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just trucking along

Hi everyone.

You'll be glad to know that I am still alive and kicking. Life is going alright and I am certainly feeling a lot better since the last entry that I wrote in this journal. I've ben meaning to write, but you know, best of intentions plus exhaustion equals no writing whatsoever. My BFF informed me that I've hardly let anyone know what's been goingon. I hadn't even called her all weekend.

I feel like all of the days have been mixing together. We went to a town called cation which is a dog friendly town with nice walking. I'd like to live there. Actually, I'd like to live in a town in my state called poulsbo where all of the shops are scrunched together and it makes for absolutely perfect walking and transportation. You know, unless you want to go somewhere that isn't in immediate walking distance or ever wish to leave the town.

We went back to Catona on Friday night for our night route which was cut in half because of the torrential rain from Heaven. Good Lord, this place gets rain. I don't want to hear anyone from New York ever complain about washington getting a lot of rain. We get a nice mist with the yearly boom of thunder. New York gets the dam that burst from the sky, with lots of lightning and thunder. I'll take where I live any day of the week over that!

I started my route nicely with a twisted ankle. My dog did an excellent job though and he was totally awesome about getting me to where I needed to go. After our walk, we all went back to campus and I iced the ankle. I have also been having some trouble with my other foot and on Saturday I wrapped both. I swear it feels like I'm just breaking down sometimes.

On Saturday we did country travel. I hate shorelining, but it's necessary. Basically the travel is to help you in case you don't have a sidewalk area to walk in. The dogs stay as close as possible to the side of the road. We did more practice with the clicker which still feels like a mystery to me. It will be great to work on targeting the mailbox in the local post office though!

Saturday afternoon we practiced teeth brushing, ear cleaning, and pilling our dogs. I am an expert pillar. Been there, done that. We also worked on putting on booties for them in case it is too cold or hot on the pavement for them to walk.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that on Friday we had the vet lecture and physicals for our dogs. Lester is totally healthy. I'm still in the process of switching him over to the lamb and rice food rather than the bland. it's going slowly but his stools are much better.

Lester was born on June 20, 2009, making him 26 months old. He weighs 72 pounds. I thought he was bigger than Vince but maybe he just has more bulk and a big head. We all know I suck at judging these things to begin with.

Graduation is coming up soon and somehow I managed to put myself in the position of coordinator of making sure we all know when we are speaking. How'd that happen?

I feel like I am bonding with my classmates. It's really nice and a lot of fun. They are really wonderful people with some adorable dogs.

Finally, yesterday was Sunday, or as I like to say 'Sleep day!' I slept all day practically, and then geeked out with fellowship of the Ring.

Today we worked on escalator training. Six more days and then I'm home.

Take care, everyone. I'll chat with you all very soon. Thank you for the emails, comments, tweets, and FB comments. They mean a lot to me. You guys rock. Ready to go home with the Lester dog. I love his name. He's more of a Lester than he is a Les. I knew that it'd eventually grow on me.

Keep out of trouble!

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second week brick wall

Life just keeps trucking along at Guiding Eyes. I have to admit that right now I'm in a pretty irritated frame of mind. It's the second week, I would really just like to go home, and I'm kind of hitting my wall.

Our day starts at six where we park the dogs, come back in to feed and water them, then take them out to park once more. We're still learning their rhythms and how they seem to operate. After that we go to Alumni Hall for obedience exercises. We're upping the ante by having them do obedience work while an instructor bounces balls aroun d. It's going to get a lot more interesting when they start adding food and dog distractions. Lester did well with it, but I'm sure that he'll get distracted sooner or later. I'm really happy with his work and initiative.

Then we go to breakfast around seven, then get ready for the day and going to White plains. Somewhere in between all of that, we need to get ready for the day. Getting dressed, looking pretty, getting ourselves together and all of that jazz. I really am struggling with this. I don't know how people make it out there and back before I'm done when it comes to parking.

