Category Archives: guide dogs

A very good down

This is my post for The 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival where the theme is Perfect 10.
Jory is my fourth guide dog, and we have been a team for almost 10 weeks. When I come home with a dog, there has always been a new skill to teach or an old skill that needs to be polished. Valerie had to learn to come on command, Zorro needed to heal, and Dee needed not to bark every time people came close to us or opened our stairway door leading to our floor in the apartment building.
Jory is an excellent guide dog, and she is 20 months old. She is fast-paced, confident in crowds, and loves to learn new skills. She can find railings for stairs, find rooms after going to them once or twice, and loves traveling. She heals, comes when called even if someone is petting or playing with a toy with her,and can hold a sit-stay for more than 20 minutes. However, the skill we are striving to perfect is the down. I cannot figure out why she doesn’t like to do it half the time. It doesn’t matter if she is in or out of harness, on carpet or tile, or in familiar or unfamiliar places. She especially doesn’t like to do it in small spaces, like on the floor in the front seat of a car or between my feat and the legs of a table. I could physically force her into a down, but I don’t like to train like that.
Clicker is my first method. She can put her nose on my hand and move to follow my fist. I moved my hand first with a treat to get her into position, and that helped some at first. After that, I took away the treat, moved my fist, and c/ted when she started going into the down position. I moved on to moving my fist and c/ted after she was completely down and settled. That works sometimes but not always. I am obviously miscommunicating somehow, or there is some reason why she doesn’t like to down, and I cannot figure out what it is.

It is especially frustrating in public or when I’m working. I go to the houses or schools of blind children and adults to teach braille and technology. I was sitting in someone’s kitchen and asked Jory to go under the table and down/stay. She went under and sat but didn’t lie down. She did the same thing in a restaurant with carpeted floors. If she does eventually lie down, she doesn’t stay. During a lions club meeting, she got up seven times and I couldn’t get her to get back into position.
I always carry a clicker and treat pouch with and c/t every time she immediately lies down on her own or with one command. It’s a high-value meat treat that I don’t give her for any thing else. I also pet/praise along with the treat in hopes that will make her think this is a fun game that she wants to win more often.
I asked her puppy raiser if she had any suggestions, and she said to try a blanket on the floor. Jory likes the blanket, but it doesn’t add to more downs. I asked my trainer and school for suggestions. They looked in her file and it says she had this problem when she was a puppy too. They said try a leash correction or more leash cues. I tried it a couple of times, and it doesn’t help at all. In fact, it makes Jory dig in and refuse even harder.
With each dog, I learn something new. This time, I think it is if one method doesn’t work, try something else till she understands. I don’t expect her to be perfect, but I’ll be happy when she is very good and happily lying on the carpet or tile in and out of harness.

