Wyoming Trip: The Public Access Test

Today was the big day. Today was the dreaded public access test.

The public access test is a set of standards Assistance Dogs International designed for their member organizations to follow when deciding on whether a trainee should graduate.

Robin felt Rogue, Sherman and Soleil were ready for the test, so asked her friend to conduct it. Robin’s friend assesses dogs for search and rescue, as well as, evaluates dogs for the AKC’s Canine good Citizen certification.

I was SO nervous!! I totally thought Rogue and I were going to flunk.

we didn’t though… We passed with flying colours!!!

We all drove to the mall around 10:00 and waited for Robin’s friend to arrive. We then had our dogs calmly exit the vehicle and take us to the doors. Once we entered Sears, we asked our dogs to sit and then did a mini sit-stay and down-stay exercise while robin’s friend watched. We then walked through Sears and stopped in the busy mall hallway. there, we had our dogs sit and then Robin’s friend came up and pretended to greet us and our dog. Rogue was very intent on getting a treat from me as often as possible, so continually poked me in the leg with her nose, which is her ‘look’ cue or eye contact since I cannot see enough to give her true eye contact.

After Robin’s friend finished greeting us all, we did a mini recall of each dog. We had them all go into a down and then stay while we went to the very end of their leash and then after a few seconds, called them over. Rogue bounded towards me with lots of enthusiasm, lol!

We then walked through the mall to a small fabric store, where Bill proceeded to push a cart around the store while we asked our dogs to sit, lie down and guide us with him walking by. None of the dogs seemed to care.

next, we walked to the Chick-fil-A for a drink. the dogs had to lie quietly while we drank our beverages and Robin threw treats around them. Each dog ended up picking up one of the treats, but left lots of them alone completely, so it was no big deal. Rogue had a treat sitting around her belly area, but left it alone. She ate the one that ended up underneath her though. Bill took a short video of this, so I am hoping I can post a link to it sometime soon.

Once everyone was done their beverage, we proceeded to walk back through Sears to the vehicle, where Robin’s friend watched us all re-load the dogs. the only test we didn’t do was the behaving around dogs because we had each other’s dog to work around and Robin’s friend had met up with us the evening before with her almost 2 year old Bloodhound, so knew how all of the dogs would react.

It was SO neat to see how well each of the dogs performed the tasks. I was surprised at how serious each of them were about their work.

In the afternoon Robin’s son, daughter-in-law and friends came over for a barbecue. It was raining though, so it was more of an indoor one.

I can be a bit shy at times, so I wasn’t really sure how it would be, but I ended up having a blast. Roxy and I talked a lot and practiced some finger spelling and she taught me some new signs. We also entertained Robin’s company by commenting on things and telling hilarious stories.

When we were getting our food, for example, we didn’t really intend to do it, but we kept referring to items on the counter in sexual terms. to give you an example, I asked Roxy if she could tell me what kinds of condoms there were, instead of asking about the condiments. Then I asked her to pass me a bun and rare meat (burger) because I didn’t like it hard and dry, lol! I really didn’t mean for things to sound so bad, but it just kept coming out and Robin’s son and daughter-in-law were laughing.

After Robin’s company had gone home, it was time for roxy to pack because she needed to catch her plane back to New orleans the following morning.

I’m here for 5 more days, so it will be so strange not having Roxy and the Sunshine Dog around.

Wyoming Trip: Blind Man’s Chicken

Friday was a good day.

Soleil came down and woke me up around 6:30 by jumping on the bed and giving me tons of kisses. It is so funny to see how excited she is about life.

after breakfast we got ready to do some solo work.

Robin explained the route and then I offered to go first. We were going to set off at 5 minute intervals, so the dogs would have a chance to work without help.

