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Day 10 – Pictures and more pictures and a walk in the park

I got up around 5:30 or so and got ready for the day. I spent some time catching up on email list and work email before I fed and took Harold out. I then listened to some local Tucson radio stations to catch up on local and State news. The Arizona University budget gravely concerns me and I am trying to keep up on that while I am here.

I wasn’t feeling to well but went down and had a very light breakfast. After that we went over to the visitors center and had the class photo taken. They talked with us on our plans for the weekend. On Saturday we will be dropped off where we would like and we can go where ever we want to head to (within reason of course). On Sunday we can go out with some volunteers to do something but we all have to decide what we want to do. So far, I haven’t heard any definitive plans.

We then loaded into the busses after relieving the dogs and off we went to the lounge. We were going to do freelance work. I was in group 2. I had the nurse Belva bandage up my leg before I went out. When she saw it her first word was, “wow”! That scared me a bit.

Group 2 went out at 10:15. Many of us ended up at Jazzy Bagels. We picked the spot and then worked it with very minimal instructor involvement. Accept for two issues I encountered, all went well. One was a pretty severe dog distraction issue on the way there and the other was forgetting that a curb was not available in front of the establishment.

We finished up early and came back to campus. I took it easy and checked my email to see if any work issues came in. I called Keri to check in and all was going OK at home. David was home sick but doing a bit better.

After lunch we did obedience at the Visitor’s center. We did dog distraction work with our dogs. We then talked about dog work and communicating with the public. After this we loaded into the busses, again after relieving the dogs and went to a park. All of the trees in this park blew down into the pond. They had crews chopping them up into firewood sized pieces and loading them into trucks. We had to do some teaching to Harold with right clearances and dog distractions.

We got back quite late. After dinner we did our individual pictures. We will try and get you something to see after we receive our photos as far as how they came out. The Puppy Raising family will also get a picture. I will also get a 4X6 of the picture to take home.

After this I went to see the nurse Mary. She checked my leg and all is looking well. We talked a bit about books we are reading and then talked about blogging. In fact, a comment can be seen by her here on the blog. She posted it just a bit earlier.

On Tuesday we are moving into busier areas of Portland Oregon. In the afternoon we are doing a bus to lounge route. These are the plans as I recall them. We will have a bit of time after lunch on Tuesday due to required meetings for GDB staff members. I suspect I will get some grooming and play time in during that time.

See you on day 11.

day 9 – a day of rest

Today was a lazy day. I got up around 6:25 or so and rushed to be ready to take Harold out after feeding him. The wonderful surprise we had was about an inch of snow on the ground. It felt neat walking on it as we took the dogs out. It didn’t feel to cold either really considering that their was snow on the ground. Due to the snow our 8:15 and noon relieving times were done on the patios from our room. We finished up outside and I went back to my room and relaxed for a while. Today was brunch day so we weren’t going to be eating until 10:00 in the morning. They had muffins for us earlier but I wasn’t hungry. At about 8:30 or so I went to the nurses office after taking Harold out. I had the nurse look at my leg and was surprised to see Mary their. She would have normally been there later in the day but the other nurse was not feeling well so Mary came in to replace her. What a trooper. As usual, Mary and I spent about 30 minutes talking. She is a fun lady and I really admire her. I came back to the room and stripped my bed and waited for the new sheets to come. I made up my bed and then checked email and rss feeds. Soon it was brunch time. I spent about 90 minutes down their and man was the food yummy!.

After lunch I took a nap after taking Harold out at noon. I needed it. I got up just before 2:00 and through my shoes on and out we went again.

After taking our dogs out at 2:00 I met with one of the weekend instructors to work on harness checks and turning foot positioning. We had a good session which lasted about 30 to 40 minutes or so and it really helped.

I then spent the rest of the day just surfing the net, checking on work email, and listening to some music. I talked with Keri and Brian for quite a while as well. Brian posted the pictures on the site for me and added descriptions for each picture. Thank you Brian.

