Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 10- Wed. Nov. 6th

We started off the morning with Boomer nudging me in the face when Donna knocked on the door to come in and wake me up, however I wasn't coherent enough to realize what he'd done to reward him for it though, so he's getting it. :) Then we went out to give him a chance to break and again he's being much slower about his business. Kind of wondering if something is up but still watching to see what he does.
We went to breakfast and Kevin had a bowl of fruit, and a wonderful toasted egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on bread like French bread. YUMMY! :) We then went back to the room and got our stuff together before heading out to the gathering room to go on our morning walk. We all loaded up on the bus and were off to Kings Park again to work the opposite direction we'd worked the afternoon before. Kings Park isn't too far away so we were there pretty quickly and the weather while a little cool was warmer than the day before. Barb was driving the student with the poodle in a separate van as her allergies were just going haywire on the bus, (hence getting the poodle), so they parked the bus and the van parallel to each other a couple of spots apart but the doors facing each other. Then they put the chairs out for the students to sit in between the two vans.

I decided I should work on my listening exercises, as I'd found a new IPad compatible app from Advanced Bionics, called Clix, to do this. So while all but one of the other teams went outside to sit, I stayed on the bus since the conversations can get quite loud, this way I could work on these exercises. As usual, Boomer was ready go work and was just up and down repeatedly, but I was being persistent in making him lay back down. After about an hour, I was looking at the IPad and changing through some of the programs this app and moved, in which I unintentionally dropped the leash. Boomer heard that leash hit the floor immediately stood up and looked at me like "Time to go!!!??? OK!!!!" and as I reached forward to grab the leash, he spun and flew forward to the front of the bus and down the steps giving me an absolute heart attack. He had gone out to say hellooooooo to everyone else! LOL! I don't think I've ever gotten cords off that fast and got myself untangled from the cords I had around my neck and was grabbing for the whistle that I also have on a cord around my neck and flew off the bus in hot pursuit. As I came off the bus, another handler was like he's over here, I got him. LOL!


After I got him, I went back on the bus to get my bag and came back out and sat in a chair with the circle of teams all together. Barb came and got me and we took off through what appeared to be downtown Kings Park by the library. We worked along to the first street, crossed and then made a right working along to the next corner, which was the funky one. We worked straight to the curb and then made a left, going around the pole, and then up the hill to the next street, to pass the other golden team. We then crossed the street and worked our way on towards the next curb without hesitation. At this curb we did a Left and started back towards the main street. We'd been going along at a good clip and all of a sudden Boomer jumped forward, startled by something, not sure what and then a dog began to bark. Wasn't really sure what happened but he re-composed himself very well and went right back to work. We worked our way towards the next curb and Barb stopped me as we had a really weird curb coming up. I was going to have to do almost a weave to the left around a big pole and then a sharp right back to the curb to be at the actual curb. So she told to just follow him and let him work it, so I did and he did great. We made a left and took off down the main street headed back in the direction of the bus. We worked our way past the open door, around the light pole and outside easel signs for the stores up to the next curb, a pretty major intersection.

We came up to the intersection and a police car was across the up curb across the street and another police car was parallel to me and partially out in the street and blocking the intersection entirely. We stood for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what was actually going on, thinking it was a funeral procession coming, but wasn't seeing anything yet. The officer happened to look over and see us and asked if we were just crossing and Barb answered yes, and he replied, go ahead and cross, so we did so and then worked our way on down to the driveway entry to the park and did the country walk, cutting in close to the curb along the front of the parking spots and then around the back of the bus and back to the bus. We then loaded up and headed back to GDF for lunch.

After lunch, which was soup and sandwich, we went into town to downtown Smithtown and sat at the town
hall parking lot. Since we were between the two vans, while the wind was blowing, for the most part it was blocked, so it was so sitting outside. We waited our turn as Chris; one of the media/PR people came to video several of the teams doing this walk. I was the first one out and Barb had collected up all of her student's handles except mine and had me duck into the bicycle shop that we were passing. As we walked in, a couple of guys came out and Barb, with the two guys, began putting the grip material that you find on handlebars onto the harness handles, scooting them onto the hand portion of the handle. It was an odd feeling at first, but I liked it as I got used to it.

We worked our way in and as they worked on these, I worked on the sit/sty I'd put him into. He pretty much sat there and watched everyone wrestling with the harness handles until time to go we did an about and worked our way back to the door and then made a right and continued on down the street to the top of the “p” where we made very sharp and nearly backward turn to get us heading towards the rounded part of the “p”. We continue on and work along until we cut back inward to the main street of Smithtown and soon back past the bike shop. Barb did stop me once as we travelled here as I was instinctively pulling my arm in to keep him from brushing me on the right side, so had to think through that and not make it easy for him, as when my vision deteriorates more, I won’t be able to catch these mistakes and it can mean really smacking into something hard.

We met up with another team just beyond the bicycle shop and the other trainer, Steve, worked with me back to the bus. We then went back to the GDF campus and had dinner together, of which I unfortunately cannot recall what it was.

After dinner, we had our grooming lecture, which Trainer Dan went over ear care of the dogs. We talked about how with the dogs ears, that the old saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it!” holds true in this case too. If the dog’s ears are doing well, leave them alone. ;) However for if the dog does have an ear infection and we need to clean the ears while it’s being treated, we were shown now to use ear cleaner, some 100% cotton, and how to use these to clean the dog’s ears. We also practiced cleaning out the ears and what are some of the tell tale signs of having an ear infection. After this lecture, it was break time and everyone pretty much headed to bed.

Night all!

Kacie & Boomer

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 9- Tues. Nov. 5th- Election Day!

Did you go vote???

I had a really hard time getting up this morning, after being up more than enough times last night.    However I made it out of bed and got myself ready and actually went down and talked to Chef Kevin to see if I could just have some toast and a banana for breakfast.    He actually still had some of the rice left that Ann Marie had fixed on Sunday, so he said he'd fix me some rice and toast instead.    Also got to meet the breeder stud dog that he had brought to work with him today as it was a "work" day for the gorgeous male lab.   I went back to the room and got all of my stuff together to take with me on our morning walk and then it was time to feed and water Boomer.   Barb made the call that it was time to break the dogs so took them out and then came back in for breakfast.   I was seriously dragging and just feeling under the weather.   So I ate my rice and toast and came on back to the room and grabbed my stuff and took off for the gathering room.

I put Boomer down and under the chair in one easy slide and more people were making their way to the gathering room as Consumer Services Manager, Karen, came in with the two breeder dogs she takes care of and things got a little crazy for a few minutes as all our male dogs were going "Helloooooo Darlings!"  LOL!    So we all got our dogs straightened out and settled back down and by this time everyone had made their way to the gathering room.   Trainer Jody was pretty sore after her fall yesterday and actually over lunch she did go get checked out and all was fine, just some pretty good bruising.   We all loaded up on the bus and we were off to the town of Kings Park for a walk through the downtown area.  

This time most of the students sat inside the bus and I went on outside as Barb had given me a "rake" and de-tangling comb to try on Boomer, as they are used for the goldens and the long feathering they have on their bodies.   So I went outside and went to give these a try on him and give him a pretty good brushing as I was waiting for my turn.   And the next thing I hear is BEEEEEP from my hearing aid.    I'm like oh, no big deal, I have batteries in my back pack.   I check the pocket and no batteries.    Then I think- no big deal, I also have batteries in the CI case I carry with me.   I dig it out and OYE!   No batteries there either.  So it beeps at me a second and a third time and then it turns off completely.    I'm sitting there thinking OK, how am I going to do this walk???   I have the CI but I hadn't taken the hearing aid off and try to go CI alone for quite some time.    I pull the CI out and soon it was my turn.