GDB: days 10-graduation

Today was nice and easy. It was the traffic route this morning when Kelly drove the hybrid car to show us our dog’s reactions to moving vehicles. Since there was only one car, all six of us sat in the lounge and had to go out one at a time. That reminded me a little of the four-week classes of sit around and wait, but it was nice talking more to everyone. Jory did well. We missed Kelly the first time because we were walking too fast for him to pull out in time. He got us on the next block. Our first one was where he drove straight at us from the front, and Jory had to push me and back straight up. I had to remind myself that it was ok and take a deep breath because it reminded me of when Dee saved me from getting killed by a bus. Kelly did the backup check one more time, and Jory did her job. Then, at various points on the route, he drove in front of us and she completely stopped moving as well as behind us where Jory had to speed up. Finally, we had total barricades. That was easy, just have her show me, go to the street, and forward,/left back to the sidewalk. We have construction in Ruston right now, so Jory will have more times to use this skill.
Th afternoon was easy. We went to campus where we got the fun facts about your puppy Jory was raised by a woman and her daughter in Newport Beach, Calif. She loved to play with their pet German shepherd and was raised around horses and livestock. Jory loved going everywhere, but her favorite place was the beach. We also had the vet lecture about keeping our dogs trim and in good working condition. Jory had no health problems. She just had diarrhea once because she ate something she shouldn’t have.
Finally, we had the night route. I am totally blind, so that didn’t matter at all to me. Jory was a little more cautious on a couple blocks, but there was not really any difference for her either.
Wednesday, we went to Berkley to work on taking the train and get a crowded downtown experience. I had some lemon tea at Lock, Stock and Bagel while my classmate worked her route. It was nice to be sitting somewhere other than the lounge. I forgot her booties, so Emily found an entrance with stairs since the dogs are not supposed to do escalators without paw protection. Jory is getting better at the stairs. I worked with her on targeting the handrail, and she had fun doing that. We did platform refusal. I had Jory closest to the edge of the platform and told her left left, and she sped up. We turned around, and I told her right right, and again, she sped up and refused. She targeted the turnstile, and we got on the train. The first time, she almost slid her one front paw off the edge of the platform because she was quickly getting on the train before the doors closed. It was funny; when we got off, we moved just as quickly, but Emily said she looked at her paws and the ground when we moved.
Shatuck Avenue was crowded. There were several people with strollers, dogs, college students. There were also several obstacles: tables, chairs, winding paths, ETC. I love working Jory in the city. She wagged her tail the hardest on this route. She was totally excited when she took me around large groups of people and picked up her line to the curb. I travel a couple times per year to Minneapolis, D.C., Philly, ETC., so I’m excited to take Jory with me on all of those adventures.
In the afternoon, we went to the Dominican college campus. I’m a grad student in Louisiana, so this will be important. We back chained a route to the library. I kept for getting to slow my body and gestures while making a moving turn, so Jory missed it three times. Once I got my body in the correct position, she understood what I wanted. I clicked and treated at all the important points: the entrance to the bridge, the turn at the top of the hill, and the stairs that led to the library. We walked back and to the library again twice before going back to the van. On the way back, Jory wanted to take me over the grass, so I told her to be careful. She tried to take me over the grass again a second time, but the third time, she took the deep left turn on to the sidewalk.