The trip to white plains is about 45 minutes or so, maybe a little more if there is traffic. Then we wait for the order of the day, sit around and talk until it is our turn for a walk that takes about 45 minutes. Around 12 we have luncuh and are usually heading out for the afternoon route. We load up around 3 to come back to yorktown Heights. Of course in between that is watering the dog, parking them, etc. Once back on campus, we usually feed, water, and park them again, then have maybe 40 minutes until dinner. It never seems to be long enough in between times. Then it's off to dinner, at 5, lecture at 6, park at 7:30. Tonight there is yoga and I did sign up for it, but I think that I don't want to be around people right now.

Our routes have been going well. I'm still getting in Lester's space when we are making our curb approaches. This morning, I crossed a plus-shaped intersection that has an advanced right on red when the parallel goes. So of course I didn't wait the way that I was supposed to. I could have sworn I heard my parallel traffic go from in front of me to behind. I crossed and cars were turning in front of me. I hate making mistakes. I start worrying that maybe I have no idea of how to cross a street. Lester did a good job of slowing when he saw the cars and we made it across safely. I've crossed that street many times and have done well. His clearance work is really good as well and I feel wonderful when walking with him.

We're going to try out a different harness handle tomorrow to hopefully help with the fact that I am probably too far up around his shoulders instead of in perfect following position. I hope that helps.

This afternoon we did our routes independently. I'd memorized the route, and we had the opportunity to walk our dogs without input of the instructors. Of course they weren't too far behind. I think the person who trained Lester followed me because he kept turning his head to look behind us. I only had to give him a forward correction once, and judging from his usual behavior when around her, that was a good sign. I could tell that we were really in tuned with one another. I was giving him the support and feedback that he needed along with food reward. For those of you who are familiar with the hospital route, he did some awesome pedestrian clearance work on Distraction Mile. Of course I got to our big crossing and heard my parallel traffic go from front to back. I crossed and cars turned in front of me anyway. So now I am just unsure of myself. I'll ask the instructor about it tomorrow. I didn't get feedback on how the walk went, but I really think that overall we really did a great job.

Lester's stools are still loose. I spoke with the supervisor and we'll likely switch him from the bland stuff to the regular dog food and see what happens. If that doesn't work, we'll speak with the vet.

Week two can be stressful in terms of class dynamics. nerves can be frazzled and it can get challenging. I know it will get better but right now I'd like to barricade myself in my room until the apocalypse. I've got enough books to make it to that point, too.

So, as much as I should probably go and do some yoga, I'm going to be a hermit, lock myself away from the human world, and hope that I feel better tomorrow. Also, the LJ ap is pissing me off beyond belief. it works one minute, and decides it doesn't work the next. I think I'm taking this crap off of my phone. GRRRRR.

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Just checking In

The past few days have felt like a breeze to me.  I know that I haven't written since our first walk, but things have been going very well.  I have been extremely tired after our days and just want to sleep and sleep and sleep.  There is a lot of hurry up and wait and much downtime, but it's all good.

Our walks have continued to go extremely well although I have some things to work on, particularly my left turns.  It's hard to make that left turn at the same time.  I also tend to crowd him when we get to the street corners.  it is my natural inclination to rush across the street since I obviously have it in my head that Im going to get hit if I don't haul tail.

Yesterday was a day of rest for the both of us.  I had breakfast and then slep until water and park.  then I took him out, came back, chatted with someone and fell asleep again.  I feel like all I did was stay in bed all day.  I don't think people realize how challenging and exhausting guide dog school can be, but it's prety major.  

Today we're back at it and I just had lunch.  I'm getting to know my classmates better as well.  although to some extent I am feeling the third week meltdown brewing.  

This morning, Lester was whining a lot.  He's also been whining when I have to correct him.  I'm not so much worried about that but he was whining so much that I had a flashback of how things had gon e with Vince and freaked out in my head.  I was all prepared to have this long conversation with my instructor but Lester started panting.  Poor baby was telling me that he desperately needed to go out.  The medicine is still working through his system and he is still on the bland food.  He also is not having firm stools which makes me concerned.  I'm sure you all just were dying to know that weren't you?

Last night at lecture we talked about street crossings and traffic.  I try to be a confident street crosser, but I sometimes second guess myself and have a little moment of panic s I'm stepping off of the curb .  

Overall, things are going well and the encouragement just makes me feel all the better.  I need more photos of Lester but am not sure of how to take  them and it feels like things are too busy for me to ask an instructor, but hopefully soon.