Rogue and I did really well. we found our curbs, we made our turns when they came and we figured out any confusing spots. at the second crossing, we accidentally went up someone’s driveway instead of the sidewalk, so once I felt the brick wall in front of me, I asked Rogue to turn around and then we made our way back to the curb, so we could try again. The next area we had some trouble was when we walked down a road that has a number of really defined driveways, it felt as though we were stopping at curbs each time we crossed one, so when we stopped at the first down-curb of the driveway, I was confused, so I had Rogue turn around and then we walked back to the last crossing to figure out what went wrong. When I got close to the crossing, I heard roxy and Soleil, so I had Rogue move over and we let them pass us and then I waited a couple of minutes before proceeding on. We had actually been doing okay, I just didn’t realize how defined the driveways were going to be. Once we passed all four, I began asking Rogue to “find the chair”. she walked right to the curb at the next road, so I had her turn around and then decided to try asking her to “find the bus” and she did. It was a really cool experience to be working solo with Rogue and succeeding in our mission to find the meeting spot.

Once we got back to Robin’s driveway, we all decided to trade dogs and see how it feels to walk a short block. I tried walking with Sherman, the male standard poodle, first. Sherman walks a lot slower than Rogue and is a lot taller and longer, so it was a really interesting experience. I think Sherman would be an awesome dog to go window shopping with.

After I got back to the driveway, I took soleil for a spin. walking with her was similar to walking with Rogue, but she is a bit shorter and Roxy is shorter than me, so the guide handle is short. I had a bit of trouble finding my groove with her and we missed the down-curb, but we survived and I think Roxy and I are going to try switching dogs tomorrow.

Both Roxy and Robin say Rogue is a really good dog and that her work is superb. robin says that once I refine my precision, Rogue’s work will shine. they say Rogue is stubborn and manipulative, so I need to wait her out and be more firm in my requests. This is something Huib has also been trying to work on with me, so hopefully with practice, I’ll finally master it.

Robin wants me to try talking less and to stop fidgeting when we’re stopped because she didn’t find Rogue as bad as I told her she was about standing straight and not moving at curb edges.

I’ve got some work to do. It’s really nice though to hear that my dog will work amazingly well with someone who has more precise movements and requests. It makes me even more motivated to work on being still and quiet.

In the afternoon we did some traffic checks, or “blind man’s chicken” as Roxy likes to call it.

Robin and Sherman went out first. Bill was driving their van and their daughter-in-law was driving her car. We had to walk around their cal neighbourhood while bill and april tried to block our path and run us down. Sherman did amazingly well, which wasn’t a surprise.

When it was our turn, I asked Rogue to take me to the curb at the end of the driveway and then to turn right. When we were walking down the block, we came upon a car parked across the sidewalk in their driveway, so after rogue showed me, I asked her to ‘forward’ and she…turned left…stopped at the curb and then proceeded to walk along the back of the car…and then went back up onto the sidewalk and continued our route. Shortly after that, we had another vehicle parked too close to the sidewalk, so Rogue took me as close to the road as needed and walked around it before returning to the path. At the next street, we crossed over diagonally, which was not supposed to happen. they live in an oddly shaped neighbourhood, so when Rogue showed me the curb, we were at a curve in the sidewalk and not quite at the actual crossing spot. So, even though we didn’t do the crossing correctly, we did go curb to curb the way we were lined up, so maybe that’s a sort of win??

After bill came over and directed me back to where robin and Sherman were waiting, I proceeded along the route and came across a car that turned in front of us, a few more vehicles blocking sidewalk access and a car honking it’s horn as it raced behind us. I probably missed describing some of the tests we went through, but in all cases rogue was an absolute super hero!! She did everything smoothly and when we were cut off or whatever, I often didn’t even notice, I either wondered if I was imagining things or it was done so easily that we didn’t even break stride. I really think we’re going to be okay with anything we encounter at home.

Last to go was Roxy and Soleil. roxy encounters a lot of aggressive driving and people using their horns a lot, so she asked bill and April to be a little more scary looking and sounding.

I am happy to report that we have all lived to see another day.

