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Three weeks of training at Guide Dogs for the Blind, Oregon to become partners

Pre-dog  Saturday  Sept 28h

 

After 5 long months, I am now down to less than 12 hours until I have my new dog...  The plane ride from Oakland to Portland was uneventful, my favorite kind of flight now.  Thoughts of training with Webster, PJ, Audrey and Deanne were flooding my mind.  Training is a memorable time with a new guide.  A unique time in the relationship where both the dog and the person are 100% focused on each other, and never again will we be able to dedicate all of our time to the relationship.  As soon as training is over, I will be back in the real world of my regular life.  Work, family, friends and all the other activities and influences.  Like a new love relationship with a person, the beginnings of a new Guide Dog relationship are thrilling, and have big highs and lows.  Am I prepared for the roller coaster ride?  Will it work?  Do I deserve this extraordinary dog?  What is the rest of the class going to be like?  Lots of questions and anxieties, which will hopefully disappear soon, flooded my mind. 

 

A volunteer from GDB (creative way to use a volunteer) was waiting for me at baggage claim, and off we went to the Oregon campus.  It was sunny and warm, about 70 degrees, and I hope this will continue for the next 3 weeks.  I packed everything from shorts to rain gear, and of course lots of fleece so I don't get cold...

 

When I arrived on campus, the regular class, 6 students who have been here training for a week, and have had their dogs since Wednesday, were out on a training route with their new dogs.  Mickey, the main trainer for the retrains coming in, was there to give me a tour of my room and welcome me to class.  I got lucky, and have a room to myself.  The rooms are big, with a 3/4 wall separating the room, and the separation wall are the closets.  All the furniture is built in, including desk, headboard drawers and shelves.  Just like in San Rafael, there is a sink and under the sink on the floor is another sink for the dog.  Mickey gave me a bag of grooming tools, a leash, bed and tie-down, but no dog... 

 

I joined the regular class for lunch, while Mickey went to the airport to pick up the other 3 retrain students.  I got to meet 3 of the students from the regular class at lunch.  Rick, a knife sharpener from Winslow Arizona, and right now I cant remember the name of his lab.  Steve from Washington, who works at the lighthouse for the blind as a computer teacher, he got a female Lab named Rattan, and Ron from southern California, who is the only retrain in the regular class, got his 3rd dog, a male golden named Homer. 

 

The rest of the retrains  came in about 3pm, unpacked and we all met, and had the fast forward version of all the lectures that the regular class had received over the past week.  Christine is from Canada, getting her 5th dog, Mike is from Sacramento, a musician, getting his 3rd dog, Theresa is getting her 3rd dog, and we happened to be in class together when I got Webster. 

 

Fortunately they didn't do anything more with us after dinner than a tour of the dorm,  because we were all tired.  For the first time since I left Spain, I had a full night sleep! 

 

The plan for today is that we will have Juno training (where the instructor simulates the movements of a guide dog with an empty harness) This gives the instructors a chance to remind us "seasoned" guidedog handlers to go back to the basics.  This also gives them an opportunity to see if the dog they have in mind for us is truly the correct match.  Then after lunch "Dog Day Afternoon"  The moment we have all been waiting for!  So I am expecting the endless morning....

Day 2  Sunday  Sept 29th

 

The schedule was going to be to receive our dogs in the afternoon.  The four of us retrains thought that we were in for a long morning of Juno and waiting for the morning to be over...  We could hear the regular class out in the hall at 6:30 am, going to relieve their dogs, tomorrow I would be in the line up.  7:15 breakfast, and then at 8:00am Mickey came by and told me that she would be doing Juno with us 1 at a time, and that Lori was coming this afternoon to work with me. 

 

My Juno experience came at about 9:30, just when the rain showers arrived.  We first did healing practice with Juno, then the obedience routine, which changed slightly since I had been through class with Deanne.  Sits, downs, sit stay were the same and heel now means that from the sit stay position the dog comes in front of you and turns at your left side to a heel position.  "Over here"  is for those situations where a door is hinged on the left (same side as the dog) and opens in.  The dog comes around your back to your right side, preventing getting their toes crunched by the door.  Once the door is open then the dog moves through first.  Very slick!  The Juno work is all done with the dog behaving at times and misbehaving, so the instructor can see what our corrections are like.  She must have had a good idea of my new gal, since Juno was a very exuberant guide.

 

Then it was time for Juno guide work on the campus.  This is done with an empty harness and the instructor holding the front of the harness and leading like a dog would.  We did stairs, formal right and left turns, moving right and left turns, obstacles and of course Juno performed all the things a real guide might do if they were distracted by something.  As we were coming back to the dorm Mickey spotted the van that our new dogs were being delivered in! 

 

At 10:00 Mickey asked to meet in the lecture room so she could tell us the name, breed and sex of our new dogs.  Chris was to receive a female labXgolden  named Gladys, Theresa was to receive a female yellow lab named Sheba, Mike a yellow lab named Rainier, and I got Hedda, a female all black GSD.  We were then instructed to go back to our rooms and wait for someone to come get us so we could meet our new dogs in the instructors office.  By 10:30 am I was in the instructors office with my leash, and Hedda came bursting in the room full of life and exuberance displayed with wagging body and many kisses.  She is 23 1/2 inches tall, 63 lbs, Straight black hair with only a little brown between her toes.  Her parents are Dave and Mystique.  I am so honored to get a Dave baby since Dave has been a special dog in my life.  My father was his breeder keeper and I got to spend a lot of time with him.  Mystique is also special, since Mystique's breeder keeper/puppy raiser is a good friend.  Its all in the family...

 

Then it was back to our room to get acquainted.  She is a perfect little package, beautifully proportioned, really a small version of her father in stature and coat.  She has a zesty personality, with a lot of moxy. A real teenager, which is quite a change from my seasoned 8 year old Deanne.  This is going to be fun!  After lunch Lori came by to take me on my first walk (more like race walk) around campus.  I harnessed her up and we took off.  It was thrilling to have the freedom of walking independently and fast again.  Hedda is confident in her work, and loves to go,go,go.  Her turns were crisp and perfect, no hesitancy.  She is strong and has a smooth fast gait, mmm, perfect!  The whole workout was over in a flash.  Both Hedda and I wanted to do more.  Lori told me that it didn't look like a first workout, it looked like we are a seasoned pair!  Wow, it felt that way to me too. 

 

We did our first relieving sessions out on the concrete, and right off the bat she went!  Since the experience is all new to the dogs to be with us in class, they don't always go right away.  Not Hedda, she relieved right away, and then began to run around me in circles like she was a horse on a lunge line, attempting to entice the other dogs around her to play.  I think I have the class clown!

 

I am getting to know the rest of the class now since yesterday was their day off from guide work, Rick the knife sharpener got a female yellow lab named Windstar, Alex got a black lab male named Fox, Mary (who is from Rohnert Park, we are practically neighbors) got Bonita a female black lab, and Christine, a female yellow lab, oops cant remember that one.  too much to remember right now.  I am looking forward to getting to know everyone.  At meals I sit with Rick, Steve and Theresa, so am getting to know them pretty well. 

 

We have to stay up till 9pm for the last relieving session even though I was ready to go to bed at 7:30 from the sheer exhaustion of excitement!  I feel complete again with my new gal, and I am excited to learn who she is and form a bond.

 

Aerial and Hedd-a the class

Day 3  Monday Sept 30

 

What a delight to wake up to exuberant little kisses and a tail drumming on the wall.  I don't think my neighbor appreciated her enthusiasm for the beginning of the day though.  Hedda is on split feedings so she got her first bowl of food for the day at 6am, which unlike most shepherds, she wolfed it down gladly.  6:30 we went out in the cold morning air to leash relieve our dogs.  Hedda relieved immediately and then started her horse routine of lunging around me trying to entice her neighbors to play with her.  I think this is going to be her "routine". 

 

Breakfast at 7:15, and at 8 am we had our lecture.  This is a nice change from the old lecture times of either before or after dinner.  Real snoozing time.  We got the verbal description of down town Gresham and how the streets are laid out.  For my directionally challenged friends, you can skip this   section...  Gresham is laid out with numbered streets going east/west and named streets going north south.  The Guide Dogs down town lounge is on the corner of 4th and Roberts. 

 

There are 2 class busses, and one of them is out being repaired so 2 of the instructors are driving caravans and some of the students get an opportunity to ride in a car with their dogs.  The rest of the students ride in the bus.  So Hedda and I got to ride in the front of the caravan, and much to my delight she fit right in without having to take her harness off, Deanne would barely fit in most front seats without her harness.  I guess there are advantages to these pocket shepherds. 

 

Lori met me at the downtown lounge and we went out for our first route in Gresham.  Hedda's work was flawless, as she moved down the streets with confidence and a beautiful fast pace with a wonderfully constant strong pull.  We crossed Powell which is a very large busy main street in Gresham.  and walked to a bank so we had the experience of busy traffic, stairs, moving in and out of buildings.  When we got back near the lounge, we had finished the route so quickly Lori decided to add a few extra blocks to lengthen out the route.  Hedda and I were both ready to go longer.  Hedda didn't look back at Lori, which was a great sign, since Lori trained her and they had a close relationship.  Hedda is already looking to me for attention.  Lori was thrilled and surprised.  We then came back to campus and after lunch we went to the visitors center on campus.  A large building that is used for graduations and obedience etc.  We did obedience with our dogs with a little sheltie dog running around as a distraction.  Heddas biggest distraction was Lori, so we worked on having Lori be the distraction, and very quickly Hedda realized that running to Lori wasn't a good thing.

 

Hedda is a quick study, since by the afternoon route in Gresham, Hedda paid no attention to Lori whatsoever.  We did basically the same route and again finished so quickly Lori extended the route.  We even passed an aggressive dog tied up outside a coffee shop, and Hedda paid no attention as the dog lept out at her growling and barking.  What a gal!  At the end of the route, Lori commented that she thought I could go home tomorrow, we were doing so well.  That was a thrill for me to hear! 

 

When we returned to campus Mickey introduced us to the enclosed grass paddock where we can let our dogs loose (one at a time) to blow off a head of steam.  Everyone in my class wanted to see me put Hedda out there.  Well she was liked greased lightning for about 15 minutes.  All you could hear was the flash of feet moving across the grass like a pong game with the ball on high speed, bouncing all over the yard.  She was great entertainment, especially for the other class dogs at the fence wanting to join her in the paddock.  I think this is going to be a twice daily requirement for Hedda.  She slept under my chair at dinner!  At 7pm the retrains all met to have an opportunity to talk about our retired guides.  It was very touching, and a nice way to acknowledge them. 

 

I had to make myself stay awake until the 9pm final relieving session.  Then off to bed where I snuggled for a while on the floor with Hedda on her bed.  She is very affectionate, and I think we are becoming close already...

 

Day 4 Tuesday October 1

 

Hedda and her neighbor, Homer both awoke with wagging tails beating on the same wall from opposite sides.  It thundered with the joy of a shepherd and golden greeting the day.  Ron and I had a good laugh in the relieving circle over our kids pounding the wall for revilie. 

 

I got a free run in for Hedda in the paddock after breakfast so that she could feel more settled.for the day.  She loves to run and flies by me so that she can check in with me.  After about 15 minutes she was ready to go, and came to me to have her harness put back on.  What a girl!

 

The 8am lecture was on alternative equipment, for example head collars, nylon slip collars and mini-prong collars that may be of assistance with control problems.  They also descried how to deal with our dogs in very distracting situations, which they will be exposing us to so we can see how our dogs respond, and just how to handle the situation. 

 

Then we were off to Gresham for our first workout of the day.  Lori met me at the lounge, and thought that the best thing for me to work on would be to repeat the destination (to the bank) route so that is Hedda were to get relaxed with the sameness, she may display some behaviors that Lori could assist me with.  We shot down the street with a full Hedd-a steam, and added the city park on the other side of Powell to lengthen the route.  Hedda found a squirrel, and I discovered her talent of multi-tasking, she guided me perfectly while keeping a close eye on the where about of the squirrel.  Oh, yes there was an interesting dog too.  The smells of the woods after a day of rain were wonderful, for Hedda too.  After coming through the other side of the park, we ended back at Powell and continued west toward the bank.  The rest of the route was flawless, and we returned back to the lounge with Lori jogging to keep up.  Lori is pleased with our progress, and feels that I handled her perfectly even in the distracting situations.  I can feel with each workout she is focusing more and more on me.