Thanks for reading, and I'll check in again soon.synchronize the movement of my body, gesture, and then.

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First walk

Hi everyone.

What a wonderful day this has been. But first, let me tell you about last night.

We did a lot of bonding exercises with our dogs last night. We started clicker training, which is fun and still the most challenging thing for me to attempt to explain. Basically, if you would like for the dog to start targeting items like a chair or the door to a room in a hotel or in this case a dorm, we make it in to a fun game. We might say 'chair', and touch our hand to it. When the dog bumps our hand which is at the edge of a chair, we click without he clicker and then give immediate food reward. It is felt that dogs learn a little faster when food is involved and I am inclined to agree. We also did a lot of playtime in the grooming room after dinner.

Lester is a very energetic dog. At first I was worried that this might be another Vince situation. I know that it isn't, but I do walk a fine line between wanting togive this dog a fair chance and freaking out when I think I notice anything that Vince may have done. I reallyt want this match to work out and am trying hard not to be some kind of neurotic. I know that the school is working hard to make certain that this is a good match and that I need to have a little faith. It isn't something that is crippling my progress though, but I'd be remiss if I said that I didn't worry at all. I have always wanted to be honest about my experiences at guide dog school. It is an awesome experience, but there are a lot of emotions that go with it. There is the positive, lik,e happiness and warmth, and practicall;y falling in love with your dog, but there are the negatives too. There are bad days, sadness, frustration, annoyance, and much more. But all of those times bleend together to make this the experience that it is and I can be no less than honest.

Lester has some adorable playtime habits. We were in the grooming room and he couldn't figure out what toy he wanted to play with, so he knocked over the entire basket. He would then grab the toys, one by one, and let me throw them. This dog also plays a vicious tug of war! He would take the toys and then put them right back in the basket. If I threw one, he jumped on the bench and walked around as though doing a victory lap. It was incredibly fun to watch.

Today, we had our first walk. The instructor had a support leash attached to the dog, but our walk went really well. lester's pace is perfect. He seems to love working, and he followed my commands. His curb approaches were wonderful as well. For those of you who have been here before, we did he hospital route. The walk was really great and I am very happy with the results. We'll have another wlak this afternoon. I love working with the instructors. I feel really good and can't wait for our walk this afternoon.some sort of victory lap

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The Lester Dog

yesterday I wrote this amazing journal entry talking about dog day and receiving Lester, then either the iPhone, safari, or the LJ mobile site ate it. believe me, I was pissed. So I am writing this again. If my posts get eaten one more time, I'm not updating this anymore. I don't want to use the school's computers because it is a lot of extra work. I don't have energy or time to spare. So you guys tell LJ to do right.

I received a male black lab named Lester yesterday. He's a big dog with a nice coat. He has a long bushy tail and I think he's bigger than the Vince dog. I cringed inside when I heardhis name. It is not the bundle of cuteness that I was expecting for a guide dog to have. I think that he may become a Les when I get homed but we will see. The name didn't matter once that ball of fur came bounding toward me. He is totally adorable and I can already feel myself bonding with him. I was worried about that, wanting to keep an emotional distance just in case this doesn't work out, but I've never been good at that. I am an extremely demonstrative person and will show it at every opportunity. I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve.

I'm just going to warn you that I'll be talking a lot of shit in this journal. literally. Lester has Geardea which is a parasite and is pretty common sometimes when they have been in the kennels. This is also quite a transition for him. He's on a bland food right now and is taking medication. I know all about this because I'v employed this game before when I got Vince. He'll be on the medication for a few days and hopefully that will clear up.

He peed but wouldn't poop at all for me. Fortunately, he remedied that this morning. He's shy and doesn't like to go in front of the ladies.

Last night I crashed really hard. I woke up a few times to hear him tossing and turning in the kennel, but overall he slept well. Guiding Eyes has changed the schedule around and have implemented some new training strategies. Instead of going out to White Plains to work withthe dogs, we're spending the day doing relationship building exercises. I was a little disappointed at first. I want to work my dog darn it! After thinking about it and having it explained, i think that I agree. These dogs are new to us and it is a transition. It's probably a good idea to work on that relationship before just throwing them in to the harness.

