Days 7 and 8

Hello! As promised, here is my recap of the goings-ons of dog school over the weekend 

Yesterday (Day 7)
Saturday was a fairly relaxed day. We worked the dogs (working= in harness) in the campus building, but did not go out on route anywhere. The first exercise was how to follow your dog past obstacles in your path (such as a road block). A series of obstacles were set up in the hallway. First we found the obstacles with our canes, and then we brought the dog through. While I was working the obstacles with the stick aka Bob, the class supervisor was holding Jingles. When I first got her, she lunged for him every time I walked past him. This time, when I came back towards her, she barked excitedly because I was returning. The instructors commented “boy, someone likes you,” and her reaction to my presence warmed my heart. Jingles soared through the obstacles with ease. After the obstacle course, I got to “long line” play with Jingles. This is when your dog is basically on a really long leash in an enclosed area, and gets to play and be a dog. There was a box of toys that either I or Jingles could pick from. She seemed to especially like a soft plasticy (is that even a word?) rubber frog. I threw it for her a bunch and began teaching her to fetch, and man, was she cute! We had a ball, literally.

After lunch, it was on to overhead obstacles. It was explained that guide dogs struggle with overhead obstacles. Even though they have incredible vision, they are constantly watching out in front of them, and don’t necessarily look for high obstacles. A few high obstacles, covered in foam, were set up in the hallway along with the waist high obstacles. It was expected that the dog would lead around the short obstacles and then miss the high ones. From there, the student would be taught how to show the dog how to avoid the obstacle. Well…my dog did not miss one, meaning she did not cause me to hit even one overhead obstacle. She soared through the second course like a rock star. The instructor thought she may hit one going the opposite direction, but nope, sailed past them again, causing the instructor to remark that “you’ve got a really smart dog,” (go Jingles!). She went thought the obstacles 4 times with complete ease, and then we learned how to go through a revolving door, which entails positioning the dog a certain way, and slowly entering so neither you or the dog risks injury.

The rest of the day was devoted to relaxing, and so we did.

Today (Day 8):
Today was a complete relaxation day. The only thing we were required to do was play with our dogs (such a terrible requirement *sarcasm*). During our play time, Jingles picked out the rubber frog again, and a big ball made of the same material. I think I know her favorite toy now! Anyway, I played with her for a while teaching her to fetch. She is so smart, she catches on extremely quickly. For instance, when she would come back without the toy, it didn’t take her long to understand what I meant when I said “go get your toy,” or “where’s your toy?” It was a blast.

This afternoon, I got to visit with my second cousin on my mom’s side. We’d not met in person before, and it was really cool connecting with another part of my family: D We chatted for a while, and enjoyed a lovely time together!

That’s really basically it. I did realize a couple things today that I thought were worth noting:
1. This is silly, but when I first met Jingles, even though she had just had a bath, I still noticed how much she smelled like, well, a dog. As dog wasn’t my favorite smell in the past, I wondered how I was going to get used to the smell of a dog. Well, today I was sitting in lecture with Jingles curled under my chair and got a little whiff of her scent, and I thought to myself “Aww, sweet little dog.” The smell is actual endearing now.
2. Giving the dog commands works better when I am NOT looking at her, contrary to normal dog training…interesting
3. The dogs were trained in hand signals for a reason. I was taught them, but keep forgetting them. Today I remembered to start doing a couple, to amazingly better results. *slaps forehead*
Apparently Jingles is still training me! Haha

Night all 

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Days 5 and 6

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been here almost a week already! Time is flying! I know I skipped a post; working here is exhausting. I’m beat by 7:30. Anyway, back to yesterday – day 5.

