My Journey at the Seeing Eye

Day 6 at the Seeing Eye

Day 6 began around 5:25. I staid up until about 11:30 the prior evening and man was I feeling it that morning. I fed and gave Vincent water and took him out to park. I came back to my room and in a few minutes did obedience with Vincent and Barb. This is the first day in which we are taking the shuttles into town. I was on first trip and we started the South Street route. This basically is like a rectangle (kind of anyway) route. We start by walking up to Dehart, then Community which is a light. We then move to Madison and then up to James. We turn left to South Street and walk along it back to Dehart. We turn left back to Maple and then cross Dehart back to the lounge. It is definitely more then a mile walk. We had traffic stops to deal with, dog distractions, very narrow sidewalks, flags waving over our heads and more.

I got back to the school at around 9:30 and I just kicked back. I was quite tired. It was soon park time and then I came back and continued to rest up. The week is long here and man was I feeling it.

I went down for lunch and then back out on the route.

I took the 2:45 shuttle back to campus and worked with Lucas Franck on more clicker training with a door knob. We started by having Vincent touch the target with the bell and treated. We continued this until he did it pretty quickly and we slowly moved further back and had him work up to the target. At the end we removed the target and had him bring me to the target. I would touch the target and click and then give him a treat. It worked out well.

I then had to do some work at the office for our Admissions department and then fed and gave Vincent water. I continued the work with the issue at the office. I went to dinner and had a chicken sandwich and went back to finish up my work before the 6:30 meeting with Shannon. We discussed the upcoming weekend schedule as well as on social behaviors with our dogs. We then got Kongs for our dogs. Vincent isn’t to interested in it.

I came back to my room, grabbed a soda from the fridge and began work on testing some Window-Eyes script changes I am working on.

See everybody on Day 7.

Day 5 at the Seeing Eye

I woke up at about 4:45 and began the day. It was about 45 minutes prior to taking Vincent out to Park. I started to write yesterday’s blog post and also read some email and tweets. It was very quiet here that early.

I took Vincent out and boy is that guy quick. I was out and back in in less than 5 minutes. He did that all 4 times today. It is awesome. It has been very windy today and quite cold in the morning so it was good to get back in doors.

I then worked on obedience with Barb and also “Go to Your Place”.

For breakfast I had cereal and went back to my room to get some things ready to take to the down town lounge (or Training Center).

We got down town about 8:15 or so and I was paired with another person in our class and off we went to do the Maple Avenue route once more. We had a traffic check during this route. Tom Pender basically drives up through an alley or driveway right in front of the dog and the dog must stop to insure the safety of himself and me. It went perfectly. He drove a van today but he will drive a silent car later on in class.

We got back pretty quickly. I then had some hot chocolate to try and warm up a bit and then Lucas Franck came over and asked me if I was ready to do some Clicker work. I was ready for that. Karen watched my things as I left with Mr. Franck. We went down two flights of stairs into this room I had never seen. It is a large open room where training staff can meet. It was very nice.

Now, since I had participated in Clicker training at GDB I was a bit familiar with the process. I was excited to see how the Seeing Eye approached the training.

For those that don’t know Clicker Training is a process of teaching the dog to “Target” things through the use of positive reinforcement. You will see how this works as I describe how the Seeing Eye does this.

Lucas handed me a food pouch to clip onto my belt (not a fanny pack like GDB gave us to use). He then handed me the clicker which I placed into my left hand. Lucas then held out a bell wrapped with duct tape and it had a magnet on the back. It was all hooked together on a key chain. He then had a long telescoping stick (one that someone would use in a mechanics shop to get screws with). So, the magnet would stick to the stick. He then had me click when I would hear Vincent touch the “Target” with his nose and the bell would ring. After the click the dog receives a treat. You do this to get the dog “in to the game”.

The process of targeting can be done to find almost anything (door knobs, empty seats, traffic signal buttons, etc.).

Eventually the goal is to slowly remove the need for the clicker for the specific target and simply use normal techniques of praise to reward the dog.

This process is very affective in training the dog. The big difference here is that the entire process is a very positive and rewarding one for the dog unlike the use of corrections when reworking a work related issue.

