These past couple days have really showed me Hilda’s real potential. Oh, sure, I knew she had loads of potential. I knew she was wicked smart. I knew she was a real people oriented dog. I knew she could really get this whole guide dog thing. I knew all of this was possible, but I didn’t know if I could harness it, unlock it, make potential reality. I hoped I could. I still hope I can. But these past couple days, Hilda’s showing me what she’s made of, and, yep, I believe the two of us might just pull this thing off.
We’re creeping up on seven months old, and Hilda’s gotten big. At least her growth is slowing down. Sharon tells me she probably won’t really get much taller, but I reckon she’s got a lot of filling out to do. I’ve had to let her harness out a little bit, both in the girth strap and in the martingale. I expect I’ll have to let it out more as we go. Mind you, mostly she wears it just so she gets used to wearing it, which she really is. She wiggles a bit while I’m putting it on, but no anxiety about the thing going over her head anyway.
We’ll start with yesterday’s trip. These past couple times, I’ve taken Hilda out on her own. They tell me Leno is sad, and indeed, he’s waiting at the door when we get back, but he seems to be all right about it. Certainly he takes my going out with Hilda better than Hilda takes my going out with Leno.
Yesterday was the first time Hilda rode the bus. She rode the bus like a pro! She sat up for most of the 10 or so minute ride both ways. She looked around with a lot of interest, but she pretty well stayed seated, only sliding into a lie down a couple times, and thankfully, mostly kept her nose (and tongue) off the floor. Anyone who rides the bus knows how scary the floors can sometimes be, and if not scary in fact, certainly scary enough in perception. But she sat up and rode the bus like she’d been doing it her whole life. This is a far cry from the restless, whining pup of just a couple months ago.
During our walk to the bank and otherwise, I guess she was looking around a lot, even behind her. This guy behind us even asked if he could pass us, explaining that he was what she was looking at. OK, no problem there guy. Still a bit of pulling on the leash, but at least, not a couple feet out in front of me pulling. I think we’re reaching a compromise on that.
In the bank, she learned about standing in line. Also, I learned that she must really like babies, because she seemed to be very interested in one that was way back by the front door of the bank. We didn’t go visit the baby, and it was gone by the time we had completed our business.
The theme for the day was diagonal street crossings. I made several of them. I’m not sure if I was thrown off by walking with a dog that wasn’t guiding, or just by, I don’t know, but I made several diagonal street crossings. One, I made, and I’m not sure at what point, but I ended up somehow across a usually busy street, no idea how or when, but the upshot of it was that I was a couple blocks out of my way somehow. Fortunately, a nice pedestrian (who saw us earlier during our rounds) got us straightened out, and we went to this deli corner market kind of place for lunch meat and milk and such as that. By the time we got there, the day was already heating up, and Hilda was getting tired. She was a trooper though! She was so well behaved in the store, even with all the meat in the cooler not far off nose level. She got nothing but compliments on her striking good looks and her behavior. Yes, I was sure to tell people she was in training, and that mostly the exercise was socialization and getting her used to being out and about. No problem from anyone with access, and like I said, I was sure to let people know she was not a fully trained service dog.
Surprisingly, I did get her to eventually drink water out of a plastic bag. As hot as she clearly was by then, I was surprised that it took as much convincing as it did. She did finally get the idea, however. Yes, I do have a collapsible water bowl around here somewhere…the one I usually use, which I kept a baggie dispenser in, has a bit of a worn threadbare spot, but I have another one…but I’ve misplaced it. Besides a collapsible water bowl then, what I really need is a fairly roomy pouch that would attach to the harness, to keep baggies and collapsible water bowl and what not in. I haven’t found just the right sort of thing yet, but someone suggested a small camera bag. That might do the trick.
A trip home on the bus, and a total of, well, lots of walking, left Hilda pretty tired. It left me pretty tired anyway, but I had another errand to do, which I did with Leno. I guess Hilda was energetic enough to complain about not going.
This evening’s trip was the usual walk to CVS. Again, lots of compliments from Hilda’s friends and admirers on her behavior and striking good looks. She only tried to go visit one guy in the pharmacy line. On the way to the store, I had her sort of guiding (I also used my cane) during some easy bits, and I wanted to see how she’d handle the crazy offset sidewalk at the corner. She almost nailed it! I was so proud!
On both yesterday’s trip and today’s, she growled a little bit at a dog. Yesterday, it was a dog we were passing on the sidewalk, I think. Today it was a little dog in a yard behind a fence. In both cases, she stopped growling at the other dog when I asked her to. Otherwise, any dogs we encountered, she breezed past. Well…except one across the street she was a bit fixated on, but we got past that one anyway.
In the store, her behavior was excellent. At the pharmacy counter, she sat quietly for most of our time, and she stood her front feet on the shelf by the counter…bottom shelf…just once, and got off when I asked. I mentioned her interest in one guy in line already. One time, when i was packing up my bag, she wandered off. I had been stepping on her leash, but apparently, not well enough, because she wandered off a few feet. She came right back when i called her though.
She was getting a bit restless and sniffy, and it was obvious she had to go, so out we went. She parked in, well, the parking lot, or anyway, a parking lot beside the store. Not in the store at all, she held on until we got out, and even then, she had to work herself up to it. Good girl!
She’s very definitely learning left and right. She turns left or right when I ask. She also is stopping at most curbs, and very reliably at definite curbs. Especially, and most importantly to my way of thinking, she stops at down curbs if they’re well defined. The blended ones, she mostly stops at, but there were one or two we had to work out, and I expect this will be true again. Still, she’s really carried over my stopping at steps and curbs. Even better, on the way home, I discovered that she really is targeting up curbs when we cross streets. I again noticed on quiet streets I was drifting. She, on the other hand, was very definitely trying to talk me into going the opposite way from the direction in which I was drifting. Following her, I hit the curb. Even the blended part of the curb in most cases. This was definitely an “Aha!” moment for me. She really is starting to understand this thing. I think we may well make a guide dog of her yet!