After we fed our dogs and took them out at 4:30 I waited for dinner. We had to put boodies on our dogs paws for practice and all went well with Harold accept the last paw. I think it was strictly a balance issue for him though. We will work on better techniques for this later.

This brings me to now. I am planning on spending time down in the fireplace room getting warm and then zonking earlier after we water and take our dogs out later this evening.

Stay tuned for day 10! Monday we are getting pictures taken for the class photo and individual IDs.

Keep a smile and happy wagging to your furry friends.

Pictures of Harold

Harold laying down in the grass

Harold attacking the grass

Harold attacking the grass (back side of Harold)

Harold chewing on the grass

Closeup side angle of Harolds face

Closeup of Harold's face from the front

Harold playing in the grass

Harold sitting for one of the puppy-raisers

Harold in the grass looking at the camera

Closeup of Harold sitting

Closeup of Harold's face

Harold playing with puppy-raiser

Harold sitting far away

Harold playing in the street

Harold running through the street

Harold sitting in the grass, downward angle

Harold sitting in the grass

Closeup of Harold looking up

Closeup of Harold's face

Closeup of Harold looking into camera

Harold playing in the snow

Harold jumping around in the snow

Harold ankle deep in snow

Harold getting ready to pounce

Harold playing in snow looking at camera

a better picture of Harold

Here is a picture of Harold just one week prior to him leaving for Guide Dog training. It was taken in October 2008. I want to thank his puppy raising family for the picture.

Harold in october 2008 just one week prior to leaving for training

Day 8 continued

My plan was to groom Harold and then go for a walk. Well, we had to go relieve the dogs at 1:45 or so and then a gang of classmates wanted to do the walkabout right after. So, off we went. After I got back I groomed Harold, brushed his teeth (what a challenge that was ) and then went back to the room to play a good solid game of tug. After doing that I read some email, called Keri and did some other stuff. Then came feeding time and relieving again. Oh, I forgot to mention, it was snowing a lot today as we were outside. Some of it stuck to the dirt but not enough to make a snowball.

You know, it is days like this that I truly miss Keri who is the master of all things laundry not to mention good night hugs and kisses. I spilled some chocolate pudding on my shirt and frantically was trying how to treat it so the stain didn’t set in. It looks like we got it out (I hope) thanks to the nurse and the weekend instructor. Man, it is times like this I feel like a klutz.

After we take Harold out once more I will be getting ready for bed. Even though we have Sunday off we still need to get up at 6:45 and take our dogs out. Well, that is the time we take them out, so I will be up more like 5:30 or so. My roommate is now here so I want to try and beat him to the shower and such things so I am ready for the day.

I will post activities for Sunday late in the day. Keep a smile and those tails wagging for your furry friends.

Day’s 7 and 8

This entry is being written on Saturday afternoon, just after lunch. I am just about to go and groom Harold before we take the loop around the campus.

Day 7 actually kind of starts with the evening of day 6. Harold and I went to bed around 10:30 after I finished doing laundry. I was laying on the left side of the bed, if you were facing it, and I gently reached down and gave Harold a long pet. I then attempted to sleep. Harold had other plans ;). He wanted more attention and wanted to play. This really didn’t surprise me as he was probably a bit nervous in his new situation, it being the first night and all. Suffice it to say, I got some sleep but Harold kept me up a bit. He whimpered when I wasn’t petting him and he didn’t stop for quite some time and then would start up again later in the night. I think he missed his friends down the road a bit . Poor Harold. I am a bit ahead of my self in saying that on Friday night he slept like a baby and I didn’t hear a word from him. I was very happy about that, both of us slept like babies :).

We went out at 6:45 to take our dogs out to relieve and then we went to breakfast at 7:30. Due to the new matching of Harold route work would be done with instructors as though we just got started. This is to insure Harold understands how I communicate with him and my gate as well as size. In the morning we did a quick route around the lounge and then in the afternoon we went to a bagel shop. The wind was bitter cold on Friday and according to weather reports will continue to be so next week as well. I switched to an offset handle which is something I never had with my other 3 guide dogs. I tended to crowd both Harold and Declan a bit on the left so the offsetted handle really helps. The only problem now, right side clearances. In fact, I fell down in the morning while working with Harold. It was really probably mostly my fault. I scraped up my left leg pretty good but Mary (the nurse) fixed me up. I felt like a little kid again with Mommy fixing up my scrapes as a kid :). The medicine she put on it stung like crazy and she told me”yup, your acting like a male alright”. I told her that she was no longer the number one nurse, the continuing running joke with her and Belva, the actual head nurse ;). The nursing staff here has been fantastic and I am continuing to see them about this on Friday night and Saturday morning.