I had a blast with Lucas working on Clicker and we will continue the process on Thursday with finding door knobs.

I then went back and sat down to wait for everyone to finish up their routes. We got back around 11:30 or so so we took our dogs out to park and got ready for lunch.

For lunch we had grill cheese sandwiches and fries. It made me feel like a kid again.

After lunch we had a short meeting discussing traffic work. That was entertaining. The instructors played different roles in discussing the topic and they played a CD with Lucas Franck giving us examples of things not to do. I want to get a copy of this CD, the things on it are great fun!

We then discussed working our dogs in the house using the harness. Nothing new here really. I am just glad we don’t have to keep having them sit at the beginning of each set of stairs. It really slows down moving around the building for sure.

After the meeting we went to the Men’s lounge and we got booties for our dogs. We put them on and walked around with our dogs. Vincent wanted to run like a little pony and really wouldn’t listen to me to much with those things on. I can see this will be an interesting challenge with him getting used to these things. It made everybody laugh which probably didn’t help matters LOL. It really was quite funny.

At 2:30 we went down and had house keeping show us the new washers and dryers. These are side-by-side models and are quite different from the machines I used last time when I was here. They seem simple enough though and do have Braille and markings on them to help in where things are.

Barb came to see me around 4:15 or so and we worked again on “Go to Your Place”. She then told me she would bring in a crate for me to use with Vincent for a few days.

It was then time to feed, water and park our dogs just prior to dinner. After this was done we got to work the dogs down to dinner in harness. That was very nice. I love working Vincent in the building. It sure makes life a lot easier.

This evening we have the night off. I am very happy about this. I got a lot of things done tonight and just relaxed. I went down to groom Vincent and also transferred some files from Karen’s DS50 and emailed those files to her.

This concludes day 5. On day 6 we will start a new route, the South Street route. It is a very simple route but I am bringing Mobile Geo with me to aid in street names and just to have a play as I work with Vincent. It will be interesting to see what POIs are around along the route. Who knows, I may go in somewhere perhaps :).

See everyone on day 6.

Day 4 at the Seeing Eye

Day 4 is the first full day with our dogs. I got up around 5:00 on Tuesday and proceeded to get ready for the day. We took our dogs out at 5:30 and I cam back to work on my third day blog post as well as catching up on email and tweets. Before breakfast Barb came over and we worked on some obedience with Vincent.

Breakfast was at 7:00 and I had cereal for breakfast. We are now using gentle leaders to bring our dogs down to the dining room.

We then had a meeting on dog handling and dog fears. We had some good laughs during this with some of the audio segments played on the CD player.

We then got ready to go into town. We left around 8:30 or so. I brought my iPod to listen to local Tucson radio stations. Man does that work well.

I was first to go out on the Maple Avenue route. It went quite well. We are still having some issues with running curbs and some pull issues but these will come in time.

I came back to the lounge and listened to the iPod and took a power nap. I was pretty tired. I hadn’t slept well the night before.

We got back at 11:45 or so so we immediately had Park time with the dogs and then went in and gave them water and then it was lunch time. I had a roast beef sandwich with chips.

We then got ready to go into town again. This time we didn’t leave until about 1:45 or so as Barb worked with other students with obedience drills.

We came back about 4:35 and parked our dogs as well as giving them food and water.

It was dinner time at this point. They had a meal which included fish and I really wasn’t in the mood for this so I again had a sandwich. I really wasn’t that hungry honestly.

After dinner we had an introduction to Clicker Training. That was a very fun meeting. After the meeting the instructors came around and had us practice with the clicker. The program is optional but it looks like the majority of students will be participating in it I think.

We then took our dogs out to park for the last time. I then took Vincent down to groom him and came back to the room and crashed after getting ready for the next day. I was pretty tired and I slept like a rock!

Stay tuned for day 5 activities.

Day 3 at the Seeing Eye

Today is the big day.

I got up at 5:30 and got ready for the day. It seems that the morning is the time to write blog posts. I went down for breakfast and head a bowl of cereal and then it was off to town.

