Wednesday May 20
Today we worked on a real route. Guide Dogs has something called The Downtown Lounge, which is a building in downtown San Rafael, where our class goes to train. It’s purpose is for us to have a home base. There are 6 people per guide dog class and only 3 instructors, so each instructor has 2 students. The instructor can only work with one student at a time, so while one student is working, the other can stay at the lounge.
We all took the GDB vans downtown to the lounge to work with our dogs. When it was my turn, I had to put Freesia in a crate for a while while we did some Juno training to improve some of my handling skills. Juno training is when the instructor holds the harness where the dog would be, and the student can then work on gestures and commands for the dog with the instructor, so as not to impact the dog if they are incorrect or need improvement. Juno training can also be used to practice hypothetical situations so that when they arise, the handler knows how to appropriately navigate them.
We worked on perfecting some of my turn commands, and then we went back to the lounge to get my dog. Finally, we worked on my route, which was walking to a coffee shop called Royal Grounds.
The first time we walked there, my instructor gave me direction on how to get there as we went along. Freesia did much better in obeying my commands than she did yesterday. Later that afternoon, we walked my route to the coffee shop again and I remembered much of it. My instructor was with me the entire time.
Also, just as a side note, we give the dogs a lot of food reward. When they stop to notify us of an obstacle, curb, or stairs, we get into halt position (toward the dog’s shoulders), move our left foot up to probe for what they are indicating, and then praise the dog and reward with food.
Tomorrow we will do the same route again.
I also groomed Freesia tonight. I brushed her fur and got out any hair that was loose. I took time so it took about 10 minutes, and I think it was a good bonding experience for us. I love her more and more every day, and I think she feels the same way. It feels that we are becoming much more connected as we work together and she guides me.
Wednesday May 20