Thursday morning, we went back to the college campus. Jory was soooo incredibly slow. Emily says physical correction and leash gestures make Jory dig in her heels and slow even more. I thought if we keep going like this, it’s going to take an hour to go three blocks. Emily asked if Jory needed to relieve, and I said she shouldn’t since she peed and pooped at 7 am. A few minutes later, I said I’m going to relieve Jory since that was such odd behavior for her. As soon as I took of the harness, she went to the grass and pooped again. That teaches me to listen to my dog’s signals. As soon as she was finished and reharnessed, she picked up her normal trotting pace with tail wags.
This time, we were backchaining the path that led to the hill. There were four Jory could choose. I love clicker training, and so does Jory. Once we got her consistently taking initiative and showing me the bottom of the hill, we worked to the library where she happily targeted the door inside and empty chairs for us to sit for a couple minutes. We walked back to the parking lot and did the route one final time. Emily said she wasn’t even thinking about any other paths; she was completely focused on getting me over the bridge to the bottom of the hill and right to the library. Lots of kibble and physical/verbal praise at the end.
In the afternoon, we did sidewalkless with cars parked in the road. I was better this time about remembering to check left along the edge. I clicked and treated Jory for pointing her nose at parked cars instead of using her iniative to take me around them.
Yesterday morning was our final trip. We went to Muir woods. Jory was excited because there were so many good smells in the air. Emily changed her harness from a 46 to a 44 because Jory has been escaping the harness when she is lying down. We all set out at a quick pace. My hip and shin splints were hurting some on this hike, but it was worth it. We stopped and took some nice pictures on a bridge near a creek. We also took photos inside a tree. It was weird. It was totally hollowed out and was open in the front with three on three sides. I stood inside and Jory sat. On the trail back, she showed nice caution going around other hikers. Emily said she looked like a car on a busy road. She sped up and stopped quickly, sped up and stopped quickly until she saw a wide enough opening for us to pass between people. Emily said she looked as if she were smiling with her ears forward and tail out. We also stopped in the gift shop where I bought dangling redwood bead earrings and a tree keychain that says Muir Woods National Monument.
In the afternoon, admissions brought us the binders with all the vet info, puppy info, guide dog resources, ID, access cards, and food coupons. I also got a box of cookies from Linda. They are yummy! All of my classmates happily took several cookies, and we had a before-dinner snack.
Today was graduation!!! I was happy to find out Jory’s raisers came. They flew in this morning from Newport Beach. They are nice. Jory was soooooooo excited to see them. She ran from one person to the other and kept spinning in circles and wiggling her butt. They were happy to hear my roommate has a dog because they said one of her favorite activities is playing with other dogs. They also said she was considered for the breeding program, but she was rejected because she has a pink nose and pink in her eyes. Jory also likes to tug on a rope. We got pictures together with the professional photographer. Poor Jory was confused. I clicker trained her to sit in front of the chair then scoot her butt back and under, so the end result is Jory lying down with her body beneath the chair and her head sticking out. The photographer wanted her to sit beside me, and she kept scooting and going under. It took a couple minutes of letting her know I wanted a sit this time before we got good photos.
Graduation was nice and short! We finished in fewer than 35 minutes. I was sitting there and one of the puppy raisers started to cry. I almost did too. Jory sat nicely while the puppy raisers and I spoke to thank the instructors, classmates, ETC. They had to get a plain at 4, so they said goodbye right away and left. We have each other’s phone numbers and email addresses, so we will keep in touch. We have already imessaged each other photos.
I am sooo excited to go home tomorrow. Jory is an amazing guide, and I hope to work with her for many years!

