Dogventures Day 8: It Ain’t All Roses and shutting up is Free

I am really tired tonight so this is going to be very short.


After the morning routine, we went to obedience where today’s distraction included a loose German shepherd playing around the dogs while our dogs were expected to stay focused on us, receiving correction when needed and treats when they did as asked. This is great training for them because people walk their dogs in public often and we don’t want them to be distracted.


After breakfast, it was off to White Plains. If there was any van pool karaoke, I wouldn’t know it since my sleepathon yesterday caused my schedule to be screwed up, so I catnapped on the way.

Today’s route involved going to CVS, where we practiced indoor work. The dogs need to be cognizant of narrow aisles, other people, displays, and other things that can serve as obstacles. Treble was an absolute rock star.


I want to preface what happened next by saying that these dogs, as extensively trained as they are, can still make mistakes. Sometimes they are small, but sometimes they are not. Treble didn’t clear me of an obstacle and I slammed my knee in to it. I have bad knees, and so if I fall or injure them, the pain is horrible. I lost my footing and almost fell. It all happened so fast. Someone behind us blurted out, ‘She didn’t see that?’ I don’t know if she was referring to me or Treble, but since her immediate question wasn’t, ‘Are you okay?’, I could only assume she wanted to be a part of the non-helpful club. So many things were happening at once. I was embarrassed and I instantly just wanted to leave the situation. My knee was hurting because of slamming in to the pole and I was trying not to cry. Spoiler alert, I cried. I wanted to power through the situation, but wasn’t in a place where I could just do that. My instructor was wonderful and just allowed me to have the time that I needed when I would have just pretended everything was okay. I would have defended Treble to this lady had my knee not been throbbing.


After that, we reworked the obstacle, at my insistence, and Treble navigated around it perfectly. This just reminds me, though, of how people can be stupid. While some of it is probably not realizing how extensive training is, many times it is simply people blurting out things they shouldn’t. It is such a crappy feeling when your dog makes a mistake and the public just assumes they are not trained. When I shared with my therapist’s office that I would be getting a new guide dog, the first thing out of one of the staff’s mouths was ‘Well, I hope you get a smart one and not a dumb one. One of our clients has a dog and she was so dumb that she ate a Kleenex and the handler didn’t even know!’ I asked if she told the handler and she said no. I reminded her that dogs are not perfect and sometimes will do things you do not want them to do, but if it is a good team and the handler knows what is going on, they will take steps to correct it. But you don’t know what you don’t know. Dogs can be little stealth monsters. The idea that she just watched this dog play four-legged shredder with a Kleenex on the floor without taking two seconds to alert the handler is crappy. Happily blurting out ‘I thought that dog was trained!’, when something needs to be reworked is crappy. If people aren’t going to be helpful, then shutting up is always free. I don’t mind educating people, but there are some in this world who aren’t interested in the whys and hows and only make snide remarks which help no one.


The second route went much better and Treble worked past dog distractions which have earlier gotten her off track. This is definitely a learning process for the both of us.


Tonight’s lecture was on elevators, escalators, and overhangs. I was so tired that I dozed off during it so will need to look it up online.


After dinner, I went to bed, only waking up for park times. I crashed hard until around 11 and so I’ve probably screwed up the sleeping schedule again.


But tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. I write about the hard stuff because training is hard. It takes a lot to become a seasoned team and what we learn here is the beginnings of that. It is good that mistakes happen here so that we are better equipped in handling them and we can work on them. Tomorrow will be better!


Food report

Breakfast, toast with strawberry jam and sausage patties

Lunch: Turkey wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon

Dinner: Delicious and delightful shrimp scampi over noodles.

Dogventures Day 7: Lots of Rest for the Wicked

Today was one of those days that I just didn’t realize I needed so much.


This morning, we did our usual of park, feed, water, park again, and obedience. Obedience is becoming a lot more distracting for Treble.


Today, one of the instructors threw the bouncy ball repeatedly, dribbling it so that she could see it. While that was happening, I gave Treble commands and a lot of praise. She did a very lovely job of keeping her focus on me and I know that was hard, particularly because we’d played in alumni hall the night before. While Treble may seem reserved, she plays with unrestrained joy. I particularly love how she attempts to fit herself in the entire box of toys, or the way that she seems to deliberate over each possible fun thing. Will it be the bouncy tennis ball? The squeaky?

