I caught Tom red tongued, gently picking pea pods off the vines. And here I was blaming the chipmunks!
Tom, Zora, Rosie Poodle and Dulce Spaniel. All we need is Rock-It Lab to complete the crew.
I love that my dogs have friends. And that these dogs in particular are all friends. Happy to walk together, happy to hang together, happy to see each other. Makes me happy
What else makes me happy? How easy it was to get this photo. Seriously. They posed themselves when I asked them all to collectively “sit”. Such good dogs!
A lovely morning for a walk. Tom guiding on my left, Dulce spaniel and Zora walking nicely on my right.
Nearing the end of the walk, final stretch of sidewalk towards home. I live on the main road through town, so there is always traffic, it’s busy. It’s trash day. It’s the time of year for road work so various bits of construction. You get the picture.
Dulce, who is walking with her gentle leader head collar on flicks her head and does a little woof, the way she does when there is something ahead she’s unsure about. So we stop, do a couple of hand touches for some treats, she settles. I glance ahead and see the orange and silver stripes of a traffic barrel at the edge of the sidewalk. Ok, makes sense Dulce is unnerved, she can be worried about stuff like that.
Dulce is willing to trust me, and Tom and Zora are unphased, so we keep going. As we are passing, the traffic barrel says, “Hi!”
Not a traffic barrel.
I can only imagine what the construction worker thought as I’m approaching, telling the dogs, “Don’t worry, it’s just a barrel.” LOL
Each May for the past number of years ACVO sponsors free veterinary ophthamologist exams for working dogs. It’s a wonderful program and one I am grateful for.
Yesterday Tom and I headed in to the Angell Memorial Veterinary Hospital in Boston for Tom’s annual eye exam. I felt like I had a transportation fairy on my shoulder, the various transit we had to navigate to get there and back went smoothly in a way I usually only dream about. A friend offered us a ride to the train station, she was wonderfully on time, train arrived on schedule, the conductor actually clearly announced the stops, we caught a subway within minutes of arriving in the station, there were people around who quickly and easily answered my “which side of the platform” question, the .7m walk from the subway station to the hospital was a breeze so we arrived for the appointment with 5minutes to spare. Going home the travel fairy was also magically there, even to where as we were walking home from the train station just as I noticed Tom was starting to get hot about a mile from home a friend who happened to be driving by and saw us, called to offer us a ride. Magic I tell you, magic!
Anyway, back to the exam. It was good we went. Tom now has some mild age related changes to his eyes. The vet described them as very typical for a dog Tom’s age and nothing to be concerned about at this time. The vet anticipated likely in 2-3 years those changes will adversely affect his vision, but now they don’t and Tom is good to safely guide me. We will go back again next year as the vet recommended, see if there has been any further progression and go from there. So good, not great, news and more importantly good data to have so we can make the best decisions for Tom and for our safety as a team as time goes on.
There are loads of games you can (and I do) use to teach and reinforce the come cue (aka Recall). Round Robin, Restrained Recall, Tag, The Stalky Stalk Game, Hide & Seek, Treat Toss, The Bowl Game, and more. But relatively simple game my friends and I often play with the dogs on our walks is calling them back and forth between us.
The “rules” of the game are pretty simple:
The “if they want it” is because we’ve learned some of the dogs prefer to only gets treats from me, or from my friend. But they learn they will only get those treats if they actually complete the loop of run to the opposite person, then run back when called. So they race away when called to the other person same as the rest of the dogs, don’t really care or want that person or the food, but are thrilled to then be called back and get their treat then. Race away, race back, race away, race back.
How far apart we are to start depends on the dogs in the group at the time and where we are (ie what distractions are or aren’t around), and as the dog’s get into the game we gradually move further and further apart. Sometimes if we’re playing the game on the trails (vs in a field) the dogs end up racing around corners, over fallen logs, up and down hills and generally having a great workout.
The dogs quickly figure out in order to get a food treat they have to A. Go all the way to the human calling them, B. Actually go from Person A to Person B if they want a treat when Person A again calls the group, (except for Tom, he’s special, and as such his version of the recall game involves a sit stay and me moving away) and C. Ignore the other dogs around them. I’ve found this a great game for teaching dogs the value of not focusing on the dogs around them, I’ve done this game with dogs that have a tendency to want to chase or body block, and by the end they’ve stopped fixating on the dogs running around them and instead race as fast as they too can to get to the human calling them. We’ve even been able to time our calls with some of the regular dogs to build up to dogs passing each other without a second glance. It’s great fun for us all! (note, if a dog has a tendency to want to grab other dogs, they don’t play the game while other dogs are also running, safety first always)
Another piece we often add into the game is the dogs not leaving the present human until the other human actually calls them OR the present human sends them to the other human. This teaching of the send has proved useful on a number of occasions. The dogs all learn that if they hear the word “Katrin” and race to me, good stuff will happen. Or “C—” and they race to her, good stuff will happen. Or “J——” and they race to him, good stuff will happen.
We do this game close to every walk in the woods as it really helps to remind the dogs that coming to us when we call is a good thing, doesn’t mean the walk is over necessarily, and helps increase the dog’s value for the humans in the highly stimulating environments of the woods, fields and ponds.