GDB days 5-9

Thursday was another rainy day. In the morning, Jory and I extended our route by a block to go into the courthouse to work on stairs. Stairs are something we still need to practice some more. Emily thinks she wasn’t sure I found the stairs with my foot, and she stopped at the top of every one. It took a while to get down all three flights, but she was faster on the last one.
Thursday afternoon was a little dryer, and we did our route again. Go south to forth street, turn east and cross E, turn north and go to fifth, turn east and cross D, C, B, turn south back to forth st, and turn west back across C and D to go to café du cirque. We did this route for the final time Friday morning, and I celebrated by having hot green tea at the café.
Friday afternoon, Emily took us to a path/hiking trail. Jory was excited and air scenting a little. It was bumpy and a little rocky. Jory was unsure at first because Emily said she had never been on such a steep hill before. We took it slowly and she did a good job.
Saturday morning, we went to the mall. I hung out in front of a store while Emily worked with my classmate. We did escalator work. I put Jory’s back booties on, and we got the usual comments of “why does the doggy have shoes?” There is a train that goes through Northgate mall, so Jory was a good girl and traffic checked it both times.
We got to the escalator in Macy’s, and I worked with Jory on targeting the handrail instead of the middle of the metal plate. Jory is a fast learner. I’ve been using hand targeting to teach her new things: find the sink, elevator button, door handle, back up, lie down long ways, and sit between my knees and down. She is always excited to see my right hand, so she had fun enthusiastically learning the railing. She was a little slow exiting escalators at first. I put more enthusiasm into my voice, and she happily worked off the last escalator.
We also stopped at See’s candies. I’ve never had their chocolate before. I had a sample of a cream truffle, and it was delicious. I bought a chocolate bar and some sour stars, and Jory did well sitting at the counter while I paid.
In the afternoon, we went to Sausalito. It wasn’t raining there!!! It is a nice area. On Jory’s side of the path was the bay, and on my side of the path was a street. She liked looking at the waves for a few seconds and got distracted by someone reeling in a live fish. There were also several dogs on this walk both on and off leash. Jory was distracted at first, but after a few times, she walked right passed them and got a halt and kibble for being such a good girl. I waited for my classmate at a coffee shop and had an éclair and water.
Yesterday was nice; finally a day off!!! It was of course windy and raining again. On the way to breakfast, we were coming from carpet on to the tile before the hotel restaurant, and I fell. My hip was sore from that. I was sitting on the floor for a minute, and Jory kept nudging me with her nose. After that, she has been very cautious in approaching the tile even though the fall wasn’t her fault. The rest of the day, I groomed Jory, played kong with her, and mostly slept. Our internet has been down since Saturday, so I didn’t really have anything else to do yesterday.
Today was awesome! We went into San Francisco! I’ve never been to California before, so I was excited to see a new city. We hung out at a coffee shop again, and I had some more green tea and chatted with a classmate while waiting for my turn. We had many four-way stop signs and lighted intersections. I have mild hearing loss and auditory processing disorder, so I was glad to be in this environment. Noise is hard for me sometimes because I have trouble telling from which direction sounds were coming. It gave me many chances to practice keeping my line while listening to traffic and trusting Jory to go straight even when I’m not too sure. I feel again too, not Jory’s fault this time either. I was walking and my shoestring got caught on some metal pipe sticking out of the sidewalk. Now, my hip is definitely sore, and I think I will be moving a little slower tomorrow.
Jory did an excellent job targeting all up curbs. She also showed caution around outside tables, strollers, and running children. We crossed several lighted intersections before taking a bus and walking back to the coffee shop.
We came back to San Rafael this afternoon. We first went to Petco where I picked up a tuffy ring and a collapsible silicon bowl to keep in my backpack. Jory got distracted by a little dog and wanted to sniff some dog food, but I was pleasantly surprised she didn’t try to jump at toys or pull too hard.
After that, she got to have some off-leash time in the grass paddock at GDB. She did lab scoots and ran some circles. She had more fun with the clicker because we practiced off-leash recalls. She also enjoyed playing on the agility teeter-totter, ramps, and running the tunnel.
Finally, we did country work this afternoon. It was a quiet road. Sometimes we wandered out too far to the right because I forgot to keep telling her to halt and check for left. We have sidewalkless where I live, but all the traffic is coming from a lighted intersection towards us. Since it is so busy, I have no problem staying left and keeping my dog left. Jory got much better by the end in anticipating staying left, and I got better at checking.
Tomorrow, we are doing the traffic route, more sidewalkless, going to campus to meet with admissions, and having the night route. Jory is doing an amazing job for me. I love having her and working her, and she is an excellent successor after Dee!

GDB days 1-4

Yesterday, I left Minneapolis for GDB!!! I had a nice nonstop flight to San Francisco. I got to the airport where I chatted with classmates for three hours till all of us were here. We got on the bus and rode for about an hour to the hotel. Dinner was good. I have several food allergies, and the staff has been very accommodating. I had a BLT without the bread or dressing. Afterwards, we had info from the nurse. We can do yoga on Tuesdays, and there is someone who charges $1 per minute for a massage. When that was over, I unpacked and went to bed since I was exhausted.
My alarm went off too early today; I could have happily slept for a couple more hours. We met in the restaurant for breakfast before going downtown to the lounge. Laurie and Amy from admissions had us sign our guide dog user contracts and contact info/public release. My instructor is Emily Courage. We worked on the handling techniques. Something that is new to me is the time-out. When the dog is really distracted by something, like seeing another dog, we move our left hand down the leash, bring the dog in closer to the hip, and have him/her sit for 10 seconds. After that, we tell him/her forward, and when it is back on task, we halt and treat.
I got my dog! She is a 1.5-year-old female yellow lab named Jury. Her pace and pull are exactly what I’m looking for. She’s efficient and quick. She showed me all the down and up curbs, and we made it through a dog distraction with a time out.
She is very playful and cuddly. She wags her tail a lot, and she sat in my lap for a few minutes before curling up in a doggy donut and falling asleep.
She relieved at our final time. I’m so excited to have her, and I can’t wait to work her more tomorrow morning!