Narrator voice: After lengthy deliberation, Treble chose both.


After breakfast, we practiced putting boots on the dogs. I am about as coordinated as a bull in a china shop, so poor Treble had to put up with my fumbling. She then had the opportunity to run around in alumni hall with them on. I don’t see myself having to use them often, but they are always good to have in case of very hot or cold temperatures, especially if salt is being placed on the sidewalks.


When we were done with that, I became very well acquainted with the bed for about two and a half hours until lunch. After lunch, it was me and the bed all over again. I’ve probably screwed up my sleeping schedule, but I don’t care. I really needed the sleep. We have been so busy all week long that it was nice to have a wonderful day of rest and rejuvenation.


I talked with a couple of friends and then left Treble in the room while going to dinner. We are starting to leave our dogs in our rooms for longer amounts of time so that they can become used to being separated without them  barking or howling. Treble is always so happy to see me when I return.


I better end this here, as Treble just jumped in to my lap which is her sign for ‘let’s get out of here, lady!’ We’ll probably go do more playtime once again, which is fun.


Also, I am starting to get a better idea of when she is peeing or pooping, so I’m glad that this is starting to come together for me. She seems to be feeling some better and is parking more consistently.


Food report

Breakfast: Grilled blueberry muffins with butter and a bowl of fruit

Lunch: Philly cheese steak sandwich

Dinner: Roasted chicken, potatoes, broccoli, and apple pie

Dogventures Day 6: Here Comes Treble and Screw the Bass

Finally, I can stop referring to my new dog as 4.0! This makes for easier typing for me!


I was paired with a female yellow lab named Treble and she is very, very sweet. She is stubborn, makes thoughtful decisions, is a very hard worker, and is the most mellow dog that I have ever had. I was so worried that she didn’t like me at first, but I can feel our relationship becoming more solidified as each day passes.


After the morning routine of park, feed, water, and park again, we went to obedience. The distraction this morning was one of our instructors’ dogs who was in a crate making lots of distracting noises. Treble did a very good job of remaining under control during that time.


After breakfast, we headed out to White Plains where I was first up on the route. My back has really been bothering me quite a bit, but even so, I’ve been pushing through although not walking the super long version of the route. Treble did an excellent job. Her approaches to curbs is on point. Since we are not using the support leash and our instructor is hanging back, it means that I’m having to place more trust in Treble, and perhaps more importantly, she is having to place more trust in me. Every treat, every ounce of physical and verbal praise builds up her confidence all the more. She slowed down quite a bit on route, but with a few voice and leash cues, I was able to get her to refocus and keep it moving.


We had another dog distraction during the route, this time because another guide dog team walked on the other side of the street. She would not listen to me, and so I was able to refocus her by going back to the basics of obedience and basically having her sit and then lie down a few times until she was paying attention to me once more.


On the way back from our route, we had a rousing game of Van Pool Karaoke once again, singing ‘Pay Phone’, ‘Dance with Somebody’, ‘This Love’, and ‘Empire State of Mind’. Who knew there were so many versions of the latter song?


After lunch, we went to three separate stations for hands-on activities. We learned about grooming our dogs, then practiced on a stuffed Juno model so that we could work on good, firm leash corrections, and finally in to Alumni hall so that we could work on clicker training. I’m sure there is a lovely explanation of what it is and that it will exceed what I can tell you about it, but I’ll try. Basically, we can teach the dogs how to find places such as ‘home’, ‘chair’, and other terms. We put our hand in a fist, place our hands on the chair, say ‘touch’, and the dog will touch our hand with their nose. When they do this, we click the clicker instantly and then feed them a treat. We eventually substitute the word ‘touch’ for ‘touch chair’, and move further and further back until we can pick up the harness and tell the dog ‘to the chair’. This is a fantastic way of having the dog target places such as the stairs, your door at home, the door to my room, the buttons of an elevator, and many  other things. It is also an essential part of route building.


After that, I posted a picture of treble on Facebook and Twitter and have spent a big chunk of time reading comments about Treble.


