So we have survived another week and it ended on a very positive note with a lovely free run! We choose the open area where she previously stole a child’s ball but as it was early this morning and there were only dog walkers out and about so Fable had a lovely time. She run around like a crazy thing with the other dogs, stole their toys (they gave up too easily), rolled in muddy puddles, came back to me consistently; even without the recall (she obviously likes a frankfurter as much as cheese) and didn’t get into trouble!
I think this week has really shown me just what a big change having Fable in my life is. Its a huge adjustment and a few people have said that I don’t seem like me. I would definitely agree with this but I don’t think I ever really expected to be at this stage. I’m having to work so hard with Fable in order to ensure we get things right to give us the best future and its a huge change which will inevitably affect everyone in my life. I think those who know me really well can appreciate the fact that I’m totally committed to this process, because they are aware of the difficulties I experience in life due to my visual impairment. People who perhaps only see me in familiar environments, coping well, are maybe finding it harder to understand why I’m doing this and making life a bit harder at the moment. I probably did such a good job of hiding the difficulties I was experiencing with getting around independently and was avoiding new situations completely, therefore I think its hard for some people to understand how Fable is going to make such a difference to my life. People often use to say to me; “you’re so independent”, the thing is I didn’t ever really feel like this and felt really dependant on others, especially in new environments. Working with Fable in familiar environments is probably making me a bit slower because we are still learning and are only doing my familiar routes at the moment. However, for me its all about the long-term; investing the time now will mean that in the future Fable and I will be able to go shopping on our own, explore new cities and even go on holiday without having to rely on someone else.
This week has been full of successes with a few challenges and some learning. On the positive side Fable has successfully kept me on the pavement when I made a mistake and told her “forward” but didn’t see a car approaching from behind, turning right into the side road we were waiting to cross; she refused to move and the 2 GDMIs who worked on our traffic work would have been very proud of her.Her traffic work really is amazing but as I said before I won’t be able to rely on this 100%. She repeatedly manages to stop me from walking into overhanging branches, finds buttons for crossings, stops whens he sees people or cars coming out of driveways or corridors to our side and makes the walk to work really enjoyable. Her recall from the garden is now not a problem so we can enjoy some playtime outside after work so she can let off a bit steam. She has also reached her target working weight of 25kg (when we started training she was a couple of kilos overweight) so it seems 4 miles of walking a day is having a positive affect; I think its working for me too!
One interesting thing that happened this week en route to the gym was that Fable literally came to a sudden stop, a few feet from the kerb. I praised her, looked around and couldn’t see why she had stopped so asked her “forward”. Nothing happened so I took the lead and tried encouraging her forward, Still nothing so I tried bringing her back which she did so it wasn’t that she was ignoring me, something was going on ahead that I clearly couldn’t see as she stopped in exactly the same place when we re-approached. I asked a lady who was passing if she could tell me what might be ahead. She said that a large dog was approaching, on a lead with a responsible looking owner so I decided not to try and force Fable on, laid the handle down and asked her to sit while we waited for the dog and its owners to pass. Once they had gone Fable was immediately happy to continue our journey. I have spoken to my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor about this, she said this is called negative distraction and is hard to deal with. I had done the right thing as forcing her to proceed might make it worse (I need to start trusting my instincts more) and I have a couple of strategies to try should this happen again.
We have had some issues with Fable stretching out off her bed at work this week. This is something she does at home and my GDMI said that she is the sort of dog who needs to stretch out so I shouldn’t be too hard on her. The trouble is the office is a shared space and when she stretches out she is in the way of my colleagues and in danger of being run over by wheelie chairs. When I’m in the office I can gently encourage her back on her bed but obviously she doesn’t stay there and when I’m out of the office my GDMI has said that my colleagues mustn’t give Fable commands to encourage her back to her bed as this will confuse her and potentially weaken our bond. My colleagues could come and get me so that I can get her back to her bed but this isn’t always practical so I think we may need to look at other options. My Manager and colleagues have been very supportive so far so I’m sure we will find a workable solution. I feel strongly that while employers need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate those of us with Disabilities, the adjustments shouldn’t adversely affect other members of the team, so we will need to sit down together and work out if there is an alternative solution that works for everyone.
I had a friend over for dinner last night which is first time I have done this since Fable arrived. I was really pleased with her as she laid at my feet under the table or on her bed the whole time. There was no begging for food and I only had to ask her to lie down once! I think this is a good sign that we will be able to enjoy some meals out with friends soon.
So, I think I’m in the hard and messy phase of change at the moment but I’m keeping focused on the gorgeous future ahead of us.