1. Place handbasket full of groceries in front of dog while you select something.
2. Wonder why your dog, who has been sniffing everything from the crumbs in front of her to the FRICKING MOON, has suddenly become so very well behaved.
3. Bend down to find dog with head on floor, little chunks of something orange scattered all around her.
4. Check basket to confirm that where there were previously two carrots there is now only one.

Those of you who don't own guide dogs are probably thinking "Aw, how cute!" or "You must have the one Labrador in the universe who likes vegetables." Those of you who do own guide dogs are probably cringing in sympathy because a dog in harness is not supposed to pull that kind of stunt. If the human handler is at the top of the pack, the dog should behave the way it's been taught to, if the dog thinks it can get away with stuff like that it can mean you're going to have difficulty getting it to work well and keep you safe. There's also a social embarassement aspect to it. I suspect it's a bit like a child throwing a temper tantrum in a supermarket: when you see it happening to someone else you know it's not the parent's fault necessarily, kids just misbehave sometimes. That doesn't stop you from being incredibly ashamed or embarassed when it's your little bundle of joy stress testing the linoleum.

Also, those of you who have owned Labradors will know that a Labrador liking carrots is not all that extraordinary. Labradors like anything that looks even vaguely edible. We took her to the free run park a couple of suburbs over yesterday for a break and to teach her to come when I call her. The motivational foodstuff we used was banana. Sounds about right, if you are what you eat.

Short version: mostly going well. Tired as all get-out, but that'll be a thing of the past soon.
I got Ellie on Tuesday afternoon and we started training today. Things seem to be going well so far. For those of you who don't know, the training I'm doing with her is from home, mostly because taking four weeks straight out of work is really difficult to do because we have three staff members and a conference to organise.

That means my instructor and his sidekick are following me everywhere I go. Today we went to an optometrist appointment - funny because she was really able to get my relief at having a smaller dog; the last time I visited her Ashton accidentally sat on the controls for the special chair in her office which goes up and down for eye exams and I was left literally several inches from the roof before we worked out what had happened - then they followed me heading back to work. They met me for my lunch break and Ellie's toileting time in the nearby church gardens, then they followed me home.

At present there are a couple of technique and behaviour things which need to be sorted out, but at Day One that's to be expected. Ellie has a tendency to rush forward. She either pulls me to the point where I can't get control back or I tug her back rather than giving a short, sharp correction. End result? She either thinks she has control over the situation or she thinks I'm playing a game of tug with her whole body and pushes harder against the harness. *sigh* At least we've caught it early, and I think relaxing my grip on the harness and lead should help.

Tonight she's barked a couple of times. It's happened in the lounge/kitchen part of my flat while she's been on her bed out there, so I think she's just reacting to the noise of people coming and going. Until I know for sure what's up I've been turfing her back into the bedroom for time-out for a few minutes.

More positively, she's really a lovely dog. Very gentle and waggly, and today in the office she kept moving off her bed and inching over towards my chair. Every person she's met out of harness has been licked on any exposed skin, which probably just means I should keep her away from nudist colonies. She loves being brushed, and she loves the squeaky rope toy I got her. Most important of all, I already feel safe with her. She's very alert and thorough and I feel so relieved to know I can get through crowded places without bumping into people or stressing out, and that I can cross roads without worrying I'll be hit.

Tomorrow is my day off this week. Of course, because we're training it's not really a day off, it's time to visit the free run park and the local shops for familiarisation. We'll go back to both places on the weekend and add in a new route to boot.

Cute dog pictures under the cut. Warning: may induce gibbering. )
crypticgirl: (ashton)
( Mar. 29th, 2009 07:28 pm)
I'm getting a new guide dog in just a few weeks. I had a trial walk last Sunday with Elise the black lab, a three or four year old female who has come from a human just retired from work. She trotted into my flat and immediately came to say hello... by licking my arm. Then switching to my other arm. Then she started in on my foot. She was waggling her tail all the time, so I'm not sure if this is just her standard greeting or whether she just decided I looked particularly edible for some reason.

After a few minutes talking about things like "do you think this shoebox will really be okay for a dog?", we went outside and looked for toileting areas. There are a couple of possibles: across the laneway at the back of the apartment block is a tree with some grass around it (downside: have to walk across laneway first, hell of a trek in the rain), down the side of the building itself (downside: windows look directly out at ground level; people would see, hear and smell her pooing in high definition detail), and at the front of the building behind some trees (downside: not fenced). We decided that if we can get the body corporate to allow some temporary fencing like lattice or chicken wire at the front that will be the best option. Steps are already underway to see just how recalcitrant my body corporate is. I've never had to deal with a body corporate before, but my understanding is that it's a matter of degrees, not whether I'll run into problems or not.

Then we went for a trial walk to the station. It's not very far from where I live, but I noticed a couple of things: she was on the ball straight away, rearing to go. She dodged obstacles very deftly. She loved being in a new area, but wasn't distracted by it - I could tell her head was moving around a lot, but this is an obstacle-laden walk and she didn't run me into anything. This is especially impressive because there are also distractions: I don't know if we ran into the resident cat, but the dogs in the houses nearby were barking. She turned her head more at their noise, but didn't stop working.

So after thinking on it for a couple of days, I said yes. The 20th has been settled upon because it looks like I won't have a lot of interstate travel for work in the month thereafter. I'm already making preparations for then: I now have a backpack without broken zippers (important because you can't carry a bag that cuts out use of one arm with a guide dog), and I may have gone a leetle overboard on the doggy toys today at Coles. Overall, I'm feeling positive about it, though I'm obviously sad about Ashton at times too. I'm sure that will keep cropping up in the months to come.

Oh, and I think I'll be calling her Ellie if she'll let me. Elise is nice, but it does sound like a name that belongs on a receptionist, not a guide dog.
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