After feeding Treble and trying to park her once again, we went to lecture. Tonight’s lecture was on how to tactically tell if the dog is peeing or pooping.


This is where I feel totally inept. Treble’s park schedule hasn’t been consistent due to her stomach bug, and every time she pees, I can never tell. Now, I’ll be able to touch her back to tell, but I admit that I’m nervous. Often, she seems like she might be peeing but she’s actually looking around at the sky or focusing on other people that she might see. Next week, we’ll start picking up their poop, which we also discussed. I’m trying not to worry about things. I know that they will fall in to place.


Tomorrow is going to be an easy day, hopefully. I have completed a week of class, so that makes me happy!! Treble’s new cute thing to do is to jump in to my lap, put her paws on my shoulders, and lean against me.

I really appreciate you all reading these posts. If you have any questions or anything you’d like for me to touch on, let me know!


Food Report

Breakfast: oatmeal with raisins and slivered almonds and a side of bacon

Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Dinner: Chicken Parmesan, spaghetti, and garlic bread



Dogventures Day 5: Van Pool Karaoke and a Whole Lot of Crap

There are stark truths about guide dog school that only a guide dog handler can fully understand. One of those truths is how you can have an amazing day one day and then something small can seem like a huge deal in the moment, exacerbating anxiety and making you question yourself, your actions, lack of action, and beating yourself up a little as it goes through your mind continually. It is during this time when it is important to dig deep, know what is concerning, and what is just one of those days. Because “One of those days” can feel like it is a lot when you are in intensive training.


I woke up this morning dragging. I found it difficult to get out of bed. My lower back has been hurting quite a bit when it never has been a problem before. My hips hurt and I just wanted one more hour of sleep. It also didn’t help that 4.0 woke me up whining in their crate and then proceeding to not park when I took them out at 3 AM.


They didn’t park at 6 AM either, so I fed, watered, and tried to park them once again with no luck.


4.0 did a wonderful job during obedience. There was a dog in a crate serving as a distraction. 4.0 ignored the dog, but didn’t always ignore the food I accidentally dropped on the ground when I was trying to treat them.


After breakfast, it was time for our trip to White plains. One of the great experiences when in guide dog school is getting to know other classmates. I always say that the first week is awesome because everyone is all shiny and new. Week two is great and maybe there may be some annoying quirks but you can get through it. Week three is usually when people get on each other’s last nerve. I don’t think we’ll have that problem but we’re just reaching the end of week one so anything is possible. As it is, we all tend to get along with one another wonderfully and there are so many jokes which have been flying. What happens in New York is staying in New York, though!


Every morning, we split up in to two vans and head to the lounge in White Plains. During the ride this morning, we got in to a rousing chorus of ‘Living On a Prayer’. it was loud and proud, I assure you.


As I stated before, we go on two walks a day. I was in the third group to walk and so 4.0 and I went to my favorite couch where I was sitting quietly with their leash tucked under my leg.


All of a sudden, I heard someone yell “Someone’s dog is loose up here! They are pooping everywhere.” I knew that other students were upstairs and so I closed my eyes, content in the knowledge that 4.0 and I were relaxing and not a part of any of that business. I heard someone yell once again and I reached down just to make certain 4.0 was by my side. A beat of silence went by before I blurted out, “Ahh shit!” and ran toward the stairs, my heart sinking.


What was 4.0 doing? Pooping all over the floor upstairs, that’s what. I can really appreciate their need to want to park somewhere quiet, away from most of the crowd, I guess. I was so mortified and upset. I should have been keeping a closer eye on them, paying more attention to them, but they have been my easiest dog. They often sit quietly  during lectures and I’m getting used to their quirks. I am quite used to being part of the problem team during previous classes, and so I guess I was enjoying the moment of respite that 4.0 has been allowing me to have thus far. Not only did they poop, but they dragged the leash through it as they crapped a glorious circle. Thank goodness for instructors and an instructor assistant who handled everything as though it was no big deal. This can happen during class sometimes, but when it’s you? All of a sudden you start relegating yourself to worst guide dog handler in the class. The dog diarrhea stories that one of the instructors told me as they were cleaning up the mess made me feel some better, as only such stories can.