Barb comes up to get me and I tell her right off the back, the battery has died on the hearing aid,  so I'm on the CI only.   Plus, being that I've done all combination trainings with GDF before, I've never walked this route before, so this is going to be all new for me.   We take off country walk through the parking lot and walk straight up to the curb to the right of the driveway in.   We make a right and cross the street and work our way to the next street.   There were multiple signs, meters, and poles that Boomer expertly took me around.  We then made a right and made our way down the sidewalk which was somewhat uneven and then there was actually a break out in the sidewalk that was several inches deep and he made sure I stayed clear of this.   He slowed for the other break in the sidewalk as well.   We worked our way to the next corner and made another right.  

We continued on and was working our way down an incline in  which he worked very nicely.   The corner that we came to had two ramps and it was on a funky angle so the team has to walk pretty much in an S shape and because I didn't know the area and couldn't see the other ramp yet, Barb quickly jumped in and said Follow him!   I heard her in time and kept going and he took me to the right curb. :)  We then crossed the street and came to the next curb.   I had to angle myself Right as the path actually split into three ways at this point- left at an angle for the sidewalk, straight ahead into a church yard, and then right and around a large traffic light pole  to go up the sidewalk towards the main street.   The next corner was similar to the funky one we'd just worked, so Barb stopped me and warned me that this was a similar thing.    We worked through most of it beautifully, but being that we were nearly back to the bus, Boomer didn't want to make the right cut in to the curb.   Thus I reached down and tapped him and pulled the leash to the right to get him back in to position quickly.   He was anticipating that we were very close to the bus and KNEW where we were headed, so that's where he wanted to go.

We did another Left and then a Left, Find the way at the driveway entrance to the parking lot where the van was parked.   Barb told me to have him move over left a bit to follow the parking lot like a a country walk.    We stopped and I asked her then, what is the proper way to walk through a parking lot?   She explained that the dogs should treat it like a country walk, following along behind the row of cars, the dog between the handler and the cars and dipping in slightly if there is an opening, and if there is a long stretch of openings, the dog should go inward and treat it like a country walk there.

So we work around the bus and I tell him to find my seat and he took me straight there through the center of the circle of the other teams sitting outside. :)

Soon it was time to load up and head back to the Foundation for the afternoon, in which we were to work on dog distractions.   We first watered the dogs and then took them out to break before going to lunch.   I again stuck to the bland diet of rice and a couple of pieces of toast, hoping feel better.    Lunch was good and I was really tired having been up most of the night before in fitful sleep.   So I took off pretty quickly back to the room and still had a little over 45 minutes until time to meet up again and I'd found that taking my shoes off and stretching out on the bed was some really good downtime and I felt a lot better in the afternoons when I'd do this.   Well, yeaaahhhh, I did this and was out within minutes.    Next thing I know I hear someone knocking on the door and I jump up and I'm apologizing to Barb.   She's like don't worry about it, you needed it. :)   Come on down with your dog.   I threw on my shoes and grabbed the leash and off we went to the gathering room.

We started the afternoon with almost a mini-lecture, basically Barb introduced us all to the Gentle Leader- a head collar that is used on the dog to give you more control for specific situations.   Some use them to slow a dog down, some use them to keep the dog from scavenging, some use them when a dog has a little too much of a dog distraction and there are other uses too, but the purpose of this was to show us all what a Gentle Leader is and how we would put it on the dogs.   Barb gave us each a Gentle Leader and walked through showing us the different parts of it and putting it on each of our dogs and adjusting them properly.   She then had us take them off and then put them back on our dogs by ourselves.   She made it clear too that if for some reason any of us were given one of these to use on our dogs, that we had not failed in being able to handle our dogs in any way, but it is another tool to use if it is needed.    She explained too that some dogs do just fine on class and then when they get home need to use one, so they were now taking the time to show each handler what this tool is and how you put it on, in case at some point in the future, we had a need for one and the school could send us one to use until a trainer could get out to work with the team.

So once we were done with how to put the Gentle Leaders on our dogs, Barb told us as we were waiting for Jody to come back from the walk in clinic we could hang out about the building and they'd come get us to work on dog distractions.  Jody went to over lunch to get her arm checked out and ultimately was sent for X-rays.  Nothing was broken but  she did wind up being in a sling to stabilize her arm and keep her honest as it heals to not use it.

Before too long, Barb knocked on the door to come out to the break area to give Boomer a chance to break before going over to work the dog distractions.   We did so and then worked over to the block behind the Foundation and Anne had Tiger, Barb's sheltie that will bark and get all excited on command.    We started out just walking along the sidewalk with Tiger out in the street a little behind us and Boomer really surprised me, he didn't really care too much and Barb warned me, don't over-correct, he probably will only need verbal corrections, as long as he doesn't make a liar out of me.  He took a look and pretty much kept going.   We rounded the corner and Anne had moved with Tiger to be coming towards us from the dog side and again he did well in leaving it alone.   At the third side of the block, Anne brought Tiger right up next to us where he was jumping around and barking and Boomer was like "OK, old news!" and kept right on going without even looking at him.   We then went to the fourth side and did a meet and greet.   I had Boomer sit and stay as Anne came and we shook hands and I we talked to her a bit, then she patted him on the shoulder.   Then I walked forward to say hello to Tiger and at this point he popped up and wanted to say hello too, but put him back at a sit/stay and I went back to petting Tiger and then came back to Boomer's side.   Anne moved away with Tiger and then we worked back to the residence building and on inside.   I was quite impressed.

Once inside, we hung out in the room for just a little bit before going to dinner, which was a really, really good baked chicken, hand mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies.    Trainer Doug joined us at the table and we had some good discussions about dogs and various things.   After dinner was the evening lecture, which for this evening is on harness mechanics.   Trainer Jody taught us how to take apart and put together the handles, putting them through the "ears" of the harness and attaching them to the O rings properly too, making sure we didn't place the handle upside down, since with the offset handle, it needs to put the handle closer to your body and allowing the dog more space and allowing you to not have to place your arm out so far from your body to stay over the dog's back.  

After lecture, we took the dogs out for one last time and I'd been noticing more and more that Boomer is becoming slower to do his business with each time today, especially since it appears that all the leaves are gone from the corner he kept going to in the first week we've been here.   He's pulling more and more to the grass beyond the "street" so we'll see what he does tomorrow..

Night all!   We have Kings Park in the morning and the Backwards "P" in the afternoon.

Kacie & Boomer

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5- Friday, Nov. 1st

OK, I'd thought I'd posted this but apparently I hadnt and found it in draft mode!
Today was our first day to leave the foundation with our dogs. We got the 6am wake up call and were to be ready to go out and break at 7am. We all headed out and boys were we met with some NASTY winds and wet/damp weather. My silly boy thought it was great fun to chase the leaves in his break area spot, so he did a #2 pretty quickly but didn’t get him to go #1 at all.... He was sooooo focused on that leave at his feet that it took calling him to heel and heading inside to get his focus off of them.
So we went in and then I packed up my backpack with the stuff to take with me on the bus and then went down to breakfast. This morning’s breakfast was over easy eggs, an English muffin, and a slice of Turkey bacon. They had us get together in the gathering area at 8am and were trying to get out early to try to beat the rain coming in. We walked one at a time, working through the doors with our dogs and loading up on to the bus. Once we were all boarded, most of the dogs settled down and began to snooze, but not this big golden guy. He was up and down, up and down, and didn’t want to settle for some reason. Not sure if he was just so excited to be going out or if he was truly anticipating the work and ready to get at it.
Our first Harness walk: Kings Park bike path.