Yesterday morning, Jory was energetic and excited to see me as soon as she woke up. She pooped at the 8:15 relieving, and we got in the van to go to the downtown lounge. We had a nice long walk for 10 blocks or so, and our destination is café du cirque or something like that. She kept a fast pace the whole way there.
In the afternoon, we worked the same route with Kelly, the class supervisor, serving as a distraction. I had Jory sit, waited a few seconds, and gave her a treat when she got past him and refocused. That wasn’t the proper way to do a time out; I was confused, so we did Juno work for a few blocks after we got back. Its pull out the leash with the right hand, slide the left hand near the bottom bolt snap, and pull her over to my side and wait for 10 seconds. She can be sitting or standing and looking at the distraction or not. I look away from her and don’t talk to her. Then, I pick up the handle, ask her to go forward, and if she ignores the distraction, halt and treat. I also had to work on my left turns because I was trying to do moving ones and not the ones where I stop then turn.
We got toys yesterday. I haven’t tried her with the kong, but she was excited for the nylabone. She chewed it on her rug for at least a half hour before curling up in a ball to sleep before dinner. We also got the grooming kits with a double-sided pin and soft bristle brush, a zoom groom, two toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a washcloth. I haven’t groomed her yet but plan to soon.
Today was disgusting and rainy. We all looked like ducks with our bright yellow raincoat and rain pants. Jory seems to enjoy the rain. She walked me through all the puddles, and I wish I had my second pair of shoes with me. I didn’t know I was going to GDB before I left for Minneapolis 1.5 months ago, otherwise I would have packed them and brought a different bag. She figured out which surfaces would be slippery and where she could walk at our normal pace. She slowed down for both leaves and the metal grates in the sidewalk. I’m hoping this skill will carry over to icy sidewalks and hills in the winter. I don’t want her to injure herself like Dee did because that eventually led to her retirement.
In the afternoon, it was only sprinkling a little. She worked well passed the distracting Kelly. She blew a couple curbs this time, so we reworked them, and she got them on the second try.
Finally, we went to the grocery store because I needed to get more food for the refrigerator in my room. Safeway was extremely crowded. This was good practice for Jory because she needs to learn that it is sometimes appropriate to steady down to an in-door pace. She bumped my right side into the handle of a cart, so we asked the person to stay there for a few seconds for a rework. She did well going around all the displays and maneuvering me out of the way of people with shopping carts who cut us off randomly. Now, I have more fruit, vegetables, chips, and a little bit of chocolate.
Jory did not want to sit in the store. Emily and I decided she probably really needed to poop. She did. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I took her outside, and she went in about 20 seconds.
She is the typical lab who inhales her food in under 30 seconds. She gets two cups in the morning and one at night. Now, I am lying on my bed with the handle of the long leash around my leg. Jory is lying on the floor beside my bed curled up in a ball fast asleep. I’m going to wake her up for the final relieving, and then I’m going to read for awhile and go to bed.