 

After lunch the obedience session included Kelso, the resident GDB cat.  While we were waiting our turn, Hedda didn't take her eyes off of Kelso, and her ears were so erect they almost touched each other.  Her ears are like her fathers, almost the size of a jack rabbit.  I was expecting a  very cat distracted dog, but much to my delight, when we did obedience she never took her eyes off me.  Wow, what a change from Deanne who was cat-atonic.  Good girl Hedda!

 

It was sunny and about 65 degrees during the afternoon route, and Hedda relaxed a little with the routine as well.  She was a little more distracted, looking for where the squirrels were in the morning, and spotting a Samoyed dog that looked interesting in the park.  It didn't take much to get her focused again however, and Lori and Mickey worked up a sweat keeping up with us. 

 

After dinner I took Hedda out to the paddock again for another relaxing romp and play.  She wanted me to interact with her more this time rather than doing figure 8s by herself.  We wrestled and jouced and rolled on the grass together.  She is sooo funny! 

 

Whenever we are in the room together now we play tugg or Kong while I get a little work done on the computer.  She has already figured out that she has to put the toy in my hand for me to find it.  I have another smart dog, I hope I can keep up with her (grin).

 

Day 5 Wednesday Oct 2nd

 

Hedda and Homer sounded in the day with their chorus of tails.  Today would be a nice deviation from the regular routes we have been doing.  The morning meeting was to let us know that we would have our lecture on the bus on route.  Today we are going to learn the technique of sidewalkless areas (residential areas that have no sidewalk and you have to work in the street and around cars etc) and country roads.  Many of the students in the class have areas like this at home where they will be working with their dogs. 

 

I am on bus 2 (the busses are fixed now) and our class was divided into two groups, bus 1, with Chris, Theresa, Steve, Rick and Mary.  Bus 2 includes, Alex, Christine, Mike, Ron and myself.  Our bus functions best with good coffee, so we managed to talk Jim (class supervisor) who was driving the bus, to stop at Starbucks in Gresham before we did our route.  It was a treat to have a good latte!  Then we made our way to a beautiful residential area in Gresham without sidewalks with a group of willing and energized students. 

 

The technique for working in this environment is to work the dog on the left side of the road.  The dogs are trained to work on the left edge.  This way the dog doesn't have to worry about the person bumping into the curb and the dog is safer since the person is more visible.  We learned how to check the edge to be sure that the dog hasn't veered out into the street and how to handle intersecting roads and obstacles like cars, RV's etc that get parked alongside curb edges.   Lori met us at the bus, and we made our way through the about 10 block route.  Hedda worked it like a champ, I quickly realized after checking my curb edge a few times, that she was keeping me exactly where I was suppose to be.  She got distracted by a barking dog in a yard, but with one quick correction, she was focused back on her work, and away we went.  The next and most enticing distraction was a squirrel that was being stalked by a cat.  Hedda thought for sure she could get both, but decided to keep on working while she kept an eye on the exciting scene.  Atta girl Hedda!  We finished the route without incident, and passed 4 other student teams along the route with my Hedda-steam dog.  We enjoyed sitting in the grass in the sun while the rest of the student teams finished their routes. 

 

Steve Strand, executive director on the Oregon campus, joined our table for lunch and brought us up to speed on the big Oregon Guide Dog luncheon that was held last week.  After lunch it was obedience time in the visitors center with Cindy (an instructor from another string of dogs) and her big rotweiller, Chili, who flew through the room, weaving around our dogs barking and sniffing.  It was loud and chaotic, which is not unlike scenes we will run into out in the public with people and their pet dogs.  Hedda was a good girl, and kept her focus right on me, even when we did a sit stay and Chili was trying to get her to play with him. 

 

The afternoon route was country roads, and since the Guide Dogs campus is in the middle of the country we only had to drive a couple blocks to have our country road.  About 1 1/2 cars wide with tree farms and berry fields on either side and the occasional car or piece of farm equipment that comes down the road.  The technique is the same as working in a sidewalkless area, and when a car is coming, you halt your dog, go to the left edge of the road, and wait for the car/vehicle to pass.  They parked the busses about 1/4 mile apart and we worked our dogs down to one bus, cross the road and work back to our bus.  Yee Haa!  Hedd-a the pack and I flew down the road passing all the teams along the way.  No one in our bus could believe how fast we finished the route.  The instructors said they couldn't tell who had the bigger smile, Hedda or me...

 

We returned to campus and got a tour of the grounds so that we could enjoy the freedom of wandering the beautiful campus for the rest of our training.  Like San Rafael, there is an Administration Building, Kennel complex and Dormitory  and additionally there is a visitors center (which the San Rafael campus doesn't have). The visitors center is parallel to the dorm to the south. From east to west, the buildings are laid out in a line starting with the dormitory, then admin and then the kennels.  Running from the dorm to the bottom of the kennels on the north side is a service/fire road, and between the service road and the highway is an old growth forest of fir.  Running through the forest is a paved path paralleling the service road that is called the Oregon Trail.  I have worked through the Oregon trail many times with Deanne, and love the woodsy feeling and smells! 

 

It was a full day, and we were a tired group.  Training is stressful, living in a dorm, keeping a tight schedule from 6:30am to 9pm, and being close with a group of the same people.  It is a great group, and we are learning more and more about each other and like the bond with our dogs our friendships are developing with the other students as well as a few tensions.  I feel lucky to be with this group, since the groups don[t always mix well, which adds to the stress of training.  It is also fun to watch the other students bond with their dogs and see the traits and similarities between the dogs and their partners.  There are a few characteristics that are the same with Hedda and myself (grin).  Another great day with Hedda, and I feel that friendship/bond growing!

Day 6 Thursday Oct 3rd

 

Hedda has learned to stay quiet on her bed when I get up at 3:30-4:00 am, until I start getting ready for the day 5:30.  She is quick to pick up on what is expected of her.  I could hear the rain on the skylights that run the football field length of the dormitory hallway.  I was hoping that it wasn't going to be like Monday where we got an inch and a half of rain, most of which fell during relieving times or workout times. 

 

All of us students are getting closer with each other especially those students who eat all their meals together at the same table and ride the busses together.   However, since the class is less than half the size of San Rafael classes, the entire group is tighter knit.  It is fun to experience the development of all the person dog relationships in both the first timers, and the retrains.  When you have had a dog before it can be difficult to open your heart to a new dog because you know how deeply you bonded with your last dog, and how hard it was to sever or change that relationship at retirement.  Throughout the day I hear all the students talking to and caressing their dogs, giving them nick names and telling fun and funny stories  about their new guide.  The first timer have had their dogs for over a week now, and their confidence level escalates every day. 

 

The morning lecture was on working our dogs to building and inside buildings.  We were taught how to direct our dog to find a doorway or side walk that would lead into a store for example.  Making sure we give the dog enough time to locate what we are looking for especially if it is the first time at that location.  To remember to praise our dogs if they locate a place we have visited in the past even if we don't want to go there at that time.  For example if I teach my dog how to find the post office, and some days don't want to go the post office but my dog shows me the entrance, I would praise her for showing it to me.  Being consistent with our dogs is very important!  Like if you allow your dog to jump up on your lap when you are wearing jeans, you should expect that, that behavior is ok in all situations even when you are wearing your best suit.  We learned how to work the dogs in a building (slower, which will be interesting for my Hedda...) and how to use the "follow" command.  Follow is used in situations where you want your dog to follow, for example a store clerk.  We would have the store clerk tell US when she is turning and which direction they are going, so that we can direct our dog.  Many people want to tell the dog which way to go "come on doggie, turn left".  Follow is handy, but shouldn't be used too much since the dogs like to do it, and may decide to start following random people to strange locations..,...

 

Our first workout was at Wall Mart.  We worked our dogs from the bus which they parked in front of the store,  We went in through the electric sliding doors and into a little restaurant located inside the store. For the next couple of hours the 10 of us invaded the little restaurant, which is probably the biggest crowd they have, besides during the holidays.  We all wanted to shop!  The instructors took us out 1 at a time and worked through the store to pick up the items we wanted and worked through the checkout stand and back to the restaurant.  Hedda and I needed to pick up an Absorber (synthetic chammie) which is great for removing water from a dogs coat, a necessity in Portland, and an electric toothbrush for Ms. Hedda.   Hedda worked very carefully through the narrow isles, by big electric loaders used to stock the shelves and past other shoppers and their carts.  She made her way through the store like an experienced shopper!  By the end of the 2 hours at Wall Mart, our class had wiped out the stores supply of Absorbers, surprised a lot of shoppers with our dogs, and from what I heard, put a lot of smiles on everyone's faces.

 

Brad Hibbard, Director of Training in Oregon came to our table for lunch.  He is a great conversationalist, and brought Rick and Steve out a little.  He of course had to tell everyone how difficult I was to have in class when he was the supervisor when I got Audrey... 

 

Obedience included food distractions, and Hedda kept her head tight against my leg when they hung the bacon near her face.  No interest there.  She got lots of praises, and we had a great hugging match at the end of the routine. 

 

The afternoon route was a bus to lounge route in downtown Gresham.  They parked the busses south east of the lounge.  Bus 1 went first, leaving at 4 minute intervals, and then bus 2.  I was the timer for our bus, and the last to go.  We walked 4 blocks north, and 3 blocks west to get back to the lounge.  As I exited I could hear 2 loud barking dogs off to our immediate left.  Hedda ignored them, and we flew carefully down the sidewalk to each intersection.  The route was smooth, I just had to remember to count my blocks.  There was enough traffic at each 4 way stop intersection to easily make the crossings.  Everyone had their own stories about the route when we got back to the lounge.  Steve who is 6ft.5in tall, had an overhang that he bumped into and had to re-work, and some of the dogs veered into a parking lot which can easily confuse the dogs and suck them in like a magnet. 

 

I didn't put Hedda out in the paddock to run in the morning since it was raining pretty hard.  She had ants in her pants most of the day, having difficulty sitting still at times when we were waiting our turn to work.   After her meal and relieving session we took a spin around the Oregon trail and ended back at the paddock for a 15 minute run and play at high speeds, probably so fast others couldn't see her either.  She was settled and calm for the rest of the evening.  We were given the green light to sit where ever we want for breakfast and dinner now, so we mixed it up at dinner time.  I sat with Chris, Theresa and the nurse.  We are all retrains and got on the subject of what worked best for us as far as how long of a time we had between our dogs.  There were some interesting stories and theories.  Everyone liked the process I went through with Deanne in transitioning her over to Etta.  The nurse enjoyed hearing the conversation too. 

 

It was a quiet evening, and we are all getting pretty tired.  I did my laundry and I have to admit, I watched Friends.  Just vegged out....

 

Day 7 Friday Oct 4

 

Got an early start with Hedda.  Finished grooming her (and myself) before the 6:30 am relieving time.  After all the dogs were out of the relieving circle, Hedda and I went over to the free run paddock, and I let her run, leap and sniff for 10 minutes.  I marvel at her speed, agility and playfulness!  I saddled her up and we went for a quick, and I do mean quick, walk on the Oregon trail before the breakfast bell rang at 7:15.  It was a great beginning to the day for both of us. 

 

Lecture at 8am was on traffic checks.  Naturally when we are out in the world, cars pull out of driveways, parking lots and across intersections right through our path of travel.  Even if we are in the path that the car has chosen to drive through.  Today is traffic training day, a high anxiety day for both dog and human.  Unlike the old days of my first dog Webster, there would be warning of what was about to happen, but it is still frightening!  We were told that it is important to follow our dog (duh) even if they back up suddenly.  If a car is in the crosswalk after we have already begun our crossing, hold your position by that car until the light changes and you can finish your crossing.  If you try and go in front or behind the car you run a high risk of getting hit, and/or loosing your line of travel.  And then there is the total barricade.  The car or other vehicle that is parked across the sidewalk.  You always work your dog toward the street side of the blocked sidewalk, even into the street if you need to.  What you could encounter if you worked away from the street is to big of a mystery, and potentially even dangerous; open pits, no way out, etc.  today we were to split up, Bus 1 would work in the morning in the sidewalkless area where we worked a couple days ago, to get more experience with that and to do their obedience routine outside.  Bus 2 (my bus) was to have their traffic training route in Gresham. 