We arrived and with as windy as it was, they sat out a chair but not many, as it was damp and misting too. Boomer and I were the last team to go this morning so you’d have thought he’d have settled down after arriving, but no, he whined and circled quite a bit, wanting OUT of that bus to get moving. He’d put his head in my lap and then let out this big *sigh* and then move around some more. When it was finally our turn, he was so pumped to get off the bus he could hardly contain himself. to walk patiently beside me.
I took Barb’s arm and she sight guided me to the edge of the street and we gave Boomer a chance to break. He really did a #1 since he hadn’t gone this morning. With all the wind going, it was a little hard to hear Barb’s so we discussed tactics to get my attention on the walk, which was for her to poke me in the left shoulder to say stop and I’d halt to be able to turn and look at her. I had also changed out to my waterproof CI in case it wound up raining on us with the 3/4 mile U shaped bike path.
We took off and Boomer was ON THE MOVE!!! He wanted to go and Barb showed me how to steady him down, giving a strong pull back on the handle and saying STEADY at the same time. He steadied down and we moved along at a really good clip completely around the path passing the apprentice in blindfold and her dog. Then we unharnessed him and headed back to the bus, just in time for the skies to open up in a torrential downpour on the apprentice and the 3 other trainers on hand. They finished their route and then once loading up on the bus, we came back to the foundation to water and break the dogs, eat some hot lunch, that was a hearty tomato soup with pasta and grilled cheese sandwich, and to have a short break before heading out again at 1pm.
Our second outing was also at King's Park, and this time we reversed the route we'd taken in the morning. The weather this time was the complete opposite of this morning, with the sun shining and it warm and just a beautiful fall day. Barb had a prior commitment she had to attend, so Training Director, Anne Mercer, joined us on this trip. Again Boomer and I were the last team of our group to go (they know we walk fast, so will be done fast.) and I had to chuckle when one of the apprentices told me that Anne had commented that the prior team, had nothing on us, to be prepared to have a fast walk. The apprentice sight guided me over to the street edge and we gave Boomer the chance to have a break, which he was readily did a #1 since he hadn’t at the last break. We harnessed him up and he’s a big boy, using a size 50 harness and a 19 inch handle with him.

We took off along the street at a country walk (street with no sidewalks) to the bike path and made a left onto the path. At this point I told him forward and we just leveled out and started striding on, moving at a very fast clip. We’d gone a little bit when I saw another team come around the curve at the other end and then saw what looked to be a darker colored young deer dart out ahead of us from outside the path to inside the path and into the very high brush. I heard someone yell “Deer!” and then Boomer swung around real quick as Anne had come jogging up behind us to get my attention to let me know of the deer and that we’d soon be passing the other team coming towards us. I acknowledged these and then gave the forward command and we took off again. We got around to the other side of the path and Anne stopped me and asked if my back was feeling a little contorted. I said yeah a little. She told me to ask Barb to try a 20 inch harness on him as my arm was quite straight and the shoulder dropped a bit, being out of a normal position.
We continued on around the path and it was so liberating to be able to stretch out and MOVE again and know that I shouldn’t run into things or bonk my head on low lying branches anymore. We made it about half way around and came to the sidewalk portion that is really rough and Boomer did beautifully, slowing down through this area. So we hoofed on around back to the breaking area by the van. We unharnessed him and Anne asks what I think of him. I told her I really, really like him, just so long as he gets along with kids and the large group of kids situation, we should be fine. Anne then comments that as fast as we walk, that Boomer reminds her of the drive in a German shepherd, but laid back enough to handle and be around kids. She said too, that watching his back end as we were walking, he made her think of the little petite women that are power walking, his legs just a pumping along! LOL! Anne then guides me back to the van and with the gorgeous weather; I choose to sit outside with a couple of other classmates as the last team takes their walk. Once this team finished we packed up the chairs and headed back to the Foundation.
Arriving at the foundation, we feed, water, and break our dogs. My big goofball still was trying to chase the leaves a bit. So we got him to do a #2 and then came on in to chill for a bit before dinner. We met Chef Anne Marie, who works Fri though Sun hours here in the dining room.
Dinner was a very good chicken breast, rice pilaf, and broccoli. After dinner was the grooming lecture. We started out in the leather lobby to talk about the different reasons why you should groom your dogs and how to go about doing so. We were taught to start by running our hands backward through their fur to feel for any sores, dry spots, ticks, and possibly fleas.
Once we were done going through all this, we all made our way downstairs with our dogs and brushes and I’d brought my zoom groom and fulminator brushes, so I spent a good half hour on him, getting a lot of fur off since he’d just had a bath before they brought him to me. Of course he started being silly and wiggling around.
We finished up with brushing and headed back upstairs to my room. I figured I’d get a jump on the laundry, so I put my clothes in the washer and it was soon break time. Took the dogs out and came back in and kind of chilled and caught up on the FB news feed for a bit until the laundry had finished, since I was just too tired to concentrate on typing up this post.
Once the laundry was done, I actually fell asleep again with the laptop on my lap, waking up about 3:30am, putting stuff away and getting actually into bed.
Kacie & Boomer

Day 8- Monday Nov. 4th

Well  Good Morning!    It's the start to week 2 of training! :)

We started with the routine 6am wake up call and a quick shower before feeding and watering Boomer at 6:45am and then out to break at 7am.   I'm very pleased at how easily he breaks, even from the very get go.   We came in from the break area, which we work to each door and stop at the door, for him to "show" me the door and then I tell him Forward, Straight to "xyz", wherever xyz may be. :)   We work our way down to the dining room for breakfast and we are finally getting the hang of the down and under the chair command.   I was finding that when I'd say down, he'd go down so fast it was often facing the wrong way and I couldn't get him to move under the chair.   Trainer Mark suggested to try just saying under and not give the down part of the command.    So we'd been working on doing it this way for the last couple of days and had an "AH HA" moment this morning as I've learned to quickly sit down in my chair before he gets the chance to turn around and in one swooping motion, give the Under command and move my hand at an angle under the chair and under he goes super smoothly and right into position.    He was willing before, I was just kind of struggling with feeling like I was wrestling his head in the right direction and so forth, so now we are working together well as a team to do it smoothly, quickly, and quietly.   Yippee! :)

Breakfast was a fruit cup, a bowl of oatmeal with baked apples in it,  half of a bagel, and some eggs.   Barb and Jody came in and let us know we were headed to Patchogue this morning and it was a bit of a drive, so to please make our way to the gathering area as soon as possible so we could get back on time for lunch.   So we went back to the room and gathered up my stuff to take with, since I knew the drive would take a bit and the weather was rather chilly this morning, in the upper 30's.   I'd layered with my thermal pants and jeans, a t shirt and sweatshirt, and then wore my fleece jacket.   So we made our way to the gathering room and one by one the group started loading up on the bus.    We then made the journey to Patchogue and I started listening to the book Eragon on the way there.

Upon arriving, the trainers set up chairs outside the bus and several of the teams got out and sat in the sun, even though it was a little bit cool outside.   I decided to stay inside and listen to my book instead, since a couple of the guys have high carrying voices.   Two other teams went on their walks and then one of the teams decided to come back on the bus, so I was ready to go outside as well so I did so.   I'd also brought my brushes with me, so I figured I'd work on brushing Boomer with the slicker brush while we sat there waiting.    Soon it was my turn to go on my walk and Barb took us over to an empty parking spot to let Boomer go busy busy.    We harnessed up and she directed me to make a right down the sidewalk.

We worked our way to the corner by the library and then made another right, taking us a full block up to the main street of Patchogue.   Upon reaching the end of this sidewalk, we went straight to the curb, and then made a right to walk down the really wide sidewalk along the storefronts.   There were lots of people, strollers, and even a metal cellar cover that Boomer walked us over well.  He did very well and I honestly was surprised at how close people would come in front of us, cutting across and such, which I struggled with not trying to steer and direct him clear of these situations, but I had learned with Rei to wait and let her handle it and WHEN she messed up or we hit something, then worry about correcting/saying something.   Boomer too is impressing me more and more each day as he is taking me past objects, poles, branches, and bushes with such precision and within inches but not hitting a single thing.   He was no different here as we worked down the main sidewalk and turned right to work our way back towards the street we'd started from.  