obstacles in retirement

This is my post for The Sixth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Because of back and shoulder problems, my four-year-old guide dog, a black lab Dee, is retired. We’ve had other obstacles in the past, but this is the one in my heart right now.
First, there are situational obstacles that do not allow me to keep her as a pet. I live in an apartment complex where no pets are allowed. the other major problem is lack of money. I am a grad student living on SSI and disability income. By the time I pay rent, electricity, and maybe the phone bill, I have enough money to pay for cabs or drivers and dog food for the new dog I will hopefully get some time this year. Even if I moved to somewhere pet friendly, it is not possible to pay for food, vet bills, toys, and grooming for two animals.
My next one was where did I want to place Dee. The guide dog school can placed retired dogs, but I would have no idea where she ended up, and I want updates for whoever has her. I had a few possibilities. One person who liked Dee would have given her a good home and attention, except there was no fenced in yard and Dee’s off leash recall isn’t as good as it should be. Another person was interested, but since she had a baby, she couldn’t handle that and a new dog at the same time. Finally, I’ve been in contact with Dee’s puppy raiser ever since I got her in 2009, and she gladly agreed to take her back.
Once she decided she wanted Dee, I had to figure out how to get her from Louisiana where I live to Oregon where she lives. GDB wanted to ship her as cargo, but I didn’t like that. I was worried about her being under the plane in winter or that she would be lost in the airport transfers. I also want to say goodbye, and it feels like a better send off than putting her in a strange situation that might be scarey for her.
As I wrote before, I am on a fixed income, and plane travel is expensive. I talked to the guide dog school who will reimburse the price that it would have cost to fly Dee in cargo. I didn’t have the money up front for the plane ticket. Fortunately,Dee’s raiser paid for the ticket, GDB is sending her the check they would have sent to me, and I will give her the rest when I am able in a couple months.
Finally, there are emotional obstacles. I miss her guiding me; she was with me through everything: global issues conferences, interviews for journalism and research projects, my job working with blind children and  adults, blindness training in Minneapolis, graduation from college, and my move from Pennsylvania to grad school. She was always so confident with her head held high and her tail enthusiastically wagging, except when it rained. She was the reason why I gained confidence crossing busy city streets with my cane, so I could teach her that traffic wasn’t scarey. She helped me balance when my hips were hurting and after I sprained my ankles. She kept me crossing in a straight line when I was dizzy from problems with anemia and hypoglysemia, so I wouldn’t veer into oncoming traffic. I will miss her companionship, just lying on the floor and petting her or watching her excitedly play with the other dog and person who live with us.
Sometimes situations cannot be avoided or overcome. Even though it breaks my heart to put her in a new home, the dog who guided me through everything needs me to get past these final obstacles, so she can be free to enjoy her well-earned retirement  after her two years of service.