 

Hedda and I worked with Jamin, she asked me to work out of the lounge  and make 2 crossings to go north on Roberts.  After we had our first car (GDB vehicle marked with signs that say Traffic Training) back down a driveway just as we were crossing it, I stopped trying to figure out where we were an what direction we were traveling.  Hedda stopped on a dime and kept us from moving forward into the line of movement of the car.  GOOD GIRL HEDDA!  She got lots of praise!!!  What a girl!  then as we proceeded down the street and began to cross the exit to a parking lot I could hear the recognizable sound of the engine of that traffic vehicle coming at us again.  Again Hedda stopped us just in time so the car could pass in front of us.  Lots of praise again.  Then we turned left at the next intersection, and from another driveway appeared that vehicle again.  Hedda was thinking this thing was going to jump out of every driveway.  But no, the next time we were in the middle of a crossing, screeching around the corner and through the crosswalk right into us, there was that car again!  Hedda immediately backed us up out of the way of the oncoming car, and when we finished the crossing we both spent time hugging and kissing!  The route continued with several more near misses, and by the time we both got back to the lounge we were ready for a glass of wine. 

 

The experience certainly deepened our bond and trust in each other.  It took our trust to a whole new level that only "a near miss" experience can do.  We both curled up in the beanbag in the lounge and commiserated on the experience.  After all the students returned, we shared our war stories and all felt a heightened level of trust in our dogs, because of course, if these had been the real life experiences we have on the street with a cane, we would have been on our way to the hospital....  Our adrenalin levels were high and our love for our dogs abounded! 

 

After lunch bus 2 went with Jamin to the sidewalkless area for a low key route with lots of squirrels and barking dogs as our only distraction.  We did obedience on the grass easeway next to the bus, and then talked Jamin into stopping at Starbucks so we could get a good coffee treat before we headed back to campus.

 

At dinner I sat with Mike, Steve and Chris, we discussed our traffic experience and our deepened appreciation for our dogs.  It is one of those landmarks in training where we all feel closer as a group for having shared the same experience.  The group felt closer, and after dinner most of us went on a walk on the Oregon trail, took turns letting our dogs run in the paddock and hung out together in the fireplace room.  This is the first time we have done this.  Retrains and first timers now shared this right of passage.

 

We all returned to our rooms after the 9pm relieving time, Hedda and I hugged and snuggled for a while before we both fell off to sleep.

 

Day 8 Saturday Oct 5

 

Chris, Mike, Steve and I seem to gravitate to the same table for breakfast and dinner now.  We are a compatible little group, and enjoy each others company. 

 

The 8am lecture was on teaching our dog to be left alone for periods of time, and off leash house behavior.  We will now begin leaving our dogs occasionally for a meal so they begin to understand that we may leave them occasionally but will always return.  Our dogs have just spent between 4-6 months living in a kennel, so we cant expect that they will have perfect house behavior if left unattended.  They covered our options of tie-down, crate or on leash in the house until they understand what is expected of them.  I must admit, that since I don't have a roommate, I have had Hedda off leash (when I am in the room) , and she has been great I have been leaving Hedda (on tie-down) for brief periods to go to get her food or to take my clothes to the laundry room.  She hasn't whined or barked or been destructive with her bed.  I say this because Deanne was never happy with me leaving her, from the time we were in class together.  I don't ever plan on leaving her much, but if I were ever to need to it is nice to know that she can tolerate it. 

 

The instructors also talked about loose dogs that we may (and will) encounter when we are out working our dogs when we get home.  How to handle dog attacks, and the local authorities to contact if there is a problem dog.  It is a constant worry to have loose dogs, friendly or not, interfere with guide work.  People don't understand that their loose dogs jumping our dogs while they are working is a hazardous situation for our safety.  A dog attack can cause both physical and emotional damage to a Guide Dog. 

 

Our first workout of the day was in a residential area in Gresham with, you guessed it, lots of dog distractions.  I was the first student to go out on route. The first main intersection that we crossed  finished at a hurricane fence with a large yellow lab barking and lunging  at Hedda.  She was a little hesitant to finish the crossing towards that dog, but she regained her composure, and continued to work in spite of the aggressive dog she had to walk by.  The route was long with lots of crossings, old broken-up sidewalks with uneven pavement, and uneven patches where the sidewalk was missing;.  There were several total barricades with cars blocking our way and many yards with barking dogs behind fences.  It felt like we were in a fast moving video game with potential hazards that could jump out at any time from any direction and attack.us.  The last block held the big point hazard, a loose 90lb chocolate lab that came running across the street at us with hackles up and growling.  Even Jim, the supervisor was unnerved by this dog.  The owner came running across the street behind the dog, grabbed him and drug him unwillingly back to the house and locked him up so that no other students had to encounter him.  Hedda and I both stopped dead in our tracks to get our composure, and were relieved when he was removed from the scene.  Good girl Hedda! 

 

I am sure glad that Sunday is a day off!  I am so tired, and I can tell that Hedda feels the same way.  After lunch we went to the lounge in Gresham, and did long routes with a combination of sidewalks, and no sidewalks.  I worked doubles with Alex and his dog Fox.  Jim thought that having Hedda out in front might encourage Fox to pick up his pace a little.  We worked west several blocks from the lounge, and then to the motorcycle store on Kelly St., Jim and Alex like motorcycles, and Hedda and I were along for the experience.  We then worked south to Powell, and then west to Main.  On one crossing there was construction at the up-curb where the dog had to decide how to work around the area.  One option was to work to the up-curb, then allow the dog to go back out into the road to circle around the construction.  Hedda took the other option, she saw the mess, and just took me around the whole thing, what a girl!!!  There was a big crowd of people waiting to go into the movie theater, and Hedda and I just parted the sea of people, and moved right on through.  For the rest of the route, Alex and I traded being in the lead at each block.  Hedda didn't appreciate allowing Fox to be in front of her.  She wants to be Hedd-a the pack. 

 

After dinner, Steve, Mike and I decided to watch a movie.  They have quite a selection of descriptive videos (videos that have narration of what is necessary in order to understand the plot of the movie) We watched Forrest Gump.  All three of us snuggled with our dogs on the floor during the movie.  Steve used Rattan as a pillow, and Hedda, used me as a pillow.  During the exciting moments Hedda was alert for the movie highlights , twisting her head from side to side  She doesn't miss a thing!  Hedda likes to bury her head in my neck and have her face right by mine.  She is so sweet! 

 

Tomorrow we rest and enjoy the lack of schedule! 

Day 9 Sunday Oct 6

 

A day off!  I slept in till 5:30, unheard of for me! As I went to the door to harness Hedda up to go out, she paraded around more than normal, and threw her head from side to side.  All the toys were up on the shelf, so I checked her mouth just in case.  Good thing, I would have been pretty embarrassed if she had taken her parade with my bra in her mouth, out to the relieving area! The relieving and feeding schedule remained the same, so there was no sleeping in.  We all staggered out at 6:30, and by the sounds of the dorm, after relieving was over, most returned to bed to sleep again.  I enjoyed the minimal structure to the day.

 

From 7-8am there was continental breakfast (nothing cooked).  Everyone was so happy to have a day off, including the dogs (all the dogs except Hedda), who were sleeping more today too.  Mid-morning, I took Deanne to the grass run, and then we took a couple laps on the Oregon trail.  Hedda had ants in her pants, and she had a different concept of "day off".  I guess she is matched with the right person.  All I could think about was my rowing partner, Perry out rowing on San Francisco bay without me. 

 

Since the classes in Oregon are small (compared to the 24 students in San Rafael) they are able to offer a brunch with short-order cooking of whatever we want between 10-12:30.  It was relaxing, and small groups of students wandered into the dining room like it was a restaurant, and the dorm staff took care of our every wish.  I had a cheese omelet, bacon , sausage and a bowl of fresh fruit.  They made up quite a few plates of French toast or waffles too, and a home made soup for those who wanted lunch.  The IA's that worked with our dogs joined us for the meal. 

 

After lunch Sharon Zenger and her Guide Dog Kistler came with her parents who were visiting from Pendleton .  It was great to visit with friends, and show off my new girl!  Kistler was happy to see me, and then when he realized that the black shepherd next to me was not Deanne, he hid behind Sharon.  He was perplexed by the incongruity, and never did recover.  Hedda was certainly interested in getting to know the pointy eared visitor, but he wanted nothing to do with her. 

 

I went to the paddock and took 4 more laps around campus to keep Hedda and I from being too antsy.  I am ready to move ahead with training again.  Full steam a-Hedda.

Day 10 Monday Oct 7

 

There is no rain today (only the second day since we got here without rain), and it was not too cold either.  I was so inspired by the "beautiful" weather that I wore shorts!  Mid class tension is running high.  Every class experiences some days in the middle of class where the stress of training, living in a dorm and 15 hours of togetherness per day mount.  No matter how well the class gets along, there are always a few tensions at this point of class, and we are no exception.  As the end of class nears, then we will all be thinking of how much we will miss this group that has bonded not only with our dogs but with our classmates.  Breakfast began with some tears, and that set the tone for the day. 

 

Lecture at 8am was on basic care and health of our dogs when we go home.  Mickey covered the importance of daily grooming, occasional baths, nail care, tooth care, and ear care.  The importance of maintaining the weight of our dogs at class weight or within about 5 percent of class weight for the life of our dog.  Our dogs are athletes, and in order to prevent stress on their heart and body, they should not get overweight.  Fat dogs are the biggest problem they see when they visit graduates on follow-up.  She gave us tips on how to maintain and monitor our dogs weight. She showed us how to check for a waistline and fat over the ribcage. She also covered food needs as our dog ages, and avoiding the pitfall of too many treats.  I heard a few moans from our dogs in the room during that part of the lecture! 

 

Bus 1 had a bathroom problem and had to go in to be fixed, so we were back to vans and bus 2 for transport.  I rode in a van and again marveled how easy it was to get Hedda, harness and all, into the front seat!  The first route of the day was from the lounge in Gresham, and was our choice of destination.  I wanted to go back to our basic route with the traffic of Powell St., the park distractions, the bank and then add on some distance and new areas, a quick stop at Cafe Delirium for a latte, and back to the lounge.  I stripped down to a long sleeve shirt and fleece vest, knowing I would work up a sweat on route.  Hedda came out of the gate like a racehorse as we headed to Main St., across Powell, and down to the park.  She had a few squirrel distractions, and of course she looked for squirrels where she had seen them on the previous routes.  Her multi-tasking skills were put to the test, and I had to regain her attention twice when the scales tipped more toward the squirrels than guide work.  Then we flew up to the bank, crossed back to the other side of Powell to travel in the same direction as the traffic (north).  At the first crossing we encountered that same total barricade at the corner that we met last Saturday.  Piece of cake, we moved right around it, and back up on to the sidewalk.  Atta girl Hedda!  We kept going another 2 very long blocks past Main street.  Hedda handled the sounds of the traffic coming up from behind her without any signs of stress, and then we turned west and headed to 3rd street.  We headed back to Main, and took a breather at Cafe Delirium where we met up with Steve and Rattan.  On the way back to the lounge Steve and I worked doubles.  Rattan and Hedda don't like to be in back, so we finished the route in record time as they competed to stay in front of each other. 

 

Jane Grecko, volunteer coordinator for the Oregon campus, joined us for lunch, It was great to visit with her.  Hedda and Rattan curled up together at the table, and I am sure, had a conversation about their route together.

 

After lunch we all piled into one bus, which was kind of crowded with 9 students and 9 dogs (Rick had to go to the dentist).  We did a bus to lounge route, which started mid block between 2nd and 3rd on Miller street which is one block north of Main.  We worked back to 2nd, across Main, up to Roberts and back to the lounge (too short for my taste)  We left at 5 minute intervals, and on return to the lounge did obedience with our dogs.  We returned to campus, fed, watered and relieved our dogs, and at 4pm Kathleen from the Vet Clinic came up to give us a lecture on the flea.  We learned about the lifecycle of the flea, and about the products that were available to kill fleas and how they worked.  I now understand why lectures are generally at 8am, it was hard to stay awake with such stimulating information (no reflection on the speaker).  Afterwards we all put on rubber gloves and applied Frontline to our dogs. 

