligent disobedience” and the dog will either stop and refuse to go or actually back up to pull the teammate out of harm’s way. Don’t you love it? Here’s what we did. My trainer set up a shopping cart around a corner at a place where the dog could not see it. Journey and I came walking down the aisle, avoiding displays and poles and as we reached the intersection, the cart moved toward us on the perpendicular aisles. Journey stopped on a dime. I shrieked because I was startled. One traffic stop, checked off the list! We hope that there won’t be a situation on an active street where a car suddenly turns a corner in front of you as you’re starting across but we know there are too many distracted drivers–in a hurry, texting, singing with the radio, or just feeling entitled to go first– and I’m glad to know I can trust my dog to keep me safe.

Next, yes the day was not done, we went out to lunch. Journey lies down and naps while we eat. This would have been Pippi’s cue to place her head on my knee and look at me longingly as though she hadn’t been fed in three days. When I didn’t give in, she switched to the next person. Following lunch and a major downpour, we took Journey back to the apartment–yes, she had an opportunity to park first– and put her in her crate then left. During training it’s good to practice leaving your dog at home for short periods of time so they get used to it. Sometimes you’re going someplace you don’t want to take your dog or you can’t take the dog. Example: I have a season’s subscription to a local theatre with a small auditorium (about 80 seats) and the only place I could sit with a dog would be the front row which is on the stage floor. That noise, loud voices, sound effects, or singing would be very stressful for the dog. So I will need to leave Journey at home for the 2 1/2 hours. Anyway, Journey had a nice rest while we went to the grocery store! Because I frequently go with someone to the grocery, I am accustomed to knowing where items are located, which brands I like and size and feel of produce I like. I was standing with the cart while my trainer grabbed things. I wanted one of the wrapped, long English cucumbers. She only saw one in the organic section which I don’t usually buy. Ahead of us, she located a regular English cucumber so she was putting the organic one back. A man with a hand-basket had observed our interaction about the cucumber and said to her, “She knows exactly what she wants, doesn’t she!” Yup. The fact that I spent 30 years giving directions as a teacher means I’m accustomed to telling people what to do!

When we returned and I “released” Journey from her crate she turned circles, licked me a lot and grabbed one of the squeaky squirrels she loves to repeatedly squeak. She wants me to throw them and she skitters across the laminate floors to grab it and bring it back. So different from Pippi who would watch you throw it and look back at you as if to say, “You threw it, you get it!”

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