Day 10!

 In Human-Animal Bond, Michael Hingson Articles, New Guide Dog Training
Alamo next to Katie's snow dog

Alamo next to Katie’s snow dog

Isn’t the weather a wonderful thing? We had another modified day today due to the snow fall from Tuesday. The roads were simply not safe enough to drive and thus out door travel on sidewalks and such was out of the question. Now, some may say that only a few inches of snow shouldn’t be all that big of a problem. Well, for us with new guides and since some of us in class have little, if any, experience in walking through inclement conditions I think the decision was a good one. Besides, we did have some good adventures.

After breakfast, held at the usual time of 7:30, we met in the Fireplace room to discuss the day’s activities. Nancy, my instructor was stuck at home unable to get out. (See what I mean about the conditions?) We did spend a bit of time talking about her since we learned the day before that she had seven, count them, seven bars near her house. When Candace texted Nancy for us asking which bar, she planned on visiting first we did not get a substantive answer. Seriously, Nancy does live at a high enough elevation to warrant staying home.

Candace and modified crew decided to turn part of GDB into an obstacle course. At 10AM we each took our turn leaving the dorm to walk to the Oregon GDB Visitor’s center. The center contains the auditorium we will use for graduation this Saturday, the gift shop, and lots of space to create good distractions and overhead challenges for our guides. To get to the visitor’s center this time we needed to go through an obstacle course of various barriers and tape strung across most of the sidewalk. I say most of the sidewalk as there was just enough space for the dog to get through, but only if we were stopped first so we could find the obstruction and then help our guides make the right decision to go through the small space. Alamo did great.

After arriving in the center, we waited our turns to go through a course of several overhead obstructions. A guide dog needs to be aware of what is above their path in addition to what is around them at their level. Again, Alamo did fine. However, it will be up to me to keep up this training. Without regular work with overheads to avoid and address the dogs will forget how to do this special work. This could lead to bruised heads, to say the least.

We also discussed a bit the processes of graduation. At the appropriate time each of us will be escorted to the stage where we will be invited to speak. The puppy raisers for our dogs also will have a chance to say something. Personally, I have mixed feelings about being escorted to the stage. I realize that we want the graduation to go smoothly and without incident which will happen if we are taken to the stage by a trainer rather than being guided by our new dogs. However, I think, whether as seamless or not, that by memorizing the route to the stage and practicing it a bit and then going up ourselves transmits a better image to the public. Some may have challenges, but after all won’t we have them after we leave? As I said, I see both sides and will go with the flow. After returning home I will be up on a stage speaking within three days and will be getting on and off the stage independently only with Alamo.

After the fun and games of the Visitor’s Center we headed back and had lunch. I had a bit of time to catch up on a bit of Aira work and helped Karen at home with a small issue. After lunch we finished some lectures and were informed that we would be sent a couple of surveys to complete including our exit interviews. I am sure we will have time to discuss them after we complete them online. Good idea.

We also practiced some obedience with a dog distraction to gum up the works. Alamo did look a bit at the distractions, but for the most part he did great. I am quite satisfied.

Candace came to visit each of us to discuss going home with our guides. She asked about our plans to continue using food rewards and how we would continue to implement the training we received here. I assured her I was in favor of using clickers and food rewards and would continue to use them. I have never used these tools nearly so much in the past as I think the procedures for clicking and food have been evolving. Now, I am fully on board and see the value of the process. So, if you invite me to come speak in your area you will see on my belt a bag with kibbles I can use to reward Alamo.

We had the evenings to ourselves. I did a bit of work and then went to bed after watching a rerun of an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation.

I do not believe we will have much snow fall tonight, so hopefully we will be able to do some good traffic work and possibly even ride the light rail. See you tomorrow.

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