 

Since it was Monday, It was back to checking e-mail and voicemail for work in the evening.  I struggled with the last hour to stay awake for the 9pm relieving session.  Every evening when I have to say goodnight to Hedda we snuggle for a while, and I feel a tug of separation when I have to leave her tied up on her mat, and I have to get in bed.  I would love to have her curl up on the bed with me.  I feel so close to her already, and it boggles my mind to think of our relationship deepening as we travel through the years together! 

Day 11 Tuesday Oct 8

 

At 8am we all migrated over to the Visitors Center so that  Bruce Allert, head of Maintenance, and photographer extraordinaire, could take our class photo.  We all lined up seated on the edge of the graduation stage with the black dogs , Bonita, Hedda and Fox, in the middle and the yellow dogs on either side.  The students, of course, were with the dogs. 

 

While we were all there, and they had our attention, Jenny, Jamie and Mickey went ahead and did the morning lecture on escalator technique.  She told us that it was optional, since some towns, like perhaps Winslow, may not have escalators or we may not want to use them.  She told us to have the dogs bring us up to the plate of the escalator, put the harness handle down, feel for the direction that the rail is traveling (to be sure it is going the direction we want), feel with your toe for 5-10 seconds the moving stairs under your foot, and then encouragingly ask the dog to step on with you.  The few seconds allow a gap between you and the people in front of you so you can walk up a couple of stairs if you have to.  The dogs usually will take a couple steps up, then be sure that you have one foot on the stair above your dog.  As you feel the rail start to level off, in an animated voice encourage your dog,and step off the escalator.  They are trained to take a little leap off to avoid the teeth.  We were told to keep our dogs nails and foot hair short so they don't get pinched. 

 

At 9am Lori came to pick me up for my speaking engagement at the Nike Campus in Beaverton.  My friend Dale Graelish, who is in charge of guest relations at Nike, invited me to come and speak about our tour program at Guide Dogs.  It was a fantastic opportunity to see how Miss Hedda would do in an experience that would be happening regularly when we get home.  Since I haven't graduated yet, Lori needed to accompany me.  The drive took about an hour, and Dale was waiting for us at their reception building.  Lori hadn't been to campus before, and we had plenty of time before the 12 speaker, Dale gave us a tour of campus.  The tour began with the history of Nike.  We then toured around their beautiful campus which included their recent inclusion of the Lance Armstrong fitness center.  This was an huge building that housed an Olympic size pool downstairs, and fitness center upstairs, so there are now 2 full fitness centers on the campus which the 4500 employees can take advantage of.  I was drooling!  The building and grounds work were a great challenge for Hedda.  The stairs at the fitness center ascended at an angle, and the risers were open, so Hedda could look down at the swimming pool through them.  Upstairs there was lots of gym equipment.  Every building we worked in, had glass fronts and doors, so it was a little tricky for Hedda to figure out where the handles were to enter the building, but after a few times, she figured it out. 

 

There was an amazing piece of sculpture on campus of a 2 ton sphere of granite suspended on a jet of water, which caused it to slowly rotate.  This startled Hedda at first, and then she was compelled to lick it.  The grounds included a huge lake, beautiful landscaping, and many pieces of beautiful sculpture, several were true to life bronzes of people, which tricked both Lori and Hedda.  There was a wonderful Japanese garden with a gravel path for a texture, and a wooden bridge and at the entrance there was a path that was made up of large cement pads with 4 inch gaps with water running around the pads.  Hedda did a great job keeping me from falling into the gaps.  She had to look down each gap, which signaled to me where they were. 

 

The speaker was a delight, there was a great group of enthusiastic new tour leads, that are volunteers from paid staff that want to give tours.  I spoke about Guide Dogs, and our tour program, and how we train our volunteers.  They had great questions and the time just flew by.  Hedda slept at my feet for most of the time, and awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright and looked at the audience as if to say "where did you all come from".  Lori had a good laugh at her.  She didn't even flinch when they all clapped at the end.  I invited the group to come to graduation and take a tour. 

 

After the speaker we went to their sit down restaurant (a building that has both a cafeteria and restaurant) and we had an incredible salad with chicken, gorgonzola and walnuts, that tasted great.  Hedda was a good girl with our first restaurant experience.  Dale loaded me up with goodies to take back to the rest of the students and instructors back at campus.

 

After lunch Dale took us to the Employee Store for the exciting finale of the day!  Dale had to get back to work, and left us to our devices.  Lori and I discovered that we have very similar taste in clothes.  Lori made sure we were thorough in our search through the store, and of course gave Hedda a true shopping experience to add to her "training" for the day.  We got back to GDB at 6:15.  Hedda and I were tired and happy, and had thoroughly enjoyed our real life experience of a full day.  It was great to see how  Hedda would behave at a speaking engagement, shopping, restaurants and a full day on the go.  She was exemplary!  Atta girl Hedda! 

Day 12 Wed Oct 9

 

 

    Back to the class routine today, Nike was a refreshing break.  Since I missed the individual photos, I put my graduation clothes on, and met Bruce at the exercise room for a make-up photo at 8am.  Hedda is a ham , and did her coy head cock for the camera.  Too cute! 

 

We loaded the bus for the town of Victoria (Washington, not BC) , where we would do the morning workout.  Victoria is an older town, so the sidewalks are more uneven, and there is a combination of raised curbs, flat curbs, and a "creatively engineered" curb cut that is so narrow and steep edged that most wheel chairs wouldn't even fit (real ankle breakers if you aren't close enough to your dog).  The drive was about 45 minutes long, and we were in our new configuration of students on the busses to mix it up a little.  Ron, Alex, Chris, Steve and I now make up bus 2.  The busses were parked on side streets off of Main, and we worked 6 blocks down main, and then 2 blocks to a large coffee shop called Panache.  We followed our noses right to the latte's!  We used the coffee shop as the waiting spot, like the lounge, for the rest of the students to have their turn at the route.  Steve and I were the first off the bus and Jaymin had us alternate the lead at each block.  The competition was stiff between Hedda and Rattan, but we ended with a photo finish at Panache.  We returned to campus in time for relieving and lunch.

 

After lunch we loaded up the busses again, and headed for Gresham with Jim at the wheel.  It was our afternoon to do a route on MAX (Metro Area Express), the light rail system for the Portland area, and a bus ride back to the original stop where we parked the bus.  Jim had 4 of us to watch on his own (Alex stayed back at campus) We worked from the parking lot of a Fred Meyers, across the MAX tracks to the platform where we would catch the train.  Like BART or any subway system, the trains come in quickly, the doors open, and you don't have much time to locate the door, climb the stairs (heeling your dog) and anchor your bottom on a seat and get your dog seated between your legs, so you don't go flying down the isle when the train starts up again.  Jim had 4 of us to herd onto the train, and direct us to seats, The train arrived, and we all moved in and Jim was giving us all directions to the seats, "Aerial, turn to your right and directly on your left are some seats", as I made the turn to the right, Hedda leaped backwards, and I received a painful kick to my left shin!   I was startled, and screamed "ouch, someone just kicked me"! and heard foot steps quickly running away down the train.  Jim looked around to see am man with work boots quickly trying to exit the train.  It all happened so fast, but I imagine, with Heddas response, that he was trying to kick at Hedda, she leaped out of the way and the kick got planted on my leg!  Public transportation, always an adventure!  We were only on the train for 4 stops, then exited, crossed the tracks, and 1 street to the bus stop, where as luck had it, the bus we wanted was there waiting.  The 9 (including dogs) of us entered, and the bus driver said that was the most dogs he had ever had on his bus.  Rattan, Homer and Gladys all were tucked neatly under the bus seats, and where I was sitting, behind the driver, there was no tucking space so Hedda sat up between my legs to support her from sliding.  Ron and I both got our feet stepped on by a mob of college students at the first stop. Hedda enjoyed catching a good whiff of the people moving past her at all the stops.  It was hard to understand how a 5 minute train ride turned into a 40 minute bus ride back to Fred Meyers.  A mother and her 9 year old daughter ended up sitting up front with all the dogs, and the 9 year old spent about 20 minutes getting a course in Guide Dogs 101 from the four of us.  Got to do a little shopping for needed items at Freddy's and then returned to campus. 

 

I spent the evening doing laundry, doing e-mail/voice mail for work, and helped Mike send flowers on the internet to his wife for  their 15th anniversary on the 10th.  It was Jaymins turn to spend the night, and she entertained us all by running through the questions on the e-mode web site that determined what dog breeds each of us are.  It was great fun, and the breeds reflected the personality of our classmates pretty closely.  The first time I took this test 3 years ago, I was a German Shepherd, wow, big surprise.  This time I was a Scottish Terrier (hmmm, personality change?).  I went to bed tired, a normal state around here, and a little battered and bruised. 

Day 13 Thursday Oct 10

 

First I need to say that Vancouver is not spelled V i c t o r i a...  My spelling is at an all time low, last week I spelled Hedda, D e a n n e

 

I must have broken the camera, Mickey told me to be ready at 8am for another go around with photos,  It turned out to be that the camera, which was autofocus, had trouble focusing on the black dog.  Cant have Hedda being a blur, except when we are moving down the street like a flash.  Alex had to have a dog switch, and is now matched with a huge yellow lab named Kenmore, nicknamed refrigerator dog.  So Alex and I got our photos re-taken by Bruce, and then loaded the bus for down town Portland. 

 

The trip to Portland took about 40 minutes, and we hit some traffic along the way.  Portland has quite a bit of traffic during commute times, not unlike the Bay Area.  Jaymin drove ahead and secured 2 parking spots right in downtown and put up the special permit signs to save the spots.  She had to wrangle off several cars including a police car.  Today's  assignment was to work 3 blocks to the Pioneer Mall, two 5 story buildings connected by tunnels and escalators running up the centers of each building.  Steve and I were the last to leave the bus, Hedda was excited by all the people walking by, and was revving her engines, wanting her turn to show me her stuff in the big city.  Steve, Rattan, Hedda and I moved off the bus with our excited dogs, and found the benches that we were told were right outside the bus doors in a small city park next to where we were parked.  Hedda found the bench, and since her excitement was at an all time high, I decided to channel her energy with some obedience.  She did a great job with her sits and downs, stays and heel.  That brought her attention back to me, and just when we were done, Mickey came by to see if we were ready for our turn. 

 

In downtown Portland there are one way streets, so it was easy to read the traffic, and predict where it was going to be going.  We worked 3 blocks, and then I directed Hedda on a diagonal to find the door into the mall. She brought me right to the handles of the glass doors.  All those glass doors at Nike made this a snap!  We entered the building with very smooth marble floors, and Mickey asked me if I felt comfortable trying out the escalators.  I have done them often with Deanne, and even the cane recently, and felt ready to go.  I asked Hedda to "find the escalator", and she moved me quickly right to the metal plate.  I found the rail, and it was going in the up-direction, so I moved forward to find the moving stairs with my foot.  With an enthusiastic "ok, lets go", Hedda was airborne and landed 4 stairs ahead of me.  I guess my enthusiasm combined with hers was quite inspiring!  I caught up with her, and got one stair ahead, and we rode the glass sided escalator (great views for Hedda) to the top, as it leveled off, I again, slightly less enthusiastically said "ok, lets go".  She leaped gracefully off the escalator clearing the teeth with ease.  As we exited, Hedda was captivated by the TV in the electronics store right in front of us, which was showing the program Frazier, with the dog Eddie.  She couldn't take her eyes off the program.  We had to go in just for a minute to get her attention diverted from the TV. 

 

We continued around the building to the other set of up escalators, and ascended the building, occasionally passing stores with great smells, like Evelyn and Crabtree.  Then we took the down escalators.  Piece of cake!  Pat Glines, another instructor, met up with us, he is putting together a slide show of classwork that he is going to show for graduations to accompany the class overview.  He took photos of Hedda and I working the escalators.  After doing several more trips on the escalators, we found our way back out of the building, and made our way for about a 12 block route around the down town area.  There was a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalks which Hedda eased us through like we were doing the giant slalom.  There was a lot of traffic at the intersections, which Hedda handled like a seasoned pro!  I was the last to return, and we headed back to campus. 