After the morning rituals, it was off to White Plains for the day. I got to go on two walks, covering the same route we had been on previously. I may not have mentioned this earlier, but the trainers use a “support leash” when a student is walking with their new dog in the beginning. This way, they can control the dog, while the dog and student both are adjusting to this new way of walking. The support leash came off Jingles during the first walk, and we walked together with the trainer behind us for the rest of that walk and the other one. The first walk was, of course, great  I am learning so much! The second walk, however, didn’t go quite as well. Jingles is still adjusting to having a bathroom schedule, and going to the bathroom in a defined area of concrete. She is approaching this adjustment with obstinacy, refusing to go, usually getting distracted by leaves, sticks, other dogs, or the wind. Well, because of this, the poor thing had an accident on route. She kept swerving to the side, to parking meters or grass. We’d correct her and move on. Finally, she just couldn’t hold it and went right in the sidewalk. I felt so bad! Poor thing. The instructor said it was fine, and normal really, as she’s still getting adjusted to the new schedule, but I felt so bad. Other than that, she did great.

That basically sums up yesterday, because honestly, the days are running together, and I am once again, exhausted.

Today was a more relaxed day than yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sleep. Jingles was being obstinate about the bathroom again and didn’t go before bed. She then proceeded to wake up starting at 1:30 or 3:something, I can’t even remember. I just know I have been up off and on since 3:45. Anyway, she would wake up and whine, scratch her bed, after a bit, go back to sleep. I was so afraid that she really had to go and was going to wet her crate, since she hadn’t gone since the afternoon. I decided to stand firm though, and would just tell her quiet and roll over, hoping for the best. In the end, she was able to wait until the morning. I am glad I held my ground, because I don’t think she would have gone in the night. But I digress.

We were in White Plains for the first part of the day. Each of us took a walk on the same route with our dogs. Jingles did very well. We made some mistakes (I probably made way more than her), but the walk was great. The trainer told me when we were finished that we looked really good, and that the mistakes I was making are normal for the point we are at. That felt great.

After White Plains, we came back to campus for lunch (an amazing curry chicken salad) and then we learned how to “target” doors and chairs. This was really interesting. You use your fist, place it on the item you want targeted (like a chair) and tell the dog to touch your hand. Every time she touches on command, she gets a treat. This motivates her to do it again. Then you back up, leaving more distance in between you and the object. Finally, you end up about 10-15 feet away from the object, and the dog will to right to it when you tell her. Truly amazing. I am excited to practice!

After target practice (haha), I did a load of laundry, had a wonderful dinner of shrimp scampi (really getting spoiled here), went off to lecture, and groomed Jingles.

This evening, she actually went to the bathroom, yay!!! Now, the pup is passed out, and I am about to do the same. Tomorrow we will be learning some very useful new tricks, and I want to be at my peak. Night folks 

Day Four

Well, folks today has been super busy, but I am extremely exhausted, so I’ll condense this post as much as possible, and sorry for the abbreviated description of the day.

It was hard to sleep last night, probably because of having a dog in my room for the first time combined with anticipation for the upcoming day. After getting a shower, my dog and I went out for the 6:00 am “park” (bathroom) time. Can’t remember if my dog did anything. After the park time, I fed and watered her, and it was back outside for another ppark. Once the bathroom break was over, it was off to alumni hall for obedience, with an actual dog for the first time.

After obedience was breakfast at 7:00, back to the room to put the working harness on my dog, grab a few things, and we loaded into the van to head to White Plains.

We each took two walks with our dogs, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. I was last in line before lunch, so I sat on the balcony for a while. Then it was back downstairs for another bathroom break for the dog, and out we went.

The walk was great, surreal almost. My creature led me around strollers, people with umbrellas, outdoor seating areas, through narrow sidewalks, and to each and every curb. We crossed streets with ease, the pup (ahhh it’s so hard not to say her name) slowing when necessary to avoid turning cars. It is a truly incredible experience. The only downside to today’s walk was that it was a good 90 degrees out, and the poor dog was hot. Poor dog, I should be saying poor instructors. The each had to have walked 10 miles over the course of the day’s training.

Lunch was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Delicious. All of our dogs were so much better behaved at the meal than yesterday. After lunch, the walks began again. I was the last one out before we departed. Once again, my sweetie was wonderful. She walked like a trooper, even though it was so hot and she was tired. Afterwards, we headed back to campus for a quick rest, and then it was out to park again.

Dinner was amazing. I had baked tilapia and string beans…mmmm. Again, the dogs were much better behaved than yesterday, lying beside the chairs nearly the whole time without getting up. After dinner, a couple of friends and I decided to explore the upstairs areas of the buildings with our dogs. That was a doozy! None of us could get our dogs to heel. They kept surging towards offices and areas they knew well. All training was lost at that point haha, but not completely. So, we quickly went back downstairs, and then it was time for the evening lecture.

