Highlights From Guide Dog School # 7

March 22, 2011 Let’s Go To the Mall!
Little did I know there was so much to learn at the mall with a guide dog! I usually avoid malls because they are so visually confusing, but Sophie handled the mall just fine! And she was a well-behaved shopper! First we went to Target- all 13 of us with our guide dogs. We were a sight to behold and every child in there was squealing about the “doggies” Mothers were trying to explain to their children about “no petting” while the dog is working. This is proper etiquette for the public and it is well known around here since the guide dogs are always out and about town. We are supposed to try to “teach” our local public how to respond to the dog. The dogs are so beautiful and irresistible and friendly. People always want to pet them…but petting is a no-no when the dog is in harness. There are a couple of reasons…one is it distracts them from their work and concentration which could put the person at risk. In Detroit while crossing a HUGE intersection, someone wanted to stop and pet Sophie! People are really bold and impulsive about it. All I wanted to do was get across that road safely! Another reason is that the dogs will learn to solicit attention while in harness-‘cuz what beautiful dog does not want attention? Then it encourages attention seeking behaviors… So we learned how to use a shopping cart while working a dog, how to put them in a sit at the counter when paying, and how to “follow” someone you may be shopping with. My instructor had me give the “follow” command and then zig-zagged all over the store. Sophie stayed right at his heels and enjoyed the game of it! This will be a helpful skill when Kev and I go out shopping or to a restaurant etc. Sophie will learn to follow Kevin. Then we went to the mall and practiced elevators, escalators, stairs, and the follow command. Sophie weaved in and out of the crowd with grace and ease. It is recommended that we avoid escalators whenever possible but they showed us how to use them if we have to in a way to protect their paws. The mall was very busy and over stimulating for the dogs, but Sophie remained focused.

I got my first email from the family that raised Sophie! it was a quick one and I will be getting more info, but this is what I know so far. She was raised in Sioux Falls S. D. The woman is a nurse and has four older kids. She said “they prayed for someone to love Sophie as much as they do”. I am very excited to talk more with her and learn more about Sophie. Oh and she said she will send photos of her puppyhood… Well, the other day we received our handmade, custom leather harnesses…they are really, really nice looking. In the next few days we will be doing exit interviews and signing our contracts for our dogs and receiving our diplomas. They do not do a ceremony here as some schools do…it is low-key. On Friday afternoon, I will arrive home with Sophie. Kevin has been busy getting her supplies ready at home. I feel ready and want to get home to show her around her new home and family. I am SO excited for you all to meet her…but they advise us to keep it quiet for a few days…to not introduce the dog to too many new things and people all at once. i will have a week off at home with her so that will help her adjustment. Time to close for now…hope you are all well Big Hugs from me and Wet Kisses from Sophie! Audrey/Mom
March 23, 2011 Sophie Goes to College
Today in the freezing rain, we went to a nearby college campus to work the dogs. More stairs, elevators and crowded hallways during class changes. We learned a technique called “patterning” which is to teach your dog a specific location or site or landmark that you may frequent. Basically it is to teach them a “find the…” command that is specific to your life. For instance I could pattern Sophie to “find the clinic” upon arrival to school and she would take me right there without any other commands needed. It only takes a few minutes and a few tasty doggie cookies to do it! Things are winding down and I do feel ready to come home. Tomorrow we will learn how to enter vehicles with your dog, do exit interviews and other paperwork. I have a date with several old classmates who i haven’t seen for over 30 years…they are taking me out to dinner and coming to meet Sophie. It should be a great time! Then it is up, up and away back to Georgia. So you may not hear any more from me until i am home. So take care and see you soon! Love, Sophie and Audrey

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