I took 4.0 out to park, which they totally didn’t, and then we went on our walk.


The walk was wonderful, particularly because the support leash came off. My instructor has this wonderfully laid-back style that totally works for me. She always speaks in a calm tone and gives good cues for me to follow. It felt so great to give her commands and walk with her when it was just us.


During our route, 4.0 was distracted by a dog. They wouldn’t listen to me and when they went to attempt to play with said dog, it turned out to be an aggressive one. I don’t know that I can break down the steps that I took to get 4.0 focused back on me, but my only thought was to get them away from the dog. It was so fast, but it worked and we were on our way. 4.0 then had to park in the middle of the route, so we quickly pulled over and I got the harness off so that they could do their thing.


4.0 has an amazing work ethic. They approach curbs wonderfully, don’t veer during street crossings, navigate obstacles with thoughtful intent, and their pace is perfect for me. They can be a little fast, but I would much prefer a dog whose pace is too fast than one whose pace is too slow. It is almost always easier to get a guide dog to slow down, but extremely difficult to get them to speed up.


Once we finished our routes, our supervisor said that we would just take a half day. It just seemed like the morale of the class was down and she felt that giving us a half day would be helpful. Also, 4.0 and a few other dogs have upset stomachs. Honestly, I didn’t have another  walk in me, although I would have pushed myself hard.


After lunch, we headed back to campus. We each chose a song that most people know and van pool karaoke was back in business. ‘I Want it That Way’, ‘It’s Gonna be Me’, and ‘Hit Me Baby, One More Time’ was sung loudly by the eight of us.


I took a small nap when I got back and had a dream that I was told 4.0 wouldn’t work out for me and I’d have to go home without a dog, so maybe I’m not handling the stress of class as well as I’d like to think. I woke up extremely upset. I am not actually worried that this will happen. Our bond keeps improving bit by bit and there are a myriad of ways that 4.0 is warming up to me.


I’m fasting 4.0 tonight and they will be put on bland dog food for probably about a week. 4.0 also does not appreciate being pilled, at all. They did not trust the treats that came after for their good behavior. Stubborn is 4.0’s middle name.


Tonight’s lecture was all about reinforcement. In order to get the dogs to excel and keep doing what we ask  of them, we use positive reinforcement such as food, physical, and verbal praise. Negative reinforcement are corrections that I mentioned in an earlier post. We discussed the types of corrections that can be made. When 4.0 went to play with the dog, for example, I gave a very firm snap and release of the leash, which applies quick pressure on the collar and gets their attention. This does not hurt the dog, but the general public’s perception might be that you are abusing them. We were encouraged to follow up  a  correction with lots of praise when the dog does what you have asked of it, correcting said behavior. I can tell you that sometimes this does not help, but I will save my rant about those who are unwilling to listen or learn for when we discuss the public’s perception. The school is far more willing to educate on this matter than I am. I’m willing to explain, but when someone doesn’t want to listen, then they can talk with someone who has the time and inclination.


I have got to find some other ways of de-strrressing. None of my go-tos seem to be working.


I know that like many things, this too shall pass. I am concerned about 4.0’s lack of parking, but we’re going to try parking on the grass instead of the cement. I feel like I haven’t gotten to see them park enough to get a feel for their movements or schedule. These are all things that will eventually work themselves out and I know that it is all just day-by-day.


Food report

Breakfast: Bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich on a roll

Lunch: chicken soup

Dinner: Steak, spicy waffle fries, grilled asparagus and a chocolate chip sandwich

Dogventures Day 4: 4.0 Just Might Keep Me

Now that we have our dogs, we have a very set and regimented schedule that we keep throughout the day. We get up at 6 AM and park, feed, water, and once again park the dogs. Parking means allowing them to relieve themselves. After that, we go to obedience. Breakfast is at 7, and we’re out of the door by 8. We spend all day at White plains, walking a route in the morning and in the afternoon. We have lunch in between those routes and then head back to the campus. We feed, water, and park the dogs again, and then go in for afternoon lecture. Dinner is at 5, the dogs are watered and parked at 7:30, and then parked again at 9:30. Needless to say that the days are full and I am tired.