Speaking of harnesses, Lester practically jumped in to his! I have heard some whining yesterday and today but I think that it is pretty normal and will certainly keep an ear out in case it becomes an issue. The instructors are very happy about the way that he is bonding with me. I'm happy about it as well. Currently, he's flopped on the floor asleep. Think I might join him.

Alright LJ. don't fail me now!

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Hello again darlings!

Today was a pretty busy day for us but it was also a time of really getting to know each other. I have a feeling that these entries are going to be some pretty short ones, but at least I'm getting my feelings down. It's fun to look back on these things later on and realize just what you felt at a given moment.

Today we had our juno walks. A juno walk is when the instructor drapes a harness over their arm and you walk with them so that they can gauge your pace and how you move. It is also a time where you can answer questions about what you are looking for in a dog, the types of environments where you will be working said dog, and share any concerns that you may have. Believe me, I have a lot of concerns. Sometimes I feel a little neurotic. What if issues develop inclass again? What if we don't bond? Of course I know that I can go to my instructors with any concerns and certainly plan to, but some of it is just nerves. I know that things will work out. This is not an easy thing for humans or dogs alike. A lot of transition has taken place and now we will be cultivating a relationship with these animals. It is not as easy as it may sound and sometimes it can be downright discouraging, but it's worth it. The risk that one takes is worth the reward of having a wonderful guide dog.

We have a class of ten, with eight of them being women. another woman is arriving on Thursday for the action program and I look forward to getting to know her. This morning, we had a van full of women. We talked about shoes and men. We couldn't have been more girly if we tried. Apparently the other van was discussing how guide dogs are chosen. Maybe we're just shallow. haha.

I'm really enjoying getting to know my classmates. They are a fun bunch and we're all very excited about dog day tomorrow. I expected trepidation, but I didn't expect the excitement of it all. I guess this truly never gets old.

Tonight some of the retrains met with Becky to talk about transitions. It's a tough thing when transitioning from one dog to another. I think it's very good to talk that out and realize that you are not alone in those feelings.

I think I'll spend the rest of the night listening to some good music. I love my music, after all. Maybe tomorrow I'll journal from the school computer, but its more comfortable doingthat from the comfort of my room. I'm tired but on the mend,so this is definitely a plus.

Take care all, and tomorrow is the big day. Those of you on my twitter and facebook don't forget to guess the name, gender, and breed.

err, the first letter, gender, and breed, rather. Until tomorrow!

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Settling in

Today was a busy day of traveling and settling in. To say that I am tired would be an understatement for sure.

I met a really nice guy in line while checking in my baggage and ended up walking to the gate with him. He was from Boston, and wanted me to be sure that I understood that not everyone from there was a jerk. He amused me, for certain. The flight overall went well, and I know what to do to make it go faster next time. I'll download more albums from rhapsody and just listen to my heart's content. Youcna download them for offline listening and that is a really nice perk of the program. I didn't have to do anything but sit back and relax. Who listens to the Gaither vocal band and then goes directly to Weird al? It certainly made for a faster flight even if it did seem like it was taking forever.

After that I had the pleasure of sitting in about two hours worth of ridiculous New York traffic. IfI drove in New York I would have the worst case of road rage ever.

Dell met me at the school and I gave him a really big hug. We talked a little about Vince and he was just totally supportive. It was very nice to feel that support and to know that they have my back.

I ate and then went to lecture where they discussed how to harness a dog, how to make a proper collar, and how to make long and short leashes, all of which I knew. I got to meet some of my classmates and have to say thata I'm a little disappointed at the lack of guys in this class. haha. Gosh, I am terrible. Anyhow, I think I already really like the instructors. They are nice and energetic. I can't wait to get to know my classmates a little more.

I've unpacked, medicated, and took a bath when what I really wanted was a shower, but the little button to make water spurt from the shower head is missing. I'm tired and cranky, so I'm going to bed and will ask for help tomorrow.

I do have a question though. I feel really awkward when people ask me what number dog I am on. I feel awkward because it was such a short time since the last time that I was in class. I hate saying that it didn't work out because I don't want to discourage anyone. I just feel weird and feel as though I'm just muddling through my answer.