In the evening we returned to the capital building and met up with robin’s friend who has a one and a half year old blood hound named boo. I have never seen a blood hound before, so I asked Becky and she let me feel boo. he is really neat, I love his ears! they are SO big! rogue was a bit excited to see him, so before we got out of the van I put her Halti on and then took it back off a few minutes later because she calmed down. After the greetings were done, we walked back towards the big staircase at the capital building because Roxy wanted to practice them now that she had a proper stability handle. rogue did really well on the stairs. When she showed me the first step up, I moved over to the railing and asked her to show me it. she got really excited about that and even jumped up to put her paws on the top, lol! Once we reached the top, I turned around and asked her to show me the railing, which she did by jumping up again, lol! I am going to work on this cue because I am thinking it might make stairs a bit less scary because I will know Rogue is focused on showing me the railing first and not just on showing me the edge of the staircase.

after we finished with the stairs, the wind began to pick up, so we decided to do a really quick loop along the sidewalks in the area. rogue did well at avoiding all of the planters and at showing me the various grates along the way, lol! She really hates grates, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to step over, she just stops dead in her tracks. At one point along our walk, Rogue stopped and Bill came up and said he thought it was really cool to see her showing me that there was a sidewalk to my left, even though the intersection itself was a few metres further ahead. I asked him how he thought I could teach her to make more of a signal for me to understand what she’s showing me, he suggested I ask Robin about it. Once everyone had caught up, we turned and walked back towards the intersection that would take us to the van. rogue stopped to show me exactly where we had entered the capital building, which Bill also thought was neat, so we used the spot to wait for the others.

Oh, I forgot. Rogue saw a SQUIRREL along our route and was SO excited about it, but I got her to sit, target my hand, target my hip and lie down, so she quickly reigned her head.

robin came down to talk to me before bed about how Rogue and I are doing. she thinks Rogue is amazing and that Huib and I did a really good job with her training. she says that I need to work on being more black and white with her for a while before I start asking her to learn new skills like showing me places we’d already visited or paths that are branching off the sidewalk. She said that the problems we’re having seem to stem from the fact that I am not as confident since losing more sight 3 years ago and more hearing along with it. She said that we’re going to do some cane work (blah!) next week and she’ll give me some tips for recognizing useful landmarks when walking since before, I used my sight to follow the grass and pavement lines. She said that our issues are very minor and when I asked her “If I were to give you Rogue right now forever, would you feel safe working with her?”, she said absolutely! I am SO proud of my Rogie Monster, she’s been such an amazing teacher and friend.

I am going to close this entry by making a public promise to Rogue. Rogue, I promise to work hard at improving my orientation skills and I promise to work even harder at regaining my confidence. It’s the least I can do to repay you for all you’ve given me since you came into my life.

Wyoming Trip: Leaving On A Jet Plane

Don’t worry, we’ll be coming back again.

Early Tuesday morning, Huib and I woke up, took showers and got the Orlando ready to go to Pearson International Airport. Rogue and I were due to board the 8:15 flight to Denver.

At the airport, Huib and Dad walked us to terminal one, where we were met by a special services person from Air Canada. Huib and Dad were not allowed to pass through security, so after saying our goodbyes, Rogue and I followed the Air Canada person.

Rogue was awesome! She never once turned to see why Huib wasn’t joining us, she just guided me with complete confidence. We dropped our suitcase off at baggage checkin and then I had to remove various items to go through security – of course I beeped.

I was surprised that the security person didn’t ask me to take Rogue’s harness off or to have her come through the detectors alone. The lady just felt each of us lightly and then passed her wand over.

Around 7:30, Rogue and I finally reached the gate, where we waited for another Air Canada person to come escort us onto the plane. Usually the staff take persons with disabilities from place to place on a cart, but the woman who escorted us from security to the gate told me that whoever was driving the carts said they didn’t feel it was safe for Rogue. I really didn’t mind though. It was a bit of a walk, but it was also a good walk for Rogue before she would need to lie calmly on the plane for close to 4 hours.

Once our flight was called, a woman came over and escorted Rogue and I to the plane, where a flight attendant took us to our seat. Even though I was not sitting where the attendant thought I should be, bulkhead, Rogue had a good amount of space to just relax. She slept the entire flight, only getting up when people began moving around.

Once we landed, a flight attendant came to escort us to the doors, where a guy waited to take us to baggage, where our friends were waiting.

It was so awesome to finally meet Robin, Roxy and Bill for the first time in person. Bill helped me get my suitcase off the carousel and then we walked over to where Robin and Roxy were waiting with their dogs Sherman and Soleil.

After piling into the van, we made our way to Cheyenne, which is about an hour and a half or so from Denver.

