**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!