#GuideDog Diaries Day 8
I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This week has sped past and i’m loving every minute of it!Even when Ida tries to be a little madame! 😉
Last night I had a bit of a scary moment.
At dinner we were not in our usual area for eating so when it came time to leave the cafe I became disorientated.
Not that I realised that at the time…
I ended up heading in the opposite direction to my room and tried to get Ida to “find the way” (don’t do this when your dog is not on harness).
She ended up taking me to a flight of stairs that went down into the bar.
I only knew this when it was too late and i dropped onto the first step. Luckily I caught myself and got Ida to stop.
I took her back over to where we were sitting and set off again.
Again, asking her to find the way.
The same thing happened again.
I will point out here that stairs have always scared me., my arthritis hinders a steady and smooth assent or descent, meaning I can lose my balance quickly, which can then end in disaster.
Ida once again took me over to the steps and walked down them, because I was still totally unaware that i was going the wrong way, I got a shock all over again, and I became very stressed.
Thankfully a member of staff noticed me and came over to offer help, she got us to our corridor and i thanked her and headed to my room.
It wasn’t until I was safely in the room that the terror hit me like a tonne of bricks.
I phoned Gary and started crying, saying I didn’t know how I would cope having a Guide Dog.
I’m truly scared off stairs, and falling down them. So much so that I was reserved about having a Guide Dog and having it pull me down the stairs.
I was so scared and unsettled I didn’t want to train with Ida, encase it happened again and this time one or both of us weren’t so lucky.
Gary helped calm me down and see sense, explaining that I really needed to tackle my fear of stairs with Ida, speak with Mikyla in the morning, and ask her to show me how to manage stairs safely.
I felt better after talking to Gary and gave Ida some cuddles, more so for my own comfort than anything else.
I woke up ready to tackle the day.
I spoke with Mikyla first thing and she reassured me that it’s ok to be scared and stressed, but of course with us both being disorientated Ida took me back to the same place a second time because she wasn’t sure what I was actually asking of her.
All of this is my fault and I took and take full responsibility for it, and I think once I slept on it, and saw just how much I had expected of Ida when she wasn’t on harness and I was steering her in the wrong directions, I would be ok to manage stairs with her as long as I was under the guidance of Mikyla.
I skipped lunch and spent time bonding with Ida, I felt terrible for my behaviour the night before and knew that this gorgeous little pup was the best decision I had made.
Also, not one to be defeated by my own psyche I decided that i was going to take Ida up and down a flight of stairs to ease myself into it, and put a lot of rigidity on the gentle leader so I would not allow her to pull me.
This was successful and made me feel more confident that I could slow her down, or even speed her up if she wasn’t going the right speed for me on the stairs.
In the afternoon after our walk I asked Mikyla if I could do stairs with Ida on harness and under her supervision, which she fully supported.
Having Ida on harness, on the stairs, especially going down, made the world of difference to me and my confidence.
She was far more controlled and because the harness Is a metal handle there is no room for slack, which gave me the perfect walking distance between us when travelling down the stairs!
The relief I felt was overwhelming and I couldn’t help but give my pup the biggest love and fuss she deserved!
Mikyla also said that there was other options of using the stairs with a Guide Dog and she gave me instructions on the different methods available.
I tried them all, but having Ida on harness was definitely the best way for me to travel on stairs safely and confidently! 🙂
As Gary rightly said the night before, i’m going to make mistakes, and doing it while on training is the best time, because I have support in the form of Mikyla to talk things through and find new solutions to each and every challenge I face.
This is exactly why I love him, he knows me better than I know myself and he brings me back to a place of sanity and roundedness! 🙂
The very best part of the day definitely had to be the morning, a day of my life I will never forget!
WE did traffic awareness.
Traffic awareness is when you and your Guide Dog are in a controlled environment, in the form of another GDMI, driving a car at you and your Guide Dog, and wanting/ hoping that they will spot the car and disobey your command to cross the road!