At Robin and Bill’s house, we let the dogs play and then got ready to take the dogs out on their first walk in the area.

Rogue and I had some trouble with the funky curb-cuts in the area, but otherwise we did quite well.

I think this trip is going to be awesome for both of us because we are together without Huib and because both Robin and Roxy are willing to help us work out some of the kinks.

Rogue Is Freedom

This is my submission for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

According to the free online dictionary, freedom is:
“1. the state of being free, or
2. exemption from external control.”

Therefore, Rogue is FREEDOM.

Rogue joined our family on June 10th, 2011 but even before her arrival she had begun to set me free.

Five months before picking up Rogue I lost most of my usable vision, and in the process, lost myself. I had always been a confident person. Even after being with Huib for over a decade, I still found it difficult to ask for help…I never wanted him to see me as dependent. When my vision changed and I no longer saw the same way, my world fell apart. I was scared. I didn’t know how I would ever learn to get around on my own again. It was easier to just go places with Huib or other people.

When we learned that Cessna was developing cataracts I knew I was going to need to seriously think about a successor. I had tossed around the idea of owner-training, but it wasn’t until this diagnosis that I really thought about it. I had less vision now than when I got Cessna, so I thought it would be better to return to Dog Guides for a successor, but Huib said he was confident in my abilities, so he convinced me to take the plunge.

This decision marked the beginning of rogue’s journey with me towards freedom.

Huib and I had raised two puppies for Autism dog Services, so knew we needed to expose our new puppy to as many people and experiences as possible from the start. We knew some of the more basic commands we needed to teach, and had an idea of the guiding skills our trainee would need to learn. We had no clue how we were going to accomplish this though. We knew lots of people who were blind and had a guide dog, but we didn’t know anyone who had raised and trained their dog themselves. So I got on the computer and started to look for service dog blogs and service dog handlers who had owner-trained. I found several people in the United States and began asking them questions.

if it weren’t for Rogue, I’m not sure I would have ever had the desire or courage to reach out to so many strangers, many of whom have now become very good friends.

Through my research and discussions, I was able to develop a preliminary training plan. I say preliminary because over the past three years I have had to make changes in order to fit our needs.

Rogue and I have had our ups and our downs. owner-training is like an addiction, even when are hitting rock-bottom, you keep pressing on because you remember the high you got when things were at their best. Unlike an addiction though, owner-training often ends on a positive note.

Rogue turned three on the 13th and is working pretty much full-time with me. Cessna comes out when she wants, but I think she’ll retire fully really soon.

Rogue has not only enriched my life by being a friend, but she has also set me free. She forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and work hard at regaining my independence. In the process, I have found myself again. I am not completely comfortable with going everywhere on my own yet, but Rogue has shown me that it’s possible because she’s by my side.

Hard at Work

Or at least they are trying to seem as though they are hard at work…

Rogue and aiden are lying under a table at Costco. Aiden is wearing his red and black mesh Autism dog Services vest with a black martingale and red leash. rogue is lying behind him in her navy blue harness, light blue collar and black leather braided leash.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had people come up to me and ask if the dogs are no longer on duty at times like this.

even though we are obviously still in a public place, where pets are not welcome, people seem to think that because the dogs are lying quietly while we eat or whatever, that they are no longer working and can be loved.

I am always willing to talk to people about the dogs and often allow people to talk to them while they’re chilling, but I also try to inform the public about the fact that even though it may not look as though they are actively working, the dogs are still on alert and ready to move when asked, so as long as their working gear is on, they are on duty.

On an aside, rogue found it really hard to stay hidden with aiden under the table as well. he’s a big boy, so takes up almost all of the room, but she made a good effort at staying out of the way. Maybe it was having aiden there, but Rogue also did really well at staying down when I asked her to.

Rogue Goes To Toronto

Huib had to go to Toronto for a meeting, so Rogue and I tagged along.

We dropped the Orlando off in Oakville and took the GO Train to Union Station. At Union we took the subway to king Street and walked a couple blocks. Since we were in a bit of a rush, I decided not to work Rogue, but had her heel beside me.

