Highlights From Guide Dog School #1

March 6, 2011 Day of Arrival
Greetings from Leader Dogs in Michigan. It is snowy and about 30 degrees. It was a close one getting on the plane in time because the train broke down at the airport. I think they were holding the plane for me! But all has gone well since then. I just met the other students at dinner. We are 5 men and 3 ladies from all over the US. I am the only “first timer”…all the rest have had as many as 7 dogs! They all speak very highly of LD and the whole experience. My instructor is Kevin ūüôā and he will just have 2 students. So I think it will be great training. We begin in earnest tomorrow after breakfast. Kevin did tell me that my dog is “very lovable” I cannot wait to meet him/her!!!
So are you proud?…i figured out MAGIC all by myself and am using it right now…look out world, here I come! So I will be able to email after all so please everybody write me so I know what is going on while i am out of the loop. And thank you all for your support in this new adventure. I hope it will also be a good experience for the ones I love at home. Take care, love Me, Mom, Audrey
March 7, 2011 The Excitement Builds
Hello all! I will begin to send out daily news from Leader Dog training now. Today was our first day and it was a great day! Of course we are beginning with the basics-feeding, watering, and parking the dog (lingo for going potty). I practiced with a real dog how to walk on a lead and do simple corrections and obedience. Then we learned the equipment; care and use of the harness and special leash. The coolest thing of all today was we received our own GPS devices. It is also a MP3 player that has all the lectures on it. The device is called the Kapten¬†and we are the first class to receive this state-of-the-art equipment. It is really going to be wonderful to use. It will tell you where you are and how long it will take to reach your destination on foot. You can enter landmarks and create your own routes. Very slick! Well, I woke up at 5:30 this am and did not sleep well-I guess because I am excited ūüôā I also woke up with a catch in my back that has gotten steadily worse today. I am hitting the Naprosyn and ice tonight to see if I can’t head it off. It would be a bad time for back pain while handling a large, excited dog!
The instructors are young, energetic and very passionate about what they do here. They are taking great care of us and making it fun. The weather today was sunny and crisp-invigorating really…I enjoyed being outside. So one more day until dog day-woo hoo! Everybody is excited to meet their dog and the instructors are being very tight-lipped about our dogs-no hints-even though we keep trying to pry info from them ha ha ha Write when you can…I am going to hit the hay now…much love and hugs to all, Audrey

From Puppy to Professional

Sophie as a puppy with her puppy-raiser family.

Sophie as a puppy with her puppy-raiser family.

¬†¬†It will soon be the third anniversary of when Sophie and I became a working team. I have been reflecting on all the ways she has changed and enriched my life. We have come a long way both separately and together in our respective journeys. Sophie has worked very hard to become a confident and competent professional. Much time and effort¬†went in to training and preparing her to be an elite service animal. Receiving¬† such a guide dog from Leader Dogs has been among the greatest gifts and blessings in my life. A special thanks goes to her loving and dedicated puppy raising family, the Gaeckles of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They nurtured and invested in Sophie for the first year of her life, giving her every opportunity to be a successful guide dog.¬† And then…they gave her up so that she could change my life….a selfless¬† act of service, indeed. I am forever grateful for this incredible creature who guides me, keeps me safe, loves me and is completely devoted to me. There is no other relationship like the special bond between a service animal and their owner. And it is a great privilege¬† to be¬† Sophie’s recipient/owner/momma.¬†I thought it might be interesting to¬†share “Highlights from Guide Dog School” in honor of the upcoming anniversary. This will be a series of posts which were emails I sent home to family and friends while I was at Leader Dog to get my first guide dog (Sophie).¬†I left them casual¬† and largely unedited on purpose. I will let them speak for themselves…enjoy!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Lions Club Presentation

Lions Club Presentation

Perfect For Each Other

 

Always smiling!

Always smiling!

My guide dog Sophie is amazing.  As we trained together to become a team, she wowed and captivated me with her sharp skills, attentive gaze, and beautiful face.

I was certain she was the right dog for me from the very start.

And I was so excited to begin my life with her. I had no idea what it took to become a good team. As I learned the intricacies of being a dog handler from Sophie and the instructors, I began to realize the complexities of this new relationship. Continue reading

Independence May be Overrated

I used to be a fiercely independent type. When I received my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa and the possibility of blindness registered, I panicked. What would life be like if I could not do ‚Äúmy own thing‚ÄĚ on ‚Äúmy own schedule‚ÄĚ in ‚Äúmy own way‚ÄĚ? Little did I know at the time. Gradually, as my vision receded, so did my confidence, my out-going spirit, my freedom and my independence. There is so much to learn¬† in order to be ‚Äúindependent‚ÄĚ as¬† a visually impaired person: how to use technology, how to use a white cane, how to use public transportation, how to cook safely, how to use a ¬†guide dog, how to ask for help‚Ķit takes courage and motivation and gumption to restore a level of independence in the face of vision loss. But there is more to the equation. Continue reading