The trip this morning was to verify findings from the prior Juno walks and to also talk about lifestyle and other factors in the match verification process. The most wonderful thing about the walk was that it wasn’t raining. It was a lovely morning. Barb told me that her opinion hasn’t changed and that “I will be happy”.

I went back into the building and waited to leave. Michelle came down to see us and it was fun seeing her again.

When we got back to campus we had a meeting with Jim and Michelle. Jim is the President of the Seeing Eye. He told us a number of facts about the Seeing Eye, what was new, and a few other things. It was fun listening to him. He is a geek like me so it would be fun to talk tech with him at some point.

Then it was lunch time. I had a ham sandwich and left pretty quickly as I wanted to get back to my room for the big event.

Barb yelled from down the hall at about 1:10 or so and so I proceeded down the hall without my leash like a goone LOL. She sent me back to get it and then I meant Vincent. He is a Yellow Lab Golden Cross and he is very tall. It will be interesting to see if he fits in our very small car . He has a very full coat. The majority of his colors and hair look like a Lab and his tail looks to be like a Golden’s tail. His hair is a bit longer then a Lab but not quite as long as a Golden. I know, quite a hairy situation.

After a few minutes we went out on the leisure path for a walk with Vincent. He did quite well. It will take some getting used to with the way he moves but nothing of great concern.

We went back to our room and he decided to take a nap, so thinking that he knew best I did the same. It was wonderful. I slept for about an hour and a half. It felt wonderful.

By now it was feeding time and park time. He is a typical lab and loves to eat.

Dinner was fun. It took a bit of work getting him under the table but once there he did quite well. He wiggled around a bit but overall he did awesome. For dinner we had pork and potatoes.

After dinner it was grooming time. We had a lecture on this process as we groomed our dogs. After this we were given our gentle leaders and a bone for the dogs.

After this I went down to the nurses office and got some pictures taken of Vincent. I will be posting these in the next day or so. I am waiting on descriptions to insure that all can enjoy them. I then came back and uploaded the files to my home ftp server for Keri and the kids to see them.

I then went down to the nurses office again to help Karen with her phone. It seems she can’t send MMS messages so Darrell will need to add that feature back on her phone.

I then came back and got ready for the next day and went to bed listening to another Star Trek episode on the iPod. It wasn’t long before I was sound asleep. I slept very well considering. Vincent did awesome. He didn’t make a sound. Now, the other dog next door on the other hand LOL. Let’s just say that he was one very very very happy boy. Thump, thump thump throughout the night. I am not sure how his master slept LOL.

Well, today we have two walks with our dogs and then a clicker training event this evening. I am sure there is more but it is unclear as we haven’t been told yet.

See you all on Day 4.

Day 2 at the Seeing Eye

Sunday started with me getting up and getting ready. I heard the announcement for the wake up call and it took a few minutes for me to get out of bed. I proceeded to write up Saturday’s activities and get them posted to the blog.

Breakfast was very good. We had a cheese omelet, English muffins and fruit. After breakfast we went to town for our second Juno walk. It was raining so I grabbed my coat which turned out that it didn’t help much. More on that in a bit.

We got into the vans and drove for about 5 to 7 minutes to the down town lounge. I walked into the building and didn’t sit down as Barb (my instructor) informed me that I was first. So, out we went. We worked on pace, pull, correction strength, hand signals, voice level for giving commands and all things we will need with the new guys. A lot of emphasis was placed on reminding us retrains on those things that are different from our older guides then with the new guys. The basic rule is that you need to be very clear with the new dog and not assume that they know how you wish to be guided. In time, communication will become more clear and you can be assured that your expectations will be met, just be patient.

Tom Pender (the class supervisor) was out and about watching us work with the instructors. We saw him along the route. Barb forgot her pass at the school so she borrowed one from Tom. By this time I was completely soaked. My jacket was sopping wet. I am certainly glad that I left my cell phone on the table with Ree (a person in class).

We got back to the lounge and I proceeded to listen to the MP3 files that were given to us on the little MP3 player. These are all lectures we will get in class. They are assuming that we have reviewed these prior to each lecture.

