Monday, March 5, 2018
This is the third week of training, and routes are now getting more tailored to individual needs.
Monday morning, we worked in downtown Rochester, focusing on having obstacles on the left so that “L” could work on moving me to the right to avoid them. We had to rework only one, and she is gaining confidence. A typical Monday “back at the office” – she did miss stopping at a few curbs, but, again, this speaks to our newness together and the fact that these are still early days.
Monday afternoon, I had a choice to work in either Detroit and experience the People Mover train (like the Vancouver SkyTrain,) or do more country travel with varying types of edges such as dirt, gravel, and grass. Since we had no problems with country travel earlier, I opted to go into Detroit.
“L” was amazing!! I was working with a different trainer, so “L” wasn’t distracted by “trainer love”. We navigated through busy noisy streets with loud music, planters, sandwich boards, restaurant smells, and people; we went through turnstiles, onto the train platform, worked the platform edge making sure she kept me back from the open drop-off; took the train, and worked an elevator and flights of stairs. “L” is a very solid dog. She didn’t shy at walking on grates and was very confident. She planned and executed moves around things that were in our path so smoothly that I was often unaware of what she had done. When I did feel her move around things, it was smooth and just a beautiful thing! It felt like poetry in motion – it made me cry. Saturday was the beginning of trust, and today was the beginning of love. I am so proud of “L”!
In the evening, we had an optional night walk in downtown Rochester. Although it is no different for those of us who are totally blind, it makes a big difference for those with some usable daytime vision. More importantly, though, it is dramatically different for the dogs – reflections from car headlights make things look different, shadows can spook some of the dogs, what looks like a normal garbage can by day can look different at night, etc. Of course, I said yes. It was the same route as this morning, only in the dark. “L” aced it! She stopped at every curb, ignored two very large dogs, and wasn’t particularly distracted by her trainer. It was chilly, but a wonderful walk. Very nice work.
At the beginning of training, I described the use of training treats to reward and reinforce good work and behaviour. Up until now, I have been treating “L” at every curb stop and for ignoring major distractions or for when she does an especially good job at something. Of course, she ALWAYS gets lots of verbal and physical praise as well. Now I am moving to intermittent treats. Eventually, treats will be phased out and used only for “targeting,” which I described recently. Once home, I will likely increase the use of treats again as she adjusts to our home life, but I will gradually cut them back as she becomes comfortable. But right now, this is excellent progress. I am so proud of my girl!
“L” and I are feeling good together. She is really starting to work for ME now and not look so much for her trainer. This is part of our growing bond, which is built on mutual love and respect. It is a wonderful feeling. Just a few more days, and then we get to go home. I think we’re almost ready!