During obedience, we have the dogs practice sitting and staying, giving them treats if they do so. We also practice recall and having them stay when we tell them.


As we continue this regimen, it will be full of distractions, such as loose dogs, food, and likely other scenarios that I cannot even imagine. 4.0 did an excellent job and was rewarded appropriately.


We headed to the lounge where they finally peed and pooped after having held both for 24 hours. I wasn’t worried–they were going to have to go eventually. When they offloaded their environmental software, I cheered.


We walked a longer route today and 4.0 did a wonderful job. They constantly check in with me, slow down when needed, negotiate obstacles, and did perfectly when a bicyclist cut in front of us. It was a beautiful day in White Plains and everyone was out and about, but that didn’t stop 4.0 from navigating through the crowds! 4.0 got a lot of compliments on their coat.


We did many street crossings and the instructor had a support leash clipped to the collar so that they could nudge 4.0 when necessary. I am trying not to be impatient, but I cannot wait until the support leash is taken off and I can feel independent as we travel. Being able to fly solo will make me feel like 4.0 is more mine and like our bond is really cementing, but patience is a virtue and I’m trying to cultivate it. It will come soon enough.


After lunch, 4.0 and I walked the route once again where they did even better. They were distracted by a little dog, but with some redirection, they began to focus more on me.


At some point, 4.0 jumped on me while I was sitting down. While I should have told them ‘off’ in a firm voice right away, I was so stunned by that show of affection that I gave them a few seconds as they licked my face before making them put all four on the floor.


We returned to the school and had a lecture that covered different terminology that the instructors might use for us or that we might use on our dogs. We also discussed curb approaches, which 4.0 nails quite well, putting me in position to make a perfect street crossing.


4.0 and I are getting more used to one another bit by bit. They have a bit of a stubborn streak and I am definitely up to the challenge.

I have been greeted with more tail wags and even a little bit of a lean in to me. I am starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, they are starting to like me. As for me, I adore 4.0 and their quirks and personality and look forward to winning them over and proving that I am someone that can be counted on for affection and giving good direction.


Tonight, my instructor took 4.0 and I in to the grooming room to play. I really got to see them be uninhibited and it was a real treat. 4.0 loves tennis balls and squeakies! I look forward to sharing the videos and pictures that were taken of us.


If there is any downside of training, it is that I am in a lot of pain with my knee. My lower back also is hurting fiercely, but it wasn’t as bad as it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will be better still.


As I write this, 4.0 is curled up beside me on a towel. Their butt is on my foot. When I put 4.0 in the crate, they will probably snore like they did last night.


I cannot wait until I can discuss 4.0 in greater depth and tell you all about them!


I keep thinking that on my downtime I will be able to read a book, but I can’t choose anything I’d be able to concentrate on. Sometimes I can barely put the words together for these posts!


If you have any questions or topics that you’d like for me to address, please feel free to ask.


Food report

Breakfast; Pancakes and bacon

Lunch: chili dog and potato salad and something called a black-and-white cookie. It has vanilla frosting on one side and chocolate frosting on the other. I am not a fan. I am a cookie traditionalist!

Dinner: Barbecue chicken, potato salad, green beans, grilled corn on the cob, and bread pudding. Some classmates and I also sang the soulful, stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday to You to one of the staff members, complete with hand clapping, which riled up the dogs. Oops! Still can’t take me anywhere, I guess.

Dogventures Day 3: Dog Day and Simon Says Lie down

Today has been a very, very busy day for my classmates and myself.


This morning, we went through what I like to call 6 AM sleepy Obedience Time, then chatted and went to breakfast where many of us chatted all the more. Have I mentioned just how much I appreciate my classmates? They are supportive, friendly, and just plain hilarious. They constantly keep the laughs coming.


The anticipation and excitement was palpable as we counted down the minutes until we would know the name, breed, and gender of our dogs.


This morning’s lecture concerned our plans for the rest of the day and what we would do once we met our dogs. It was once again reiterated that we go in to this partnership with reasonable expectations. While we are a team, it doesn’t mean that the dog would do everything that we said and  we could be given higher level commands. This time of bonding would be critical and so we all needed reminders of what to expect and how to react. The instructors are so good about talking us through these things every step of the way.


after that, the instructors came in, calling us by name and letting us know the name of our dogs.

