November 19, 2008, 9:09 PM
Thus far my work and bonding with Africa have been progressing well. Already we have had many adventures. Yesterday Todd informed me that today our first route was to be the infamous “independent route”. It is a route that is considered “independent” because the trainer does not walk with the student and dog. Usually, the student is told their starting location and then, when dropped off, they are asked to make their way to the Guide Dog lounge.
The route is not overly challenging to anyone who has good mobility skills. In a training center where blind people are learning to walk as blind people they will travel many independent routes including some where no instructor is observing them. These are true independent routes where blind people are expected to gain confidence in their own ability to travel from place to place. Continue reading
Tuesday , November 18, 2008, 7:54 PM
Today was one of the most extremely informative, if not most fun, times during the training and formation of a guide dog team. Today we did traffic checks.
One of the most important jobs a guide dog must perform is watching for traffic whether it is moving, standing still waiting for a light to change, or whether an individual car might be blocking our path. Any pedestrian should always be alert to the traffic around them. For those of us who choose to use a guide dog the dog can help us a great deal to address the issues regarding traffic. Here are a few scenarios. Continue reading
Monday, November 17, 2008, 7:58 AM
Today was another gorgeous day around the bay at San Francisco. I haven’t mentioned the weather we have experienced during our training. In a word, the weather has been great! California has been experiencing drought conditions for some time. I hope that we will move beyond them this winter. However, for late November and needing to be outside training with a guide dog I must admit I can’t complain about the warm sunny time we are experiencing. The temperature has been in the 70s and 80s during the day. We’ve had little cloud cover but rather lots of sun. Southern California has been facing many severe wildfires which we hope will soon be under control and out. All of us in California fear the severity of fires during the dry conditions we are experiencing. I hope we get no more fires this year. All I ask is three more days of sunny weather and then let the clouds open and the rain poured down. Continue reading
Saturday, November 15, 2008, 8:21 PM
Today was the fourth day of training for Africa and me. In a regular class environment training occurs Monday through Saturday. There are a few exceptions. Students arrive for class on Monday. The actual training process begins on Tuesday. First-time students come for four weeks graduating on the fourth Saturday of class. Retrain students come for two, three, and sometimes even the entire four weeks of class depending on their needs and desires. Continue reading
November 14, 2008. 4:30 P.M.
Lookout San Francisco, here comes Africa. Before we began our training earlier this week Todd asked me to give him a list of areas of work I wanted to cover during training. I indicated that I wanted to do as much big-city work as possible since I knew a lot of my travels take me to larger metropolitan areas. Although I am gaining quite a bit of confidence in Africa already I think it is important to work different areas and different scenarios in order for Africa and me to become used to each other in many different environments. Also, training is the time to learn new techniques as well is brush up on the old ones. Finally, training is a great time to hone my reaction skills since movements with a new dog are always sharper and more crisp. My job is to keep those crisp reactions on both our parts as long as possible. Continue reading
11/12/2008, 4:28 PM
Todd and Africa showed up at 9:00AM. We picked up right where we left off on October 27. Africa spent several minutes running around the house finding all of Roselle’s and Fantasia’s toys. She even discovered our cat Sherlock. That meeting went a lot better than I had expected. Sherlock’s philosophy is why stay when you can hide. He didn’t run away from Africa which is really a good sign. Also, Africa did not try to chase him. Some positive avoidance can be a good thing in the beginning of a dog-cat relationship. Continue reading
Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 7:11 AM
The day has finally come. This is the day I receive Africa, my new guide dog. Africa is the seventh guide I have had the pleasure of working. All seven guide dogs were trained at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California. I received my first guide dog on June 28, 1964 when I was but 14 years of age. That day is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened only this year.
My fifth guide dog, “Roselle”, is by far the most famous one of them all as she was with me when I worked and escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. You can learn more of Roselle’s life elsewhere on my web site. Continue reading