We did it! Team Mable qualified today!
Its such a great feeling and has been an emotional 24 hours; I think it all caught up with me yesterday, lets just say there more than a few tears shed. I think I expected to feel tired during training but I don’t think I had any idea how emotionally draining it would be, at the same time as loving every minute of it. I have really enjoyed training so its kind of weird to be emotional about it especially as evehttps://wordpress.com/post/95069072/93#rything is going so well, but as my GDMI said Fable and I have been through a lot; its hard work and a big learning curve so its bound to affect us both. Fable did actually try to give me a hug yesterday I’m sure, I was sat on the floor with her giving her some fuss and she put both front paws on my shoulders and nuzzled into my neck – bless her, she definitely picks up on my feelings that’s for sure 🙂
Todays qualification walk was really enjoyable; I felt really proud as we walked along knowing that our GDMI’s manager was watching us from behind a tree somewhere, you see the stalking skill is yet again evident in those working for Guide Dogs 🙂 Our walk went really well. I have definitely reached the stage of learning they call consciously competent but occasionally I slip back to consciously incompetent (I know I gave Fable a couple of incorrect verbal commands today but luckily she seems to be very responsive to my physical commands and body position so it didn’t matter today). During our walk we were able to demonstrate our skills in dealing with off curb obstacles which we handled really well, again I let Fable take the lead and she made a much better decision than I would have done, spotting a safe gap for us to pass the truck parked on the pavement. We had an interesting and new experience where I made the decision to follow Fable but this time she got us stuck in some fridges and beds etc outside a shop. She came to a stop allowing me to assess the situation and when I asked her forward she didn’t seem to know what to do, so at this point I took charge and asked her to go back which she did and then she found a better way around the obstacles. On discussion with our GDMI’s manager after the walk he said that I had handled this situation really well as he could see Fable didn’t know how to get us out of it, if I hadn’t been able to take the lead at this point she might have got stressed but I reassured her and praised her for shopping and helped her out, so she was fine. This is another great example of how Fable and I work as a team and the more we get to know each other the better this partnership will be.
I received some lovely positive feedback after we had been told that we had qualified; our GDMI’s manger said he could really see an improvement since he came to see us a couple of weeks ago; Fable was much more focused and I was now able to keep her pace up which means she is less likely to get distracted and slip into her sniffing and faffing.
So Fable and I are now officially Team Mable; we have our Assistance Dogs ID, our qualification pack and I handed over my 50p which means I am now officially a Guide Dog Owner! Qualification doesn’t mean that the learning is over, we have a lot of work to do on our familiar routes and then when we get more confident together we will be able to try out some new routes. Our GDMI will keep a close eye on us initially and is always available if we have any problems, I think she will come out to see us again in about 6 weeks to see how we are getting on. We have a few more days of training with our GDMI, we need to cover a couple more routes and go to the vet as Fable has a couple of little bald patches developing which need to be checked and then its down to us to start practicing all the skills we have learnt.
Just before I finish for today I wanted to add something about offering sighted assistance to someone with a Guide Dog as a couple of my friends have asked this very important questions. If you see a Guide Dog and Owner standing somewhere, perhaps at the curb of a busy road with the handle of the harness down this means they need some assistance. From my experience over the last few weeks if you see a Guide Dog Owner and their dog waiting at a busy road crossing then please do politely offer assistance. They may decline but personally I would rather be asked than left standing there waiting for a break in the traffic that may never come. When you offer assistance always do this verbally as the Guide Dog Owner may not be able to see you and approach on their right side, the opposite side to the dog which is almost always worked on their left. If they accept your help they will place the handle of the harness down onto the dog’s back which signals to the dog that they do not need to be guiding their owner. The visually impaired person will take your arm, please don’t take theirs as they need to be able to follow you and decide themselves when they feel its safe to let go of your arm. Tell then when they are safely on the opposite pavement and check they are ok and orientated before you leave. As Guide Dog Owners we are encouraged to accept sighted assistance in difficult traffic situations so please don’t be afraid to ask us.
During my training my GDMI has helped me practice this by pretending to be a well-meaning member of the public offering help. Only yesterday she was pretending to grab my arm from the wrong side and tried to leave me and Fable in the middle of the read, just to see how I would handle this. The funny thing was there was a policeman passing and we are sure he thought this awful person was assaulting a poor lady with a Guide Dog, fortunately we were laughing about this before he intervened 🙂 I wonder if any Guide Dog Staff have ever been stopped by the police during training exercises…..?