I learned more here as when we came to the curb and there was a fence outcropping, I learned I need to advance my position up to his head and angle myself to the left towards where I want him to go- all in tune to the straight lining concept- point myself in the direction we are to go.    So gave him the command to Forward, Over Left, Find the curb!   So we worked around the outcropping and quickly got back to the sidewalk on the other side, which was a series of "stair step" corners.   We went straight, then a 90degree right turn, then  straight, and a 90 degree left turn, then straight, then another 90 degree right turn and then straight on to the street.    Here we made another right turn and back to the front of the bus.   Another team went after us and we all loaded up on the bus to head back to the Foundation, as we were running a bit late.

We got back to the Foundation and unloaded from the bus and took our dogs in, watered them, went to the bathroom ourselves, and then took the dogs out to the break area to give them a chance to break.   We came in from the break are and went down to lunch, which was a barley soup and turkey sandwich.   I was also snacking on the dried fruit I'd gotten from Costco when on the bus too.   We were able to make up the lost time as lunch went quickly and we all gathered again in the gathering area to head back out again to Patchogue for the afternoon walk.   We made the drive there and one other team went first and I took Boomer outside and sat in the warm sun.    The other team came back and it was our turn.  

This time, we went the opposite direction that we'd travelled this morning.   We went and did the "stair steps" first and I angled myself towards the other direction, towards where I wanted him to take me.   We worked through this and up to the main street.   This afternoon, the sidewalk was MUCH more congested with lots of people walking and going around.   There were people standing and talking, a guy riding a bike, and my favorite part of the whole walk was when we were moving along at a really good clip.   There were two ladies walking along slowly, in which we came up behind them pretty quickly and I told him to steady.   There were two other ladies walking towards us and you could just see the wheels in his head turning, as Boomer slowed down very slightly and surged ahead doing a very quick backwards "S", first to the left and immediately to the right to avoid the oncoming walkers as the distance was quickly diminishing and once past them he went back to the left to go back to to the middle of the sidewalk where we were supposed to be and within 10 feet passed dog to dog, the other golden team that is on class, with the two dogs not even so much as turning their heads towards each other.   Through this all, I didn't touch a thing and he did this so quickly and cleanly, that Barb actually got stuck behind the people walking towards each other and had to get around them to catch up to me. :)   I have to say I was QUITE impressed! :)

Barb was just chuckling when she caught up to me and as we approached the corner, as this guy was standing there just in awe at the two dogs as he had just watched Boomer had just done and then the two goldens passing each other within inches of each other and not even flinching.   He said to Barb, what kind of dogs are those???    Barb looked at him and said, "They are both golden retriever guide dogs."    He was just like Man, those dogs were just amazing!!!

We then did a left turn from the corner in which Boomer took me cleanly around the large light pole that was there on the corner and then back to the right to center us down the sidewalk again and on to the street that the bus was parked on and such.    We did have a bit of excitement though, as when the other golden team got back, trainer Jody had taken a tumble in the street. :(    She was so focused on watching the team that she didn't see the pot hole that was about 6 inches deep and she went down right in the middle of the street.   The guy of this team immediately turned to come get her and Jody was like NO!  Stay there.  A guy from across the street came running and a car stopped and the driver got out to see if she was OK.   She skinned her knee a bit and her arm too and jammed her shoulder pretty good.   We were all very worried about her but she kept right on going, doing another walk with another team and when when done, we all loaded up on the bus asking her if she was sure she was alright.   We made the 25 minute trip back to GDF and my stomach just started churning more and more.

We got back to the foundation and unloaded from the bus and took our dogs in, fed and watered them, and I made a bee line for the bathroom too as my stomach and bowels were rumbling more and more violently.   We also had another student join the class at this time and as we were all out in the break area, Barb brought her the dog she was getting, a gorgeous poodle. :)   Thus bringing the class to 1 yellow lab, 3 black labs, and 2 golden retrievers. :)   The other golden and Boomer are the two biggest boys in the class, and are affectionately called the golden bookends, since often times the other handler and I are sitting together outside and the dogs tend to sit with their heads facing each other.  

Once everyone was inside, Barb and Jody came to work with me again on the alerting.   We put his alert collar on and this time Barb stood outside the door to do the knocking and smoke alarm.   I sat on the bed this time and when she knocked, I'd say Alert! and he'd push hard on the disk and then I took the short leash and he took me to the door and sat.    I praised him big and treated him.    We did this a couple of times and then worked on the smoke alarm.   The first time, I sat on the bed and he at first kind of looked to Jody and then came to me and I said Alert! and he pushed on the disk and I took the leash, but he was more focused on receiving the treat than going to the door.   I keep saying "What?!" and would take one step, so we worked our way to the door.   He's doing well and getting the hang of it.   The second time, I went and sat in the bathroom and Jody had him come stand by her.   Barb started the alarm and for a few seconds, Boomer was looking to Jody, even jumping up to try to alert her and she took a step back and you could see it on his face, he spun and looked on the bed  for me and then bounded to the bathroom where I was sitting and pushed hard on the disk as I said Alert! and then took me to the door.    The trainers were both pleased and said that next time they would try with a piece of double sided sticky tape for him to push on, to start working away from the disk.  

So then it was time to go out for break and then we all came in from the break area and to the dining room for dinner.   Dinner was a large chef salad, stuffed Italian shells, meatballs, and Italian sausage with garlic bread.   Thankfully I had Kevin give me half portions, so one shell, the one meatball and half of a sausage for me!    Then I couldn't resist the chocolate cake that they had, which it think was what did me in for the night that was to come ahead for me.  

After dinner, we had our Harness & Leash correction lecture, which is ALWAYS a fun lecture to watch. Trainer Mike gives this lecture and he makes it fun and informational at the same time.   We learned that the #1 purpose of a correction is this---  To get the dogs attention.    The key to harness and leash corrections is getting the dogs attention with the least amount of correction needed, which honestly comes with experience and time with your dog, thus learning what your dog needs in what situations.   Often times, a verbal correction will suffice, but other times if the dog is severely distracted, a single, strong, quick leash correction is needed to get the dog's attention and then we are to quickly give it something to do and praise the dog if it does it.   The philosophy of corrections has been changing over the years, even from when I got Rei to being here this time.   Training and corrections seem to be more positive reinforcement based and using treats to reward the desired behavior in the beginning and then wean off the treats and utilize more and more praise.

For this lecture, the beginning of it is where we listen and interact with talking about the different things, what we should and shouldn't do. Then was the interactive part of the lecture, where Mike has a handle on a dowel rod and pin allowing the handle to swing and a leash attached to this dowel too.   Each of us went up and showed how we did both a harness and leash correction.   Mike also showed us how to get the most effective leash correction by the posture of our arm and the motion we make with our arm when giving the correction.   He also showed us how to give a correction if the dog has wandered from our side and pulling to the left- which is by stepping back with our left foot at the same time as giving the correction.   He called me up first as he knew I'd been here in April and was able to give them appropriately.   At this point I was welcome to stay or go on back to my room if I desired.  I had to make another dash for the bathroom again as I was finding that I was pretty much running to the bathroom nearly every half hour throughout the rest of the night and my stomach and bowels were still churning something fierce and revolting violently.   However after the trip to the restroom, I came back and it was good to watch the others as they learned this and other things came up through questions and thoughts while working with the other students.

After we were done with the lecture, it was nearly time to break the dogs for the last time of the night, so I ran to the restroom again and then hung out until they called us to take the dogs out.   We did so and I came back and then skyped with Mike and the kids for a bit to talk to Mike about his first day on his new job.   He had a pretty good first day on the job and was oriented to the building and settled in his new office. After telling the kids good night, I took Boomer down to the grooming room and gave him a good grooming all over before heading back up stairs quickly as I had to run to the bathroom yet again. :(   At this point I went to the nurse and asked if she had anything like Kaopectate or Pepto bismal, which she did and I took those and they finally kicked in to slow things down after about 2am. I was still up 2 or 3 times before getting up the next morning though.    So not a good night of sleep, but to tomorrow will be a new day!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 7- Sunday Nov. 3rd, - One week of training complete!

