Phew! What a day! I’m not sure where to start….Traffic, stations, shopping centres, buses; we did it all today!
First thing this morning we did the first of 2 traffic sessions. Before I go into the detail I need to reassure you that this is a completely controlled situation and neither Fable or I were in any danger. Guide Dogs are trained to disobey the “forward” command at a curb when there is a moving vehicle close by, however, I have been told by my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor and its documented in the theory training material, that it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of myself and Fable when crossing roads: I make the assessment of whether its safe to cross or not, Fable may refuse to listen to me if she notices an approaching car but I shouldn’t ever rely on this as Guide Dog receive mixed messages when we allow them to cross in front of cars at pedestrian crossings so this weakens their awareness of traffic. Fable, however, did brilliantly with near and far traffic which was approaching the side road we were attempting to cross. We did this session in a very quiet area and the car that was approaching us to test Fable skills was another GDMI, as I said it is a very safe and controlled situation, done to show me Fable’s ability and limitations in this situation. She really did well and disobeyed my forward commands on almost all occasions, near traffic was easier for her than far traffic but she got there and kept me safely on the curb.
After this we did a harness walk to the train station; she was on form and trotted along at top speed. We had to negotiate some construction work which meant the station entrance was almost an unfamiliar environment to me so I’m really impressed that Fable managed to find the door to the station for me. While we were working our way along the platform a train pulled in and Fable expertly guided me around a lot of people getting on and off a train and avoided a large bag which I hadn’t seen and probably wouldn’t have tripped over without her. She found the station steps and we learnt how to use lifts, all in a busy and very noisy station. Sensory overload is an understatement; I don’t know about Fable but I couldn’t wait to get out of there!
We then did our first bus trip. It was really busy and rushed as the bus arrived almost as soon as we got to the stop; with our GDMI’s instruction we learnt on the job so to speak, finding a seat and getting Fable’s harness off and getting her settled on the floor next to me. I can see why the disabled seats are so useful to Guide Dog Owners now but they weren’t available this time.
Then we had a first experience of a busy shopping centre. For me this was where I really started to see how much Fable is going to help me: She expertly guided me around people which will really help me once we are more experienced as I will be able to look at the shops instead of having to focus all my energy on avoiding people and other objects.
Finally we took a bus home; this went really well the second time and I felt much happier. Our final walk home was also lovely and I was able to spot Fable’s faffing and give her a firm correction to get on, apparently according to my GDMI, at just the right time.
So today was a good day for team Mabeline; our GDMI managed to keep her recently straightened hair dry 😉 and I feel like its all starting to come together, and my GDMI said it looked as if I had ” swallowed the Guide Dog Owners manual over the weekend” as we were working really well together – go team Mabeline!
Just before I go I want to say to anyone about to embark on training for the first time; I am having an absolutely brilliant time! I love a challenge and learning, personal development is very important to me and I’m loving it. However, it really is mentally exhausting for all 3 of us, team Mabeline are learning all the time and I think that’s what makes us such a good team. Our GDMI is getting it just right for us, pushing us out of our comfort zone and giving us feedback so that Fable and I can develop the best partnership we can.