Saturday, 21 November 2009

Guide Dog Training: Week 1

Well I'm back from the hotel and will sum up my week day by day. In conclusion though, I'm truly exhausted!

Arrived at the Holiday Inn in Leamington Spa late thanks to my dad being stubborn and refusing to use the sat nav! On arrival I met Mitch my trainer and we did a bit of mobility around the hotel. After lunch I was shown some obedience with Mitch at the end of the handle and then finally I got to see Calvin again.

I was left in my room with him for half an hour and the mad lab cross retriever clearly couldn’t have been more excited to see me. Extreme tail wagging, sniffing and legging it up and down the room. I heard him drinking in the bathroom and wondered to myself I can't remember any water being left out for him…he was only drinking out the toilet! Urgh! There after the lid remained firmly down!

After doing some obedience with him we got to go on a walk in a quiet estate. To be honest I can't remember details of it now, but I enjoyed walking with him again.

One drags herself out of bed at 7am after constantly waking up throughout the night just to check the dog was ok. Which he was, of course. We took a trip to the Guide dogs training centre and did some obedience work around there. As we were leaving to go on a walk, the DM appeared and claimed he had nothing to do, so jumped in the car with us. No pressure eh! On the walk Calvin was ok, but not fantastic. He did a busy, which apparently he never did on walks, sniffed a fair bit and over shot some curbs. On a brighter note Mitch took the support lead off and I hadn't even noticed that I was flying solo with him!

Later we did another walk in a quiet area and practised indenting. Calvin generally didn't need correcting, but again did a busy, sniffed a lot and over shot curbs. At this point I realised it wasn't going to be as easy as I hoped!

Erm my memories letting me down! Oh yes now I remember! We walked from the Guide Dogs centre into town. This gave me an opportunity to test Calvin on steps and we went into a shopping centre. Whilst waiting for Mitch outside the toilets I got my first awwww isn't he gorgeous and suddenly I can't read so I'll stroke your dog who is in harness and clearly has a great big sign saying 'I'm working, don't bloody touch me'! I tried to stay calm and say nicely 'please don't stroke him', but the woman seemed a bit offended! Get over it love!

Again, Calvin spent on the walk and was over shooting curbs. It was getting quite frustrating and I wasn't sure what I could do to make it all better! In the afternoon we did an obstacle course that Calvin found completely uninteresting and decided to eat the berries on the bushes instead. He did walk me into a few things, but it was a good opportunity to learn how to teach him to watch it! Afterwards we did another walk in a quiet area and I had the chance to correct him when he walked me into over hanging bushes.

I'm very tired by this point and just dying to go home! This was the most challenging day for me and exhausting too. We walked to the train station and on route had to go through the park. Pretty cruel working your Guide Dog through a place where they just want to run around and play with all the other dogs that get to have fun. Naturally, Calvin tried his luck by attempting to go on the grass, chase dogs, birds and anything flying in general and by the time we got out my arm was throbbing from all the pulling! He didn't wince at the train station and fitted in-between the seats, but only because they seemed wider than your regular train.

We walked down to Warwick high street and stopped off for coffee. Well hot chocolate in my case. He did some great work around scaffolding and people, but was still over stepping some curbs and attempting to kill us both!

After the break we walked back from Warwick to the Guide Dog training centre, which was quite a trek. Calvin suddenly decided that he needed to find things for me and thought we needed to go in every shop and stopped at every crossing, which were not in his straight line of travel.

That afternoon we got to do traffic where a car is driven at you and you and the dog are meant to stay still so we don't get squashed. Well, Calvin sort of enjoys the danger I think, as it took a few goes before he realised we're not meant to move!

Thank god! First thing we did was traffic and Calvin had improved. We then did a walk in Kenilworth, which I'm sure I've spelt wrong. We went from a quiet estate into the town and Calvin deserved a gold star! Finally, he figured out how to sit at curbs and didn't do a busy on the walk. He lost a couple of points when he walked me into a post and bush, but was good on correction.

I got to hear him bark for the first time though, which made me jump a little. When we got out of a shop he saw a guy playing ball with a lab across the road. He couldn't contain his jealousy and barked refusing to move forward. Bless.

Home sweet home, but no rest for the wicked. We walked to the newsagents in Cosby and then onto the post office. He found the doors no problem, but wasn't impressed when we were walking home and slowed down a fair bit. On route we also tried teaching him to find the post box.
After a short break we then did a block route. He was in great form and it went nice and smoothly.

He's settled in well at home and seems to get bored of me in my room, so spends most of his time downstairs. It's been a long week and I get tomorrow off thankfully, but still have to get up and feed, spend and groom the dog. It's a big responsibility owning a Guide Dog, but although so far it's been tough with my highs and lows, there's no way I'll be giving him back! The feeling of flying through the streets is amazing and makes getting around that much easier. I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Jennifer said...

Hey Selina
I was thinking about you during the week and wondering how you were getting on.
I bet your exhausted. Its probably the busiest week you'll ever have! Glad your enjoying having him though.

Get used to people trying to pet him when they shouldn't! It just comes with being a guide dog owner, no matter how many times you tell people they just don't listen. So does getting up early to feed. If your lucky you can just go back to bed after.
How is your brother getting on with him? Have you gotten used to his name yet? I bet you like it now.

Torie said...

Kalvan sounds like a bad raskle!!!!!!!!!!! How many more weeks do you have at the training?

Oh my god the traffic thing sounds scary!!!!!! Why do you have to do that?

Take care, xoxox

Terri said...

its interesting to compare what you did to what i did. I think you should of trained with the other 2 people as it would have been more enjoyable.

I remember the first time i got Uma on that first day, she was more interested in looking out the window and listening to her doggy friends wine and bark in the rooms then bothering with me! She also kept running to the door when she heard the trainers voice outside. We got about 2 hours i think to bond with our dogs on the first day but we were there 10 days.

You get used to getting up at 7. I wonder if Calvin will eventually come upstairs to let you know? lol Uma wakes me up in the morning by coming up to the bed with a toy in her mouth and then she will poke me with it or i feel her bashing the bed with her tail! and the moment i move she starts growling with excitment to see me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Selina,

I do agree with the responsibility being a big one, however it does get a lot easier as the months go on!


Anonymous said...



I found your blog in April and I have read it since then. I wish you good luck with your new friend and with your studies.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, that brought back some tiring memories. Dear old Vance didn't desperately enjoy his ten days at Barnett Hill in August (he was one of the two dogs Uma was listening to...). I, on the other hand, had a plendid (if mentally exhausting) time, and particularly miss the evening meals with my two fellow classmates. Just three months on it all seems a world away.

Robert and Vance

Lena Welch said...

Well Done on your first week of training many more years of happiness and freedom for you, I hope it was worth the wait.