After Huib’s meeting we continued down King to Mountain Equipment Co-op, a hiking and outdoorsy store. I had rogue work the entire route. she never once brushed me up against anyone and only overstepped one up-curb. at one point Huib was busy trying to figure out where we were in relation to where we were going and forgot to warn me that there were two random steps down, rogue was perfect! She stopped with her paws an inch from the stair’s edge and waited for me to give her the okay to continue on. As soon as she stopped, Huib said “GOOD GIRL!!” in an excited voice, so I think the immediate praise helped her to understand that is what I’m looking for from her when approaching stairs. This weekend we will probably be getting together with my friend Karen and her Belgian puppy, spark, so hopefully Rogue will show me some further progress with her understanding of stairs.

At MEC, we walked around the entire store and then bought a dark purple with black rock climbing chalk bag that I will use as a treat bag. I have been looking for a new treat bag since my lime green Columbia one is starting to show some wear, but I haven’t been able to locate one I like. the rock climbing chalk bag is perfect though. It is deep, the draw-string closes at the very top and it is made of a very durable material, so I am hoping it will last a long time.

After we finished shopping at MEC, we walked back to the King Street subway station and went to St. Patrck’s station. I needed to go to Sick Children’s Hospital and ask them to send my surgical notes to my new neurosurgeon. I had rogue work the entire route from the subway station to the hospital and again she didn’t brush me up against anyone and other than wanting to avoid all grates, she was perfect.

I am going to need to do some work with grates because rogue’s reaction to them is a little too extreme.

After the hospital we went back to the subway and went to Bloor station. We were going to meet up with a friend I made over Twitter.

When shane and Yager arrived at tim Hortons, rogue decided to bark a few times. I’m not sure why she does this, but she seems to do it a lot. She wasn’t trying to get to Yager, she was sitting beside me and barking – what a weirdo!!

Shane sits with his guide dog Yager, an English type black Labrador Retriever, at Tim Hortons.

After a couple hours of chatting with Shane it was time to head back to Union to catch the GO train back to Oakville. I had Rogue work to the Bloor subway station and she overstepped a down curb and up-curb, but otherwise she worked well around Yager. While waiting for the subway train to arrive, I practiced staying away from the yellow line with her. I haven’t really needed to show her what I want, she just seems to know that she needs to stay away from the yellow line unless the train is in the station. I ask my dogs to turn right into me when we approach the yellow line and walk with the line to their left, so I stay away from the gap.

Our trip back to Oakville and then Guelph was uneventful. When we got home rogue rolled around and then went outside with Cessna and Canyon.

It is neat to see how excited Cessna gets when I come home. She doesn’t seem to want to join me these days, but when I get home, she is just as excited as Canyon.

Rogue and Cessna Take on New York: Part II

On Monday (the 25th), we woke up pretty late. We had had such a busy first day that we all didn’t want to get out of bed, the humans included.

Once we had all eaten breakfast, Mommy and Cyndy packed their bags for the day and we set off for the subway. Cessna was kind of achy and the humans had sore feet, so we decided that it would be best to take the subway as much as possible.

our first stop was to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. The exhibit was cool because Mommy and Cyndy got to feel all of the different statues and carvings on the sarcophaguses.

Brooke touching a statue. I'm wearing blue denim jeans, a burgundy hooded sweatshirt that says GAP in gray and an off-white Roots baseball cap.

Plaque that explains the statue Brooke is touching

Brooke checking out a Sphynx statue.

Egyptian statue of a man reading a scroll

while Cyndy and Mommy were checking out one of the sarcophaguses a museum worker came over, pulled Cyndy’s hand off, pointed and told her not to touch. Mommy was standing beside Cyndy feeling the different carvings and Uschi was standing right beside Cyndy, so it was as though the guy thought she wasn’t blind enough. The humans had wanted to see some of the other exhibits, but after that, they decided that we would move on to the Guggenheim.

Vulture on the Temple of Dendur

Huib with Cessna and Brooke with Rogue checking out a sarcophagus. Huib is wearing a navy blue jacket with white running shoes, blue denim jeans and carrying Brooke's white backpack. Cessna is wearing her black leather harness and Rogue's reddish-brown leather leash. Rogue is wearing a camo green harness that has Service Dog written in white on the pocket and has black strapping that has little white reflective paw prints all over it.

