Highlights from Guide Dog School # 6

March 17, 2011-Sophie is Testing Me Now!
Phew…I feel like i have been wrestling crocodiles all day!! My arms are sore and I have blisters on my hands because Sophie was a real pill today! Her trainer left for a conference and I swear she knew. She acted totally different today…she did not want to walk and I could not get her to sit or follow commands. They told us we would have these days and would have to be patient and persevere. I know Sophie knows how to do everything…I just have to convince her she cannot get away with anything with me. One of the trainers who has been doing this for 30 years pulled me aside and had a “word ” with me. He told me I needed to make her obey immediately and that my voice is too sweet and “requesting” rather than ‘commanding”. I will be doing extra obedience exercises for a while. Richard pointed out that I have a busy job to go home to and will not have time to constantly be fussing with Sophie so she must learn her manners! i really appreciated the advice and will practice my “command tone” ( watch out Kev!) I am not discouraged as it seems everyone is dealing with similar issues. Sophie did a lot right today too! Oh yeah…I fell twice today …once was Sophie’s fault and the other was my own. I did not get hurt, only embarrassed! Sophie had a physical with the Vet today. She weighs 49lbs which is her target weight. She has not had ANY health issues since birth. Then we had our photo taken for our official ID badge. This is the ID I am supposed to carry to prove she is a guide dog and I am her handler. Other students talk about experiences when they have been asked to leave stores or restaurants because of their dog. It can get ugly sometimes and the ID can help. it is against the law to deny a blind person with their guide, access to a public place. I can’t believe in this day and age, it still happens but it does. We had a really nice corned beef and cabbage dinner for St. Patrick’s Day. We went to Main Street to work the dogs and the town started their Happy Hour early! The streets were packed and very loud…it was very overwhelming for me and Sophie to navigate through the crowds. I was totally blinded by the sun and truly relied on Sophie. it was a bit scary, but she knows her stuff and made the crossings beautifully. Well, luck of the Irish to y’all. Lots of love too…Audrey/Mom
March 19, 2011-All is Well!

Hi everybody! I am fine…the training has kicked up a few notches and we have had some very long days. I have also been busy helping to take the Spanish group (from Spain) shopping during free times. The weather has been wonderful but all that will change today with ice storms a’comin’. I believe Sophie has “turned over” to me. She stays so close as to always have contact with me in some small way. When she sits under the table at meals now she lays her head on my shoe…it’s so cute! And she is more obedient now that I have been really working on that. We have been doing so many things …let’s see if I can recap a bit… The dogs have learned the “find the…chair, door, elevator, escalator, bench, etc” command. Sophie does it like a pro-she leads me to it and then touches it ever so slightly with her nose to indicate it…so cute! We have been working an obstacle course where Sophie leads me around objects without bumping into them. She also alerts to gaps or holes, cracks, overhanging branches etc. She does it all so well. Yesterday we went to Detroit-very big, urban atmosphere. I think Sophie is a city girl because she really likes it. We worked escalators, stairs, elevators, turnstyles, a people mover train and very busy intersections. No problems at all-in fact Sophie knew what to do better than I did!
Last night we did night travel and it was a long day! We all had to walk a 3 block square route alone with our dog. When we were getting ready to go out, I grabbed my cane (instead of Sophie)…the instructor saw me in the hall and said…”Audrey-what are you forgetting??” Oh my gosh!!! I was tired I guess and not thinking…but we all laughed so hard and he said it was a “first” that a student forgot to bring their dog!!! The other students have NOT let me live it down!!! Anyway-the night walk was really interesting for me and I learned a lot. One, that I need to let Sophie do her job…she knows where the curbs are etc. I had trouble judging distances and passed a few curbs even though Sophie tried to alert me to them. I tried to turn and ended up in an alleyway and Sophie knew it wasn’t right…she turned me back around. I was quite disoriented because things were not where I thought they should be…Gotta go! Love to all, Audrey and Sophie!

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