Anyway, I'm tired and Idon't know how to edit using this keyboard so I apologize in advance for typos. I'll try to do better nexttime. I know that this entry is abrupt, but I am irritated with this keyboard and I wanted a shower, darn it! Off to bed I go. Until tomorrow!

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Here We Go Again

I haven't written in this journal since the middle of November when I was going through guide dog training. I have certainly meant to, but we all know what they say about roads and good intentions, right? So here I am again, writing in a journal that I'm really going to attempt to update on a daily basis. And here I am again, sitting at my computer desk the night before heading to guide dog school. The phrase 'here we go again' comes to mind, but I don't feel dreary and full of doom.

As many of you know, things did not work out with Vince. There were behavioral issues that we were unable to solve that had surfaced in class. We did our best in class and once we got home, but they did not improve. Vince returned to the school in the early part of July. That was a very difficult and painful time for me, and there were many, many tears shed. We go in to class with so much hope. We bond with these dogs, work with them, bring them home, and begin to build upon the foundation that was laid under the supervision of the staff. But we don't really talk about the risks of it not working out. Sure, we all know that could very well be the case, but sometimes it's just a big elephant in the living room that noone wants to think about, and for good reason. It's hard enough going through guide dog training without playing the 'what if' game. As someone wise once said at some point 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. I do believe that with great risk comes great reward, though.

I know that I gave it my all when it came to working with Vince. I don't regret my decision to send him back to the school. I know that there wasn't a thing I could have done to fix the situation and that I did absolutely everything possible, even if there is sometimes that little voice that niggles at the back of my mind and asks if I couldn't have just given it one more month? The answer to that of course is no. So, here we go again.

The last time I was in class, I got very very sick. This past week I have been sick with some kind of respiratory or bronchial infection. The nurse practitioner didn't really know what it was and no tests were done on me. I am taking antibiotics and plenty of glorious medication that helps me sleep, but nothing improves the low energy I am feeling. I think I'm on the tail end of this, though, and I guess better now than in the middle of class. Maybe New York just hates me!

I didn't think I'd be excited about going in to class. Last time, I bubbled over with excitement for about a month beforehand. This time, that expectancy has taken a little bit to grow on me. It crept up until it was right behind me and I didn't notice it. Then it tackled me and now I'm all aglow about what will be happening. I'm looking forward to dog day with a heady mix of trepidation and excitement. I think I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat just like last time, unable to stand the suspense. Of course, they'll draw it out and dangle it in front of me like a carrot, but I can handle it.

I can't wait to meet my new dog. I can't wait to meet my classmates and instructors. Dell will be supervising my class, just as he supervised the last class that I was in. I already feel a rapport with him. I am also pretty amused that everyone and their mom on twitter seems to know him. I'll have to tell him that he has quite a fan base!

I also have to say that I have some of the most amazing friends ever. They took me out on shopping excursions, took me to get my hair cut, helped me pack, gave me a few extra things I might need to stay in good health, will take me to the airporter station at ridiculous o'clock, and always have a ready supply of love, encouragement, and hugs. My best friend listened to me cry over the phone after Vince left, and she has truly been an encouragement. I hope to be that kind of encouragement to my classmates.

I'm feeling pretty good about going in to class this time around. Yes, I am very nervous about the humidity and heat - I am a fragile flower, after all. But I have been trying to eat foods that are good for me and get in more exercise. I've dropped twenty-one pounds since June, and a couple of pants sizes. I have awesome walking shoes with arch support. I will never again go for flat shoes. I am feeling good about myself as a person and as a guide dog handler. I feel like the experiences that I had before have helped to shape me in to a stronger person.

I think that's enough reflective thoughts from me for now. I'll end this, go hop in the shower, and then crawl in to bed for the few hours of sleep that I'm likely to get tonight. I've become a nervous flyer lately, so I'll make sure I have plenty of books to keep me from doing anything embarrassing, like jerking awake and grabbing the passenger next to me. Yes, that totally happened.

