Today was a lovely day; my Mobility Instructor from Guide Dogs came out with Team Mabeline to see how we were doing. This was really nice for me, and I hope for her too, as I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. The training she provided with the long cane, how to mange traffic better and how to mange my stress in tricky situations has meant that I have been able to work with Fable much more effectively. I might have said this before but I’ll say it again; she was so right about the advantages of being trained to use the long cane before training with a Guide Dog; it has really helped with my confidence and safety which means I have been able to really focus on the specifics of mobility training with a Guide Dog.
Following yesterday’s discussions my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor agreed that it was a good time to try a blindfolded walk with Fable on harness. Our GDMI chose a challenging street where there are trees on the pavements and often a few obstacles. Its a street that I’ll need to use often though so its important Fable and I are competent with this type of right shoulder work.
So, in complete darkness, I picked up the harness (our GDMI also had her lead attached to ensure we were safe), and off we went. Almost immediately it was clear that Fable knew something was different, I guess she was picking up my tension and discomfort through the harness. She didn’t pick up her to usual pace but took it steady and was really careful with her right shoulder and overhead work; I don’t think she allowed me to bump into anything along the whole road!
We were doing so well that we continued onto the main high street and did a few road crossings too. Here I had to really use my hearing to decide when it was safe to cross; I really do need to learn to trust this sense as it has developed a lot over the last few months, thanks to my Mobility Instructor’s advice. One particular moment I remember from this morning was feeling Fable stop and sit. I asked my GDMI what was going on and she said; “what can you feel under your feet”? All of sudden I realised I was standing on the tactile surface by the curb! My clever girl has done that all on her own! She also apparently negotiated lots of people and obstacles while I was blindfolded; I could feel the left and right manoeuvres but obviously didn’t know why at the time. During this blindfolded walk I was much more aware of Fable’s movement through the harness and could even feel when the pavement sloped up and down some of the time.
Whilst this was a really useful exercise it was one of the most scary things I have ever done; I did think I was going to cry at one point but I held it together, after all if Fable ccould cope with it then so could I. I have a whole new level of respect and admiration for those Guide Dog Partnerships where the owner has no vision; what an incredible amount of trust they both need in each other – I take my hat off to you all for facing your fears, probably on a daily basis. I’m sure my experience today will enable me to trust Fable more which will mean we will continue to grow as a team.
As a little reward we all went for a coffee and cake and I my first experience of taking Fable into a public toilet with me! An “interesting” moment and I half expected her to start saying “busy busy” to me 🙂
We visited the gym again on our way home and once again Fable took the turning into the car part; she obviously knows its going to be a regular haunt for us. She settled well again and we had a little chat with the manager who’s office Fable will be sharing. He has been really supportive during this process and I’m really looking forward to getting back to training.
So tomorrow is our qualification walk. I feel a bit like I’m taking an exam, which I guess we are in a way but really team Mable just has to show our GDMI’s Manager what we are have been doing over the last week or so. I think we are ready and our GDMI said she had what she calls her “goose bump moment” watching us yesterday; she said this is what she feels when she has worked with a Guide Dog and new Owner in training and just knows that they are ready to start being more independent. I hope team Mable can make her proud tomorrow; it has been brilliant working with her. I think we will both miss her and in some ways I don’t want the training to end, I’ve enjoyed it so much, but we still have a few more days of team Mabeline adventures 🙂