 

At 11:00am I started thinking about the volunteer luncheon that was happening on the San Rafael campus.  It was the first time in 8 years that I had missed a luncheon.  I missed all the volunteers and wished I could have been there to introduce everyone to Hedda.  Jen had done a great job of handling all of the luncheon by herself, what a huge job!  I told all my classmates about the luncheon, and they wanted to hear all the details.  They all expressed their appreciation and amazement over Guide Dogs and what has gone into making it possible for them to have their dogs. 

 

I had my midpoint review with Mickey, which is when we have an opportunity to talk about what specific experiences we would like to have before we go home.  I wanted to get an opportunity to work on a floating dock, more city work, the airport, and work through the GDB kennels.  Lori picked me up after lunch and we drove to Oregon City to the Clackamas (sp?) River to a park with a dock.  The smells of fall were wonderful, and we worked from the parking lot through a tree lined path, down to the waterfront where there were lots of birds and ducks.  Hedda was interested, but not distracted.  We made our way down a long dock with a fishing pole and tackle box as obstacles.  Several boats went by and their wakes made the dock bob, but that was no problem for Hedda.  Across the parking lot was a skate park, which was like a large empty swimming pool with all sorts of bumps and ramps for the kids on skate boards and bikes to jump.  They were moving behind and in front of us, which didn't phase Hedda in the least.  Her only response was interest, and a great desire to herd them all together in a group.  When we returned to the parking lot I told Hedda to "find the car", which she did with ease.  All right, another car locater dog!  We made a stop at Starbucks, where there was a little 8 week old boxer puppy out front, which held a little interest, but not enough to distract her from finding the front door.  We then returned to campus, where we parked at the bottom of the kennel complex so I could work Hedda first through the obstacle course, and into the kennel hallway.  She thought we were going back to her old training kennel for her dinner (it was just about that time)!  We worked past her old kennel and through the Administration Building with ease, and back to the dorm. 

 

After dinner they passed out jackets with reflective stripes which we were to wear on our night routes.  We relieved our dogs at 6:30, and loaded the busses to go back down to Gresham for our first experience of working with our dogs at night.  You may be wondering why blind people need experience working in the dark?  Our dogs have not done this, and everything looks a little different to them at night.  Some of the students have partial vision during the day, but none at night, and of course the traffic and sounds are different as well.  We did the first bus to lounge route that we had done last week and everyone made it back to the lounge!  There were a few more detours this time  for some students, and the dogs were a little more excited by the new experience.  Greer Gerson, another instructor, was on the route with her excitable lab, for a dog distraction.  I was the timer again, and the last to go.  Good thing I have a fast dog, it was cold and windy, and my 2 sweatshirts, and jacket didn't help much.  We flew through the 6 blocks at a little faster pace than normal, but without incident.  There was one place where a car alarm went off just as we got next to the car, which startled me, but didn't phase Hedda.  I swear, we didn't hit the car!  We all returned to campus having completed another landmark in class, and were all tired from the 3 workouts in one day.  

 

 

Day 14 Friday Oct 11

 

Well it isn't raining, but wow, it was a chilly 43 degrees out at the relieving circle at 6:30 am!  Frisky dogs, and frozen fingers.... The 8am lecture was on revolving door technique.  For some of the students they had never been in a revolving door, and it was difficult to imagine how it worked.  The door is made up of pie shaped sections, and you place yourself it the point of the wedge,with your dog in the widest section.  You work your dog to the revolving door, ask your dog to come to your right side with the "over here" command, make sure your dogs tail is in, and encourage your dog with the leash to stay moving in the forward direction until it opens up in the building.  The dog then propels itself out, and you follow,  I don't usually use them, since with the ADA, buildings have to have an alternative door that wheel chairs can use.  But it is good to have the technique down, just in case.  We were taught never to use the electric version of the revolving doors, too dangerous!  So we loaded up all on bus one since 2 students stayed behind because they weren't feeling well, and headed back to Portland.

 

The reserved NO parking signs, that the city puts up for our classes every month, were up, and ignored yet again.So the instructors, that had left 1/2 hour ahead of us to secure the parking, had called the city, and when we arrived, the 2 cars parked in our places, were being towed away.  One of the owners arrived just in time to watch his car disappear, and the other arrived to discover a big bus with blind people and dogs in the place where his car use to be.  We didn't see a thing...  Today both Greer, and Margie joined our class since Jim was at a conference for the day, and Jaymin had the day off.  It was great to visit with Margie, who also use to work on the San Rafael campus.  I was one of the last to go out on a workout, and spend my waiting time chatting with the other classmates that also hadn't gone out yet.  Ron, Alex Steve and I had a lot of laughs over the car towing incident.  It was freezing, and we shut the bus doors to try and keep warm while we waited.  Mickey came to take me out for my turn at the city, and we went first to the Bank of America building with revolving doors at both the front entrance and the exit in the back of the building.  Hedda worked me right up to the revolving door, came over to my right side and we pushed our way in an arch, till it opened on the other side, where Hedda flew out like a race horse coming out of the gate.  We then worked through the marble floored building and exited through another revolving door with ease.  We then traveled 5-6 blocks to the City Hall, an old building with slick marble floors, and a spiral staircase.  We took an old elevator up a couple floors, then walked up another flight of marble stairs and then descended them with ease.  We worked out of the building and a couple of blocks to a Seattle's Best coffee where we met up with Alex, Kenmore, Steve and Rattan with Greer.  The nurses treated us to coffee, and we returned to the bus to enjoy our latte's. 

 

We returned to campus and at lunch Heather joined us from Admin, she told me I had a big box of flowers sitting on my desk!  I couldn't wait for lunch to be done so I could find out who they were from (hoping it was Larry).  Heather read the card to me, it was from my sweet husband Larry for our 6th anniversary which is on the 13th, and for our graduation.  Heather helped me cut the stems and arrange the multi-colored roses, which have a wonderful fragrance! 

 

After lunch Debbie came over with all the items from the GDB gift shop, and spent an hour describing to the students what everything was, color, price etc.  Since I have easy access to these items, I skipped the talk, and took advantage of the time to get caught up with work.

 

We got a late start (2:30) to Gresham for a bus to lounge route.  We parked on Powell, and worked 6 blocks north to Hood (the block before Roberts where there was impassable construction) where we turned right and went one block to 2nd street, turned left and went another block north to Roberts, turned right and went 2 blocks to the lounge.  Hedda and I flew through the route without a hitch.  It felt so great to move out together with confidence, as I thought back at how I was moving with the cane just 2 weeks ago!  I feel like I have been working with her much longer than a couple weeks, I cant imagine how we will be as a team a year from now!  Everyone had a good route, with only a few detours into parking lots.  The traffic on Powell made it easy to hear how to get back to the sidewalk.  We returned to campus, and after everyone had finished in the relieving circle, I took Hedda out for a fun romp in the grass paddock.  She flew around the grass, and made sure we had wrestling time in-between the laps around the paddock.  We then took a couple trips around the Oregon Trail so we could enjoy the smells of the woods and a special moment together. 

 

I skipped dinner and got ready to go out for the evening with an old acquaintance of Larry's who I met a couple years ago.  Lindsey, Geri, Leanne and Isaac have been raising a Guide Dog puppy for the past year, and it was a wonderful opportunity for us all to meet and have an evening out.  They picked me up at 7pm, and since I haven't graduated yet, Hedda had to stay at the dorm.  I pulled out the cane and met them at the curb in front of the Visitors Center.  It was a long slow walk which just an hour before I had walked with ease with Hedda.  They met me with their puppy, Becca, a very cute little 15 month old yellow lab.  We went to Gresham to a wonderful Thai restaurant, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and having an evening off campus.  I missed my girl though! We returned to campus at 9:30, and they came to the dorm with me so they could meet Hedda.  I was thrilled when Hedda gave me an explosive exuberant greeting, she missed me!!  Jenny said she was a good girl while I was gone, but certainly missed me, as she displayed by our reunion.  I felt complete to have Hedda connected to my left hand again.  We snuggled for a while before we both fell off to sleep in our respective beds. 

 

Day 15  Saturday Oct 12

 

Now that's my kind of alarm clock, somehow I neglected to attach the tie-down to Hedda's collar, and at 3:30 am Hedda gave me a little kiss on the cheek, it was so sweet!  I clipped her collar to the tie-down and snuggled with her for a while on the floor till she dozed back off, and then I got up for the day. 

 

The class energy level (which includes the instructors too) is waning, and we are all looking forward to a day off tomorrow.  After breakfast we loaded both busses with a full complement of students and headed off to an area of Portland called Laurel Hearst, an older development, with large older homes from the late 1800's and early 1900's, that has had a revival in the last 10 years.  There is a shopping district with Berkeleyish stores, the Cat Store, Noah's bagels, boutiques, and coffee shops with lots of people, bikes and dogs off and on leash.  We parked in the Fred Meyers parking lot (there is a theme here) and took turns going out with our instructors to face the foot traffic, bikes and dog distractions.  Bus 2 has quite the rapport now, and we spent our waiting time laughing at our jokes and ribbing each other.  Jim came and got Hedda and I and we started off in the neighborhood, which is very similar to the west side of Petaluma with the older craftsman style homes, uneven sidewalks, and lots of dogs in the yards.  Hedda even had a few cat and squirrel sightings too!  Hedda was very sensitive to the uneven pavement, and was careful when the tree roots pushed the cement up and caused potential trip hazards.  The wind was also blowing, which caused the fall leaves to fly around which can be distracting for shepherds with a keen interest in fast moving objects.  Hedda caught a couple of those leaves mid-air, that crossed her path. 

 

We then turned and walked down the street with the shops and narrow sidewalks with dogs tied up at newspaper boxes and parking meters.  Hedda did a fantastic job of ignoring the dogs even when they lunged out to greet her.  I stopped at Noah's bagels, and broke my diet with a poppy seed bagel!  Hedda and I sat out on a bench in front while Jim took Rick and Windstar on their return route to the bus.  It was a great opportunity to see how well Hedda did with all the people and dogs walking by.  She was a little more interested in the things blowing by, and attacked a few leaves with her paws.  She is so funny and entertaining!  A few kids came by and I let them pet her, she kept her composure, but planted one kiss on the cheek of a toddler who was right at her face level.  It is nice to know she is a dog that can be approached by the public, and not get distracted!  I sat in the sun for 1/2 hour, and pretended like I was home again, just enjoying being out on my own.  Jim came back and we finished our route through the neighborhood, encountering a few more dogs, even one that was in a car that rocked from the dogs explosive lunging and barking.  Hedda just moved on by...    I had to get more shampoo, so Jim took me through Fred Meyers, and then back to the bus. 

 

We returned to campus and shared our dog encounter and wind distractions stories.  After lunch Jenny gave us a talk on the importance of being consistent with our dogs when we return home.  Keeping them on leash/crate, or tie-down, relieving and watering schedules.  This way we can prevent accidents and forming bad habits with the dogs.  I have to admit, I was sitting on the floor brushing Hedda who was snuggled in my lap, and we both faded out for a while....  I think I know this info pretty well though. 

 

We loaded up the busses again and went to another area of Gresham with a big Target store, and next to the store was a hiking trail through the woods.  We had the option of either shopping with our dogs or taking the trail.  Hmm, I bet you cant guess which one I chose!  We all worked into the Target, and like at our first Wall Mart visit, we all ascended upon the cafe, and the enticing smell of popcorn compelled me to buy a big bag to share with everyone, except the dogs.  Hedda and I had our turn to take the hike, and I was elated to find that Hedda loves the trails.  She was careful with me when we encountered downed tree branches and rocks in the path, but otherwise she opened it up full throttle, and we cruised through the woods.  We both carried our noses up high enjoying the smells and speed down the path, and I imagined the hiking we will do together when we get home.  The path of course was too short, and the dream ended back at Fred Meyers parking lot.  We returned to campus for the evening and the start of our little break from class.

 

Steve, Chris, Mike and I all gathered our dogs fleeces and put them in the washer. Our kids deserved to have nice clean fluffy beds!  While we were waiting we hung out in the music room on the floor with our dogs and enjoyed Chris's new CD of Josh Grobin and waited for the 9pm relieving session. 

Day 16 Sunday Oct 13

 

Its Sunday, a day of minimal schedules to hold to and the SUN is out!  I still began my day at the regular 4:00 am hour.  The relieving schedule for the day would be 6:30, 9:30, 12:30, 4:00 and 9pm.  Continental breakfast from 7-8, Sunday brunch 10-12:30.  Hedda and I took a run at the paddock and then a few laps around campus on the Oregon Trail.  I brought my disposable camera, and found several locations in full sun, put Hedda on a sit stay, went to the end of the leash, hoped that I had her at least somewhere in the frame, and took the shot.  I took enough photos, that hopefully one of them will be good! 

