As I flew to New Jersey on Monday to spend the next 18 days training at the Seeing Eye School with my new dog, I remembered 12 years ago when I made the same trek. It was in March then and a bit colder. The same excitement flooded me then that surged through me on Monday. What would my new dog be like? Would she be like Velda, who served me for 9 and ¾ years? Would she be a lab, or a golden retriever, or a German Shepherd, or a cross lab golden?
Upon arriving at the airport, a rep from the Seeing Eye met me and introduced me to the other student riding back with us to Morristown N.J. On the ride back, Nolan and I chatted about our families, lives, and our dogs. Our instructors met us at the door, took us to our rooms, and helped us get oriented to it. I was even more amazed this time. The dorm had been renovated and there was Braille everywhere, including building lay-out maps. I remembered the raised wooden terrain street map they had last time so we could figure out our walking routs prior to taking them. I couldn’t wait to explore those maps again. We all ate a delicious lunch together. Other students had arrived already and some of them joined us for lunch.
Soon it was time for my Juno walk. This is when my instructor pretended she was the dog. She took the other end of my leash and the harness. She walked on my left, alongside me just like a dog would. She’d vary the pull and pace in order to solidify which dog would be the best match for me. Over the next day and a half, each of us 21 students did 4 Juno walks in all. We were divided into groups of 4 and each group was assigned an instructor. We eat together, have individualized training together and more. We also have class lectures, every evening.
Wednesday morning after breakfast, we received our dogs. Mine is a yellow lab with honey highlights. She’s the same size as Velda was when I got her in March, 2006. She’s a fun-loving dog who loves to serve. We did our first 8 block trip in downtown Morristown. Right now, as I’m writing this, she is sleeping in her crate after a long, exhausting day.
Since our day tomorrow begins at 5:30 a.m. I’m signing off, too. Will write more soon.