Brilliant…just brilliant!

We’ll make a guide dog of her yet, and it may happen sooner than I think! Seriously, How odd will it be to have two working guides? Guess I’ll find out soon enough, because she really is coming along nicely. The funny part is, I haven’t had her out and about nearly as much as I thought I would. For one reason or another, sometimes diarrhea, sometimes other things going on, sometimes brains falling out, all manner of things, I really thought we’d have had more outings than we’ve had. In spite of this lack, however, Hilda seems to be picking up a lot of what she’s meant to be doing. Of course, there’s a lot of fine tuning and actual training to do, but what she’s doing already is pretty amazing, especially considering how little work I’ve done, especially in the past couple months. I mean…sometimes we’d go out once a week, sometimes twice a week, sometimes zero times a week. Many of those trips were just having her walk at heel (well, as close to that as she’s ever gotten anyway), with me stopping at curbs and directing her through lefts/rights, with some fairly informal harness exposure thrown in for fun. All very low key,also all fairly organic, by which I mean I didn’t really set up anything or do much formal, but walked her through situations as we encountered them.

This past few days, however, Hilda’s gotten in a bit more than has been usual.

Sunday, our NFB chapter had its holiday lunch party gathering thingy at the Olive Garden. I decided to take Hilda this time. Melanie was puzzled by this decision. Is she ready, do you think? Well, I responded, she’s got to do it sometime, may as well be now. That trip, she got the opportunity to ride in the back of the car as well as in the front. Back on the way there, front on the way back. I was able to get her to lie down on the floor both times, although on the way there, it took me most of the trip to convince her. On the way back, she laid down pretty well. She also did a pretty good job of walking through the restaurant. While she did stop to try and investigate someone’s table, we kept her moving and it was all right. With two other guide dogs there, she laid beside my chair really nicely, only doing a little bit of the creepy crawl to try and visit the guide dog across the table.

Tuesday, we went to a doctor’s appointment. She was a huge hit with everybody, and lying down in the car was a lot easier. She laid down and stayed that way both directions! We played around a little bit with “find the chair”, an easy exercise since the chairs were all empty, and all in a row directly across from the check-in. Still, exposure. She was pretty excited about a new place, so she wanted to race, but even so, she did a nice enough job.

Today’s trip, however, was nothing short of spectacular. Considering her age and the amount of work and exposure she’s had, it really is pretty amazing to me.

We went to the CVS drugstore, a trip Hilda has walked several times. It’s the rout we do most often. It’s a pretty easy one, involving no traffic lights, and mostly very quiet roads. There’s also sidewalk along the whole thing.

The first challenge is the crossing at 29th and Elmwood. Yes, it’s very straightforward in itself, but the approach to the curb is a little odd. On every part of the intersection, the crosswalk is a slight jog to one side or the other from the majority of the sidewalk. Thus, to make the first crossing, you take a little jog to the right to pick up the blended curb. At the second crossing (to the left), there’s a jog to the right to hit the crosswalk, and then when you get across,to head west on 29th is a little jog to the left. She mostly got that last bit, but I had to walk her through getting from the sidewalk to the crossing. It’s a little tricky and probably doesn’t make much sense to her. She’ll get it though, I’m confident of that.

On the trip up, she stopped at all curbs but two, and one of those was a pause and a continue. Not appropriate since this was a street crossing, but half points, I suppose. Her pace and pull for the majority of the trip were absolutely spot on. She definitely avoided obstacles, like the back ends of cars parked, and she found the way into the store with absolutely no trouble. She loves going in, so I had to stop a few times to convince her that she really didn’t need to run and really really didn’t need to pull. Still, she walked me all the way back to the pharmacy counter, and also to the front counter. However, by the time we actually got to the store, I could tell her brain was starting to get tired. She got distracted by someone who asked if she was friendly on the way to the store, but no biggie.

But here’s the thing that I’m most proud of. Stopping for the curbs was great. Targeting the curbs was great, even though she missed the sidewalks this time. She missed them, however, by going away from traffic, and usually by just a couple feet. I made sure to point them out to her though, and she easily went back to where they were. But that isn’t the brilliant, awesome, just super fantastic thing that happened.

Waiting to cross at 29th and Washington, a four-way stop, a truck came up to the intersection. A big truck. A big truck with, it sounded like, a trailer. It stopped. I waited. It went. It was coming from my right, making a left turn from Washington (where we were crossing) onto 29th (headed east). It must have been close enough for Hilda, because she very calmly and with no fuss took two steps backwards. Mind you, we were on the curb when the truck started moving, and I don’t think it was in any danger of jumping the curb, but here’s the thing. We’d never worked on that. I’ve never done any formal traffic work with her. At all. None. She’s never seen Leno do a check. Actually, I don’t think any of my dogs since Karl have had to do anything like that after training. But she did…she saw a situation she didn’t like, and she took decisive, reasonable, and not fearful action.

On the way home, I could tell her brain was getting tired. First, she didn’t want to go. So eventually, after determining it wasn’t that she needed a doggie restroom, we just heeled her for the next block or block and a half, after which she decided she wanted to just go go go! Her work on the way home wasn’t nearly what it was on the way up. She ran curbs, she wanted to run, and pulled like a freight train. But her brain was probably tired, and she isn’t quite a year old yet.

Still, I couldn’t be prouder. Somethings’s going on in her fuzzy little head anyway.

Woefully Behind On Updates!

