Thursday, November 21, 2013

Working with Animals is Not Easy

Looking back to one month ago, I can see the innocence that I had when approaching Guide Dog work.

It seemed so easy, tell a dog where to go and follow. Easy.

Wait a minute!

Not quite like that is it?

Well for a start, both human and dog are fallable and moody creatures. We have on days and off days. I want to go places, my dog wants to sniff places. I have fearful memories of particular places and he is very, very sensitive to my apprehension.

Several weeks ago I posted about a Prius driver driving over my cane as I crossed an intersection. That incident scared me, and in the past couple of weeks it has haunted the lives of both Leif ( my new guide dog ) and my lives.

The cause of all our troubles on that one particular intersection has been my memory of that Prius incident.

Leif had begun confidently at the crossing, then a driver took the turn on red and passed close by us. Leif did his job of stopping, but I was rattled. After that Leif became ever more tentative at crossing at the intersection and I became even more nervous at his hesitation.

We had joined a loop of ever increasing fear.

The good part of being an alumni of Guide Dogs for the Blind is that they back up their training in school with a helpline and if necessary a home visit.

We tried the helpline, the advice was spot on, not to obsess about the problem intersection use alternates for a while, make the work fun and interesting and they would arrange a home visit in a few days.

The home visit was yesterday and we worked our way to the problem intersection.  First part of the problem is that due to bad planning there is not time to delay after pressing the button on the light for the crossing. The light changed before I turned, adding to the anxiety for me. Then after crossing the first time, Leif stalled in confussion. My anxiety levels were high and he was picking up on that. The main focus then needed to be one reducing anxiety rather than Leif being a problem, I knew he was never the problem, Leif soon picked up the idea that crossing the second part of the crossing was not an option but a necessity.

With bumper hand outs of kibble from me and lots of praise and neck rubs we got to working the crossing perfectly in about an hour.

A problem was solved and Leeif and I are now both happy with the intersection. And very happy with the help give to alumni of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Guide Dog Leif. My First Guide Dog

Guide Dog Leif
Well Folks. The two weeks of training at Guide Dogs for the Blind are over and yesterday, my guide "Leif" and I graduated. The picture above is of Leif, he is a handsome black Labrador, about 64 pounds in weight and twenty five inches tall at the shoulder.

Leif loves working and also his downtime. much of which he spends sleeping. He is definitely in the California surfer dude mould, just loves to chill out with his friends and lay in the sun.

I had planned to blog most evenings about the training as it went along but there was very little time after a hard working day which began at 6:30am and ended at 8:30 pm. I would be glad to answer any questions that you may have about Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, but one thing I can assure you of that all the hard work was made fun by a great group of trainers and other staff. And the dog, well he is just magnificent, a great guide and a fun companion.

Leif and I before Graduation