Trust me I’m a Guide Dog….

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So its day 20 of training for Fable and I and today I got the first real insight of how she will  make better decisions than me when it comes to avoiding obstacles.

As someone who has had the same level of vision for 40 odd years and has coped without any mobility aids (apart from sighted assistance from friends and family and a vast amount of avoidance strategies that I am gradually becoming aware of), leaning to trust Fable is probably one of my biggest challenges. Not because she isn’t doing a good job but because I do have some functional vision which I have used successfully but maybe not effectively. I have spoken to my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor about this as its really important I don’t make things too easy for Fable; for example moving slightly if she misjudges an obstacle to my right or anticipating obstacles and subconsciously slowing her down by applying tension on her harness, as this will mean that she looses her skills in this area and then when I do need it she won’t be very good at this.We have spoken about maybe blindfolding me so that I can be sure I’m not anticipating obstacles and helping her out too much. I really want to be able to allow Fable to develop her guiding skills so that I can concentrate on navigating us and keeping us safe while crossing roads. I think it would be a valuable experience for me so I may speak to my GDMI about this again.

Anyway today we were walking down a busy high street. We had stopped at a curb and I could see what I will describe as chaos ahead of us: There were various obstacles including a bus stop and a couple of cars/vans parked on the wide pavement. I said to my GDMI that I was aware of this but couldn’t work out the spaces and the best way round as my vision makes it difficult for me to judge distances. My GDMI advised me to just go with Fable, so I did. I was amazed at how she made a brilliant decision to go around the parked cars and various bits of gardening machinery that were outside the shop. I hadn’t even seen these from the other side of the road and this would have been a classic example of me charging into a situation and realising I had come the wrong way and having to turn around, embarrassed to start again. I said to my GDMI immediately how this is a lesson to me; Fable made a far better decision than I could have done. I really do need to trust her; she definitely has my back!

As well as all this excitement we went to a large supermarket and I bought some things to see how she was in a queue at checkout. Thankfully we had a lovely lady behind us who’s friend has a Guide Dog so she was very aware about not distracting Fable and was very patient while I faffed around trying to pay, pack my shopping away and keep hold of Fable’s lead – multi-tasking is not one of my strong points, I’m sure it will get better. We also went to another shop, where on entering one of the lovely assistants asked if I needed any help. Before I had Fable I would never have considered saying yes to this, even though finding things in this particular shop is difficult, but I graciously accepted which made my life so much easier and less stressful – back to the old theme of its ok to accept help; you see I am learning 🙂

We also went to another gym I attend for strongwoman training; it was a bit tricky moving around with Fable as there is a lot of equipment for strongman events. The staff there were really helpful, I just need to consider whether I have adequate handling skills to take Fable there safely at the moment, it might be something I do a later date when we are more experienced but we’ll see.

On the way back Fable did yet another clever thing: you may remember about 10 days ago we visited the commercial gym that I go to a few times a week? We haven’t been there again since and she has only been there once. Nevertheless as we approached the turning to the car park, from the opposite direction, she slowed and turned into the entrance! How amazing is that? I praised her, told her not today and we continued on home.

Fable is really starting to show me what a difference she is going to make to me life; its now up to me to trust her as she trusts me, after all trust is the basis of every successful partnership.  She really is a clever little dog with bags of personality who is once again completely exhausted and enjoying a well earned sleep.

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