Watch this space. I'll try to fill it with my honest thoughts and experiences. Until tomorrow!

days 17 and 18 at Guiding Eyes

Hello, everyone:

it's been a rather eventful couple of days here at Guiding Eyes. I'll start by saying that I'm finally on the mend with this cold. I am supposed to be singing for Saturday's graduation, but I'm pretty certain that won't be happening since I am lucky to even talk. That's alright, as I have a decent speech planned out if singing is out of the question. Speaking of graduation, it's coming up fast! But let's talk about yesterday and today first.

Obedience is becoming more and more difficult with distractions such as other dogs, food, the instructors bouncing favorite doggie toys or calling the dogs while we run through our routines. It's challenging, but I can tell you that Vince is doing a superb job. he doesn't always do what I want of him the first time with those distractions, but overall he's passed the test with flying colors.

We went to White Plains and worked a nice route yesterday morning. it was nice to go on a long walk with Vince after having been down and out for several days. He did an excellent job and I guess my stamina has increased quite a bit because I'm not getting winded as easily.

In the afternoon, my instructor changed the harness handle to a longer one. That walk was so much better! I'm not having to lean forward as much and she said I looked more comfortable. It's amazing how something as simple as a different length in harness handles can really make all the difference in the world.

We walked in doubles with one student going in front of me and then we'd switch the lead. My classmate and I had a great time doing the route.


We worked on veering since Vince actually veered us in the middle of a street crossing. This has never happened before, but we worked through it. I feel that our work just keeps getting better especially since I am no longer expending the energy worrying about whether or not I should keep him and if we are a good match.

We practiced getting our dogs on and off the bus and road the White Plains bus for a little while. I grow increasingly convinced that some people need to pass some kind of social litmus test before being allowed in the public on a bus. This woman loudly proclaimed that she was allergic to dogs and how she just knew she should have taken a different bus. She then started making those nasty throat hacking sounds and conveniently coughing as she moved to the back where there was another guide dog team. I wanted to tell her that I was allergic to loudmouthed idiots, but you'll all be glad to know that I refrained. I can usually ignore people like that, but there are times when they really do burn my biscuits.

Last night's lecture was on advocacy. We discussed what to do if our guide dogs are ever attacked by another dog. it is a shame that people in this world cannot follow simple leash laws. We also discussed the possibility of being denied access to restaurants, or other public places and how that is illegal. Of course, we discussed how some cab drivers are very negative about having a guide dog in their cab, whether outright refusing you service or driving past you without your even knowing. It's a reality that happens often, especially in metropolitan areas, despite how much educating is done. And when it does happen, it is absolutely infuriating.

I went to bed pretty early last night after playing with vince. I'm worn out, but it's in a good way. I'm ready to come home and part of me wishes I were leaving after graduation.

Today was absolutely miserable in terms of the weather. In the morning, we went to a train station and worked on walking across the platforms. We also faced the edge of the platform, telling our dogs to go forward. Of course they don't. This is called inteligent disobedience. Vince did just fine with that, and I'm confident that should I ever need to take a train when at home, we'll do quite well.

After lunch, the wind and the rain really picked up. The rain was coming down sideways as the wind carried it and it was miserable. So of course, they made us work the route. it was fine when the wind was at our backs pushing us along, but when we headed toward the lounge and it was blowing in my face along with the wet, it made for a miserable walk. Vince and I did well, and we worked in doubles with the classmate from yesterday. By the time I got back to the lounge, I was soaked. My pants were beyond soaked, and vince was a sopping mess of Labrador.

I flirted with Miguel, one of my classmates, and boy, it's just fun to be flirty and affectionate. We keep saying that we're getting married on Saturday and that he can buy my wedding ring while in Manhattan tomorrow.

Speaking of class, this one is going well. We've been supportive of one another, and there have been many laughs. Three people are leaving on Sunday, bringing our numbers for next week down to six. This is week 3 of class and we're getting a little punchy, a little anxious, a little testy. it's normal. By graduation, we'll all love each other again. So goes the dynamics of a group. I think the action students have it right...come here, train, go home while you all love each other. *laughs* Not that there's been hostility, but you put a group of people together for a while and by that third week it's probably time for us to take a break from one another.