Today marks one week of this 4 week training complete.   I'm just in awe at how fast things are going and how quickly we are moving along and wondering how much farther we will come in the next two weeks.   This morning we got to sleep in an extra hour, which is good since for some reason I'm just not sleeping well.   I'm finding that I"m really warm, even with the window open at night, however that should change tonight since the temps here have dropped considerably and should be in the 30's tonight. 

We started off the morning with the 6am wake up call and I got myself up and ready to go in hopes of catching the staff member that has Favor at breakfast, since he normally works this meal.   We went out Boomer pretty quickly did his business and then we went back to the room to drop off my coat and go on to the dining room.  I was a little disappointed to see that He wasn't there, but I'm here several weeks so will catch up with him at some point.   Breakfast started with a bowl of fruit and then a plate of eggs, a chicken sausage link, and croissant roll.

About 8am we all made our way to the gathering room and ready to load up into the van for a second trip to St. James.   We gave the dogs their monthly heart worm pills quickly and then one by one made our way to the bus.   At Barb's instruction, for the trip to St. James, I put my foot on the leash to keep Boomer at a down stay, since he's been popping up so much in the van.   It worked well, and only after a couple of tries to get up, he stayed down until we arrived.  

Today is much cooler than it was yesterday, the high today being around 48, so it when we arrived, I was already was planning to sit outside since Boomer had made it clear with both trips yesterday he was not happy with being cooped up in the van and missing out on being able to see the action outside.   So while it was chilly out, I was wearing my fleece jacket and able to stay warm.   Each trainer took a team and headed off in the opposite directions that the teams had walked yesterday.   Once they came back, Barb came and got me in which I took him over to break and he again did both quickly.   Barb then said she was going back to the 48 harness, as the one she found fit him decently and we'd start off with the 20 inch handle and see how she likes it today.   A lady with a pair of dogs went by and Boomer became pretty excited and I had him sit and then when he was hyper focused on them, I snapped the leash and Barb was like he doesn't need corrected, he was just looking.  You'd told him to sit and he was doing that, so didn't need to do the correction.   I was like OK makes sense.  Man, I'm learning this stuff as we go!

So we harnessed him up and walked in the opposite direction than we did yesterday, coming to the street crossing pretty quickly.  We crossed the street and made the right turns to start down the other side of the street.   We moved along pretty well and then came to the lady with the pair of small dogs.   He did beautifully, and kept moving along, yet still watching them.   I told him Leave It! Straight! a couple of times as we passed and he didn't miss a beat other than turning his head to look at them.   Soon we came to one of the other teams coming from the opposite direction, so we stopped for a photo of the two of us "walking" towards each other.  Boomer continued to stop straight at the ramps as I reminded him to stay Straight.   We did pass some bushes and he started angling left and Barb called out "Sniffing!" when I thought she said "Snap Him!", as she and Jody had told all the students at the beginning of the class that they might tell us to do a snap and to not question, but just do it.   I hesitated for a second but went ahead and did the snap, which effectively corrected him for the sniffing, but was a little overkill unfortunately.   However, will say he didn't sniff at anymore bushes as we passed them. LOL!

So we continued on for another block and stopped at a side street that wasn't very busy and Barb switched the handle back to the 19" handle to try for a while.   We went on a couple more blocks and then made a right, right turn instead to line up to cross the street back to the other side.   We crossed over and he did very well again.   We then made a right turn and started down the sidewalk.  Boomer took me past the branch we'd bumped yesterday, but then we came to another branch hanging down, in which it hit me in the head/hat again, so we re-worked this one and told him "over left/find the way" and he took me around it and we kept on going.   we worked on for a few more blocks and Barb stopped me again and asked how I felt with the 19" harness, and I was like well, and she said, You're more comfortable with the 20" aren't you?   I said yeah, as I was already feeling it a bit in my shoulder and lower back.   So she put the 20 back on him and we went on from there.   

With the next block, we came to another team coming towards us and Barb had me stop and wait so she could snap a few pictures of the other team working.   Then she had me start up as she took a couple of pictures of us working past her.   So I continued walking and Boomer slowed me down for the uneven spot and made sure we cleared the city trash receptacle and then I got to the next ramp and didn't hear anything.   I looked around and didn't see Barb to my right or left side, so turn around and here she comes walking down the sidewalk and I'm like OH!   I didn't realize you weren't with us!   She said she was taking pictures of the other team and knew that if she yelled, I wouldn't hear her, besides I was doing fine and figured I'd stop at the next curb.   So as we cross the street, she jokingly said, You don't need me! LOL!   So we worked up to the driveway of the grocery store parking lot and Boomer immediately started to angle towards the inside of the lot and Barb was like No, go straight to the other side of the driveway and halt, to do you right turn and keep your orientation, plus it keeps him from anticipating heading back to the bus until you've told him to go that direction.   So we did this and had him find our way back to the bus and praised him up HUGE as he did an awesome job. :)

The other teams finished up their walks and we were done pretty early, so we came back to the Foundation and Barb told us all that when we got back, we'd water and break the dogs and then take them back to our rooms.    Then after doing so, we were to come back to the gathering room and we'd get to meet the smooth coat collie that the apprentice was working with this week, since this was her last day being in blindfold.    She would go to lunch in blindfold and then take it off and the dog would be going back to the training kennels.   

We all watered and took our dogs out to the break area and then took them back to our rooms.   And then we went to the gathering room and the smooth coated collie was brought around to each of us one by one to feel how his body shape and fur was like, since many had never seen a smooth coat collie before.  

After getting to meet the collie, Barb told me and Jody that we'd work on the next step of alerting with Boomer.    She brought out a smoke detector, a dumbbell, and what was going to be his new collar for when he's expected to alert me, letting him know that he is "on alerting' duty".    The collar is actually a flat nylon collar that is threaded like a martingale collar, but over the majority of the webbing, is what looks to be water line tube, making it round and smooth, to slide easily over the dog's neck.    It then had a very short leash, probably about 4 to 5 inches long attached to the the ring of the collar.

So we go back to my room and Barb explains that the collar is to go on him when he is to be on duty, so we put the collar on and then we grab the small cd disk and she tells me to hold it in my hand and gives me some kibble as treats.   Barb stands with me and Jody knocks on the door and he started off a little confused, going to Barb, as he was used to going to her, but very quickly found the disk that I was holding against my leg and it was the point in which he was to press hard for us to say "YES!" and give him a treat.   Then I am to take a hold of the short leash and say to him "WHAT?" and he is to then take me to the door and I tell him to sit/stay and then I say "YES!", treat hm again, and then open the door.   We did this three times and with each time get got faster and faster at coming to me and taking me to the door.

Next we did the smoke alarm.   Jody set off the alarm outside the door and this one took him a couple of minutes to do anything.   Barb told me to tell him "ALERT!", which is why she had been having me practice doing this with him over the past few days, rewarding him for touching the CD disk against my body.   He ran over and touched the disk and I then told him "WHAT?" and he was to take me to the door.    We did it a second time and he came to me and touched  the disk and then took me to the door a second time.    Barb then said that we'd try to practice this several times a day going forward and once we had him doing this well, we'd start working on the alarm clock. 

So by now it was lunch time, so went to the dining room for lunch and the staff member that has Favor was serving lunch, so I asked him if he had some time to talk.   He said he would be happy to bring Favor over, but just needed to make sure it was OK with Barb first.   Barb said he could just take Favor to the free run pen and I could visit with him there and all would be fine.  He said he thought he could do this about 3pm as he had an errand to run.   So I ate lunch, which was a roast beef sandwich and some veggie straws and then came on back to the room after.