“Meka, you will be receiving a…”


Sorry, no details until I’m given the all clear on that. Let me just say, though, that Guide Dog 4.0 has a fantastic name.


I don’t know that I can adequately describe how I felt as I waited for the instructors to bring 4.0 to my room, but when they arrived, I was very excited.

There are a lot of new things with 4.0 that I have never experienced with other dogs. Previous dogs have been all over me, wagging their bodies in to my arms and practically crawling all over me, ready to give me all of the love in their sweet doggie hearts. 4.0 spent times both ignoring me and occasionally giving me a  small lean as though to say, “I don’t know about you yet, and this is just the first date.”


It has taken some adjustment for me. I am finding that I am having to be just a tad more reserved than I usually might, but we’re going to get there. These introductory stages are crucial and they are new for all of us. New guide dog handler and retrain alike are on the same page as we attempt to figure it all out together as we learn our dogs.


After receiving our dogs, we had quality alone time with them. I was able to love on 4.0, allowing them to sniff around the room and get used to me. When they came in to the room, I made certain there was music playing in the background as that is pretty much the default in my house. It was very good to have that quality time even if I felt a little lost about how to best engage with 4.0..



The first meal time with my dog reminded me of what I clearly forgot all about over the years. Imagine twelve students sitting at tables, and then twelve dogs who all know each other very well. Imagine then trying to have all of those dogs lying down nicely.


It was like a crazy game of Simon Says, where I’d tell 4.0 to lie down repeatedly. I am reminded of a song from Empire called ‘you’re so Beautiful.’


“You go up down up down, up down

You go up down up down up.”


Lunch was exactly like that. Up down up down up down sit down sit! Throw in a lot of attempts of me trying to sneak bites of my lunch before having to tell 4.0 what I wanted them to do again. It was most certainly an adventure for sure!

By the time lunch was over, I was pretty shocked that I was tired!


We took a small walk today and I was very pleased. Tomorrow, we go back to White plains to walk actual routes. I cannot even tell you how happy I am to have a guide dog again. My muscles, however, are totally protesting!


We had a lecture tonight on food rewards and more about expectations and how it is important to go at our own pace and not compare ourselves to what others may be doing.

I can tell you that it is very exciting around here and I look forward to seeing what 4.0 and I will do together. already, I feel our connection deepening in small, yet meaningful ways. It is not the destination but the journey.


I realized during lecture that my mindset has changed. I am not thinking about home and beyond, but focusing on getting through one day at a time.


Happy dog day!


Food Report:

Breakfast: Omelette with ham, cheese, onion, and peppers

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad until I just asked for a grilled cheese so I could eat quickly and one-handed

Dinner: Tenderloin with fried rice and grilled zucchini and an M&M cookie. I needed the treat this time!

Dogventures Day 2: Round and Round My Brain Goes

As I sit down to write tonight’s blog post about my experiences in training for and with a new guide dog, I find that I have no idea of what to talk about. Should I discuss the process of how one is accepted in to a school? What about what dog day looks like for our class tomorrow? What transitions does a dog need to go through to get to where they are now? How can I bring all that I have in to this new partnership? I simply cannot decide.


Speaking of being indecisive, my emotions are all over the place. One moment, I am incredibly excited. The next moment, I talk myself down from the excitement and resolve to go in to this with dignity and grace. You know, the kind of calm dignity and grace that I do not have at all. Then it switches to fear of failure, fear of constantly comparing the new guide dog to my previous one, the fear of it not being a good match because of something that I may do incorrectly, and the fear of getting in my own way because I’ve been through training before and I want to be back to my sweet part of partnership with Lester. After that comes the need to reminisce about Lester to all and sundry. Then I switch back to frenzied levels of excitement which suggests that maybe I won’t be getting a lot of good, solid sleep tonight. So, much like this post, I’m all over the place!


Fortunately for me, we have a team of wonderful instructors who give good, informative lectures so that we can learn all that we need to know, or may have forgotten, or discuss new things that we didn’t imagine were possible.