I listened to the Sirius radio description. I am following in love with it and I think one may be in my future at the house. I love all of the options available on it.

After all of our us finished our Juno walks we went back to the school and had a fire drill. They told us that it would be very loud but it really wasn’t. It was still raining and Karen didn’t bring a coat out with her. She shivered the whole time we were out there.

We then had a meeting with Tom Pender prior to lunch. We talked about dogs and how they think. He told us a bit about the training process. It was really more information that we had received in prior classes so it was fun to listen to it. He went long so we were a bit late to lunch.

Lunch was steak, potatoes and evil vegetables.

After lunch it was dog play time. We went up to the common lounge and got to see four dogs while Barb went over obedience commands. We basically had all types that the Seeing Eye breeds. Barb gave them fake names. We had Juliet (a Shepard), Blackie (a black Lab), Goldie (a Golden Lab), and Yellow (a yellow Lab). Very original names ;).

One thing I noticed was that obedience commands were quite different from 7 years ago. All commands can now be given with only the left hand (with few exceptions). Come and Sit were vastly different. It will take a bit of practice for those of us that have done it the old way for so many years.

Barb then took the dogs back and came back to show us the Gentle Leader. I am very familiar with this. She then read us a short paper on “Go to your Place”. None of my dogs were good at this so I am hoping this one will be.

I expressed a concern about the Dog’s place in my room. It is right next to the door. This will make things very interesting.

Those of us who were retrains were excused as Barb worked with the other 3 classmates on how to put on the harness.

I went back to my room and listened to Mushroom FM (a brand-new radio station on the Internet) and checked email and tweets. I gave Keri a call and she was taking her brother Tim back to his house.

Dinner came at about 5:15 and it was yummy. I am unsure on what the name of the pasta is now (very early Monday morning as I write this) but it was very good. We had Italian bread and those that wanted it had salad. Desert was Pound Cake, yummy. Up to this point I hadn’t eaten desert. Lunch and Dinner meals have deserts. I am trying to watch that for a number of reasons :).

After dinner we went up to the common lounge and got a lecture on Dog Day activities. For those of us that were retrains it was pretty basic stuff. We received our grooming supplies for the new dogs.

After the lecture they had a social for the class with wine and cheese and crackers. I made my exit and went to get ready for Monday.

A bit later I came back out and talked with a few guys in the Men’s lounge. Joel, one of our class members, is a judge. He had very fascinating stories to tell. I have to get to know him a bit more. He seems like a very interesting guy. He went to bed one evening and awoke totally blind. It was caused by a very rare medical condition. The rest of his story was amazing to hear as he described how he moved up throughout his career. He even served as a clerk to the Supreme Court.

I saw Barb wandering the halls and we chatted briefly. After this I came back to my room and put my iPod in the headboard and plugged it in. I listened to some old Star Trek episodes and fell asleep.

Today is going to be an exciting one as we get our dogs in the early afternoon.

I will try and put up a post later today with the details. I suspect it will be in the evening so stay tuned. The nice thing is that most of the people at home will still be at the office more than likely so they will get the news.

We are expecting more rain this morning. I am not looking forward to that.

I will write more later. Keep the comments coming on the blog, I love it.

Day 1 at the Seeing Eye

The journey to the Seeing Eye began on Friday, April 23. I got up with Keri and the kids at about 5:30 or so and started checking email and handling some work issues. The rest of that day was spent packing, gathering last minute technology items to put into my laptop bag and getting my home machine ready for the trip. I set up a secure FTP server to be able to access all of the data on my drive while I am away. I am a Qwitter user and insured it would collect tweets while I was traveling so that I could retrieve it later.

Keri and I left the house about 4:30 and went out for dinner near the University of Arizona where the shuttle would pick me up.

After dinner we went and waited for the shuttle. It was a very long wait as the shuttle driver got there about 30 minutes late.

I arrived at the airport around 8:30 and proceeded to the gate. I will say that if you are going to travel in the Phoenix airport that this is the perfect time of the day to do it. There were no lines. The only waiting was for someone to assist me to the gate. I then sat and waited for pre-boarding. The plane was a 737 and was packed!

