I can't believe it, but we have been in Edinburgh for almost two months already. I can't believe how the time has flown. I have completely fallen in love with the city despite its inability to have just one weather system a day. You learn to just be prepared. I usually haul around a huge purse with extra socks, a scarf and a pair of light gloves just in case the sun disappears and it starts raining. That's just me though. What about Glacier?
As you all know, our start here in Edinburgh was a bit rough. He nearly walked me out into traffic on a busy street about a week after our arrival and he stopped taking cues from me. I had known that was a possibility, but it was frustrating and concerned me as I need both of us to be safe. Mr. K and I had a few good discussions about it and I made a few lifestyle changes; some of which have been quite easy whereas others take a bit more thought. We also had one visit from a representative from the Guide Dog Association of Scotland and a fifteen minute walk with him following behind seemed to make a huge difference. So, where are we now?
We're improving. I can't say we're one hundred percent, but there has been definite improvement on both of our parts. Glacier loves getting out and working and is a bit antsy if we stay in one day. His ability to concentrate on the task that he is given has also increased and he hasn't blown through any curbs in a week or so. He also has been crossing from curb to curb and is more willing to listen to me when given a cue. I have patterned him to find the two cross walk buttons to cross the street right outside of our flat and he impresses me each time I tell him to "find the button" and he brings me right up to the pole I need.
Glacier also seems much more attached to me ever since I changed my mindset and started seeing him as my guide dog and not my pet dog. It wasn't an easy conclusion to come to as I didn't really realise that is what I had been doing, but consciously making an effort to be his handler and not his mom seems to be working. He is a happy guy who really misses me when I have to leave him behind.
Friday when we went on our Ghost tour and he was left at home, he was incredibly excited when I got back. It's not that he hasn't been excited before, but this time it was more enthusiastic. He is also more aware of me and what I am doing; the way he was when we came back from retraining at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Right now he's curled up on my feet and if I were to get up, he'd either follow or watch me intently from his spot on the living room rug. That awareness was missing. Jetta never followed me around, but her eyes always popped open when I got up. She would pay attention to my whereabouts and what I was doing. Glacier usually just kept snoozing. Pet dogs can snooze when their moms/dads get up to get another cup of coffee, but working dogs usually need to be aware of what's going on just in case their handler needs them.
Of course I'm not going to slap Glacier's harness on in the house. First of all, our flat is way too small for that. More importantly, he needs down time too, but his awareness of my activity tells me that he is conscious of his job and that he is ready to get on duty at any minute. Roscoe has always been that way with Mr. K and I think developing that awareness early on in the working relationship creates a solid foundation for the future. Three years later, Glacier and I are getting there.
I think it's good that I didn't get here and go to university right away. In retrospect, I am very glad it worked out this way. Glacier and I needed more time to gel before we tackled a busy, confusing university campus. We will start next September and I will let him take "the lead" because our trust will have been rebuilt and our confidence in each other restored.
I was reading a fellow guide dog handler's blog earlier this week and she talked of how a lot of people have troubles with their second dog. The representative from the Guide Dog Association of Scotland had said the same thing. It's interesting to think that this situation is not unique to Glacier and I and it makes me wonder why a program has not been put in place to deal specifically with second time handlers? Regardless of our sticky situation, I am committed to making it work with Glacier. He really is a great dog and loves his job. As I've said before, as long as he still is happy working and is physically able, I will do my damnedest to work with him.