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.

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