Karen Shandrow and I traveled together on the flight and we watched movies during the flight. We first watched The Water Boy which I had seen before but really enjoyed. Karen really liked it. We then watched the movie Up which both Karen and me thought that the movie wasn’t very good.

We landed in NJ at 6:30 and were taken to the Presidents Lounge to wait for the Seeing Eye driver to arrive to take us to the campus.

We got to the campus around 9:45 or so. I had a very short room introduction and then began the process of unpacking the important stuff, the technology. I was almost complete with that when Beth the nurse came in to visit with me. I really enjoyed her visit.

I then started to unpack clothes and other items when my instructor arrived and gave me a tour of the building. I really thought I remembered most of it but man, it is going to take some time to get used to some areas again. I am in room 103 and I have never been on the first floor before so a lot of this area of the building is not as familiar to me.

After the tour we went out for a Juno walk around the big driveway in front of the building. She wanted to see my correction strength, pace and pull preference and more. All I can say is I am surely going to get nagged at for all of the bad habits we retrains have. It is OK really, it is all to insure the new dog works out well but man it amazes me what we pick up. You really never realize it until you come back to campus.

I came back to my room and finished unpacking and then went to lunch. I had a ham sandwich with chips and a glass of milk. I had a hard time eating it as I was starting to fall asleep at the table. I got up and went back to my room and crashed for about 3 hours.

I then got up and started checking the thousands of tweets and email messages I had gotten during my travel to the Seeing Eye. It was then time for dinner. We had a yummy turkey dinner. Jim, the President of the Seeing Eye, sat at our table and his wife Ginger was sitting behind me. Ginger was in my 2002 class so it was good connecting with her again.

After dinner we had a 6:30 meeting where we received leashes and a MP3 player with the lecture material on it. It is a 4GB player with 5 basic buttons on it. If we want to keep it the cost is $15. It will be nice to have just to keep the lecture material on it.

After the meeting I helped Karen get wireless working on her netbook. I then went back to my room and called Keri and the kids to check in. I finished checking email and started to get ready for bed. I showered in the evening and laid down to listen to the radio.

I am typing all of this up at 6:30 on Sunday.

Today, we will go into town for another Juno walk. We will then have a “practice surprise” fire drill as they called it at around 11:00 or so.

In the afternoon we are going to get a silent car demonstration and then it is play with puppies time at around 2:15 or so.

Dinner is at 5:30 today.

I will write more later. Breakfast is coming up and I am a bit hungry. We leave the building at 7:45.

Just a quick update. Breakfast was awesome!

See everybody later on the blog.

My Hero Jacinda

Jacinda Smiling into the camera
Jacinda past away on January 3, 2009. I will miss her dearly. The picture above shows her loving smile and great personality that she shared with all of us throughout her life. I want to thank Fred and Kasey for taking care of her during the month of December for the last part of her life. Her death was a shock to all of us and she will be deeply missed.

Jacinda was probably the most playful of the three guide dogs I have had and she sure made sure she was noticed. She often wanted to be the center of attention until that harness went on. Once that was done her personality dramatically changed and for the most part it was down to business.

She always would make sure that she got what she wanted and even developed a way of talking to us in a special barking kind of way. She loved wearing bandanas. In fact, it was kind of a ritual to see her run into it every time. When she got sick of the one she was waring she would run to Keri jumping up and down and barking until Keri picked out a new one for her to wear. She would run to the dresser where we kept them and would point her nose at the drawer. If the drawer was open she would often pick one out. Once it was put on she would prance around the house wagging her tail and making sure she showed everyone that she had a new one on. Keri had a heck of a time getting it on. She always wanted Keri to pick them out for her.

Her guide work was awesome and she loved to serve with that wonderful wagging tail that she held up so proudly. I want to sincerely thank The Seeing Eye for the opportunity to work with such a great guide dog. Ralph (the trainer that trained Jacinda and worked with me with her) was a great person to work with and without him bringing us together we wouldn’t have had the 6 plus years as a team. Thank you Seeing Eye.

Jacinda, I will miss you and I love you very much. Click here to listen to a song that expresses this even more.