When I finished my 4 weeks of training I was almost sad that it was over, I think this is partly because I’m one of those people who loves learning and improving. Other Guide Dog Owners told me the learning never stops and even years into our partnership there will still be days when Fable amazes me; this week I can see how true that is.
On Tuesday, four and a half weeks after qualifying, something seemed to change for us. Our walk to and from work seemed easy, more natural and Fable didn’t need so much encouragement to stay on track and not sniff. She did some very decisive Kerbs, found crossings, bins and button for crossings immediately with less prompting and we did some obedience training off lead in the garden which was spot on resulting in her coming in when called first time. I was walking home on that day and the song “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked popped into my head. I’ve copied the lyrics below because I think they really do sum up how I feel about my partnership with the Fabulous Fable:
“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by…
The rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
It’s time to try defying gravity
I think I’ll try defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down
I’m through accepting limits
Cuz someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I’ll never know,
come with me. Think of what we could do -together!
Together we’re unlimited
Together we’ll be the greatest team
There’s ever been
Dreams the way we planned ’em
If we work in tandem
There’s no fight we cannot win
Just you and I, defying gravity
With you and I defying gravity
They’ll never bring us down!”
Also on the same day we were waling our usual walk to work and were approaching a point where there are lots of overhanging branches, a narrow path and it was bin day so Fable slowed down as she usually does. However, this time she came to a stop just before we got to the narrow section. I praised her, checked but couldn’t see why she had stopped, asked her “forward” which she did but very reluctantly and then stopped again. This happened about 3 times along this narrow stretch until on the last stop she actually sat down and looked at me over her right shoulder as if to say “I’m trying to tell you something”. I looked ahead and could something green completely blocking the path. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I praised Fable and said it her; “its ok, I see it now, forward, find a way”. She got up and more confidently went forward. When we got to the obstacle it was in fact a barrier for road works which blocked the whole path but they had created a safe footpath into the road with a barrier. Fable stopped again at this point so I praised and asked her forward, she expertly guided me off the kerb, past the works and back onto the path again. What a clever girl she is; I am beginning to trust her judgement, especially when she does something like this that I’m not expecting.
We had another trip to town on the bus this week and I saw for myself how guide dogs really do recognise other guide dogs as Fable pulled me gently towards someone. I noticed he also had a guide dog. We had a lovely chat and found that we lived close to each other and in fact went to the same school. it really is a small world and it will be lovely for me to have an experienced GD owner near by for some support and advice, and maybe the odd free runs so that Fable can play with his dog.
Fable had her first trip to hairdressers, well it was me who had the hair cut not fable. She did really well and settled down nicely getting her reward of some fuss when we had finished. One of the things I’m finding tricky at the moment is that Fable tends to like to lie stretched out in places where its not safe or convenient for her to do this such as in the hairdressers, on buses and when I’m waiting to pay at checkouts. When I ask her to sit and wait, she does but slides down into her stretched out, frog position which means she is in the way and in danger of getting trodden on. I’m seeing my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor this week for our review and this is something I really need some advice on.
On Friday we attended our first meeting/presentation day for work off site. I was actually quite worried about whether Fable would settle and whether I’d be able to stand up to do my little introduction without her trying to follow me or whining. Once again she surprised me. I put her lead around the table leg while I did my little introduction and the stayed put by my chair the whole afternoon. There was a bit of squeaking but I asked the lady presenting afterwards if it had bother her and she said no, she has experienced far more disruptive behaviour from human audiences 🙂 The meeting was full of physiotherapists and they did a great job of ignoring her until after the presentations had finished; some physio loving is always a great reward!
This week we also managed to get to the gym before work and be on time, which is a massive achievement considering only 3 weeks ago I never would have thought this possible. Everything is getting quicker and I’m really pleased I will be able to get back to doing 2 or 3 strength training sessions before work.
Our week ended yesterday with another very successful and enjoyable free run in the same place as last week. This week some family friends took us. They use to have a lovable Golden Retriever whom I remember very fondly from my childhood, and so they were use to walking dogs and were brilliant at giving me a commentary about what was going on and where Fable was. I’m really starting to trust her as she doesn’t really go far and is apparently always looking to see where I am and her recall is still spot on, even when she was distracted and sprinting towards a lady calling her dog with a squeaky toy I was able to get her to come back.
I’m really looking forward to seeing my GDMI on Friday, I hope she will see how much we have improved; I feel like we really have taken a big step forward this week, but its always nice to get some reassurance. I have quite a few questions for her so I think we might need a large coffee at the end of our harness walk – just so that she can help me positioning Fable in tight spaces of course 🙂