Michael Hingson Gets A New Guide Dog!
Before discussing my first day of guiding with my dog let me explain why I am not yet revealing his name. I have discussed previously the puppy raisers who give so much of their time to raising these wonderful dogs and who teach the dogs basic commands and how to behave in public. Puppy raisers give from a year to fifteen months of their time to each charge. The results are well behaved confident dogs who then go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind where they are trained to guide and do the work everyone sees. Most people never see what goes on behind the scenes with the puppy raisers. Most people never experience the strong emotional ties created between the raisers and these dogs as they grow.
We all want the puppy raisers to hear first who get to receive the fruits of their labors. For that reason, we do not give out the names of our dogs until we know that the puppy raisers have heard that their former charges are in class. Once I am notified that the word has gone out to the raisers I will reveal my dog’s name to the world.
Up and at em at 5:45AM. By 7AM dog has been fed and taken outside for relieving. No relief here. Is he going to attempt to beat Klondike’s record of three days before relieving? Exciting times ahead.
At 7:30 we headed into breakfast now with fed, watered and, uh, relieved dogs. The animals all seem to get along well although they all do not know each other as they were housed in different kennels.
Meet Alamo! My New Guide Dog
It began as a nice crisp cold day here in Boring. This morning we are up and in the dining room by 7:30AM. The plan for the day was to eat and then begin discussions and meetings with our instructors. As I mentioned before the student/instructor ratio now is two to one. My instructor is Nancy. My student team mate is Sandy.
I have known Nancy for quite a while. She accompanied Karen and me and 16 other guide dog users on an Alaskan cruise in 2004. The cruise was sponsored by GDB and was one of the first of its kind where guide dogs traveled with their handlers on a cruise on a very accepting Princess Cruise Lines. Unfortunately, Roselle had begun exhibiting symptoms of the immune related disease which later was the cause of her retirement. So, Roselle did not get to go, but instead stayed at GDB for examinations. Continue reading
In February of 2017 I decided to retire my seventh guide dog, Africa. Affie, as Karen and I call her, was not seeing quite as well as I would like. Also, she seemed to be more easily distracted than in the past. So, I began the process to retire her and to obtain a new guide dog. I have explained this elsewhere.
As you may know, Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their own dogs from the GDB breeding pool. Dogs are selected to be guides based on many characteristics including temperament, walking pace, ability to work in all kinds of situations, work without being distracted by outside issues and size. This is a simplistic list, but you get the idea.; Not every dog can be a guide dog. In fact, even with the most popular breed, the Labrador Retriever, only %50 of the dogs who begin the process ever succeed and go on to work with blind handlers. I like to describe it this way: Just as with humans not every dog is cut out to perform a job. Guiding is extremely stressful work for a dog. The chosen dogs take their jobs very seriously. They need a tremendous amount of praise as well as other kinds of rewards which I will describe later. Continue reading
Today has been a year in coming. In early 2017 I determined that it was time to begin the process of retiring Africa and seeking a new guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Last February I contacted GDB Admissions and started the process. I completed the application process and sent off all paperwork. Although I have received seven dogs from GDB, each time I, or any returning student, goes back to school we go through the same application process. In one way this makes a lot of sense as the school needs to learn about me now, not just how I lived my life when I received my previous guide dog. Continue reading