Today was so much fun but really hard work for Fable and I. We set off from home today on harness and before any of us knew it we had been out for 3 hours! Our Guide Dog Mobility Instructor said it was a first for her, she had never done such a long session with anyone – go team Mabeline!
On our walk today we do lots of right shoulder work, Fable did really well with this today and you could tell she was really looking to check if I was going to get through gaps without knocking my right shoulder.
We also encountered some “interesting” people and dog owners en route. At one point we were stopped at a crossing and a really rude lady walked straight in front of me, nearly walking into Fable, who stood her ground, but seriously what is wrong with people, maybe she needed a Guide Dog?! I’m also really beginning to realise how lucky I am to be receiving such indepth training on dog handling; its clear that a lot of dog owners have no idea how to handle their dogs!
Towards the end of our walk our GDMI hung back a bit to see how we got on without her being so close, we were doing well until we passed a little dog who was clearly interested in Fable, who once again did a great job of ignoring the dog until we stopped at a curb and the crazy owner let the dog follow Fable and sniff her bottom on an extended lead while we was waiting at the curb. I hadn’t noticed this and wondered why she wasn’t responding to my left command. In this case we weren’t in any danger but its a good reminder to everyone that if they or their dogs or children distract a working Guide Dog it could distract the dog,putting the Guide Dog Owner and Guide Dog in danger.
We also visited my gym; the staff were great, letting us check out where the best place would be for Fable to wait while I train. She seemed to make herself at home in the office!
Today I have entered that stage of learning where I am becoming aware of my mistakes; they call it consciously incompetent! As I have some functional vision and have coped for so many years I’m finding it hard to let Fable guide me and on occasion I have become the pilot as well as the navigator (I think I got this the wrong way round in a previous post; Fable is the pilot (taking off and landing, avoiding obstacles etc, and I am the navigator, deciding which way to go and when). This is something I really need to work on as the risk of me taking over too much could mean that Fable doesn’t do her job and when I need her to she won’t be able to guide me safely. The other thing I’m finding really challenging at the moment is that I’m realising I’m not able to be aware of what is going on around me (dogs barking, children approaching etc), as I’m completely focused on Fable and my role in navigating in a consistent way. The help from our GDMI with this is massively important; she lets me know what is going on around us to help explain some of Fable’s actions and behaviour, so that in future when I have some brain space I will be able to understand what might be going for Fable in different situations.
To end on a positive note; I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying walking with Fable. Previously walking had been such hard work and was something I did as a means to an end, I definitely didn’t enjoy it, now its an absolute pleasure thanks to Fable.