First major trip

In Feb. 2009, my second guide dog Zorro went back to Seeing Eye to be rematched with another handler. After that, I finished a semester, traveled some, and signed up to go to Urbana, a student global missions meeting in St. Louis starting the day after Christmas. I got Dee, my third guide dog, Nov. 16, 2009. She did an amazing job during our two-week training, better than either of my previous two guides. When applying for and being matched with a guide dog, it can sometimes take up to a year or more till the school finds one for you, so I thought I’d be attending with my cane. After I got Dee, I was a little nervous about how such a new guide would do there. I’d been to conventions with the National Federation of the Blind where 3,000 blind people gather to discuss important issues, but I had never been to a conference with over 20,000 college students.
We started our trip by riding 26 hours on greyhound with 3 bus transfers. I was exhausted by the time we got there, but Dee had boundless energy since she spent most of that time curled up under the seat sleeping. After dropping off my bags at the hotel and meeting one of my roommates, I think we took a local bus to register at the dome center. Travel in unfamiliar places was, and still is to some extent, difficult for me, especially when it is crowded. Dee was hesitant at first, not sure which paths to choose through the sea of people. After a quick dinner, we went to the welcome plenary session. The first event was worship with a live band and vocalists. This stressed Dee out; I could tell because she started continuously licking her paws and the floor. She settled down afterwards during the Native American dances and speeches. After the session ended, I followed some random people outside and asked for help finding the correct bus that went back to my hotel. On the way, Dee had an accident, again because of the stress. I was relieved to reach my room and go to bed, and I prayed the next day would be easier for Dee and me.
We started the next day by oversleeping, quickly running outside to relieve, grabbed granola bars from the buffet, and caught the bus 30 seconds before it pulled out. Since I was hanging out with my roommates, I had people to follow and ask for directions to all of the sessions. This time, and the other four days of the conference, Dee acted as if she guided in crowds every day. From the moment we got off the bus, her ears were forward and her whole butt was wagging. She did excellent obstacle clearance, and I only bumped into one person the whole time when she got distracted by someone with a peanutbutter sandwich.
Besides the week of guide dog training in Portland, I hadn’t spent time in a city since 2005, so I wasn’t used to that form of travel. All of my time was spent on campus paths or residential streets in my college town. Dee stopped for all of the curbs, traffic checked when necessary, and didn’t sniff or eat food from the ground in restaurants or in the grocery store. She was also good during the evening meal when we got in line for the buffet.
By the end of the second day, the music, and people clapping, jumping, and singing didn’t bother her, and she napped through the sessions. My roommates and random people commented on what a good dog I had, and I couldn’t agree more. She showed me her best on New Year’s Eve. We started at 7:30 AM as usual, and we didn’t return to the hotel till 1:30 the next morning. We probably walked 4 miles that day between running from one end to the other of the two-block long building, wandering St. Louis looking for lunch and dinner, and stopping at the grocery store for snacks for the road. Dee was so excited as we were exiting the conference at 1 am because everyone was in a good mood, yelling happy new year, singing/jumping up and down, and blowing kazoos. She wiggled her whole body as she guided at a fast pace. At one point I had to have her sit, because she was trying to guide too quickly and was having trouble keeping her traction on the slippery tile floor. When we got back to the hotel, as she did every previous time we returned, she enthusiastically ran to each of us for pets and belly rubs before picking up her kong and running fast circles for two minutes before sighing and flopping down on the floor for a well-deserved few hours of rest.
This is just one of many times we have traveled together. She loved her guiding, played as hard as she worked, and again showed me what it was like to be part of a happy and effective guide dog team.
This is my contribution for The Fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

different beginnings

When I was younger, I didn’t have a dog or any other pet. We couldn’t afford one, but even if we could, my mother said she didn’t know how to take care of a dog and she didn’t like cats. When I went for my first guide, I was excited and nervous. I couldn’t wait to travel differently, but I also had no idea what I was getting into on the journey. When I sat in the room and Jessie brought me Valerie, I put her on leash and brought her back to my room. I remember thinking, OMG, what am I supposed to do; she is bigger than I expected; why is she sniffing me and why doesn’t she wag her tail? When we walked, I was surprised how fast we could move. I also never wanted to cry more, especially when we got completely turned around in the middle of an intersection in the pouring rain.
When I got Zorro, I was feeling horrible. Valerie had retired four months earlier, but I had just given her to her new family the day before. I was at peace with that decision, but I was so numb and apathetic; I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of my depression. Looking back, I should have waited to get another guide, but I missed the fast-paced, obstacle-avoiding that I had with Valerie during the times she was working well. I really don’t remember much from that class, but I know I was very anti-social and I wanted to go home.
When I got Dee, I was in a recovery period of the depression cycle, and I was getting physical therapy, which lessened my back and hip pain for the first time in at least four years. This time, I was anticipating the dog; I went nine months without a guide, and while I was an ok cane user then, I missed the smoothness of walking together down the sidewalk or in a crowd. After the first three days, I knew she was the best dog I’ve ever had, and I told the trainers so. We had an evaluation at the end of the first week to make sure I felt I had the right dog, since it was only a two-week class. I was feeling wonderful, but I was also anxious. My other two guides didn’t work out for me because of Valerie’s health issues and my health issues as well as behavioral ones on Zorro’s end. I had been rejected from seeing eye, so I was anxious about doing well at Guide Dogs for the Blind because I wanted to show that I was a good handler who could take care of my dog. I was relieved when the trainer and supervisor assured me again and again that I was doing fine, and that I should trust my instincts when working with my dog and not second-guess every decision I needed to make.