 

After lunch Mike, Rick, Mary, Christine and I went on an outing to town with 2 volunteers.  While waiting in the parking lot for the second van to find a seat, I heard a familiar voice outside my window, it was Bob, the fleet manager, from the San Rafael campus!  Bob and Maria (my old commute partner) had driven up from San Rafael, and were spending the night at the apartment over the lounge in Gresham.  We made plans to have dinner together in the evening.  The vans were ready, and our first stop was none other than, Fred Meyers.  I had a few things I could get, and ended up having my own personal shopper, Diane!  She found a great sweater in the Colombia Sportswear dept which I couldn't pass by.  Then when all the other shoppers were done, we went to Petco, so we could all buy more toys for our kids, by this time we were all missing them and felt like we had left our left arms at home.  I found Hedda a nylon tug toy, with a notted ball on the end.  Then of course the obligatory stop for coffee before we headed back to campus.  We all sat in the SUN, and enjoyed our coffee, while we absorbed those precious rays.

 

The only advantage I can see to leaving Hedda for any reason, is the reception she gives me when I return, it brings tears to my eyes!  Erin, the apprentice on weekend duty, gave me the thumbs up to go to a much needed dinner and evening with friends off campus.  I painfully said goodbye to Hedda for the second time in one day, and poked my way out to find the parking lot, discovering the same bushes along the way that I found on Friday night.  We went to the Olive Garden for a fantastic evening of non-stop conversation, a glass of wine (grin), and a great meal.  I introduced them to Hedda when we returned to campus, and I got another memorable reunion as well.  Maria and Bob fell instantly in love with her, and she will now know some familiar faces when we return home.  It was great to have a break, and I am ready to face the last week of class! 

 

We returned to campus and I got the grand hello

Day  17 Monday Oct 14

 

Only 5 more days of class.  I started to make a list of locations that I normally travel so that I can figure out a plan for introducing Hedda to her new life when we return home.  It will be important for me to keep in mind that the only thing that will be familiar to her when we leave Oregon is me, everything else will be new.  I am getting excited to introduce her to all my friends and family too! 

 

The class mood has shifted too, from the mid-class blues, to lots of talk of going home.  There are fears of having no instructor over our right shoulder, meeting our raisers (will they be happy with us), and being on our own with our new dog.  Excitement of having no instructor over our shoulder, meeting our raisers (hearing about our dogs as pups) and being on our own with our new dog.

 

The 8am lecture was given by Linda Ciebien, an Orientation and Mobility specialist from Guide Dogs.  She talked about different ways to introduce our dogs to new and perhaps difficult intersections or places to work.  If we are unsure of a crossing, or area, rather than trying to work the dog through it the first time, and potentially be in a confusing situation we can ask for sighted assistance, or use our cane to assess the situation and figure out the best way to approach the crossing.  For example, we can take someone's elbow, and have the dog heel through the route you want them to take at the intersection (one with islands or off-set from a regular straight crossing) and then when the dog sees how to do the crossing, work the dog through.  This way the dog understands how the crossing or difficult area can be done.  You can also locate a door or opening that may be mid-block with your cane, and then point it out to the dog, so that the next time you try and locate that door, the dog knows where you want to be. 

 

It is clear and cold, but during the mid-day it warmed up to the 70's, it was shorts weather (with layers on top to adjust for the changing temperature) Our first route of the day was to put this into practice at a very large busy intersection in Gresham with a turn lane, long island crossing and busy traffic that was set up at odd angles (not the regular 45 degrees X intersection)  The angles were more like a bow tie with the traffic being very difficult to judge.  We worked up to the intersection and Dan described the situation, I took his elbow, and we walked through the crossings and island.  Then turned around and walked back to our starting position.  Hedda and I then worked the crossing ourselves, she immediately picked up the direction that she was to take, crossed the long island and lined me up in the correct direction to cross the final lanes of heavy traffic which included big trucks passing close to us.  She did a perfect job!  Wow, that was amazing!  I can already think of a few crossing when I get home that I will get sighted assistance with the first time. 

 

After lunch Lori and I drove to Portland to the Lloyd Center, a very large 4 story shopping mall with an over the road tunnel that connects it to a large office building.  It is in down-town Portland with a lot of large blocks and city traffic surrounding it.  We parked in a lot which was mid-block, and worked to the end, crossed a signal, and then worked into the Mall.  It was large and had many turns and obstacles to maneuver around and through.  Hedda and I got more escalator experience, stairs, ramps, and the food court with lots of people and food on the floor.  She worked flawlessly through it all.  She was slow and careful in the areas where she needed to be cautious, and had her quick pace when she could.  We worked around several floors of the mall, found the tunnel to the office building which was carpeted and quiet, after the lively sounds of the shopping mall.  We worked to another set of escalators, and out of the building to the street.  We then worked about a mile and a half of blocks around the mall, through areas with coffee shops with people at tables on the sidewalk and dogs tied up outside for distractions.  Heddas only distraction for the day was the leaves blowing by with the high winds.  We passed an area with seafood restaurants, in combination with the winds,made me feel like I was at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.  The streets had a lot of pedestrian traffic, and it was approaching commute time.  When we went by the MAX station, Hedda had to work through a dense crowd of people, which made keeping her direction of travel difficult.  We wove through with ease, not bumping shoulders with a single person.  I was trying to imagine what that must have looked like from her line of view.  It was getting pretty warm in the sun with her solar panel, black coat, and her tongue was hanging out a little, but Lori said she had a big smile on her face.  Her pace remained strong and fast, and at the end of our hour plus route, we were approaching the area where we parked from the opposite direction than we had started.  Hedda began to slow, and pull to the right.  I didn't know why she was doing this , and wondered if she might be showing me the car.  Lori said it was up further, but to see where she might be taking me, sure enough, after the long route, and coming from the opposite direction, she took me right to the van!  Truly amazing!!!  She was dog tired, and slept in the van all the way back to campus. 

 

We spent a quiet evening together, and enjoyed the accomplishments of the day.  I am ready to take on the world with Hedda, she loves to go, and so do I. 

Day 18 Tuesday Oct 15

 

At breakfast the talk was mostly about going home, what we are going to do first with our new dogs, and what we have missed the most over the past 3 or 4 weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing Larry, rowing and getting back to work.  My first stop on the way home on Sunday from the airport is going to be at the Guide Dogs campus in San Rafael so I can give Hedda her first exposure without any of the distractions that we will encounter on Tuesday when we return to work.

 

The morning route was in the Laurelhurst area that we had worked in on Saturday morning, only this time we would work through the neighborhood streets and through a park with a pond with ducks.  When Jaymin got the bus to the stop sign to the block before where Mickey had parked bus 1, there was a parking spot right behind the bus for ours.  A car pulled into the spot just before we crossed the intersection, but no problem there was one across the street, so by the time she turned the bus around  that spot was taken by another car.  The final blow came when the only open spot required skilful parallel parking to squeeze into the spot, not an easy feat with our class busses!   I worked with Greer, what a treat!  We have been friends for a long time.  All the instructors have been so encouraging and supportive.  Even though this is my 5th Guide Dog, I second guess how I have read and handled situations on route.  I wonder if I have interpreted what my dog is doing correctly, and have given the right amount of praise at the correct time, or a correction of the appropriate amount and timing. 

 

It was garbage day in the Laurelhurst area, which meant that we had the trash can slalom course on every block, Hedda did a great job of taking me around all but one garbage can which I bumped with my right side.  Good thing they are made of plastic at the speeds we go!  Just the sound of ,my body bumping the can was correction enough for Hedda, I stopped, backed up several paces, and we re-worked the narrow spot perfectly the second time.  She was extra cautious for the rest of the workout.  In the park there were several dogs running and playing with their owners, which looked to Hedda like it might be fun to join.  This was a great opportunity to do our obedience routine, so she could regain her attention on me and working.  She did a fantastic job with obedience, and her attention was back on me, and off we went through the park.  There were lots of squirrels in the trees, and ducks on the pond, which Hedda obviously saw, but kept her attention on her work.  Then back out of the park and around the neighborhood again, this time finding a very narrow opening around a garbage can, right next to the big noisy garbage truck.  Outstanding clearance work, and no reaction to the truck, which unnerved me a little!

 

After lunch Lori came over to take me to Gresham so we could take MAX to the airport.  The MAX line to the airport opened in January of this year, and will be a good option for me if I need to get to Gresham.on my monthly trips to the Oregon campus.  We parked at the Gresham station, which is the end of the MAX line, got on the train and rode it to the station where we had to switch to the airport line which took us right to the baggage level of the Portland Airport.  The ride out was relatively quiet, but several passengers were inquisitive about Hedda, and admired her.  When we got to the airport we worked up the escalator, and much to my delight it lands you right at the end of the airport where the Alaska Airlines ticket counter is located (the airline I fly for my Oregon trips).  How convenient!  The airport was busy with a lot of people and their luggage, and I got to practice finding the AA ticket counter that Deanne use to take me to, and getting out to the curb on the departure level where the IA's usually pick me up, and to the security area.  We couldn't practice going through security today since I didn't have a ticket.  I think I have another dog who will work through the airport like she owns the place, just like Deanne! We then worked down the long hall with all the shops and restaurants, and even did a little shopping at the Dog/Cat store.  Couldn't pass up that opportunity.  Hedda enjoyed the wall of toys, and wanted to try out a few of the squeaky ones, too cute!  Then we worked down to the baggage area and back out to the MAX train.  The train was much more crowded this time, and it was standing room only, a realistic situation I will encounter when I go home with public transportation.  Hedda planted her bottom on my feet and we wobbled around until, a seat cleared up and we could secure ourselves a little better.  Hedda handled it like a champ!  There were a group of teens goofing around, women with big bags of things that smelled interesting to Hedda, and she handled it all like a seasoned pro. We made our train change and then rode back to Gresham.  That was our final custom route with Lori for the class.  It was such a privilege to work with her and get to know her better, I enjoyed experiencing the obvious bond Hedda and Lori had for each other as well. 

 

After dinner, we loaded the busses for our second night route.  The mood was lighter now that the end of class is in reach.  We did a bus to lounge route from 10th and Main St, to the lounge.  I was the only one with a watch, so volunteered to be the timer and last to go again.  It was an amazingly warm evening in the high 60's that had the smells of an area more like Southern California.  The first block was very long and had no intersections from 10th to 5th, but lots of deep driveways, that could easily feel like it might be an intersection.  Just had to trust the dog that it wasn't.  Hedda and I traveled quickly down the street, past a few barking dogs with ease, and were back at the lounge within a few minutes.  We all met in one room, and Jim told us the plan for the rest of the week, and then congratulated us, because barring any unforeseen problems, we were all going to graduate on Saturday!  This elicited big cheers and clapping, which excited our dogs too!   The mood was high, and when we returned to campus we celebrated with 9 flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream in the fireplace room.  A truly "sweet" moment for all of us, our dogs sleeping at our feet in cute positions, and a group of students (almost graduates) celebrating our accomplishments and significantly changed lives!

 

Day 19 Wed Oct 16

 

I think that the class is getting use to waking up early, there is joke telling, and kidding around now while we wait to go out for the 6:30 relieving time!  Rick, the endless wealth of jokes, had some real groaners for us this morning. 