I figured I'd go ahead and get Boomers grooming and obedience done for the day, so grabbed my bag of brushes and headed downstairs to the groom room and worked on brushing him out really good.   I got a lot of hair, but not as much as yesterday, so we are slowing working through that under coat.   He is really looking good now with the consistent brushing. :)    After working over his coat with the zoom groom, the furminator, and then the slicker, I put the brushes away and worked on some obedience with him.   It's crazy, as down there, he's like sooo excited to do what I ask, I say sit and his butt hits the floor with a thud.  I say down and he practically flattens to the floor with his head and all.    I made a long leash and walked all around him in a circle and then since we were in an enclosed room, I dropped the leash entirely and walked all around him too.    He did great, staying exactly where I told him, but then there weren't anything to distract him either, however it takes starting with baby steps to build that bond/trust/confidence. :)

We went through the different motions of obedience and then I gathered up my stuff and headed back upstairs to chill for a bit until time to hopefully see Favor.   I went to the snack room and not long after Barb came in and we talked for awhile, discussing if there were any adjustments we need to make in how we are doing things, to make sure I was understanding what she was trying to convey or if I was missing anything/doing anything repeatedly and need to especially work on.  :)  

Soon the staff member that has adopted Favor came in and said he was ready to bring her over.   I went out to the free run pen and he brought her in.   She immediately ran around checking out the area and smells of the other dogs being there and didn't really have a whole lot to do with me.   She did come up and gave me a look and I said Come Favor and she started yipping a few times and ran and jumped up on me.   She became very vocal and ran up to her new owner often before running back to the fence and looking in her yard.   Her yard actually backs up to the free run pen, as her house is right on the other side of the residence hall building.   He asked if I wanted to meet the other two dogs and to let her run around.   I said sure and we walked over to the house and he let out the black standard poodle he was temping because it wasn't doing well in the kennels, and the male golden that was slated to be a breeder.    The three dogs ran and tore through the yard non-stop as we tried to talk about the things she liked and disliked. 

Kacie with Favor sitting next to her  and both looking at the camera in a yard with lots of leaves.

It was really, really good to see her so happy and relaxed.   I have to honestly admit though, that I am honestly glad that I do not have her anymore as a guide dog.   Working with Boomer, I'm feeling that the more laid back personality is fitting me better at this time and I'm definitely more relaxed with him.  I'm actually starting to enjoy having a guide dog again and the fears are starting to subside.

I came in from seeing her and it was nearly time to feed, water, and break the dogs.   I worked with boomer on the Alert/touching the disc.   Then we went for him to break.    Came back in and chilled for a bit until dinner time.   Dinner tonight was a salad, baked tilapia fish, rice, and steamed broccoli.    It was kind of somber as quite a few of us had challenging days today and with the "loss" of one member of out "gang", Jackie, everyone was pretty quiet.   Several of us decided to go down to the groom room and work on grooming the dogs and I grabbed the laptop and went and hid out in the TV room working on various things in the mean time until time for the 8:30 break. 

After the 8:30 break, I'm just catching up on a few things and taking it easy as Boomer chills too.  Tomorrow we are supposed to go to Patchoague, a little more busy town with traffic lights and such.  

Night all!
Kacie & Boomer 

Day 6- Saturday Nov. 2nd

This morning I got up looking forward to an afternoon off from training. While I’ve been doing well, I’m just honestly feeling emotionally and physically drained from all the different terms and things to remember, that honestly I don’t think I’ve ever heard/been told before. If I had, I seriously don’t remember them.

We started off with the routine 6am wake up call, and I seriously had a really hard time dragging myself out of bed this morning. Boomer came up and was nuzzling me on the face as if to say, come on Mom, you’re going to be late! I finally was able to get myself moving about 6:30 and grabbed a quick shower and multi-tasked this morning of moving the bath mat over in front of the mirror and putting his food bowl between my feet ( as we are supposed to feed them this way for now) and doing my hair/brushing my teeth as he ate. Then at 7am we got the call to begin watering, feeding, and then going out to break our dogs. Boomer quickly did both as it had been all night for him, so we came back in and went on down to the dining room.

This morning for breakfast we started off with a bowl of fruit and had some amazing blueberry pancakes and a slice of bacon to go with it. I wasn’t able to eat all the pancakes as there was just too much. From here, we met up in the gathering room and I had to work with Boomer on walking steadily to the door. He gets so anxious to work that he just goes full charge ahead towards the door and outside. So we had to work on sloooowing him down and making him walk steady out the door. He just amazes me as he’s so incredibly smart and wants to please so much. It usually takes about 20 minutes to get us all loaded or unloaded off the bus as we have to stop at each of the double doors going out and roll our backs to the door in order to protect the dogs from the door possibly hitting them. Then we have to make our way outside and direct the dogs exactly where we want it to go, making our way to the bus, then up the steps and to our seats, plus doing any re-working/corrections if the dog isn’t being steady, calm, or not stopping appropriately. So take this times 7 people that we have right now, it can take a bit to get us all loaded.

After everyone was loaded, we took off for the nice little town of St. James that has nice straight sidewalks and some obstacles to work around, but nothing complex, no lights or high traffic areas other than the main street you are walking along. We do encounter people with babies in strollers, other dogs, and so forth.. The bus was parked in the parking lot of a King Cullen grocery store, and this time we parked at the very front of the lot which was separated from the sidewalk/street by a good thick row of hedges. The trainers set up Camp chairs along the bus and the front curb of the lot for the students to sit in between the walks.

I sat on the bus for a bit but Boomer became fussy and kept getting up and down, whining and trying to get my attention and making it clear he wasn’t happy about sitting there on the bus when other dogs and people were outside without him. So we moved outside and he very quickly settled down when he could see he wasn’t being left out of the action. J A couple of other teams went first and we waited and enjoyed the very warm and sunny fall day.

When it was our turn, Barb came up and said hang on a minute, I want to snap some pictures of you all sitting here, everyone is being sooo good right now. J So after taking the pictures, she sight guided me over a couple of parking spots for me to give him a chance to go busy busy. He went pretty quickly and Barb was getting our harness ready to go. She came back and explained that while she had him in the size 50 harness in the morning, the size 50 harness that Ann had grabbed was really too big on him, so Anne had put a 48 on him. Barb said that the 48 fit him around, but really sat high on his withers and she didn’t like where it sat, so the size 50 harness that she had here fit him well and we’d use that until I get my new harness and that when she gave me the new one, she would put some extra holes in it to make it smaller to fit him correctly and to not let her forget about this. She also explained too that we’d try the 20 inch handle today too. So off we went!

We took off through the parking lot and made our way to the sidewalk and began our way down the sidewalk. First obstacle was the American flag hanging from the VFW building with a really pretty backdrop of some bright colored mums and a cute scarecrow. He took me around the flag, just clearing it like Rei used to do. Barb told me to halt and move up to his head and took a picture of us with the flag and backdrop. I can’t wait to see that one. J Off we went again and there was a trash receptacle, people with strollers and a lot of driveways to go across. The next major obstacle we came to was that a lady was approaching us and there was a high overhanging bush at my head height, but not at his. He did very well in that he saw that there wasn’t room for Us, and the lady on the sidewalk so he slowed down and then stopped, which is VERY good for a real first walk together and still learning my height.

We continued on and as we approached a driveway, he had been pulling quite hard and going almost too fast, and Barb reached out the same time I started to pull gently back on the harness and say to him Steady! We were both so focused on this, that at least I didn’t notice that there was a car pulling to the driveway out of the business and all of a sudden he stopped dead in his tracks before we even crossed into the driveway. Barb was like well he just stopped because there is a car there. Then she asked, how did you know I was going to reach out to steady him? I said well I was just getting ready to steady him because he was going faster and faster. So we take off again and keep going on down the sidewalk.

