It’s now official, or as official as these things ever are. Which is probably not very. But, while I’ve been working Hildegard in active duty since May, working Leno only rarely, I think i can officially call her a guide dog, not a guide dog in training. I have been doing this, in reality, since May at least, when we went on our trip to visit family and attend a training conference in Texas. There are still rough edges, like “Hilde, for god’s sake, don’t run in the halls!” and “Hilde, now really, you don’t need to pull like a freight train”, and “Make a choice, and be wrong with confidence” (oh wait. She’s actually pretty good at that.) And, with some odd brains falling out issues aside, she’s been doing a great job. If she had a fault, it’s that she is too friendly and social, but as faults go, it’s one we can deal with.
So, this week, her spiffy new name tag, the one with her name and my name and phone number in case she gets lost, now says “guide dog”, and not “guide dog in training” anymore. She, of course, doesn’t know the difference.
So who knew? A few months shy of two years ago, I got this raw tiny puppy with huge feet, and I had this notion that maybe I could get a guide dog out of the deal. Along the way, I had definite plans and ideas about how the training would proceed, and absolutely none of them came to anything. Hilde short circuited my plans for traffic training by showing traffic sense all on her own. Training was very organic, perhaps somewhat disorganized, and I didn’t get nearly the socialization opportunities I would have liked. But in spite of any lack, and in spite of my best laid plans, she came out all right anyway. I’ve gotten nothing but compliments on her behavior from other guide dog users. Yes, she can definitely stick that nose in some unfortunate places, visit with people she doesn’t need to (I am always telling her to stop petting the humans), and of course she will make mistakes, decide to walk down the wrong hallway when the hallway forks, and on and on it goes. But by gosh, we did it, and she’s a wonderful dog and a really good guide. She makes me look pretty decent. I have to chuckle at the people who say “self trained guide dog” instead of “owner trained”, because maybe…..in this case….it’s true. I sort of feel like I had very little to do with it this time.