After route work we got to experience the Toyota Prius up and close. It simply amazes me how quiet these cars are. Jim sped the car around in the parking lot and then gave a few of us a ride in it. With the windows rolled up you can not hear a thing until the engine comes on when needed. I will be doing traffic work with the 2 weekers that came into class this weekend and we will be using the Prius. The rest of my classmates did their traffic work on Friday.

I was planning a quiet evening until I was encouraged to join the Yoga class. Normally this wouldn’t interest me one bit, but I thought, why not. Well, it was all going well, until… You see, she had us laying on our backs and she wanted us to put our feet up on this bench in front of us. I had these eye pillows on my eyes and I had to scoot forward to place my feet on this bench. She came over and I was telling her that these are falling down. She said, “what, your pants”? Oh my gosh, that made the whole class just erupt in laughter. She got so embarrassed and it made my night. I doubt she will forget that one. She is coming back next week and I am sure I will come up with something clever to tell her when I see her again ;).

I got to bed around 9:30 and Harold did great! I was so proud of him. When I got up and saw him he was so very excited to see me. He grabs his bone and and jumps all around showing it to me. He certainly loves to eat but is really quite patient with his food being served to him.

After taking Harold out I stopped by to see Mary to have her examine my leg and we ended up talking for about 30 minutes. She loves to sew so I told her all about my wife Keri and how she loves to do this as well. It was a fun discussion.

Saturday morning was spent doing student interviews. We have this afternoon off as well as Sunday. My interview with Jim went well. My goals for the remaining weeks of class are:

Patterning

Refining foot positioning for turns

Mastering the different style of obedience drills done here at GDB.

Working on Right Clearance issues as well as just overall communication between Harold and me.

One last comment, I just checked my email and I am so very excited. Let me first say that I am so grateful for those of you that are reading the blog. Your comments are so uplifting. One special comment which is now visible on the blog is from Harold’s puppy raising family. I had tears in my eyes when I read it. I will email them shortly, but I want to say here and now a very very sincere thank you to them for the hard work and love for Harold that they will always have. I sincerely appreciate your hard work and willingness to serve and provide me the opportunity to work with the dog you raised, it means more to me then you know . I am eager to meet them.

One very cute thing about Harold is his tail. It has this very cute bend to it and it just looks so cute. I have received a number of comments from people here about it. It is a shorter tail but fat and fluffy. It is so cute .

OK, well, it is off to grooming land and after grooming Harold I will be taking him for a walk around the campus with a few other classmates. It is best to pair up around here.

Happy wagging everyone and keep a smile, I sure am!

a change on day 6 and a tribue to Declan

This post is going to be a tough one to write. Thursday was a very hard day for me. A decision was reached after a lot of tears to make a switch to a new dog. Let me be very clear. Declan’s work was brilliant and for the person who will get him he will serve that person well. After a lot of discussion with GDB staff and my wife and very close friends it was determined to switch to a guide that would better fit within my family environment. I am not going to get into those specifics here as it isn’t the place really. Suffice it to say, it really affected me having to come to this conclusion and I want to sincerely think those that helped me make these tough decisions. I love you Declan and will miss you. I am so very sorry.

A new yellow lab named Harold is now a part of my life. In the morning Jim and I went out to do a route as part of the determining process. We came back for lunch. Kim (a GDB staff member who played a vital role in this day to help me) sat at our table. They brought her her piece of cake (it was the desert for lunch). A devilish character back in the kitchen put a candle in it and we all sang happy birthday to her. Well, it wasn’t her birthday. She turned bright red, it was pretty funny.