 

We had breakfast, loaded up the busses and headed east toward Mt. Hood, and went to a beautiful nature preserve called Wildwood.  The Salmon river runs through the park, and there are both paved and natural trails in all directions.  There are interpretive stations placed throughout the park which explain the habitat.  There is a viewing station which puts you under the water level of the river with a glass wall so you can see the fish (well at least our dogs can).  There were lots of kids there learning about the environment.  We parked the busses and there was a downed log that we could sit on to wait our turn to take a brisk walk.  The smells of the Douglas fir and cedar forest was one that I wished I could bottle and take home.  All the dogs were frisky, and anxious to explore the woods.  We had the option of a short, medium or long walk.  There is no doubt about what Hedda and I wanted!  I was the last to go out, so I enjoyed visiting with my classmates while we waited. Hedda had a hard time sitting still, so we did a round of obedience, which brought her focus back for a little while.  Jaymin finally came to take Hedda and I, and we were off with a jolt, both of us with our noses in the air, pulling in all the amazing smells!  We crossed a bridge wooden bridge over the river, where there were a large group of kids with a teacher, Hedda parted the sea of kids, and on to a 2 foot path, with many offshoots,  We turned to the left, and then right at another fork, and traveled to a dead end with an observation area for a beaver dam.  We returned to the main path, and continued our way through the forest, with quick moments of warmth hitting my face as the sun broke through the trees.  It was about 65 degrees, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and taking the experience in through every pore!  Hedda worked beautifully, hesitating, and stopping when necessary for rocks or branches in the path, or overhanging limbs.  She was focused, yet taking in the entire experience.  This was nirvana for both of us, and it was a preview of the future nature walks in store for us.  It was over all too soon, and we headed back to GDB

 

While waiting in my room for the bell to ring for lunch, I suddenly had two dog heads in my lap, there was no mistaking that second head, it could be non-other than Kanya, Kim's smooth coated collie Guide Dog.  Kim is the counselor, and was here for the evening lecture and to be available to talk to any of the students who wished to meet with her.  Kanya and Hedda leaped and played while Kim and I hugged and got caught up.  The bell rang, and we had to break up the 2 goofballs, and head down for lunch.  Lunch was cafeteria style , we learned how to handle a buffet line (I avoid them like the plague).  Three kinds of home made pizza  and salad were set out on the counter in the kitchen, we formed a line, and moved into the kitchen one at a time, taking a tray, plastic utensils, napkin, and were asked what kind of pizza we would like.  We were handed our paper plate , balanced the tray in our right hand, picked up the harness handle and worked out of the kitchen, to our table with the verbal guidance of an instructor.  There were no disasters!  This doesn't mean any of us like buffet lines any more than we did before, we know we can do it if we need to though.

 

After lunch we stayed on campus and through the course of the afternoon, did a route on campus with overhanging obstacles made out of PVC pipe of varying heights.  Greer covered how to re-work the overheads that is one of the most difficult things for a dog to learn, since their heads are at our knee level, and they have to look up to find the obstacle.  For people like Steve, at 6'5", there may not have been instructors working Rattan that were that tall, and she had to learn his height.  Hedda, ran me into the first 2 obstacles, we re-worked them, and then continued on the path to encounter 2 more, which she found, and showed to me.  Good girl!  When we graduate, we will undoubtedly encounter overheads, and this gave us the opportunity to learn the timing of handling the rework, so that the dog understands what we are asking them to do. 

 

Margie did my exit interview which consisted of 4 questions about how we feel about our readiness to go home with our new dog.  That took about 30 seconds! A more extensive interview will happen about a month after we are home with our dogs.  Then Steve, Theresa, Ron and I went down to the Vet Clinic to meet with Dr. Patty.  Our dogs were weighed, and Dr. Patty went over each dogs health history from birth to the present.  Hedda had a clean history, with only a minor surgery to open a tear duct that wasn't patent.  She went over the importance of maintaining our dogs weight throughout their life.  Then Dr. Patty took us into the exam room one at a time, and gave our dogs their rabies tags, did a general physical on them and answered any questions we had about our dogs health. 

 

At 4 pm, Dr. Patty came up to the dorm, and talked to us about Heartguard, the heartworm preventative, flea control, vaccinations, and the importance of maintaining our dogs health and weight.  After dinner, Kim met with us to do a discussion on going home with a Guide Dog from the graduates perspective.  Since I usually do this talk with Kim, I put on my staff hat, and we ran the discussion together.  We cover everything from introducing your new dog to family, friends, the public, pets, to petting by the public, access issues, and any other concerns a new graduate might have about their adjustment to having a new dog.  After we finished, I jumped into my Speakers Bureau talk, on PR materials we have for graduates to assist them with any public speaking they may want to do. 

 

Debbie from Admissions, came by to let me know that Hedda's first raiser, Dorothy, who had Hedda from 8 weeks to 5 months, couldn't come to graduation but wanted to meet me and see Hedda again.  She made arrangements to drive down from Seattle tomorrow, and meet with us in the afternoon.  It will be great to meet her and hear about what Hedda was like as a very young puppy.  I hope she brings photos!  I also got a call from Janine, Hedda's second raiser, who had her for the final 9 months of her puppyhood.  She told me more stories about Hedda (I cant get enough), and the arrangements for meeting for dinner after graduation on Saturday night.  Party time! 

 

Day 20 Thursday Oct 17

 

Only 2 more days to hear Homer's joyous tail bring in the day...  Today we would have an all day outing, so we all had to make sure we had everything we needed for the day, since we would be eating lunch out, and not returning till later in the afternoon.  That included plastic bags since we are now picking up after our dogs. Since Monday, when we learned the technique of following the curl of our dogs back down to the pile with a plastic bag placed over our hands like a mitt, the instructors no longer shoveling up after our dogs, a landmark moment for them I am sure.

 

We loaded up the busses and headed down to Gresham, to do a route from 10th St next to the MAX station, to Burnside, with heavy 4 lane traffic and a difficult off set crossing to Petco.  Steve and I were the first to go with Jim.  Rattan and Hedda took turns, much to their dismay when it was their turn to go second!  We worked a long block with deep driveway cutouts to Burnside, turned right so we were traveling with the traffic moving in the same direction we were going, and it was very close to the sidewalk.  Hedda startled briefly a couple of times when some big trucks wooshed by at fast speeds.  I startled too, but we both recovered in seconds and kept on working.  We worked through the off-set crossing, and through an island with a cutout with ease, and then another 1/2 block to Petco.  We went in side so we could work through the store experiencing all the obvious distractions of little animals, pet dogs, bisquets and toys at nose level.  There was a chorus of little bird songs coming from the left wall of the store, so I requested to take Hedda there to get her impression of birds, after all, she has an African Grey parrot named Sterling, waiting for her at home.  She was curious, and did many head tilts at the high pitched songs, but quickly found them boring and was ready to move on to the other interesting options in the store.  We studied the walls of toys and once while I was distracted by the plush cow head that mooed, Hedda stelthfully lifted a smoky flavored rawhide stick.  She got busted when Jaymin let out a gasp, and "oh, my god".  I checked her mouth and found the rawhide gripped between her side teeth carried like a fine cigar.  She released it instantly, I put it back and paid more attention to what my crafty dog was doing.  The rest of the students arrived and we were all sharing our toy discoveries, and making sure all our dogs toy needs were being met.  We had lots of laughs  as this mob of blind people tried to distinguish what all these toys were, and how they worked.  I can just picture the bubbles with captions above the dogs heads, as they wondered, what we were getting so excited about, who is this store for anyway?!  Then I felt an ever so slight jerk to Heddas head, as she was stretched to the end of her leash, I checked her mouth, to discover a long round bisquet.  Hedda thought it was worth a try, after all they must be for her, they are at her level!  Jaymin did warn me, but I was distracted again, bad Aerial!  The store clerk told me I could give it to her, but I put the damp bisquet in my pocket to give to her at another time.

 

We all met outside Petco and discussed our purchases while we waited for the instructors to bring the busses.  The most purchased toy was the nylon rope with the knot on the end, like I bought for Hedda on Sunday.  There was an assortment of kongs with ropes, tug ropes, and of course plush toys in every shape and sound.  Steve bought the cow that mooed for Rattan, and an angel costume, big tall macho mushy guy when it comes to his little girl! Actually we all were pretty gushy over our "kids" when it came to the toys. 

 

We then drove to Clackamas Mall, a large shopping center with a food court and skate rink in the middle just like Lloyd Center. We parked in the back 40 for a drink of water and potty break for the dogs.  Then got dropped off at the food court entrance of the mall.  We parked ourselves at some tables and the instructors took turns taking us to the restrooms (our turn now), and then we were escorted to the junk food option of our choice to pick up lunch.  There was everything from Japanese, sandwiches, pizza, tacos and burgers.  Then we got a description of the layout of the mall and were cut loose to do whatever we wanted.  Mike and Rainer and Hedda and I decided to travel together Our first destination was my choice of Victoria Secret, and I will keep my purchase a secret...  With our initial directions from Mickey of how to find it, we went around the food court till we heard the escalators, all the while checking in with each other to be sure we were still together.  We found the down escalator, and noted the waterfall/fountain that was located right next to the escalator for a future landmark.  We turned right.  I don't like to wonder, and I asked the first person I heard, where I could find Victoria Secret.  "oh, let me help you, follow me" she said, and off we went with our new personal escort.  Mike asked her what was around, and she showed him to the Gap store down the hall on the left.  I was approached by an employee, and Hedda backed up.  She told me she was holding a leg that she was putting a stocking on for a display.  This must have looked odd to Hedda so I asked her if she would bring it closer so she could check it out.  Hedda sniffed, and then wagged her tail, and the strange object was now ok.  The clerk helped me find what I needed and I was on my way.  "Hedda, outside"..  The same woman who helped us locate the store came back up to me when I got out in the hall, and told me she worked in the kiosk right in front of the store, and that she would take me to find Mike in the Gap.   He was in the back in a dressing room trying on jeans while the clerks were gushing over Rainer.  They were thrilled to discover another dog in their store, and I was convinced I needed another pair of stretch jeans that they told me were on sale.  It was time to venture off on our own again, and find Sears where Mike wanted to buy a portable cd player, without having to pay the sales tax we do in California.  I asked lots of questions (I knew that would be up to me, since men don't ask for directions) and we finally found what he was looking for after several escalator and elevator rides and a little wondering from poor directions (not all willing and helpful strangers are accurate)   We came out of Sears on the second floor were we heard that the Bath and Body store was located, we went for a while and my nose found a coffee place, and that sounded like a good plan, sit down and enjoy a latte for a few minutes.  Jim came by to checked in on us.  We still had about 45 minutes to wonder.  I wanted to get a box of Sees candy for the class, so we found our way to the water fall sound, and took the escalators down to the first floor and got directions to Sees.  Then back up the escalator and back to the tables in the food court to meet up with the rest of the class.  On the way home we all shared our stories and adventures, and passed the candy and Cinabons. 

 

We returned and took care of feeding and relieving our tired dogs.  I waited in my room while the rest of the class got a talk about graduate services when they return home.  I was familiar with the info, and was waiting for Hedda's puppy raisers.  Mickey knocked on my door, and told me that they had arrived and were waiting in the fireplace room at the end of the hall.  I grabbed the gifts I had for them, photos of Hedda and I, and headed down the hall.  About 1/2 way down the hall Hedda threw her head in the air, and picked up her pace, she knew they were here long before she saw them!  Dorothy the raiser, her husband, daughter and 2 grandchildren (2 months old and 2 years old) were waiting on the couches.  It was all I could do to hold on to Hedda.  I took her harness off, and let her go to Dorothy.  She was ecstatic to see them!  They were all shocked and surprised that she knew who they were, after all, they had her for the first 5 months from the time she was 8 weeks old.  We spent the next hour and a half talking about Hedda, and getting to know each other.  It was thrilling!  I got to hear about baby Hedda stories, and it was obvious they loved her dearly, and she was very special to them.  We exchanged contact information and a new friendship was formed through this common bond with Hedda.  I was also pleased to see that as much as she was elated to see her old family again, she struggled to come back over to be with me.  Our bond is strong now, and we are well on our way! 

 

I spent some time packing, thinking about getting home with Hedda, and reminiscing about the last 3 weeks.  What a long way we have come, and a long road ahead of us of journeys and travels together!

Day 20, Friday Oct 18

 

Today is our last official day of class, and tomorrow is Graduation!  We all expressed the dichotomy of  feeling like class was long (especially in the middle) and that it was over in a flash.  The manifestation of a significantly demanding, moving and life altering experience. 

