sometimes you just need a glimpse to realize you’re on the right track.
As everyone knows, Rogue and I have been on a journey filled with ups and downs, left turns, right turns and U-turns. raising and training your own guide dog is not easy.
But, this week has given me the slightest glimpse of the possibilities.
Over the past year, I have been working hard to find gear that rogue will tolerate.
I’ve found martingales that open like regular collars, so she doesn’t have to put her head through the opening. she no longer ducks my efforts to put her collar on.
I’ve found working vests/backpacks that don’t require her to do more than stand still while I put it on. She’s getting better. to help her along, I’ve begun getting Cessna dressed in her harness, and then getting Rogue dressed. I then walk around the house getting myself dressed, and giving Cessna treats for being so awesome. rogue is taking less and less time to break free of the “roots” holding her in place when the vest goes on. the only thing I have to remember, is to get her to come to me before I reach for the vest – sneaky, I know 🙂
Our next challenge has been the guide handle. Huib made one for us to use and Rogue hates it. I’ve gotten some material to make her a soft guide handle, but I am also getting Rogue dressed shortly before we leave the house, so that she can work on breaking free of the “roots”. The past two days have been really good, but we’ve still got a long way to go in this area.
Yesterday we went to the mall to do a bit of work. I had Rogue walk from one end of Stone Road Mall to the other. She tried to go into a couple of stores, Huib said she must be a girl because they were all shoe stores, lol!
When she began veering into the stores, I had her stop and then we fixed our direction and continued to walk.
On our way back to where we had started, rogue did amazing! She only tried to go into one store, but I was able to tell her no and she fixed her own direction. She walked me around an older person using a walker and around a couple of teenagers. I was worried she’d brush me against the person with the walker, but Huib warned me we were approaching and said Rogue left a good amount of room between us.
We need to work on staying a little straighter, but I felt really good with Rogue’s progress.
Later, I did some curb and sidewalk work with Rogue. Huib followed behind, giving me an idea of when we were getting close to the curbs and when Rogue was beginning to veer. She has a bit of an issue with keeping too close to the left side of the sidewalk, and with wanting to check out things as we walk, but those are simple problems to fix.
When we came to the curb, she blew it twice before she figured out exactly what I wanted. Each time she stepped off the curb, I dropped the guide handle and dramatically said “Whoops! too bad, let’s try that again”. When we came to the next down curb, she only blew it the first time, and nailed it dead on the next two tries. the final curb was the same, she blew it the first time, but nailed it the second. I will do more work with her in this area, but I don’t foresee it taking her too long to figure out that all down curbs must be stopped at.
In order to give her a bit of variety and some work on just sidewalks, we walked for about 45 minutes. At one point, we came upon a truck that was parked completely across the sidewalk. Huib explained it all to me and then we set off, wanting to see what rogue would do. she walked me up to the truck, I felt out with my right hand, then said “Rogue, forward”. She immediately turned toward the road, stopped at the down curb, walked me along the back of the truck, and then walked me back up onto the sidewalk. We had a PARTY!!! I tripped on the up curb, but I didn’t care, she had just done a major obstacle perfectly!
I had a bit of trouble with her pull and sometimes with her pace, but I think a longer guide handle is needed, in addition to some working out on my part.
Whenever you get comfortable with a guide dog, you don’t always realize their pace slowing down, so wen you go to work with another dog, you end up with shin splints. when I got Cessna, I had the most painful shin splints, but after a couple of months, they went away and it was amazing to fly like the wind with her.
Cessna hasn’t really slowed down, but with three years of not really working, the shin splints are back with a vengeance!
The work rogue and I did today really showed me that we’ve progressed and that with some more time and patience, we might just actually make it as a team.