Jim and I left early to do another route with Harold. His pull is much stronger then Declan’s, and Declan’s was very strong as well. The route went fine. Harold and I spent time at the lounge as other students came back from their route work. We then made the announcement to the class that Harold was now a part of the class.

For dinner we had turkey and mashed potatoes. Yummy! After dinner we gave Harold a bath. That was a lot of fun but they wouldn’t let me use the sprayer. Now, that would have for sure added a different element too that bath for the RA on staff . I then got laundry started. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish that process until 10:30 so it was late getting to bed. I really didn’t want to compete on the weekend for the washing machines. The only day we have off is Sunday and that will be a day of catch up sleep for me and playing a mean game of Scrabble. Oh, they are expecting snow on Sunday. I am actually looking forward to it. I hope it sticks as I haven’t seen snow in a long tiime.

Wrapping this up, I again want to make it clear that Declan is a GREAT dog and will serve someone well very soon. For those that raised Declan and for those that trained him, I want to sincerely thank you for doing so. He will serve well and his work is impeccable.

I will get more specifics on height and weight on Harold later on Friday and will report those later today.

A picture of Harold is seen below.

Picture of Harold

Day’s 3 through 5 – let the guiding begin and refining command structure

I haven’t written for a while. The main reason is due to the very hectic schedule and me being very tired in the evenings. OK, well, let’s review the last three days:

Day Three:
Let the Guiding Begin

Today was the big day. The day that the three week students got to take their dogs out on their first route. We all got up, fed, watered and relieved our dogs and then went to breakfast. After breakfast we went for short meetings and then loaded into the busses. This is the first time we got into the busses. They are like a small city bus with seats that face forward in the front, benches that face outward on the side, and even a bathroom onboard for emergency use only. I have been sitting in the back or in the very front. The first thing we heard as we traveled down to Gresham was that the lights may be out. Sure enough, due to the very strong winds we had no power in the lounge. So, no TVs, no heating, no fridge to keep things cool, nada. Suffice it to say it was cold in and out side. My main instructor is Jim Dugan (the class supervisor). He took me out first. We had to wait to harness the dogs until it was just time to go out. The new harness feels much different to my hand then the old harness I used to use. Their are not links in the harness to perform a “steady” command while pumping the harness handle and this harness is very quiet. I love it. It is very light as well. I buttoned up my coat and put my gloves on and out we went. Declan is a big boy and of course so am I. This made for some very interesting dynamics as we traveled together. He had always guided smaller people (well, mostly). Jim took him out for some guide work and he looks about my size. I tended to crowd him a bit and made him move more toward the left. Part of the reason for this was due to the length of the harness handle I was initially given. We also use food reward in our training so I also needed to get a longer strap too attach the food pouch around me. We handled this after lunch in the instructors office. Our first trip ultimately went well. I had a hard time slowing down. Jim wanted to make sure that I walked slower then the dog did to have Declan gain confidence in guiding me. Jim kept a second lead or leash attached to the collar of Declan during our first trip so that he could control Declan to make the first experience a more rewarding one if issues arose. This is normal and I fully expected this.

There was only one huge problem with our first trip together, the wind. The wind was simply amazing. My coat was literally blowing up over my head and it was horribly cold. Declan didn’t want to turn into the wind and it took a lot of coaxing to get him moving. Can you blame him? My hands were literally freezing cold. I had a hard time getting out food to reward Declan with due to the fact that I couldn’t feel my hands with having gloves on not to mention the cold. How these Oregon people put up with this is beyond me . They tell me it is very common. Luckily we don’t have this much wind on campus, thank goodness. Jim informed us that we would be doing other activities inside due to the very cold wind. About an hour or so after we arrived back to the lounge from our route work the power came back on and oh how beautiful that was to have warmth again.

After all students were done, we went back to campus and relieved and watered our dogs. I checked email for work and then proceeded to go to lunch. After lunch I went to see the instructors to get a longer harness handle and longer strap. Toby brought me the strap on the bus and Jim gave me the harness handle in the office. We then proceeded to go too the mall due to the very cold weather. This went quite smoothly. We mainly did the circling of the entire mall inside and went into one store to work on suggestive turns as well as just general guide work around a lot of people.