We did near traffic: asking Ida to cross the road right as a car is pulling up in from of you.
You give the command to go; “forward” and you want them to stay stock still/ plant themselves and not go.
I am beyond ecstatic to say that Ida did this perfectly and disobeyed me!
As Ida is such an obedient Guide Dog on harness both Mikyla and I were apprehensive that she would follow my command and try and move.
Mikyla reminded us that we needed to stay as calm as possible, use your normal voice, and if, Ida did move forward, gently correct her and say “no.”
My clever little pup didn’t move a muscle, completely disobeyed me, and shocked me so much that I actually squealed with excitement and gave her massive fuss…
Mikyla had to tell me to calm down haha, and we both laughed about it.
Because this was a controlled environment and Suzie was driving the car, as part of the traffic awareness she deliberately stopped and didn’t pull off straight away. Giving me time to ask Ida to go forward again.
Again she did not move, and i’m happy to report, I managed to keep my composure this time too! 😉
Once I had waved Suzie on, and checked all traffic was clear, I got Ida to cross the road. 🙂
One of our controlled traffic awareness tests was to cross a back alley where Ida’s view was blocked by a wall.
I was to tell her to go forward, and when she saw the car approaching she was to stop.
Again, if she did not, it was a firm no, but not chastising.
We want our Guide Dog to learn through positive
reinforcement, not negative reinforcement.
The other type of traffic awareness we did together was far traffic.
This involved crossing the road and Suzie meeting us in the middle. The goal was for Ida to stop us continuing to cross the road.
We did this twice, and both times she aced it!
Mikyla reassured me that Suzie would be travelling quicker, because she had to time it correctly to meet in the middle.
I will admit when I heard the engine go faster than it had previously I was a bit nervous, but I knew this was a controlled environment, and Ida was amazing!
The last type of traffic awareness we did was being vigilant of a car pulling into a drive. Stopping us continuing, even as we were walking at a steady pace in the middle of the pavement.
She did a cracking job, and I made sure the driveway was 100% clear before I asked her to go on.
This meant she was aware it was safe to continue.
In the afternoon we went back to a familiar area, where we have been doing our walks.
Ida took me through the town, full of human traffic and obstacles. This included bus stops, bollards, A-Boards, wheeliebins, parked cars and the odd dog and pigeon distraction.
She did fabulously!
We also did a number of different crossings including, side streets, driveways, 4 way intersections, zebra, pelican and split pelican crossings.
This was the first time I was out in the area without Mikyla using the support lead to assist me and gently move Ida.
As I had had some practice the day before in the mall, I was far more confident asking Ida to move over if I felt her going too close to anything.
This was also the first time i had done a split crossing with Ida and she did a brilliant job of guiding me!
As I had been getting Ida to move across a lot in our last couple of walks together she was very aware of keeping a safe distance from objects.
This just happened to include the pedestrian crossing button box.
With my little arms and legs I couldn’t quite reach far enough so I got her to come up to my side after I had positioned myself next to the button.
Things I’ve learned.
•How to walk up and down stairs using both the gentle leader and harness.
•What to do in each situation when there is near or far traffic.
•If Ida goes in a different direction to the way i’m asking, and she doesn’t register, then getting her to sit and doing a controlled turn works very well.
•If Ida is not sitting straight before setting off, and she seems to be getting in a pickle correcting herself, putting the gentle leader in your right hand and feeding it around your back, and then swapping back to the left hand will get her straightened up perfectly.
•Ida does not like to be benched: a battle of wills occurred this morning, and after speaking to Mikyla, she said to put her lead on, and this will snap her back into doing what you want.
After my wobble the night before it was great to wake up happy and ready to take on the day.
Ida’s fabulous traffic awareness, smooth and safe stair travel and then having a focused afternoon really reminded me just why this little pup is perfect for me and just how lucky I am to have her!
I’ve known her 5 minutes and I love her so much already! ❤
Bring on tomorrow, round 2 of traffic awareness! 🙂 🙂