 

The un-altered schedule for the care of our dogs is the skeleton of every training day, and will also be something that we will carry on to our lives when we return home with our guides.  We loaded the busses for our last workout as students.  We were all cut loose for the destinations of our choice in Gresham.  I chose to be dropped off at the Max line at Gresham Station so that I could learn the final piece of the route from the Portland airport to the GDB Lounge in Gresham.  There was construction blocking the road that Jaymin wanted to take to drop me off, and she had to take a detour.  She dropped me off on the east side of the tracks a ( the side where the train would stop on the way to Gresham) and I had to work over the tracks to the west side, travel one block north to Hood St. and then cross the tracks again and travel west.  The only difficult part is dealing with the trains.  There is an arm that comes down to block traffic, and a warning signal when the arm first comes down.  But they are only on the side that blocks the traffic.  I had to be careful to listen for the bell, and then be sure that the train had passed because there would be no arm to stop me in the direction I was traveling (facing traffic).  I made my first crossing of the tracks, and just as I crossed the bell rang signaling the train was moving.  I traveled to the next street, and waited to cross the tracks again till I was sure I could hear car traffic moving across the tracks, then I was sure it was clear.  The rest of the route was a piece of cake and I was back at the lounge in minutes.  The rest of the class was just leaving for the class choice destination of Cafe Delirium.  The cafe went to the dogs, as the 8 of us with our dogs stormed the restaurant.  There was lots of talk about our puppy raisers, all of them are coming to graduation, and some of us got to speak to our raisers on the phone as well. 

 

After getting charged up on caffeine, Chris, Theresa, Steve and I went to the toy store on the corner of 2nd and Main, just 2 blocks west of the cafe.  Steve's raiser is 12 years old, and he wanted to get him a toy.  I think our dogs were as excited as children when they went into the store.  There were stuffed animals and wonderful things at their head height to look at and smell.  Hedda particularly found a pink feather boa very enticing, it was so Hedda!  I found a box of stuffed birds with accurate bird calls when you squeezed them.  My favorites were the Baltimore Oriel and the Meadow lark.  I got the oriel for Deanne, and I didn't mean to say Hedda.   We all left the store and went different directions to get back to the lounge so that we didn't all get bunched up.  Just down the street toward Powell I was drawn into a store by the beautiful candle smell.  It was called the Mystic Pony.  A kind of new-age store with lots of wonderful sounds and smells.  I met up with Mickey , who gave me an overview of the store.  I then made my way back to the lounge. 

 

After lunch Debbie from Admissions came by with a binder of information for us to go home with.  Everything from etiquette brochures and literature to help teach the public about Guide Dogs, to health certificates, and ID cards for our new dogs.  There was a wealth of information on care and feeding of our dogs, and a tape on "Going Home with our Dog".  She went through the packet with us and made sure we knew what everything was, and provided it in our media of choice as well. 

 

At 3:30 we met at the Visitors Center, and went up on the stage and sat in the order we would be for the graduation.  We were prepped on the schedule for the day, and the plans for going home.  Jim gave a tender conclusion to training, and a pep talk on going home.  It is moments like these that I am proud that I can say I am part of the staff at Guide Dogs.  It has been a unique opportunity for me to look at the organization I work for, from the perspective of a recipient of one of our dogs.  I can honestly say that this is an amazing organization with integrity and a mission that significantly alters the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

 

After dinner Mom and Ken with his Guide Dog Honcho, came over to the dorm for a visit, and to meet Hedda for the first time.  The class had just finished a Halloween costume photo session with our dogs, and were carving pumpkins in the dining room.  The nurse was there, just in case... 

Ron, Alex and Steve joined us, and we had a great evening talking about our new dogs and showing them off.  I am packed and ready to start the fast paced event of graduation day.  The day where the emotions run high for everyone, the raisers who haven't seen their "puppy" for 6 months or more, the dogs, who are seeing people they love from the past, their instructors that they bonded to, and their new handlers that they have spent 24 hours a day with for the past 3-4 weeks, and have now understood the purpose of all the preparation they have received since birth. 

 

Hedda and I are a sponsored team, which means that there is someone that has donated to Guide Dogs, for our training.  The sponsor is my best friend from second grade Sue Oliver.  Sue and Chet also sponsored Deanne and I 7 years ago.  This makes my graduation even more significant!  Even though I am not graduating in San Rafael, where most of my friends and family live, I am honored to know there is going to be a pretty good sized group that are here to see us graduate.  Even though this is the 5th time I have gone through my own graduation and I attend every graduation on the San Rafael campus, I am still experiencing the pre-graduation jitters...

 

Graduation Day Saturday Oct 19th

 

 I bet you are wondering why it has taken me so long to write the last  journal entry for our training experience.  Both Hedda and I have been tired  and a little overwhelmed.  But here it is the final installment, which  really marks the beginning, not the end.

 

All the dogs could sense that something was different,  We were all excited

and nervous, it was graduation morning.  Training was over, and we are about

to begin our lives out in the real world with our new partners.  The  schedule for the day was breakfast at the regular time of 7:15, a brief  meeting in the lecture room, and then free time to pack and get ready for graduation before the 11am lunch service.  Mickey gave us a little pep talk on what happens for graduation and then read a list of "how many dogs does it take to change a light bulb" uniquely tailored for our individual dogs.  It gave us all a great laugh, and it was apparent that we were all aware of all the dogs personalities from being in such close contact for  the past 3-4 weeks.  Hedda of course, was "light bulb, sure I can do that, are there more to change".

 

After lecture, I took the last few quiet moments in the dorm to go  around to each student and say my good-byes.  I know from past experience, that once graduation begins, there is no time to adequately say goodbye to classmates. After I finished getting ready for graduation, I got a knock on the door  from Mickey, Sue and Chet were here to see us.  Sue and I have been best  friends since second grade, and they sponsored Deanne and I when we graduated almost 7 years ago.  They had come to see graduation and to sponsor Hedda and I.  Being sponsored is a special honor, and it was even more special knowing it was Sue!   We took the quiet moments that remained before the chaos started to chat and catch up.

 

Lunch was somber, and most of us had nervous stomachs.  We all finished quickly, and went to our rooms to wait for the instructors to come get us when our puppy raisers arrived.  It seemed like a very long time, but in reality it was only 20 minutes, and the knock finally came.  Hedda again realized way down the hall that there was a very familiar sent in the dorm, it was Janine!  She exploded with excitement and lavished her with little Hedda kisses.  Janine was equally excited to see Hedda again. She brought presents!  Hedda got her favorite childhood toy, a rubber tug toy, with a handle for me.  She unwrapped her own gift, just like another Guide Dog I had, Audrey.  Janine brought gifts for me too!  She brought a silver necklace with a ring that says freedom and a German shepherd hanging in the middle of the ring.  She also brought a photo album of Hedda from the time that she had her.  I love having puppy photos, that I can show to

people, and hear their reactions.  I had a couple things for Janine as well. Our class  hoto and a photo I took of Hedda in the sun on campus.  Not exactly entered, but pretty good from what I hear, and a small all black German shepherd sculpture. 

 

After getting to chat for a while, we headed over to the admin building to a reception for Chet and Sue. My mom, Ken and  Honcho, Sue, Chet, their kids, Kendra and Tim, Judy and Carey from Development and Janine Hedda and I were all there to talk about Miss Hedda! We then headed back to the Dorm for photos of Janine, Hedda and I , nd then the 2 of us with Sue, Chet and the kids.  Hedda is a photo hound, and  poses with her head cocked for the camera.  Then it was over to the Visitors  Center for graduation.  I had to hand the leash over to Janine.  I felt empty, walking away from Hedda!

 

Steve Strand opened the ceremony and Jim did the class overview.  The room was packed. There were 300 chairs which were filled and people standing in the back.  Then the moment we were waiting for, to be reunited with our dogs.  Mary and Bonita went first.  As many graduations that I have attended, the stories are heartfelt and touch me to the core, Pass the Kleenex!  I  ent next, and my preparation of speaking points that I wanted to cover vanished from my brain when Hedda and I were re-united and she leaped up into my arms. As much as I speak in public, graduation always leaves me an emotional basket case.  I  emembered about 1/3 of what I wanted to say., and there were 3 thank-yous I left out, so I will say them now: Thank you Sue and Chet for sponsoring Hedda and I.  Thank you to my  previous Guide Dogs Webster, P.J., Audrey and Deanne for teaching me how to work  with dogs.  A special Thank you to Deanne, for 6.5 years of guiding me and  being my best friend!

 

After graduation it was a time for hugging and saying hi to friends, new and old and family.  There were lots of dogs, puppies and guides everywhere,  like at any GDB event, all the dogs got along.  I was moved when Rick and Dale (from Nike) came up to me and told me that they were now Interested  in raising a puppy for Guide Dogs!  After we closed the place down, I  changed my clothes and gathered my luggage and we headed to Gresham for a big group dinner. There were 10 of us and 4 dogs, and we enjoyed an evening of food, wine (grin) and lots of talk about dogs! Now is when the  tory really begins, returning home with a brand new dog. The only thing that will be familiar to Hedda will be me.  I have Taken in nventory of all the places I go and things I do, and am figuring out a plan on introducing these to Hedda.  We have laid the foundation to this new relationship, it is now up to me to put into practice what I have learned. I am Heddas trainer now.

Last Installment, home with Hedda

We had a 3 dog flight from Portland to Oakland.  Mary and Bonita, Ken and Honcho and Hedda and I all flew in the bulkhead.  The pilot came back as we were loading the plane and commented on how his plane has gone to the dogs...  Hedda used Honcho as a pillow, and relaxed throughout the flight.  Bonita got startled by something mid-flight, and levitated right into Mary's lap.  After we landed and claimed our luggage with the help of Hedda sniffing out my suitcase, we headed to Guide Dogs.  I gave Hedda her first exposure to the campus when it was quiet (all except the 300 dogs in the kennels).  We worked our way around campus, used the relieving circle and did a round of obedience on the graduation patio.  Then we headed up to Rohnert Park for a round of burgers at In and Out, mmmm, good! 

 

Larry came out to greet us when I arrived home.  Hedda didn't know him but decided that she should join in and make it a group hug!  I gave Hedda a room by room tour of our home and the back yard, and her bed/ tie down.  For the next month Hedda will be on leash or tie down, until she is comfortable with the household routine.  This avoids accidents, and gives me an opportunity to teach her what is ok, and what is not.  For example, if she were to try and get into the garbage off leash, I wouldn't have any way of knowing, or correcting the behavior. 

 

In the afternoon, Larry and I took Hedda over to Schollenburger park, a 2 mile loop to the river, for a nice relaxing first workout.  Hedda woke up 6 times the first night.  She checked in with me by kissing my face, and then fell back to sleep.  I think she woke up and didn't know where she was. 

 

Larry fell in love with her right away, which was a shock coming from a non-dog person.  Deanne had to work on him for a year before he decided he liked her.  Hedda's puppiness just melted his heart, and he told me that he is actually having a hard time keeping his hands off of her.  Too cute! 

 

I worked my first route near my home with my good friend Kathy O'Connor, a guide dog trainer and O&M specialist who lives down the street.  We worked out the best route for the stretch of street that has no sidewalks so we would be safe.  Worked on crossings, finding the pole (with the button to trigger the signal)  and getting lined up for the crossing, and working to the grocery store.  All routes that I wanted to go right the first time, and I appreciated the assistance.  Hedda only needs to see things once, then she has it! 

 

Heddas second time to Guide Dogs was a lot busier than Sunday.  She met Nika, Deanne's best friend, right outside the dorm playing Frisbee.  Then right into the dorm to talk with the San Rafael students about the computers where she stared at a big all black male German shepherd, her brother Haggarty!  After the dorm and a stop at the relieving circle, Pete followed me as I introduced Hedda to the Kennel hallway, with 300 dogs, most out in the community runs.  She did great, and we went into all of the rooms which we visit on tours, the Kennel Kitchen, bathing room and Vet Clinic.  Then it was a day of meeting staff and volunteers.  By 2 pm Hedda and I were exhausted and opted to go home and rest. 

 

Our days will continue, gradually exposing Hedda to all the routines that I have in my life.  The most difficult part now is to not overwhelm her with too many new things.  It is difficult to curb the enthusiasm and desire to pet and interact with Hedda to the almost 500 volunteers, 150 plus staff,visitors friends and family.  We have a good 6 months to a year to cement our relationship and become a strong working team.  Since she has to work for me and with me, the relationship has to be just the 2 of us.  She will naturally love the people that are important in my life, but until our relationship has jelled, we need to focus on each other.  So if you are with me, please understand why I am not having you interact with Hedda right now.  This is the best way you can support our relationship.  Thank you for understanding.  Feel free to ask questions, and I am happy to share Hedda stories any time.

Aerial and Hedda the department