Monday, 14 May 2012

Blog 26 May 13 2012

Blog 26 May 13, 2012
I Cannot Believe It Has Only Been Two Weeks!
The last two weeks have been quite eventful.  Lucky and I started walking our routes and of course that got old very quickly.  I am not sure for who exactly, me or Lucky, but it got old really quickly.  Considering that yesterday, Saturday May 12, 2012, we had only been home for two weeks, we probably logged over 45-50km of route time.
Lucky loves to work, and we know the best way to train is to just to go out and walk.  I do wish, however, that I was just as young as Lucky, because he still just wants to play after walking 6km, and I am ready for a nap.
In the last 2 weeks we have got see some more of his personality come out, and I have tell you he is one fun and goofy dog(in a good way and only when he is at play).  He reminds me so much of another dog!
Before I get into some of the goofy things, I will tell you about a couple of the routes we have been training on.
The two main routes I travel are on busy roads with a constant flow of traffic.  This is quite noisy and busy guide dogs are quite good at traveling on these types of roads as long as you are walking against the traffic.
So, as we are on the sidewalk, Lucky walks against the traffic on the sidewalk, so he can see any danger.
This is a normal way of traveling for a guide dog, however, sometimes it may be required to have the dog walking with the same flow of traffic.  Example: We are on the sidewalk and Lucky is closest to the street, this can be quite stressful for a new guide dog but, he is doing very well.  We have been practicing this a lot since being in Montreal, with all our cities construction activity we do not always have the choice as to which side of the street to travel on.
We start from my house and we walk to the mall, which is about 2km or so, give or take.  We travel the big traffic area first, which gives Lucky the chance to prepare himself for working in traffic, once we get to the mall, we take a break then we turn around to come back.
This is when we are walking with the traffic to our back, this is a little stressful, but everyday it gets better and he is more confident in me and I in him.
At the half way mark, I bring him down a side street, in a different direction, through a more residential area, which, once again, is a change of environment. The change is meant to represent different areas but also to practice his curbs.  The fun part of this, although it is quieter on the side-street, we do not have any change in traffic flow, the cars are still coming behind us, but we have now added kids, bikes, skate-boards and dogs.
These are all distractions that must be worked on before we start traveling in downtown Montreal.
Last Sunday, Lucky and I did our first bus trip.  It was more for me than for him.
I tried to work Lucky around the vicinity of my house but found it impossible since everyone knows me; it was hard to walk five steps without someone asking a question.
As one of my best friends said to me last night, it is time to get another T-shirt made with the standard answer to the same questions on it.
2)      He is a Golden Retriever
3)      His name is Lucky
4)      He is 2yrs old
5)      He is a male
6)      He is a very smart dog
7)      Please don’t pet him he is working.
8)      Note: Number 7 is said multiple times, …exponentially even.  
Getting back to last week’s training, I found it hard, to work with him with so many people interrupting us, that we jumped on the bus and headed into the next town, not too far but in a different area, and we did very well.
We both found our positions of comfort, and off we went.  I worked with him for a bit, and we then went to church, since we were in the area.  We did not stay to say hello to anyone, because we would have been bombarded by people wanting to pet him.  That would not be fair to Lucky; he is still too new in training for all that yet.
This last week, we have just been putting on the KMs walking and working in stores, it has been so great being out with Lucky, it is such a joy to go for a walk when you have a purpose, to just head out together.
All this walking is really good for him, and it has been exceptional for me.
My wife can tell you, since it is she that sees my shrinking waistline, me I do not worry about it, because I do not see it! LOL J
The goofy fun side of Lucky!  Last Friday, I should say 2 Friday’s ago, our first week we were home.  
My wife had made a decision to bring his bed from our bedroom to the front room where he would be more comfortable to sit with us.
Well Lucky took this as a sign that he was losing his status of being allowed to sleep in our room, he took his bed from the living room and started carrying it back to our bedroom!
I called my wife into the hallway to see what he was doing, she could not believe it.  She picked his bed up and moved it back into our bedroom where he laid on the bed, showing us that he was ok using the carpet in the living room, the bed stays here!!!!!! LOL.  Lucky knows what he likes!
This is just one of his goofy attributes that he has.  We also know that when we see him running to his bed he’s got something that he is not supposed to have and it is usually from my son’s room(like a stuffed toy), or rolled up socks.
He also lets me know when he wants to go out by bringing me one shoe from beside the door, not both, just the one.

All I have to say is that it has only been two weeks, and it has been fun.  Who knows, if Lucky does not do anything else funny, like moving the bed back to his spot, I may tell you about the Lion statue story. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

It started today!

Blog 25   May 3 2012
It started today!

Today was the first day I took Lucky on a walk on my own! I have to tell you after a year and some change it was great not to have to walk with a cane.
I have not been home a week yet and things are really good. Lucky is settling nice and loves being with the boy and my wife. Every time they come into the house he goes bounding down the hallway to meet them. Of course being the hard people they are! lol. They pet him like crazy and play with him.
We bought his pet food yesterday and at the same time I bought him a Kong toy that has like frills on the end. Well you think I had given him the world he played with this Kong with my wife and boy for about an hour. I think it is great because he is now leaving my shorts alone, that is another blog maybe one day.   
All fun and games on the side the real training begins, yes I was with him for a month but now it is just him and I who have to do the work. When I got home I was not allowed to work Lucky until the trainer came and went over a couple of roots with us, Lucky did very well and I felt very confident with him on the street.
Today’s walk was for real! It was one of those roots that the instructor did with us. So what was the big deal you may ask? Today’s walk was without an instructor, that means nobody there to ask a question to! That means you had better be sure of what you are doing because Lucky will not have a whole lot of faith in me the next time we go out and that will be a big issue.
As I mentioned before in my last blog that working and building a good guide team is like walking on a sheet of ice, you have a good chance of falling but it is how cool you look doing it. It is the same when you mess up with your dog it is about building that trust before you mess up that will keep your team work solid.
Today’s route was so simple I could walk it blind folded! lol But for me it was the first time I walked it with Lucky and that is how you build trust and confidents with each other. You take your time and encourage each other and work through each obstacle one at a time.

I have no doubt that we are going to be a good team, I could tell by his street work today. He came right to the corners. He waited for traffic, and his next command. When a car came out of a drive way he stopped and would not move until the path was clear. I went to the store and as simple as that sounds for our first trip that was big. Lucky had to move me around obstacles (displays that I normally take out with my cane)in the store. He had to watch for other shoppers and make sure I was ok. When it was all said and done, I told him to find the cash and he did. I know some sighted people who could not do that.

Over the next month it will be just simple roots in the area and as we progress moving up to the next school semester in September Lucky and I will be well prepared for the task at hand.
A lot of people sight and visually impaired think that as soon as you get a guide dog, and are done all the training that you can just go anywhere and your dog is okay.
I can tell you that is the wrong approach! That is a sure way of stressing your dog out and maybe out of service. I have always said that training only begins after the instructor is gone and that is when the team building begins. A lot of people are very surprised when I tell them it takes a good solid year before a good guide team is made. Only after that first year can you really say that you know your dog and they know you.
Today’s walk was not about quantity but about quality. We did about a half of kilometer not a great distance but I can tell you the quality was definitely there big time.

If there is one thing I can speak about is quality in a guide dog! Trust me when I say Lucky has that quality, quantity will come in time but for now it is about quality and making sure Lucky and I keep building trust and team work.

Stay tuned you won’t want to miss this; Lucky has a big personality and no doubt that we are going to have a lot of!
Adventures around the corner!