Hilda’s First Out of Town Trip

Our trip to Austin for the AccessU conference is nearly over. Well, the conference is definitely over, but Hilda and I are flying home tomorrow, carrying a lot more stuff than we came with. And a lot more other stuff, too.

Interestingly, the flying was no big deal at all. I’m getting a little ahead of myself though.

Riding Uber to the Greyhound to Buffalo was routine. Old hat. No big. Riding the bus to Buffalo was new, as it was Hilda’s first time on a long-distance bus ride. She handled it like a pro. Upon arriving in Buffalo, we learned that there was actually a bus to the airport, which was a lot cheaper than taking an Uber, Lyft, or cab, and it wasn’t a long wait. The bus dropped us, and we had no idea where to go to get to the airport, but eventually, after parking Hilda, we found some assistance.

Hilda had an encounter with the escalator, and she was still nervous about that and backed away. The person walking with us noticed this and pointed it out. I got on anyway, and Hilda followed.

We got lots of compliments on Hilda. Well, there was the one person who told me I needed to give her a good brushing as she was shedding, but I already knew that, and anyway, they shed no matter what. No big deal.

The theme for this trip, at least where guiding is concerned, was distraction. She was very distracted and stimulated by everything. This meant that she really wanted to go everywhere at once. “Forward” might start out forward, but it might as easily mean a shart left or right, or one of those eventually. The good news is that she is both easily distracted by new things or new people (of which there were lots of both), but she’s also very easily redirected. Age and experience should settle her down; it’s done wonders so far. We also need to work on inside walking speed. All of these things got better as the trip progressed.

Flying was no big deal. She did it like a pro, even slept through part of the flights. When we hit Austin, another passenger asked if he could walk us to where we were going, so we had some nice company. He was so impressed with Hilda, and that I was training her, that he wanted my mom and Norman to take his picture with us. That was kind of unusual.

Really, her public behavior was very good. She settled down under or beside chairs at restaurants like she’d done it all her life. She’s getting better about not visiting people in harness. (In fact, I’m starting to see a bit of the GSD aloofness, as she just sometimes didn’t show much interest in some people. Like our niece Lily.) She wasn’t unfriendly, but she was more interested in other things. She’s curling up in the floorboard of the car, again, like an old pro.

Guiding is another matter. While distracted, she’ll go off anywhere, because, well, distracted. But as with other things, once she gets the idea and settles into things, she’s great. She had some touble finding doors sometimes, but again, as time went on, that got better. Clearance errors through doors is becoming a thing, and I’m not sure if it was because she didn’t want to run over whoever was holding the door, but Leno did this for ages while I had him, so I’m not awfully worried.

She is definitely showing the GSD finnicky eating thing. I still have a full gallon Zip Lock bag of dog food, untouched, which would be roughly three full days’ worth of meals. She’s definitely not suffering, and maybe her dietary needs are changing and she doesn’t need as much food, or maybe she’s a bit out of sorts with the changes: new environment, new people, new places, new everything, and she’s stressing a little, and that’s how it expresses. Speaking of expressing, she’s getting used to parking other places, and no loose stools or such like.

Anyway, lots of compliments on her behavior. Lots more on her striking good looks. Many compliments on her work, and lots more people noticing that she is young and energetic and sometimes, a bit distracted. Though lots of people are still impressed given her level of maturity and tender age. A couple of my guide dog using friends said she’s probably the nicest GSD they’ve ever met. Reckon that means I’m doing something right, and more, she’s just a darn good dog.

Tomorrow is a long travel day, and we’re looking forward to meeting some of Hilda’s extended family. We’re also looking forward to getting home.