Today we didn’t see our Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, she left us with some homework though! Our mission, which we did choose to accept was to do 2 unsupervised harness walks round the block or if I was feeling adventurous to the local shop.
So this morning for the first time I put Fable’s harness on, took a few photos to mark the occasion, and off we went. I had decided that I would do the block walk first as there were no roads to cross and then decide how I felt about going to the shop as it involved crossing 2 side roads.
Fable was brilliant this morning; she seemed really excited to put her head into the harness, she trotted along at her speedy pace, slowing appropriately to avoid wheelie bins, other pedestrians and on approaches to curbs. We passed some workmen en route, one reached down to touch Fable, I kept her moving despite the distraction and then the other workman shouted to his mate, “you shouldn’t talk to guide dogs”! I was able to shout back “thank you, you’re absolutely right”!
We had some more new visitors at lunchtime; my friend and her 7 month old baby. I was amazed at how much the baby was interested in Fable, he gentle tried to stroke her, and Fable was so gentle and calm with him.
Then this afternoon I decided to be brave and go for the road crossings and do a bit of shopping. Its really strange; this shop is literally 5 minutes away but it still feels really scary being out with Fable without our GDMI. I think if it was just Fable and I with no other people (by that I mean irresponsible dog owners really), then I’d be fine. Only yesterday we were walking home from work and there was a lady with a Labrador on an extended lead walking along a very road. The dog came over to Fable whilst we were walking in harness, completely distracting her and the extendable lead almost tripped me up as I hadn’t seen it. Until I started this training I had no idea what ridiculous things other dog do; why would you use an extended lead in a busy area with lots of traffic, the lady’s dog could have wondered out into the dog apart from anything else?! Sorry, rant over!
Anyway, we did really well on the road crossing this afternoon. Fable even got a chance to demonstrate her traffic skills as a car pulled out of a driveway in front of us, I hadn’t seen it but she stopped dead in her tracks – amazing, that was definitely deserving of a treat. She found the door to the shop, even though some school children distracted her. I see it as my responsibility as a Guide Dog Owner to try and educate people about Guide Dogs and visual impairment. So I stopped and calmly asked them not to touch her because she is working and we continued into the shop. In shops you don’t actually work the dog on harness, you pick up the lead and make your own way around the shop or you ask for sighted assistance. I was able to manage without any help as I know the shop well and my vision allows me to do this independently most of the time, its only if I need to see prices and sizes etc or if I’m in a different shop that I need help. Fable was a star, she attempted a little sniff while I was looking at things but I had a short lead so was able to feel when her head moved and correct her immediately. She was generally very well behaved; sitting or lying while I looked at things and paid, I even dropped a packet of ham and she didn’t even try to sniff at it.
On the way home she did her usual slow, sniffing thing, I think its because she needed the toilet but she managed to wait until we were home and did it in the garden. This is a big improvement as she has been relieving herself (spending) on harness walks. I don’t really mind picking it up but ideally she would relieve herself at home before we set off. I think she might be starting to get the hang of it too. Sometimes in the early days of training dogs spending habits get a little erratic, I think having the fence and secure garden area now will help her as she doesn’t need to do it on a lead. Sorry for the poo obsession; I am clearly well on my way to being a Guide Dog Owner; I understand this is a common discussion point among Guide Dog Owners?!
I hope you like the photos of my beautiful girl all ready to go on our first solo harness walk; its the best feeling!