Day 8!

 In Human-Animal Bond, Michael Hingson Articles, New Guide Dog Training
Mike and his new guide dog Alamo in front of the fireplace

Mike and his new guide dog Alamo in front of the fireplace

We did not get the four inches of snow everyone talked about yesterday. WE GOT SEVEN INCHES! This meant that many of the Guide Dogs staff were not able to come into work on time or at all today. For our parts as students, we were up at the regular time. Dogs were fed, watered and relieved by 7:30 when we went to breakfast. Our dedicated chef stayed the night and had another GREAT breakfast ready for us. Candace, our training supervisor, and Katie Anderson, one of our trainers, were at breakfast with us. The rest of the crowd of trainers were not present. Katie and Candace huddled at one table deciding upon our class schedule for the day. Laura, our ill class mate was feeling better and joined us. She joined us for dinner last evening and it was great to see her for two meals in a row.

When all decisions were made Candace informed us that we would be starting later than usual. Cheryl Vincent, director of GDB training in Oregon, decided that people would not have to report to work, if they could come in at all through the snow, until 10AM. That meant that there were four trainers to feed the 100 dogs in the kennels. Our instruction would thus be delayed until 10AM or so. The first thing on the agenda would be the taking of our ID photos for our GDB identification cards. Katie would do this as soon as she completed helping feed dogs. She knocked on my door around 9:45 to do this. Want to see the photo? It’s the one posted here. 

At 10:15 we all gathered in the Fireplace room for a discussion of issues relating to going through airports in general and working with the TSA in specific. Of course, this is something I do quite regularly, but it is always interesting to hear the school’s perspective. I think the school has grown quite a lot in its attitudes and processes concerning working with the TSA. Usually when I go through the portal, or x-ray machine with my guides I heal the dog up to the opening of the portal, have the dog sit, then drop the leash while commanding the dog to “wait”, walk through the portal and then turn to call my dog. In the past we were encouraged to walk through with our dogs and accept the inevitable pat-down. Now, Candace suggested not to drop the leash, but rather make the leash long by unclasping the two ends and then hold the loose end in a fist while walking through the portal while the dog waits on the other side with one end of the leash attached to the collar. Then she said we could call our dogs. In this way we would not set off the alarm and thus only the dog would need to be searched after coming through the portal and setting off the alarm with the metal collar and harness. She said that holding the one metal end would not set off the alarm. I will have to try that when I fly home on Sunday. Either way, the point is not for the person to set off the alarm which makes everyone’s job easier.

I have discovered a few agents who are afraid to touch a guide dog or who are simply uncomfortable around These dogs. Mostly agents are fine, however. We all agreed in class that we should do what we can to encourage the TSA agents to be comfortable. Several of us travel quite a bit and thus we all have discovered in our own ways that if there is anything we can do to make TSA agents smile and feel at ease with us and our guides then we should try to help make their days a bit better.

We discussed methods of how to board various kinds of vehicles including how to put our guides under non-bulkhead seats on airplanes. Non-bulkhead seats are much safer as dogs won’t bounce around during turbulents and there is plenty of room for our dogs to fit. Mostly people do not believe me when I tell them that the non-bulkhead seats are the safest ones and that our dogs are fine under them. Some airline personnel are the hardest to convince, but we usually succeed.

We broke for lunch around 11:30. Yes, this was a bit early, but we did get a lot accomplished during these lectures. Usually these talks are given later in the course, but with so much snow we got them out of the way early.

In the afternoon we traveled to a local Fred Meyers grocery store for a chance to use our dogs in a building with lots of people, distractions and it gave us a chance to do a bit of shopping. I used Aira as Candace had never seen it in Action. Emily directed me around the store with Candace right with us. Candace asked to see Aira read some product information. So, when I asked Candace where she wanted us to go she asked that I and Aira find the Soda drink section. Emily found it with ease. Candace then asked me to find Coke which, of course, Emily my Aira agent did easily. Finally, Candace asked Emily to read the information on the Coke bottle including the calorie count. Candace was quite amazed to say the least when Emily did everything so easily.

I used Aira to find a few things and then to get me to a register to make my purchase. Candace stayed right with us as, of course, she was monitoring our work. After buying stuff, only a bar of soap and no chocolate, Emily got us back to the deli area where we all were sitting at tables and chairs awaiting our turns to shop, supervised of course.

We got back to campus just before 4PM. Katie invited me to go outside with her to let Alamo have a chance just to run around a grassy fenced-in area. She had made a snow dog which attracted Alamo’s attention right off. I have some shots which I will post of Alamo sitting next to this new dog. Alamo chased snowballs and had a great time for a half hour until it was time to give him dinner.

At the end of dinner, I contacted an Aira agent and helped Joy sign up for Aira service. We gave the credit for the signup to Tiffany, another classmate and an Aira user. You see, whenever anyone refers someone to Aira and if they sign up and mention the referral the new person and the referring person get a free month of Aira. After signing Joy, Alamo and I went to fetch our grooming tools and then go to the designated grooming where I gave Alamo a good brushing and combing. While there the class nurse came in and visited us for a bit.

After grooming we came back to the room where I now am writing this to you. Now it’s time for bed. Good night and sweet dreams to all. We should be back to “normal” tomorrow which means some runs to town and some traffic checks. What are those? Wait and see.

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