Next up we go directly under the end of a branch hanging straight down and it hits me in the head/hat that I was wearing. This is part of the learning process as we really haven’t worked together, so this is how we learn together. I stopped him and said to him, “Watch it!” and shook the branch a bit and then did an About (turn around) and walked back about 5 to 6 paces and then did another About, to re-approach the branch. Barb stepped in forced him to walk towards the branch and forced him to stop before the branch and praised him for “stopping” and not hitting the branch. Then I was to tell him find the way, Straight, and he emphatically moved around where the branch was and on we went.

We came to first corner which had a corner wheelchair ramp. While the one rounded wheelchair ramp is cheaper for the cities to put in, they can be detrimental to the blind person’s orientation. The dogs are trained to do what is called straight lining, which means they are trained to follow the imaginary center line of the sidewalk at all times and adjust that imaginary line so that both the dog and the handler, however wide both may be will fit through the space they are travelling. A correct set up of wheel chair ramps, there would be one ramp of the one side of the corner and a second ramp off the other side of the corner and a 90 degree corner between the two, which would allow the blind person to walk straight through the sidewalk to the ramp and on across the street they will be crossing to the opposite ramp. However because so many places have gone to the rounded corners and the single rounded ramps, if the dog and handler was to line up in the middle of these ramps, they are actually headed diagonally straight through the middle of the intersection, NOT straight across to the other side of the street. Thus the dogs are trained to access where the straight line is of the sidewalk across the street is and try to line up at the side of the wheelchair ramp straight towards where they are to be headed.

So when we approached this rounded wheelchair ramp, Boomer took me way to the right completely off the wheelchair ramp and Barb wasn’t sure what he was doing, possibly trying to avoid the tactile bumps on the wheelchair ramp, viewing them as an obstacle. However, he was lining us up correctly to the sidewalk across the street. So we continued on and when we came to the next corner/rounded wheelchair ramp, he did the same thing. Barb then said we would do a left, left curb and I frankly looked at her in a dumbfounded look and said “what? Did you just say “Left, Left, Curb?” She laughed at the expression on my face and I said ok what is a “left, left, curb? That is a new one for me!”

Contrary to what many people think, since the dogs and handlers are often very in sync with each other, the dogs do not determine the route point A and B. The dog will determine the route between points A and B. It is critical that the blind person/handler knows the layout of their route, the building, and their environment in order to tell the dog what is point A and point B. The handler tells the dog, go to point B and the dog determines the straightest and safest route to get there and when they reach point B, the process starts over again, becoming point A and a new point B is instructed by the handler. Also, as handlers, there is a LOT of footwork we have to learn in working with our dogs along with the voice commands and hand signals. We are to start off with the left foot forward ahead of the right food and the feet spread apart from each other at a good stance in case of being bumped, we aren’t simply knocked over. Starting in this manner helps promote the person to start off and walk in a straight line and not angle left into the dog and off the straight line that both the dog and handler are trying to follow.

Thus in order to make left and right turns, we have to move our bodies and feet into certain positions and what Barb had instructed me to do was tell the dog to do a left turn, left turn, and go to the curb. Which is fine, I just hadn’t heard it before and upon her explaining that I was going from the right straight line/side of the wheelchair ramp to the left straight line/side of the wheelchair ramp so I could cross the street perpendicular to the sidewalk I’d just been travelling on. So we did the Left, Left, curb and Barb then determined when it was okay to cross the street since it was a very busy street. We got across the street and once reaching the curb and ramp, we made another left turn to put us following the straight line of the sidewalk headed back in the direction we had come from, but across the street.

So we continued down the sidewalk and a second time we came to a driveway where a car was approaching to exit onto the street and again, Boomer did beautifully and stopped dead in his tracks before we were in the path of the oncoming car. We continued on and passed another lady with a stroller and next wheelchair ramp and I happened to say Straight at the rite time and he had began to angle to the right of the ramp but upon saying Straight, he went to the right side of the ramp where Barb thought he should be. So before we took off again, she asked me that when he started to slow down for the ramp, to remind him again, Straight, and see if he would keep doing that, that what he was doing wasn’t a bad thing, but more her being picky about his positioning and if we could perfect it, let’s do so. So we worked up to the next ramp and upon him slowing down, I said straight and he lined up right where he should be. We then went on and a person crossed the sidewalk into a store right in front of us and then we passed a pet shop that had a raised feed dish against the outside of the building with a water bowl and a bunch of biscuits in the second bowl. Boomer started to angle right towards it and with a Leave it! , Straight, he kept right on going and did awesome. We came to the next wheelchair ramp where I reminded him Straight again and he lined up perfectly. J Barb said wow he did really well, that was really tough with those feed dishes there- which were the same as what GDF used to feed the dogs in and the biscuits. She was proud of him. J

So we were now going to cross the street again and make our way back to the van, so I needed to do a Left, Left, curb again and this time I fumbled it up as there was actually two sets of wheelchair ramps since the corner was much wider than I was expecting, so as he started to go multiple steps to get to the other side of the ramp, I was balking and Barb was like follow him! Yeah, gotta learn to trust my dog- which comes with time. She gives me the cue to cross the street and we make the left turn again to head back to the van and back to the parking lot where we stop and I praised him up BIG time for such a great job. We unharnessed him and then I sat outside the van with the gang until the other teams had finished.

After all the teams were done, we came back to the Foundation and gave the dogs water and took them out to break. Since Boomer and I were one of the last ones to walk and he’d done both just before that walk, he wasn’t needing to go at this time. So we came on in and went to the dining room for lunch. Anne Marie had made us a really good chicken & vegetable soup and I had a turkey sandwich in place of the chicken salad that most of the other students had.

With finishing my lunch, my volunteer to take me to Costco had arrived early, so I took Boomer back to the room and put him on the tie down and came back out to meet her. I also got to meet Rosanna, another handler who volunteers here at the foundation on Saturdays and gives tours of the grounds. She introduced me to her black lab and I seriously did a triple take. This little girl looked soooo much like Rei, I was in awe. The same short stubby nose and wide set eyes and petite, small body structure compared most of the labs in my class. She was such a pretty girl. My volunteer introduced herself and we went out to her vehicle and made our way to Costco.

I wanted to get some snacks and bottled water for myself and one of the other guys on class had asked if I could pick some up for him too. I got myself some fresh pears, plums, some dried fruit, and some trail mix to have for between meals instead of the fruit snacks and chips that were available here. I also picked up a package of the Starbucks Mocha frappe chino bottles for the caffeine kick I’ve been needing. I figured the 12 bottles of this would help get me through as needed. J I will say, shopping Costco in NY was quite an adventure, the people here were ready to run me over with their carts and I was surprised to hear my volunteer tell several people, “Don’t you hit her!” I appreciated it, but yeah, definitely not accustomed to the NY culture! LOL! So after checking out we drove back to GDF and borrowed a cart from the kitchen to bring everything in. I then looked around to see if I could find the other student that had wanted the water and trail mix too, and he must have been taking a nap, so I decided to take one myself.

Next thing I know, I hear a knocking at the door and Boomer had come pushed his nose in my face and was standing next to me as I woke up and said Hang on a minute! While I got my hearing aid in to be able to hear. It was Jody who was asking if I wanted to take Boomer out to the free run pen and let him free run. I said sure and we went out to the break area to give him the chance to go break again and then on into the free run pen. I had him sit and turned him loose and he ran and ran all over the place. Jody then gave me some kibble to put in my hand and she walked out and got his attention to come to her and then he started doing what Rei’s puppy raiser called, the Scoots- where he ran like a crazy man in zig zags and circles at top speed all over the place. J As he was focused on her, I blew the whistle 3 times and said Come! And he practically jumped in the air and came galloping to me. I then had him sit and praised him and rubbed his belly, telling him GOOD BOY!! Then I turned him loose again for a few minutes. Jody tried again to get him to come over by her and he was like nope I know this drill and came running to me again sitting right in front of me. LOL! So she called him again and he started running around some more and as he was focused on running, I blew the whistle again and he stopped dead and spun and came running back to me. Again I had him sit and praised him for being such a good boy!