Monday evening was a relaxing one. The RA on duty gave us our toys for our dogs. I picked a tug ring and bone for Declan. All I can say is that I definitely get a work out when playing with him. He is very strong and refuses to give up . It felt good to play with him as I have been struggling with him from a personality perspective. He is very much the type of dog where respect must be earned. He is very eager to please in his work but is pretty reserved right now for the most part. All of the instructors and trainers who trained him tell me that this is just him and that after a while the bond will be fine. I certainly hope so, it worries me a bit.

I hit the sack at about 9:00 or so listening to some old time radio shows I brought along.

Day Four:
Inauguration Day

We all got up, fed, watered and relieved our dogs. We went to breakfast and then went to the discussion room for about 45 minutes of instruction. After that we relieved our dogs and took them to the busses. I was listening to the ACB Radio coverage of the inauguration events prior to leaving for route work and continued to do that on my walkman in the lounge. That was an amazing event to listen to.

Tuesday was a day of routes in the morning and afternoon. The longer handle was the trick. That really helped. In the morning we did about a mile walk around the area of the lounge. Jim was not connected to Declan’s collar this time and we both did quite well. I am still getting used to the feel of the new harness and trying to determine what Declan is communicating as we travel together. I was not crowding him as much this time and I think he began to feel better about our guide work.

In the morning Aaron gave us our head collars or gentle leaders as some call them. This gives you finer control of the dog. The collar goes over the nose and around the back of the head by the ears. Corrections can be very slight sense you have much finer control over the dogs head.

After lunch they took our requests from the grocery store. I ordered some soda and gave the very nice lady some money. When I got back in the room the soda was on my desk along with an envelope with the remaining cash. How cool is that. The nurse gave me a fridge to keep stuff in so I put some of the soda in it for later. Good stuff!

We then went and did obedience with our dogs. This was very interesting. They had us heeling and doing other work with our dogs as they put bowls of dog food and other toys in front of them to distract them as we worked with them. I must say that overall Declan did fine. I am still getting used to the difference in positioning, command structure and other things related to the obedience drills. In many ways they are the same but in others they are significantly different. All in time.

In the afternoon we did a drop off route. This is where Jim and I get off of the bus about 1.5 miles or so from the lounge and work our way back to it. This went even better. We had to do some rework with these interesting cracks in the sidewalk. You see, when trees blow down here they fill in the area where the tree was with brick. This of course makes for an interesting situation as far as guiding around these things. Declan wanted to either plow right through them or do other interesting things. Suffice it to say we had some teaching to do with Declan as well as me.

Aaron gave us these carabineers’ to attach to our food pouches. These are construction grade and can hold up to 150 pounds of weight. These are meant to be used too attach your dog’s leash to if you need both hands. Velcro is wrapped around it and is used to assist in attaching it to the pouch.

In the evening I worked with some classmates in putting the Victor Reader Stream Audio Tutorial mp3 files on their streams. I was very happy to do it for them and was happy that my card reader was behaving itself because it usually gives me fits. Gerry from Humanware would have been proud .

It was again a short evening. I decided to shower and prep for the morning before heading to bed and man was I glad I did that because I got up kind of late on Wednesday morning. It wasn’t enough to be late for anything, but much later then I wanted to get up that is for sure.

Day 5:
Obedience drills and sidewalkless traveling

Today we had some lecture in the morning and then went out for our routes. This time we staid on the bus the entire time as apposed to going to the lounge. We did work on roads without sidewalks. This is very challenging for the dogs as they need to keep very close on the curb line on the left as we travel. It is for this reason that you must stop somewhat frequently and reward for good work in keeping close watch on the curbs. Once the dogs confidence builds between both the handler and the dog then this can be lessened. The dogs are even trained to show you the curb once in a while to insure that the world is good. The main reason for this is to insure you know when one block ends to get ready to travel to the next one. Once the dog reaches the end of the block the dog will move around to the left and start guiding along the new street. This is where the handler will stop, turn to the left show the dog the curb, praise them, reward, turn around and square up on the curb and cross the street if that is desired.