Monkey engravings on the side of a sarcophagus

Brooke and Rogue at the Met. Rogue is sitting beside Brooke.

Since Cessna was kind of tired, Mommy decided to give her to Daddy and asked me to help her out. I did pretty well. I overstepped a couple of curbs, but Mommy backed up quickly and we did them again. After a bit, I caught on and kept Mommy safe while Cessna took a break. At the Guggenheim I continued to help Mommy and we walked all over the building together. Mommy thinks I’m finally ready to do more of Cessna’s job which makes me really happy!

Walking toward the Guggenheim

Brooke and Cyndy sitting on the steps of the Guggenheim having a drink with Cessna, Rogue and Uschi. Cyndy is wearing a purple winter coat and Brooke is wearing a white with navy blue winter coat.

Brooke and Rogue standing together on the main floor of the Guggenheim.

Rogue with her paws up, looking down from the top of the Guggenheim

Roof of the Guggenheim

levels of the Guggenheim

After we had finished taking pictures and looking around, we walked across Central Park and headed back to the subway that would take us to our hotel. We were all tired from walking around, so the humans ordered pizza and canollis, and we watched television for the rest of the night.

Brooke with Cessna and Cyndy with Uschi walking through Central Park.

Rogue sitting in Central Park looking toward the camera

Oh, Cessna went on strike by the end of our second day, so Mommy had to ask Daddy for help. Mommy says Cessna is getting ready to retire and that she won’t be asking her to do anymore marathon trips. She’s only going to ask her to work when she feels like it.

Cessna

Come back tomorrow for the final entry on our trip.

Before I really sign off though, I’d like to wish Mommy and Daddy a VERY Happy 13th Anniversary! Thirteen years ago Daddy asked Mommy to go out with him 🙂

More From Niagara Falls

Rogue giving me a kiss at the top of the falls. I'm standing with my body toward the falls, but I'm looking to my right. Rogue has her paws up on the rock portion of the railing, giving me a kiss. I'm wearing a black tank top, blue denim jeans, black sandals, a lime green treat pouch and light pink baseball cap with a horse embroidered on the side in white. Rogue is wearing her dark purple Har-Vest with a black guide handle attached and on the side is Guide Dog embroidered in yellow.

Rogue did an awesome job at guiding me in Niagara Falls. She followed her line perfectly well, not veering onto the grass at all and keeping us away from other people walking along the sidewalks. It was a really good opportunity for me to see how far Rogue has progressed in her learning. She had a bit of trouble staying in a straight line when crossing the road, but I was able to easily redirect her with the help of Huib, who was walking behind us. the only issue we ran into, was when Rogue forgot to stop at an up-curb. Thankfully, Huib was watching and grabbed my shoulder before I could trip.

A Night At The Races

Rogue and I. I'm standing to her right and she's looking toward the camera. I'm wearing denim jeans, black sandals, a dark purple tank top and light pink with white baseball cap. Rogue is wearing her purple Har-Vest, but you can only see the front chest strap. Behind us, you can see the score board and the railing that blocks us from the horse race track.

Rogue and I. I'm squatting down to her right and she's looking toward the camera. I'm wearing denim jeans, black sandals, a dark purple tank top and light pink with white baseball cap. Rogue is wearing her purple Har-Vest, but you can only see the front chest strap. Behind us, you can see the railing that blocks us from the horse race track.

This was rogue’s first time at the horse races. she was interested in the smells, but was very focused on me throughout the night. She kept targeting my leg with her nose (our form of eye contact), so went through her treat bag within just over an hour, lol!

We also started working on pairing “leave it” with “look” (nose targeting my leg), so that she’ll someday automatically nose target my leg when I ask her to leave something alone. She did really well at this pairing, so I’ll probably have to raise my criteria sooner than I expected. her absolute favourite behaviour to do is nose target, so I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

At the end, we took her into the casino for a bit and she just settled at my feet while I played the slots.

Oh The Places We Will Go

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.

Rogue sits on top of a bale of hay. She's wearing her Silverfoot collar and leash that are a mixture of different blues.