So, tomorrow we're headed to the Big Apple. We'll be taking subways and heading about fifty blocks walking and riding said subway to an Irish pub for lunch. I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure that New York City is a smorgasbord of distractions, but I feel confident that we'll be just fine. I can hardly wait. Until tomorrow!Hello, everyone:

it's been a rather eventful couple of days here at Guiding Eyes. I'll start by saying that I'm finally on the mend with this cold. I am supposed to be singing for Saturday's graduation, but I'm pretty certain that won't be happening since I am lucky to even talk. That's alright, as I have a decent speech planned out if singing is out of the question. Speaking of graduation, it's coming up fast! But let's talk about yesterday and today first.

Obedience is becoming more and more difficult with distractions such as other dogs, food, the instructors bouncing favorite doggie toys or calling the dogs while we run through our routines. It's challenging, but I can tell you that Vince is doing a superb job. he doesn't always do what I want of him the first time with those distractions, but overall he's passed the test with flying colors.

We went to White Plains and worked a nice route yesterday morning. it was nice to go on a long walk with Vince after having been down and out for several days. He did an excellent job and I guess my stamina has increased quite a bit because I'm not getting winded as easily.

In the afternoon, my instructor changed the harness handle to a longer one. That walk was so much better! I'm not having to lean forward as much and she said I looked more comfortable. It's amazing how something as simple as a different length in harness handles can really make all the difference in the world.

We walked in doubles with one student going in front of me and then we'd switch the lead. My classmate and I had a great time doing the route.


We worked on veering since Vince actually veered us in the middle of a street crossing. This has never happened before, but we worked through it. I feel that our work just keeps getting better especially since I am no longer expending the energy worrying about whether or not I should keep him and if we are a good match.

We practiced getting our dogs on and off the bus and road the White Plains bus for a little while. I grow increasingly convinced that some people need to pass some kind of social litmus test before being allowed in the public on a bus. This woman loudly proclaimed that she was allergic to dogs and how she just knew she should have taken a different bus. She then started making those nasty throat hacking sounds and conveniently coughing as she moved to the back where there was another guide dog team. I wanted to tell her that I was allergic to loudmouthed idiots, but you'll all be glad to know that I refrained. I can usually ignore people like that, but there are times when they really do burn my biscuits.

Last night's lecture was on advocacy. We discussed what to do if our guide dogs are ever attacked by another dog. it is a shame that people in this world cannot follow simple leash laws. We also discussed the possibility of being denied access to restaurants, or other public places and how that is illegal. Of course, we discussed how some cab drivers are very negative about having a guide dog in their cab, whether outright refusing you service or driving past you without your even knowing. It's a reality that happens often, especially in metropolitan areas, despite how much educating is done. And when it does happen, it is absolutely infuriating.

I went to bed pretty early last night after playing with vince. I'm worn out, but it's in a good way. I'm ready to come home and part of me wishes I were leaving after graduation.

Today was absolutely miserable in terms of the weather. In the morning, we went to a train station and worked on walking across the platforms. We also faced the edge of the platform, telling our dogs to go forward. Of course they don't. This is called inteligent disobedience. Vince did just fine with that, and I'm confident that should I ever need to take a train when at home, we'll do quite well.

After lunch, the wind and the rain really picked up. The rain was coming down sideways as the wind carried it and it was miserable. So of course, they made us work the route. it was fine when the wind was at our backs pushing us along, but when we headed toward the lounge and it was blowing in my face along with the wet, it made for a miserable walk. Vince and I did well, and we worked in doubles with the classmate from yesterday. By the time I got back to the lounge, I was soaked. My pants were beyond soaked, and vince was a sopping mess of Labrador.

I flirted with Miguel, one of my classmates, and boy, it's just fun to be flirty and affectionate. We keep saying that we're getting married on Saturday and that he can buy my wedding ring while in Manhattan tomorrow.

Speaking of class, this one is going well. We've been supportive of one another, and there have been many laughs. Three people are leaving on Sunday, bringing our numbers for next week down to six. This is week 3 of class and we're getting a little punchy, a little anxious, a little testy. it's normal. By graduation, we'll all love each other again. So goes the dynamics of a group. I think the action students have it right...come here, train, go home while you all love each other. *laughs* Not that there's been hostility, but you put a group of people together for a while and by that third week it's probably time for us to take a break from one another.