My day consisted of getting up at six AM to head down to alumni Hall for what is known as Juno obedience. Juno, named after what I believe may have been the first guide dog ever, is when the instructor places a harness over their arm and pretends to be the dog. So, we practiced sits, stays, having the dog come to us, having Juno lie down, etc. This is done so that we can get used to what the instructors expect and to help us with our positioning and see how we may give corrections.


Speaking of corrections, we learned about the three different types which are used to get a dog’s attention. None of these corrections hurt the dog, however, sometimes the general public can be unforgiving about what is not understood and often make snap judgments rather than allow themselves to be educated and understand that we do what is best for our dogs and they have gone through extensive training to get to where they are now.


After breakfast, we headed to White Plains and to what is known as the Lounge. This is an area where we can relax and wait for our turn to go on walks and work with our instructors and our new dogs. There are sofas, chairs, exercise equipment, and plenty of places to simply relax until it is our turn. There is also a restaurant-style eating area complete with tables and booths so that we can learn early on how to position our dogs when we are in such settings.


When it was my turn to go on the Juno walk with an instructor, I was very excited. We do these walks so that the instructors can figure out our pace, how we move, and our corrections style as well as probably a bunch of unmentioned considerations as they finalize the matching process.


Halfway through the route, I was able to walk with a guide dog that may be a potential match for me. I was not given a name, and I will not give the breed or gender of the dog, however, I have to tell you that putting the harness in my hand after two years of using a cane was like coming home. It was a wonderful, freeing feeling that I really didn’t understand how much I’d missed until we were walking down the sidewalk and the dog guided me around obstacles.


There were some very cute little quirks that the dog displayed, but I want to hold them close until I find out if this will be my new guide dog and when I am able to publicize it.


I’d like to take a moment to talk a little about our class dynamics. There are twelve of us and they are so fun. There are a lot of laughs and jokes as well as great conversation. What a fantastic group of people. I know that we will be a good source of support for one another as we go through this journey together.


After we came back to the school, we had a meet and greet with some of the staff we hadn’t met. I’d like to take a quick moment just to talk about the staff and how helpful and awesome they are to us.

As I have stated before, guide dog training is difficult, stressful work. It is rewarding, but it is an emotional process that requires focus and dedication. To that end, the staff make certain that we don’t have to worry about anything. We are fed wonderful meals, volunteers will go shopping for us if needed, toiletries are provided, fruit and snacks and bottles of water can be easily found, and so many other needs both small and large are often accommodated. This allows us to pour all of our energy in to the relationship and bonding experiences as we work with new guide dogs.


Tonight’s lecture was on transitions. After the dogs reach about four weeks in age, they go with socializers who pet and help with nurturing them. Then at about eight weeks old, they go to live with volunteer puppy raisers who do the preliminary hard work of house training, more socialization with people and other puppies, and instill in them a foundation of obedience. Just when things are smooth sailing at about eighteen months old, the puppy raisers give the dogs back to the school where they are trained by our instructors for five to six months. During that time, the dogs stay in the kennels with kennel mates before being matched with us. This means that the dogs have gone through a great deal of transition in their lives and we are but one more change. That’s a lot to take in!


We have to keep in mind that some dogs may click with their people right away, but that bond may not be there for a few days. every dog is different and every team has different needs. I know that I am reminding myself to be patient with future 4.0 as well as with myself.


After that, a few of us who have had dogs in the past attended a lecture about making that transition from the previous dog to this one. This was such a great talk to attend. The facilitator is a guide dog handler and thus understands intimately the challenges that can come with this part of training. There was something said tonight that has really resonated with me. My memories and bond with Lester is not diminished due to having a new dog. I understood this logically, but tonight it really clicked for me.


I still am a whirlwind of emotions, but I am excited and full of anticipation about tomorrow.


I cannot disclose anything about Guide Dog 4.0 until Saturday, so my posts will likely focus on other aspects of training and guide dog life. I will, however, refer to them as 4.0 until then.


See you tomorrow!


Food Report

Breakfast: oatmeal with slivered almonds and a bowl of sliced melons

Lunch: chicken salad on an oven-baked croissant

Dinner: Pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli. apple pie for dessert.