A bonus of the game? The dogs get additional running time and end the walk really tired.
Last week on May 1st, I mentioned an event Tom and I were going to later that day. One I knew he was going to be excited about and enjoy. What I didn’t realize was how much I was going to enjoy it.
Last Tuesday we headed in to Boston to meet up with an incredibly nice group of ladies who also have guide dogs from the Guide Dog Foundation. There is a GDF Graduates group on Facebook where we realized there are an awful lot of us in the Boston area. We arranged a time to meet up and 5 of us were able to make it last Tuesday evening. A couple of the folks had met each other before through other avenues in their lives, but a few of us, myself included, didn’t know anyone in person. We ranged in ages, life styles and types of vision loss. 4 of us had guide dogs, 1 was between dogs.
It was really nice not to feel like an outsider.
What do I mean by that?
Well, for example we, as a group, changed tables 3 times. Why? Because we were all suffering from the angle of the sunlight and glare that continued to move depending on the time. No one thought twice about it. No one had to explain themselves. Or justify it. Or argue about it. It was simply, “Hey let’s move” and we all said “Great!” We all knew why, we all knew what would be criteria for a suitable next location, we all simply got up and moved.
That might sound like a little simple thing, and it was, that’s what I mean. Never before have I been in a social group where I wouldn’t have had to internally wrestle with myself before saying “hey can we change tables?” because I’d know someone would want to know why, or make a big deal about it, or make an apology for choosing a spot with bright light, or say something rather personal about me to the wait staff, or ask me ‘how about here? is this good? why not? what about this spot?’ Where changing tables would be a reminder that I was different, asking everyone in the group to disrupt and move because of me. Last Tuesday, none of that happened. We all just got it.
It was really nice to be around people who just plain ‘get it’ but who do so without making a big deal about it. Blindness and vision loss was just a part of life for each of us. It was really nice to be around a group of educated, intelligent, very interesting people who also get fully life with disability.
As a bonus, their guide dogs were lovely too.
Upon reading “It’s in the Bag” over on LA’s blog, I laughed. It was a great post! As I go around with my backpack as standard attire, people are often asking me, “What’s in that bag?” As in “Isn’t that heavy?”
For me, the backpack is part hands free convenience and part occupational therapy. The added balanced weight of it helps with proprioception when I’m walking. Without it I often feel like I’m falling through space. That said, for the first time in my life I am currently researching a smaller purse type option for when hubby and I are out together. I’ve never purchased a purse in my life, and my fashion friend S. is already excited to help. When you are not a fashion person (my mother refers to my preferred style as ‘frumpy’. I prefer the terms ‘utilitarian’ and ‘comfortable’ but ‘frumpy’ works too), I have learned it is always good to have at least one friend who’s eyes light up at the idea of shopping for you.
My current backpack I was surprised how much I like it and how well it has held up over the past nearly 2 years of daily use in all weather. The one prior was falling apart and this one was a reasonable price, good Amazon reviews, seemed to fit my criteria and had free returns. Sold! I would buy another in a heartbeat.
So what’s in it?
As my back pack is what I grab to go whether I’m walking, taking a Lyft, getting a ride, going on the train, it carries the things I use nearly daily and other more emergency but still often used things.
In 1 side pouch are 2 tennis balls, in the other side pouch is a small dog treat bag, in the front strap is a lightweight set of ear bud head phones.
In the main section:
In the smaller zippered section
The things in my bag have over the years earned their place in their degree and frequency of use. Stuff for me, stuff for the dogs, stuff to help ensure I can get myself safely to and from.
So, what’s in your bag?
7 years ago today, May 1st, I met Tom and he met me! I arrived at the Smithtown, NY campus of the Guide Dog Foundation just a few short hours prior, had my juno walk with our trainer and then got to meet Tom for the very first time! I remember being awed at his size, he was much larger than I had anticipated for a lab x golden retriever cross, and so glad his fur was comfortable for me to touch (texture stuff, many lab coats I can’t stand they are too spiky feeling). He’s still a big moose and still lovely to pet.
Today we went on a great walk with friends at the state park. And this afternoon we have an exciting event planned. Stay tuned for that adventure, I plan to write about it later this week. Tom’s going to be so excited when he realizes what’s in store today!
Here’s hoping for many more years with this guy leading the way.
As it’s International Guide Dog Day, I thought I’d balance out the walk in the park video I did the other week with a walk through town video. I was feeling a bit talkative, as this video was shot the day after my voice returned from the 4 days I was sick with a cold. So there are a number of my pet permanent pedestrian vs privileged people with a driver’s license rules of the road rambles. All sorts of gems, like “How it actually works when you press the walk signal button at a lighted crossing,” “How to not be a moron driver when you notice a pedestrian waiting to cross the road,” “When stopping for pedestrians actually ends (it isn’t once the pedestrian has passed only your car), “Why I hate middle turn lanes on suburban roads,” “Zora’s puppyhood feelings on creepy children statues” and more! I also had fun with the video editing software…lol
And this is what Tom and Zora did once we were home that day. Neither felt our 4 mile walk through town and back was sufficient. “please sir, I want some more,” channeling Oliver Twist and all.