The lecture covered tons of material. Tons. I have no clue how I am going to remember it all. Once the lecture was over, we watered and parked the dogs, and then I learned how to groom my friend. It was really easy, simply stroking the back and sides with a comb, followed by a brush. After the grooming, I loved on my pal for a few minutes, and then I got to test leaving her alone in the room while I left for about 10 minutes. This was a bit of a relief for me, it’s been a journey the past couple days. I’m sure it was nice for the dog too. She must be so stressed with this human who doesn’t know what she’s doing handling her at all times. She did great, no whining, and actually I don’t think she really wanted to hang out when I came back, ha.

After a final bathroom break, it was time for bed. And here I am now. I apologize for the rundowns of my day being a bunch of “and then”s! I’m too tired to embellish right now though. You’ll have to bear with me over the next several posts.

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and mentally drained. I am loving learning so much, but right now, I don’t know how I’m ever going to remember it all. Tomorrow is a new day. I know I’ll get the hang of it, it just takes time. Hopefully I get it over the next 2.5 weeks!

Day Three – Dog Day

Day Three

**Warning: long post ahead***

You’d think I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night, but I slept like a baby, and stumbled grumpily out of bed at 5:40. Soon after my sleepy fog lifted, my mind began to pulse with nervous excitement. Today is DOG DAY! Omigosh, in just a few hours, I will have my furry companion for years to come…

After my shower, I headed down to Alumni (Lecture) Hall for obedience training. It was similar to yesterday. We went over the commands of sit, down, and stay, and then I came back to my room to finish preparing for the day. Breakfast was at 7:00, where I had AMAZING gluten free pancakes (I really can’t believe how accommodating they’ve been with the gf stuff) and then there was a meeting at Alumni Hall about some general services, like volunteer shoppers, volunteers to take people to church, etc.

After the meeting, the waiting began. I hit up the coffee room for a café mocha, and then settled into a big recliner to browse Facebook and pass the time. At just after 9:00, a voice came over the intercom instructing us to go down to Alumni Hall for the big reveal. The 11 of us sat in the hall, excitedly chatting. My heart fluttered in excitement as I waited. Once the meeting was called to order, the instructors went over handling the dog, what we were going to be doing today, how to interact in certain ways, and how the process would go when we would receive the dog. We would find out the name, sex, and color of the dog now, and then would go to our rooms, where our dogs would be brought to us individually. They also told us how the dogs have bonded very closely to their trainers, so don’t worry if they don’t immediately bond with us, or whine when the trainers left, and other bonding related things.

And, then…it was time. My heart raced faster and faster as each student’s name was announced, followed by the dog they would receive. One by one, my classmates learned their dogs’ names and sexes. Finally, last but not least, my name was called, and I was given my dog’s information.

Now, I’m sure you’re gripping your computer monitor or cell phone screen in in anticipation of finding out who my furry friend is…but, unfortunately I can’t tell you until Thursday. The folks here at GEB want to make sure they tell the puppy raisers who got their loveable pet of a year before it leaks through the streams of social media. Plus, I’m sure they’re making sure the dogs are working out with each of us before we’re to go telling the world…Believe me, I will be posting the dog’s name and pictures as soon as I can!!!

I sat on my bed, fiddling with the empty leash nervously. The wait time was about 15 minutes or so, I’d say. Then, a knock at my door, and my four legged friend was brought in. I was instructed to put my leash on the dog and immediately feed it five treats as the instructor walked out the door. Since labs love food, this would divert their attention from their human ignoring them and leaving, and also make the dog like me a bit better. I did so, and was left alone with a very energetic ball of fur.

The rest of the morning was spent petting the dog, getting used to its presence, and letting it get used to mine. At about 11:45, the instructor knocked on my door, and I walked into the hallway for my first heel with the dog. We walked to the lobby, where I learned how to put the dog below my seat, and then tried to keep it down while others walked through with their pets. Then, one by one, we were led into the lunch room.