I have been intending to update this thing for ages. I can’t believe months have gone by without, but they have, and lots has happened. The trouble is, the further behind I get, the more daunting becomes the task of updating, and so the cycle continues.

When last we left our tale of adventure, Hilda was brilliant. Oh, she still is, certainly, but there were things along the way.

There was the month at seven months where I swear her brains were falling out of her head. Seems she forgot just about everything she knew about being out and about. Who is this, and what have you done with Hilda? This passed eventually, though not without lots of curbs to run, people to greet, and distractions to be had.

Unfortunately, at eight months, she got this epic bout of diarrhea. It seriously lasted a couple weeks on and off. Just as I thought it was clearing up, back it came. There was no parasites though. Although I did run into an Uber driver who was a bit nervous about Hilda going in his car, which was OK, so she stayed home and me and her stool sample went by ourselves.

Time marches on. We started doing a bit more work in harness. She does pretty well at going around obstacles, and when she’s on, she does a nice job of staying on the sidewalk. Still, she’s quite easily distracted. Still, amazing progress. For instance, we took our first trip to a grocery store, where we met people in the cafe. She did very well, didn’t jump on anyone, and lay quietly by my chair. The couple other times we’ve been inside stores, she’s also done pretty well. One trip to our local grocery, she really wanted to pull and visit and wasn’t paying attention at all to much she was supposed to and everything she wasn’t. To be fair though, we’d made one other stop, she’d done some guiding on the way, and was probably tired of all that nonsense.

Speaking of guiding, here’s an interesting thing. She will generally stop for the wheelchair ramps and blended curbs, but she’ll run the real, very defined ones. When we encounter those, we have several reworks to do. Even so, she’s pretty good at targeting not only the opposite curb, but also the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

At the beginning of November, Hilda somehow managed to get a puncture wound on her back leg. This is when she was introduced to the Cone Of Shame. She hated it. I hated it. But at least her wound healed up nicely.

She’s also had some time away. Twice, she’s had a sleepover with friends and relations. Hilda has been able to visit with her littermate Ares, and a sister from another litter. We appreciate Ares’ and Madde’s family Hildasitting. It was good for her to hang out with new dogs, in new situations, and to do new and fun things. The first time also pointed up a problem I didn’t know about: Hilda was nervous about stairs. It never occurred to me, since she had no trouble with the ones from our first floor to our second. This decided me on a course of action. I wanted to expose her to open riser stairs, but the closest set of those available to me was the one to our basement, where the litterboxes live. Naturally, I was somewhat reluctant to employ those. Still, she needed the exposure, the stairs were handy, and I could always work with her on not going down that specific set later if I needed to. Initially, she would run away from me. She wouldn’t put her front feet down the stairs, not for love nor money. This might be a problem. Now, while they’re not her favorite thing ever, which is all right, she’ll walk down them with me without complaint. It only took some muscle (to carry her down most of them so she could stand on the last couple to start), a half hour, and a whole string cheese. Tell the truth, I was pretty pleased that I was able to pull that off so quickly. Beginner’s luck? Yeah, I’ll take it.

Hilda just got spayed on the 1st of the month. A few more days with the Cone, and she’s doing great. We had a walk yesterday to the convenience store to buy milk. Said milk ended up leaking, but that’s another story. Here’s the email I posted yesterday about the trip.

So. Oh boy. Happy fun times.

Now, we’re starting more harness training with Hilda. It’s a familiar route, one we’ve walked several times, to the Circle K store to get milk. It’s about a half mile one way, give or take, I suppose. No worries. I take the cane in case of problems, which there will undoubtedly be since we’re training. She’s already comfortable around traffic, and no, I don’t expect any traffic work, but she isn’t bothered by it.

All in all, once we actually got going, she did pretty well. We have to work at not running curbs. She stops at most of them, though she still runs some. She’s also learned a new trick, that of crossing a street and, instead of finding the up curb, walking along the edge of the curb so she can keep going. DIdn’t catch that one until the second time she did it. Also, stopping to sniff the ground in the middle of the street is probably not a thing to encourage. She only did that once though. She really is very easy to redirect, just a verbal reminder usually does the trick.

The trouble today, however, was getting her going. I think the “don’t pull on the leash” directive may have gone a little too well, because it took me about five blocks of cajoling, encouraging, cheerleading, correcting (which didn’t help), cussing, and all manner of things before she’d go anywhere. What I finally ended up doing was taking the pinch collar off, then walking with her on leash with the cane, then with the harness handle, and eventually got her pumped up enough to walk at a reasonable pace and get ahead of me. Then, when she started getting more sniffy and excitable, the pinch went back on and things were pretty good, requiring only some small encouragement when she got hesitant to move out. She’s also getting the idea of what too much pull is, as I’ve been stopping and dropping the harness when she goes too crazy, then she comes right back. She self-corrected at least once, started pulling and then I could literally feel her kind of step back. That was pretty cool, actually.

One thing I forgot to mention in the email was this one street crossing. There’s a parking lot or something at this corner, and it got a little confusing. I was able to walk Hilda through getting to the corner instead of this parking lot. We went across, but somehow still ended up pretty far up the street instead of at the correct sidewalk at the corner. Hilda just took a little prompting to go left, back to the street, and find the right sidewalk, and off we went again. I should note that I did most of this trip without using the cane much at all. It’s a familiar route though, so it’s OK.

I expect travel to be somewhat sporadic when the snow hits, but we’re definitely well on our way now.