So, tomorrow we're headed to the Big Apple. We'll be taking subways and heading about fifty blocks walking and riding said subway to an Irish pub for lunch. I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure that New York City is a smorgasbord of distractions, but I feel confident that we'll be just fine. I can hardly wait.
During lecture, we learned about the parents of our guide dogs. Vince's mother is Isa and his father is Jeb. He is one of six? oh boy, I already forgot how many siblings, but I do know that Vangie, his sister, is a workin guide.

That's all for now. Until tomorrow!

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more catchup, , days 11-15 at guiding eyes

Hi everyone:

It has been a very rough few days for me. first, I have been pretty sick. I've decided that being sick while in guide dog school is about as fun as walking on broken glass with bare feet or getting a root canal with no pain killers. I caught some silly cold that went from head to chest and it made for a few days of misery.

On Thanksgiving, I felt a little better. We worked on shorelining country roads in the morning, and I've pretty much decided that I hate that particular skill. It's a skill that is good to know, but I like the more exciting activities, like street crossings, and downtown travel.

Either way, Vince did well with this particular task although i found that he would become distracted by the grassline and all the smells in the dirt.

Spending Thanksgiving here was very special. The dinner was phenomenal and the staff really went out of their way to make us feel as though we were at home. Long tables were put out and it was just a nice, homey, familial atmosphere.

The days really kind of blend together when I haven't been writing for a while, so I'm sorry if this all seems short and clipped. Friday was the departure date of two students in the action program. They come here to train for ten days and then go home and have five more days of training. I really miss them, too. Especially the person that was in a room across from mine. She is funny and awesome and listened to the best music!

I woke up pretty sick that morning. We went to a little town called Catona, where we worked the dogs in the morning and afternoon route. A night route was planned, but unfortunately I was too sick to attend that. The class supervisor will allow me to make that up during my fourth week.

On Saturday, we did one more shorelining session and then I had some playtime with Vince. he has a lot of energy, and although he is a mellow dog, he seems to have a great deal of energy to burn, that's for sure. I spent the remainder of that day in bed, but finally got some nice cold medicine to help me.

Yesterday, we took it easy and had a day of relaxation for humans and dogs alike. We needed it and I needed the extra day to get better. We took all the dogs out to a dog run and they really enjoyed themselves. Lots of pent-up energy was released and I know that our instructor took pictures for a presentation.

Now, let's get to today. I woke up feeling somewhat better. We were up, had breakfast and obedience, and then worked our dogs to the vans. I was pretty tired from that short walk. I feel like I don't have very much energy. I will also admit that I really struggled with whether or not to keep Vince due to the issues that we have been working through. I have made up my mind to continue working with him. He is a wonderful dog and I think that these issues can be worked out. We went to the mall and his indoor work was excellent. I can't wait to work him in our own mall. We also did escalator work and that went well.

Then back to the school for lunch and class pictures. I was feeling about as motivated to get dressed up as a mouse is to hang out with the neighborhood cat, so yes, the casually-dressed one in our group of smartly dressed classmates would be me. We also got individual pictures. I was feeling so crappy that I probably looked as though I was posing for a mug shot.

Then I got to take my boy to the vet. And now the numbers that you were all waiting for. Vince is a healthy 78 pounds. I can't believe I thought he was smaller than Lexus! His birthday is october 27 and he turned two. The vet didn'tt have measurements, so I don't know how many inches he is at the shoulders.

We then had a vet lecture, dinner, and another lecture on traffic, trains, and buses. I know it doesn't sound like a lot is going on, but I'm tired and feel drained emotionally and physically, although I'm starting to improve in both. Thank you for the emails and the support, and of course, for reading this.

I'm off to go take a nightly dose of medication in hopes of being able to catch a decent night's sleep. I'm running on empty. Catch you tomorrow. I'm trying to keep a running daily update on things, but I have such little energy sometimes. Ahh well. I'm ready to go home. Graduation is this week and it feels weid that I'll still be here when it is over. It's like an unreality, as though it's not really happening at all. Ahh well. I am thankful, though. Thankful for friends who love and support me, thankful for this lab who is worming his way in to my heart, and thankful that I'm on the mend. More later!

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