Lunch was a trying time. We were all to get our dogs to lie beside us next to our chairs for the duration of the meal. Sounds easy, but every time there was a new noise or sight, a dog would jump up, which would cause others to jump up, and then we’d each have to go through the process of getting our dogs to lie down again. I can’t even remember how many times mine jumped up…at least 4, probably more. After lunch, it was more quiet time in the room with the dogs, until we were each called for our first official harness walk with our guide dogs (I suppose I should mention here that each dog has both a leash and a harness, the leash is used to heel and correct the dog, the harness is used for work).

When it was my turn, the instructor came into my room and showed me how to attach the harness. Then, we went outside. I was amazed how as soon as the harness is on the dog, it’s all work. It changes instantly from a squirmy ball of fuzz to an alert and steady worker. We walked a nearby road, crossed the driveway, practiced a right turn, and came back. My dog’s pace is brisk and determined. It was a fantastic walk.

After the walk, we went back to my room, until 3:30, where we learned how to feed, water, and take our dogs to the bathroom for the first time. After that, more free time. I used this opportunity to wander into the coffee room, and was pleasantly surprised at my dog for lying next to me while I drank the entire cup. Dinner was at 5:00. Again, the dogs had to lie beside us, this time facing away from the table. My dog probably got up about the same amount as lunch time, but I’m sure she’ll adjust. After dinner was the evening lecture. I went to the hall and got my dog settled under my chair, where she stayed with almost no problems for the entire lecture.

Then it was more free time, another water and bathroom break, and more free time. I hung out with a few classmates in the coffee room for a while, each of us periodically trying to settle our dogs. After free time was the final bathroom break for the night, followed by putting the dog to bed, and here I am.

Phew, that is a lot of stuff! I am exhausted, mentally more than physically (a little antsy there).

Sorry for the super long post…night!

Day Two – Trial Run

We hit the ground running today at 6 AM with an obedience training session in the lecture hall. During the training, an instructor acted like an imaginary dog “Juno,” and showed us one-on-one how to command the dog to heel, sit, lie down, and stay. After the training session, I had a few minutes to finish getting ready for the day, and then it was time for breakfast – a delicious meal of eggs, bacon, and fruit.

When breakfast was finished, I gathered my things and made a quick pit stop for coffee, and then it was off to the van to load up for a trip into White Plains. After a 30ish minute ride, we unloaded at the Lounge, and were given the schedule for the day. We would go out with the instructors in pairs and take a “Juno Walk,” which is a dog simulation walk with only a harness and the instructor pulling you along, and then….we would get to take a real dog for a spin!

I was third in line, so while I waited I took a tour of the Lounge, which has several comfortable sitting rooms, a large balcony, dining area (complete with another awesome coffee machine), and an outdoor area where the dogs will relieve themselves. After the tour, I sat and chatted with my lovely classmates while I waited for my turn.

About an hour or so later, my name was called, and off I went. My instructor coached me in the proper way to hold the harness/leash combo, how to stand, and how to give the forward command. Then we began the walk. It was stressed that students should walk their normal pace so the instructors can get a feel for our style. I walked briskly down the road, guided by the instructor, who was pulling the harness. We came to a few curbs, and I learned how to find the curb, turn left, and cross the road. We traveled a bit farther, and I learned how to turn right. After this (or maybe right before the right turn, I can’t remember), I was handed off to the other instructor, who guided me down a block or two.

And then… she went and got a real, live dog! I greeted the little yellow lab, who returned my affection with a quick lick on the face. After the little love fest, I was set into position, and upon instruction, gave the dog the forward command, and we were rockin’!

It was truly an amazing experience feeling this four legged creature lead me exactly to every curb, guide me around obstacles, and follow my commands. After every successful command, I gave the dog a treat, which she inhaled out of my hand, leaving a residue of saliva. Although I’ve never been a fan of dog slime, I didn’t mind so much this squirmy bundle of energy leaving me a little wet. Besides, there’s always hand washing and sanitizer.

Once our walk was finished, I headed back into the lounge, buzzing with excitement. Boy, that dog was absolutely adorable! None of us were told the dogs’ names, nor will we ever be told if the dog we end up getting is the same one we walked with today…but I really hope I get that one, and I feel like, somehow, I will know it’s her.

