Today Glacier and I had what I would call an amazing outing. Our working relationship is coming right along and he shocked the socks off of me this afternoon.
Around lunch time I decided I was hungry, but we're running low on lunch type foods. So, I harnessed Glacier up and ventured out. There is a little cafe down the street called Relish and I had been wanting to try it. I had been past a lot and could always smell delicious smells wafting out the often open door.
We exited my building and turned right as usual, but my concentration was broken by a gaggle of children trundling down the sidewalk towards us. I focused on Glacier's movements to ensure I didn't run into anyone and also to make sure he wasn't doing any sniffing. He performed well, but I had panicked for a brief moment and had lost my train of thought. We walked to a spot in the sidewalk where the tactile bumps indicating a street crossing was, but I told him "straight." He obeyed happily, but I noticed that the traffic was much too loud for us to be where I thought we were.
"Did I go too far?" I asked Glacier, more to think out loud than anything. He swung us around sharply and brought me back to the street crossing and the button we had patterned him to find.
Surprise number one.
Good boy Glacier: someone was paying attention and it wasn't me.
He didn't hesitate. He took my "straight" cue, but didn't get all flustered and lose his confidence when I made a mistake. This is progress for both of us. I have started allowing him to take over and make decisions and he has shown me that he is trustworthy; a very hard vicious cycle to break.
We crossed safely and stopped in the little park to let Glacier relieve. Then we walked back out and I asked him to "right." He turned without hesitation and trotted happily down the sidewalk to the next curb. No hesitation was nice and Glacier pulling a bit against the chest strap of his harness was also nice. The pressure gives me the information I need to follow his movements.
We crossed and I began to wonder if I would know where Relish was. I had been in once with Tenie to pick a sandwich up for Mr. K, but I wasn't paying attention because we had been chatting. On nicer days the doors are open and the tantalizing scents would let me know if I was close, but today it was cold and windy; the doors would not be open. I resolved to ask someone if I had to. I hate asking people. It's my own hang up, but I hate it. So, I prepared myself to have to do it. As we walked along, Glacier bouncing at a leisurely trot, I kept inhaling deeply. If anyone noticed they might have thought I was nuts. The best part was that I smelled it-the warm, rich scent of roasting coffee and baking.
"Glacier, right? Find the door."
He slowed and for the second time that day he swung around, forcing me to retrace my steps. I wasn't sure he was right, but I wasn't sure I was right either. So, I followed him. Worse case scenario: he found a different door and I just asked inside where Relish was.
Surprise number two.
He took the lead again and even retraced our steps. He decided that the closest door to us was behind us, so that is where we were going.
He made a good decision. As we approached the door, the smells grew stronger and when we stepped inside I knew we had found our destination.
I cannot explain how good it feels to work in tandem with a guide dog. Being totally blind, I put a lot of faith in my working dogs. I ask them to do a lot, that people with even a bit of sight don't have to. I'm also deaf in one ear, putting even more pressure on my dogs. Mr. K and I have talked about that a lot. We think that is why Jetta retired so early. Her busy schedule combined with having to be reliable 100 percent of the time was exhausting for her.
I asked Glacier to "find the counter" and he obliged, wiggling happily when he was praised for lining me up with the counter top. I placed my order, turned around and asked him to "find the chair." He took about five steps and stopped. I put my hand out to my side and there was a chair.
Surprise number three.
Glacier is usually horrible at finding chairs. He would rather walk around and investigate the space instead of finding me somewhere to sit.
I settled in and ate a huge bowl of Sweet Potato, Coconut and Chili soup and finished off a small pot of raspberry tea to myself. Fresh bread with butter was also served with the soup and I left Relish stuffed. I had a great lunch and an even better working session with Glacier. The things he did today completely blew my mind.
Our short jaunt home was flawless. He stopped on the tactile bumps right beside the other button we patterned him to, despite there being shouting, frolicking children in the park right beside us. He crossed at a trot and pranced all of the way back to the flat. I have never been happier with our teamwork before. I feel like I can safely say that Glacier and I are on the right path and by next year when I enter university again, I know I will travel the campus quite confident that we will both be safe and enjoying working with each other, which I think, is the key to us being safe in the first place.
Good boy, Glacier. :)