The main problem with this mornings route was, guess it, the wind. It was amazingly cold this morning and many students had to have routes shortened due to going over time for lunch as well as the cold. It was just amazing how cold it was. I felt sorry for Jim and the other instructors as he had to go out multiple times with multiple students. Burrrrr!

We got back to lunch and I was attempting to work on solutions to work issues on the bus as well as some short time prior to lunch, which made me even later for lunch. No worries, I still made it to our 1:30 meeting. For lunch we had hamburgers and french fries. The bread and fries were home made and man that was yummy!

This time it was cat time for obedience work. I must say that Declan did superbly with this work. In fact, his only distraction was another human and not the cat. After drills I did pet the cat and he did seem a bit interested in that and came over and licked the cats entire head with his big tongue. After I finished I was told to go back to the dorm area and wait in our rooms. Then, while talking with Toni from work on my cell phone about a interface issue a knock came at the door. Apparently, nobody told me we were all about ready to leave for our routes in the afternoon. I quickly got off of the phone and proceeded outside to relieve Declan and got on the bus.

We did more sidewalkless work this afternoon. This time we were on a road with no curbs. Declan did superbly at this and we got back pretty quickly.

We then went to the visitors center to do work on corrections and rework. This is where a lot of refining was done for me. It finally clicked for me and breaking old working methods is going to take some time but at least I think I fully understand the direction they gave me.

Before and after dinner I worked on more work related tasks. After completing them around 7:30 or so I chatted with Darrell and Karen on Skype. I also got good news from Keri, my wife, that it looks like we are getting a tax refund this year, hurray for us!

I just listened to the schedule for Thursday and it looks like it is a store in the morning and a bus to Lounge route in the afternoon. The rumor is that we will be able to start working our dogs inside of the dorm areas. This will be awesome. Right now we have to heel them all around the living areas.

Well, I had to take a bit of a break from writing this long post to go play with Declan. He plays a very rough game of tug and I am quite tired after doing it. His head is resting on my leg as I am wring this, well, it was. I think it is time to put him to bed and me also. Stay tuned folks for more information in the coming days. Declan’s work is progressing and I am beginning to feel more confident that this is going to be a good match. Go Declan!

Day 2

Day 2 started pretty late in the morning (well, at least relative to the rest of my stay here). We met for breakfast at 7:30 and then proceeded to the discussion room at the end of the hall to wrap up final lecture items before we got our dogs. The morning went amazingly fast. Sense I had done the obedience and guide dog work the evening before I was pretty much set at 10:00. We all thought that that was the time to get our dogs but Amy came back after a short break and discussed with us what we should be doing after we receive our dogs. She then gave each of the class members their dogs names and breeds. I asked that this information not be given to me until we were introduced.

We then went back to our rooms and I frantically gathered up my recording equipment and did quite a bit of testing before it was dog time. I then went down to the nurse to show her how the camera worked and then went back to my room.

The nurse knocked on the door and we proceeded down to the instructors office. Here is the recording of the introduction of Declan to me. Declan is pronounced “deck len” and is an Irish Saint as well as a computer programming language ;). Not only that, but two computer terms if you hyphenated it ;).

We then went to lunch. Getting him under the table was a very interesting challenge for a big boy. He is 25 inches in height and weighs 69 pounds.

We took the dogs out and then came back to our rooms to relax. I took a bit of a nap and listened to the Cardinals make it into the Super Bowl. It was again time to take our dogs out. After dinner we had a lecture on grooming and then I did a bit of targeting work with Amy on foot placement with my left foot which tends to turn in pretty badly. I then went to bed. It was a long day and boy was I tired.

I want to sincerely thank Karen and Darrell for preparing the audio file for all of you. It is sincerely appreciated.

New Guide dog

I will put up audio later today but I wanted to get a picture up. Here it is.

Declan jumping up to kiss Jeff's face