Lunch was at 12:00, and then I basically lounged with the other folks who had already gone out until all the others had their walks, and we loaded back into the vans and headed back to Yorktown Heights.

We had a meet and greet with the staff in the afternoon, then dinner was served, followed by a lecture full of information about the dogs, and what we will be doing tomorrow…

And what is tomorrow? DOG DAY! Yep, starting tomorrow, I will be the proud new companion to my new guide dog: D

I’m just chilling for the rest of the night. We’ve been warned many times that after tomorrow, there won’t be much chill time, as we’ll be learning to live with our new friends. I’m really excited, but really nervous. There was a ton of info covered, and right now, I’m not sure how I’ll remember it all. But, I’m sure I will.

Stay tuned!

Day One

And so the journey begins…

The day started out beautifully. Got up, finished packing, and Adam and I were out the door just after 10 AM. Although I usually am pretty good about what to pack, this time I believe I may have over packed a bit…Who knows what I’m going to want to wear for the next 3 weeks? Not me. So, Adam, being awesome, carried my large suitcase and backpack to the subway. 😀

The subway journey was slightly tumultuous. The trains were all messed up, and so Adam had to lug my giant suitcase, and me, through the Times Square station (for you non-New Yorkers, that is pretty much the most insane station). On the way up a staircase, I tripped and landed on the toe I broke earlier this summer. OUCH. I’m pretty sure I broke it again. Great, on the first day of class. Now, I’m limping and freaking out about my stupid toe, we have yet another two transfers, and it looks like I may be late.
Amazingly, I was not. Made it on the van, and to Yorktown Heights. I could go into much more detail about my journey, but I am sleepy, and more interested in telling about the school.

This place is awesome!!!

Upon arrival, we (there were two others in the van) were met by the instructors, who gave each student a tour of their room and the building.

My room has more closet space than my apartment, no joke. It is spacious, and has all the bells and whistles of a hotel room. There is a large, comfy bed, a mini-fridge, TV, desk, and phone that can make local and long distance calls. There are two doors to the room- one from the hall, and the other leading to outside. This is the door I will use to take my dog to the bathroom. The room already has dog food, bowls, a bed/crate, and chew toy.

The building is fabulous. There is a game room, exercise room, laundry room, computer lab, living room with couches, and my favorite place, the coffee room. The coffee room is equipped with everything you could ever want. The coffee machine, at the push of a few buttons, will instantly give you regular, decaf, or half/half coffee, or if you choose, hot chocolate, café mocha, or hot water for tea. OHHHHHH YEAHHHHH. The fridge is stocked with 4 types of milk, several juices, fruit, and yogurt. There is also cereal and a water cooler. I love that place.

Speaking of food…the it is amazing. Dinner is prepared on site, and is healthy, and conscious of diet. I told them I was gluten free before coming, and they have gf bread, cookies, and make sure any of my plates are absent of the substance. I had an amazing dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes, and squash, with a side salad. While we were finishing up dinner, one of the staff came around and gave us a huge list of choices for breakfast, and took our orders. I chose eggs, bacon, and fruit. Awesome.

After dinner was a lecture in, for lack of a better term, the lecture hall (can’t remember the actual name), where we went over the rules of the school, some scheduling things (some of it I’ve forgotten already), and handled some equipment, including two collars, the harness, and the leash.

After the lecture we had free time. There is a nice outdoor space just to the left of my room that has a couple of benches. It’s a lovely place to sit and chat.

Everybody here is great! I love the staff, and can already feel new friendships forming with my classmates. Speaking of classmates, this group is compiled of people from all over the country, as well as Canada, and even two students from Hong Kong.

There is so much more I could say, but I am getting pretty sleepy, and the day starts with a bang at6 AM. Oh yeah, my toe is feeling much better. Although still a bit painful, I can now walk briskly without limping: D Guess tomorrow I’ll wear a stiffer pair of shoes than usual to protect it.

Sorry this post is not up to my normal standards, but I wanted to make sure I posted, and am too tired to tighten it up.
Until tomorrow…