We went back inside and I grabbed my bag of brushes and then took off to the patio and I spent nearly an hour going all over his body, first going all over his body with the zoom groom brush. Then I used the furminator brush to work on the undercoat he has coming out since the bath they gave him and then lastly using the slicker brush to finish off the fine touches of his long feathers on his legs and belly. Just as I was finishing up there, Jody called us to feed, water, and break the dogs, so we worked quickly back to the room to do this and then on out to the break area.

After this, we came inside and went to dinner, which was meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Anne Marie gave me small portions as well and it was all very good. J Another student asked about trying the brushes I have on his golden too, so after this, we went and watered the dogs and then went down to the grooming room and I showed him each of the brushes and then as he brushed out his dog, I worked on some obedience with Boomer, who was just in a great mood and so excited to do what I asked him to do. It was soon time to go out for the 8:30 break and from there we came back to the room and have just taken it easy for the evening.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another trip to St. James, and I’m hoping to catch up with the staff member that has Favor and hopefully set up a time to see her again. We’ll see how it goes.

Kacie & Boomer

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 4 - Halloween! Oct. 31st


We started the morning off with feeding and watering our dogs on our own this time and then going out to the break areas by ourselves.   Boomer did well, though he is testing to see if he can get by some doors without having to stop for them.   So we've made a couple of abouts and re-working them.   We did this as we headed out to the break area this m morning and he again surprised me, quickly doing his business.

Upon going inside, we went down to the dining room and in mood of Halloween, Chef Kevin came out to tell us the menu for the day- consisting of grits, bacon, eggs and ham.   For lunch would be chicken noodle soup (cant remember what he called them) and gooey brains on  bread (ham and cheese sandwich),and for dinner:  wrapped children's fingers ( Pigs in blanket), Something and worms (fish and chips),

Barb continued throughout the day with some quite hilarious and comical impersonations of witch voices and ghoulish sayings as we worked through the day. :)   Love having her as my trainer as she is so friendly and fun but so capable and understanding to teach the right way to learn how to effectively handle your guide dog.
After finishing breakfast, we were gathered into the leather lobby and the group was split in half, all of Jody's students working on the stairs, elevators, and then obedience.   The other half, all of Barb's students worked on getting on and off the bus and vans with the dogs, and walking around the block outside, and then lastly obedience as well.  

Barb came and got me when it was my turn and said to meet her in the gathering area.   We met up there and went out the doors and worked our way outside then around the building, along the sidewalks to the back area and "block" that is there for practices.   We worked around the block doing the right and left turns and then moving turns too.   We worked on the abouts and halts too.   I'm finding the footwork to be getting easier and easier as I go and keep doing it, occasionally I'll get turned around on it and totally flub it up but for the most part have been doing pretty good with it.  

We finished with the outdoor walk and then made our way back up towards the front of the building and then worked on getting in and out of the van/bus.   First was onto the bus and off the bus, having Boomer follow me on and off with a regular leash, walking beside me.   For the van, they had a new rear facing seat in the back of the van, so had a set of steps to navigate up and down.   I was fine until coming down and I heard Barb say "STAY!" so I turned a bit and caught my foot, thus losing my balance coming down. Not sure I want to sit in the back of the van. LOL!   Then I got in and out of the back seat of the van from the side door, where we tell the dog to sit and stay, then make a long leash and we climb in, then call the dog in with us.  

Then Barb sight guided me out towards the middle of the drive and we worked some obedience, doing a sit and stay, down and stay, up-sit, and then the recall.    Boomer does really well with the down & stay, but going to have to work with him on the sit & stay.   He sits instantly when I tell him to sit, but likes to pop back up quickly, which I believe is because he is so anxious to work, that he anticipates moving and trys to pop up to be ready to go.  So we are working on that with various obedience sessions.   Once done here, It was time to water and break the dogs before lunch and head to the dining room.

I went back to the room and watered the big boy.   We then work out to the break area and he quickly does both right away so we head back inside and I ditch the coat in my room and head down to the dining room where we have the ham and cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.   Lunch was good and before we knew it, it was time to head to the gathering room again for the afternoon session, in which the two groups were to switch in what we were doing.

Barb grabbed me first and we went to the stairs where she showed me how she trained Boomer on step refusal- that he was to not go forward until my left foot is entirely on the first step down and I say the forward command.   If I swing out my right foot or step down with the right foot, he should not move forward.   However, she did say that we will need to practice this on a regular basis in order to keep the skill sharp.    Plus, with Boomer, he wants to work so badly he anticipates things and will rush it if I let him.   

Barb explained that she has also taught the dogs to stop at the last step in a set of stairs, so that we can know when the last step is there.    We worked up and down the two flights of stairs twice, as the first time was her explaining stuff to me and then the second time I was able to direct him most of the way.   The step refusal is only for the going down steps, not upward steps.

Once we finished with the stairs, we then moved to the elevators and worked through these.  I was surprised to see that Barb has taught her dogs to find the elevators and then has taught them separately to find the buttons too. :)   So we worked our way downstairs and back up on the elevator.   After finishing th elevators, I hung out in the leather lobby  until Barb was ready to do group obedience with all of us.  All of us in our group gather up and she has each student go out into the middle of the rug and go through the motions, switching them up from the order we'd done in the morning.   We each have our turn of working with the dogs in a sit & stay, the down & stay, up-sit, and recall.

Both groups finished pretty quickly, so the decision was made with the Communications manager, Bill Krohl, to have the Media lecture at 4pm there in the leather lobby.    Before this lecture, I was in my room and Barb came and knocked on the door with a mini - CD that had duct tape rolled in a roll on the back of it.   she grabbed a few pieces of kibble and said that they had worked on him alerting her by touching this disk forcefully.    She said she needed me to practice this with him a few times before they started the next step with me.   

We then came back and met up in the Gathering room and as Bill spoke, the dogs were so well behaved, still, and laying down by each of the handlers.  He gave his talk about the media policies and speaking opportunities that we as graduates can sign up to be a part of if the bond with the dog and length of time that the team has been together allows for it.

Dinner quickly came up with Fish & chips and pigs in a blanket as the "children's fingers" for laughs and giggles.   The dogs do so well, even in close proximity of each other.   Boomer is the only one that is ready to play and popping up occasionally.  

After dinner, we had our straight line and approved toys lecture.   Trainer Maria explained how the dogs are trained to walk down the imaginary center line of the sidewalks and are to deviate to the left if possible when something obstructs this line.   She explained that they start out by stopping and moving the dogs in the appropriate directions and after several months of this training they start "stepping back" and gradually letting the dogs take the lead on what to do and praising them huge when the do things correctly, but correcting when they do it incorrectly.   This reinforces the appropriate behaviour that is desired.  

Then we took the dogs back to our rooms and put them on tie down to go downstairs and have the playtime/toy lecture.   Maria showed the class the Kong, nylabones, and sterilized bones.   She explained that with the dogs, we have to be cautious of not giving anything that they can destroy easily, as most labs do chew most dog toys up very easily.   The goldens can sometimes be easier on their toys, but it depends by dog.     Rawhide bones/chews/etc are absolutely out as they swell in the dog's stomach and when soaked, become stretchy and dangerous.   They also are often bleached to "clean" them and treated with chemicals that are often not safe for dogs as well as since they smell like leather, they promote chewing of leather and this can carry over to your leather shoes, the leather leash/, the leather harness, or anything else that smells like leather.

We then had our last break time at 8:30 and once again the big boy did his business quickly. :)