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.
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.
Kacie & Boomer