Hello again friends,
Here’s another Adventure with my new 4-footed friend. In this adventure, we are still in training at the Seeing Eye School.
The second route we had to master was the Elm Street route. In my estimation, this route was twice as hard and twice as long as the first one! The traffic was twice as heavy, too, and there were lots of hills on this route. In a couple of spots, we had to teach our dogs how to find the pole that had the button to press that allows us to cross the intersection safely. After the button was pushed and it was time to cross, the speaker on the pole said, “Walk…walk…walk” for a certain amount of seconds so we could cross.
We also had lots of random traffic checks. This is where a car suddenly pulls out of an alley or driveway in front of you. Other dogs were always trying to distract our working dogs, too. My dog kept her head focused on the route and not on the yelping or barking dog. I was so glad of that! We also had to deal with barriers in the sidewalk, such as those to keep you from walking into a hole or through a construction site.
After we passed our solo walk on our second route, we started to do more individualized training. The first thing Thelma and I did was to go to Century 21 department store. We walked several blocks to get to the store. Inside the store, we followed our instructor, who pretended she was the store clerk helping us. We “followed” her throughout the store. This is how “follow” works. If I have a store clerk or friend helping me through the store, I tell my dog “follow”. The person in front of me just talks with me, telling me what we are passing, talking about the weather or anything so I can hear their voice. They may warn me of steps coming up, an escalator, etc. I give the dog its direction based on what my human leader says or does. Even following someone with loud shoes works, if they forget to talk to me.
Anyway, at the store, we took the escalator and both of us, dog and master, learned the skill so the dog’s toes would not get caught in the moving escalator.
We toured a grocery store, too, learning different methods of using the dog with a shopping cart. We went to the pet store and bought a few items, including a dog tag with our dogs’ names and contact info on them. We even took a stroll through the dog food aisles, past the pet clinic, and past the grooming area.
Then we walked a half a mile to the bank. Inside we learned how to maneuver through the crisscrossed line maze to the counter. As you know, these portable line guides are often in airports and other places where many line up. It took a bit, but Thelma finally got it. And I finally got it, too.
Our class of four also went to the mall, about 15 miles away. We individually learned how to find or shop for various things in the mall, per our interest or need. I learned how to teach Thelma where the elevator is with my clicker. The clicker method helps you teach the dog how to find a specific thing like an elevator, a stoplight pole, or your specific chair at lunch. The method has a three step process: association, back-chaining, and completion. Using treats during each step of the process to show and reinforce the behavior you want is essential.
We learned how to travel on country roads. One route had no sidewalks, only curbs. The other was a paved road with gravel on the sides. Each was very different, but on both we used the same technique. It involved using the white cane at times in tandem with your dog to make sure you were walking along the side of the road and not in the middle of it.
The training at the Seeing Eye wouldn’t have been complete without a night hike. My instructor chose a partially familiar route. The 9-block route included finding your way through a parking garage, weaving through pedestrians and outdoor cafes in a busy nightlife section, avoiding overhead tree branches, and other sidewalk obstacles. Crossing the same streets we crossed in daylight was different, too. Traffic patterns changed and sometime the street traffic was so quiet it was hard to get a good reading on when to cross. It was a great adventure, and we both enjoyed it emensely.
The Seeing Eye campus itself had a leisure path. It contained hills, valleys, turns and even two gazebos where we could sit and relax, enjoying the fresh Morristown spring time air. It was also designed so we could walk with our dogs without assistance, giving us more training in how to work as a team. Check out our pictures.
Until next time…
Judy⠠⠚⠥⠙⠽ and Thelma 🐾