Today was our outing to the three floor mall. Since the weather is not being very cooperative, the trainers thought it would be a nice change to work indoors. So, we all piled into the buses and headed out to the mall. We arrived well before any of the stores opened, but the place soon became very busy. The instructors seated us in the food court in a little area out of the way of the majority of the clamoring crowd. I was one of the last students to take their walk so the mall was plenty busy for Glacier and I.
We started our walk by just walking a wide hallway. J noted Glacier's left sided tendencies and we had a conversation about it. He said that a lot of dogs who have been out for a while tend to walk close to the left hand side of hallways/sidewalks/pathways. One reason for this is because it is usually the path of least resistance with regards to obstacles. It looks clearer to them and it is easier for them to keep their human from banging into objects that unknowing merchants have littered the sidewalks with. I told him that Richard and I had talked about it as well and that I didn't feel it was a problem for Glacier or I. Glacier might have a few bad habits, but running me into things is not one of them. Sometimes he messes up and brushes me up against something, but for the most part it is clear sailing. I said that I didn't want to fight with him for the next five days or so to walk in the centre when there were issues that were much more pressing. J agreed and we moved on.
Our walk consisted of me asking Glacier to find the escalator down and showing J that we knew how to get on and off safely. Glacier found the moving stairs without hesitation. We then headed to a department store where we did some tight turns and worked on "follow." All along the way we were navigating people and at one time someone decided that walking between J and I was a good idea so I accidentally whacked them when I gave Glacier a hand signal for him to turn left. My philosophy is that you shouldn't walk so closely. My hand was close into my body and J was probably only two feet to my right, why that person thought they could fit is beyond me. J told me not to worry and Glacier found the staircase I had been directing him to. He tried to hop up the first few steps a bit fast, but after a gentle harness correction-which is me pulling back on the harness sharply, but not too sharply because it's Glacier and I'll hurt his feelings-he slowed down and guided me up the stairs carefully. When we reached the second floor again, J had me turn into a candy store where there were many temptations right at Glacier's nose level. Within the first few steps in Glacier sniffed a shelf vigorously knocking a package to the floor, which was rewarded with the drop harness/say "leave it" routine and he moved on. He thought about more sniffing for the rest of the store, but didn't. We exited the store and then re-entered for another go. The second time around went much better and there were no sniffing incidents. He got big praise when we left the second time: even J was excited.
After our little candy store adventure it was time to head back to the food court. As we approached I was acutely aware of how loud the food court had become and I felt a bit nervous. Would Glacier do as well finding our table as he had guiding me out? There was an exhibit set up, promoting heart health and there were a lot of people eating. There is also a large merry-go-round that was playing loud music. I knew the noise wouldn't be a problem for Glacier. Loud noises have never impacted him. In fact, the other day while waiting for Richard, a maintenance man was vaccuuming right in front of Glacier's nose and he didn't budge. The man had been worried, but I said that he would be fine. He still wasn't convinced so I said,
"he'll get over it." If I make a big deal out of loud noises or other things that could potentially worry/scare Glacier I would be making the situation worse. It's the same way a child will look to a parent after it has fallen to see if it should be upset or not. Anyway, the point is I knew the noise wouldn't bother him, but I was worried he would be distracted.
We entered the food court and he was very excited because there was a Leader dog puppy in training at the heart health exhibit. Glacier was a bit ridiculous about the puppy. He wanted to meet it so badly and really wasn't paying attention to me. After I dropped the harness and got his attention back on me though, things improved. I knew J was near me, but with my hearing problem I had no idea where he was or where I was. All I could do was put faith in Glacier and follow him. He guided me past the restaurants with not even a glance at them; he wove me through the crowd and didn't walk me into anyone; he maneuvered around tables, chairs, dropped food and garbage cans all without flinching. Eventually he stopped walking and it was because we had arrived back at the tables where the rest of the students were sitting. J said,
"you couldn't hear me could you?" I said that I couldn't. He asked if that was stressful for me and I said that it had been, but it felt good now that I was back at the table and was aware of how well Glacier had done. He wasn't following J or anything. He just found his way back to our spot. I was thoroughly impressed and encouraged by his performance.
This afternoon was spent inside at the campus due to the weather. We started with a lesson on teeth brushing, flea/tick medicine application and Heart Worm preventative; all of which I am very familiar with. I went to the lecture/demonstration though so that Glacier could be in a busy environment and have to behave. We then were taken out individually around the campus building working on stairs, elevators and revolving doors.
Glacier had an almost flawless performance. The only minor issue he had was getting too excited about the up stairs. He would plant his front paws on the first step and almost forget to wait for me to say "forward." Despite that little blip, he found doors and the top of the stairs carefully, but quickly. He is very assertive when he reaches the top of a flight of stairs and having him stop perfectly at the top three times made me feel confident. He has also demonstrated in other work this week that stopping for stairs down is a non-issue. I like that because the hazard of falling down stairs is much greater than falling up them. :) He did stray from our line of travel once to think about sniffing a garbage can, but a verbal correction got him back to where he should be. J and I had our little talk after our indoor route and he basically said that Glacier going home with me is my decision. He said that they are happy with his work and feel confident in his abilities; especially with my new way of handling him.
I told him that I was leaning towards to keeping my Fat Head, but there were two more tests he needed to pass before I made the decision.
1. He needs to be traffic checked and be able to stop me confidently. Traffic checking is one of my main concerns and if he can't meet that requirement, despite his fantastic work, I would not feel safe taking him home with me. Running into a person in the mall or having him steal a package of cheese is embarrassing, but it is not unsafe; unless the store manager tries to run me down. :)
2. We need to work in doubles and Glacier needs to be able to handle it. His confidence must not disappear nor his ability to concentrate and look after me. Mr. K and I will be going places together in the future and Glacier needs to be able to work effectively even if there is another guide dog around. He needs to know that he is still responsible for my safety.
I told J that if these two things happened then Mr. G and I would be heading home together on Friday. J agreed with me and promised that these two things would be addressed. Glacier did traffic check a car idling in a driveway on our route yesterday, so we'll see how he does in the days to come. Tomorrow we have the day off, so we won't be working. I think it was a productive day and I am very happy with Glacier's work. Glacier seems happy with himself too as he is curled up on his mat taking a nap. Little does he know that I am going to rouse his sleepy bum so that he can accompany me down to the exercise room as soon as I am finished writing this post. :)