Of course we all know the one and only Glacier; the guy for whom this blog was renamed from "Jess and Jetta's Adventures" to "At A Glacial Pace." The funny thing is, I think even when Glacier retires and has gone to the Rainbow Bridge-let's hope we don't have to worry about that for a while-the name "At A Glacial Pace" will remain. Out of all of the dogs who have passed through my life, Glacier has taught me the most about loyalty, hard work, friendship and partnership. Without getting too mushy, Glacier has, as every guide dog owner will tell you, changed my life. But, it's been in this incredible way that I never knew would happen. He taught me to speak up for what I believe and also that I should not be afraid to ask questions. I have always done these things, but my journey with Glacier has driven these lessons home.
Let's take some time to get to know this big guy better. :)
There is nothing "glacial" about this big guy; except for his colouring and size perhaps. He walks very fast and makes quick decisions to keep us both safe. I do have to admit though, he thinks about things a lot harder than Jetta ever did and if I interrupt his thinking process, he gets flustered.
As most of you know, Glacier is a 33 kilogram, or 75 LBS, Yellow Labrador; a huge change from my little Jetta. When I first met him, I was convinced that he'd be more difficult to handle due to sheer size, but in a lot of ways I was wrong about that. He is much lighter in the harness, which means that he doesn't lean as heavily into the chest strap of his working harness. This was a shock, as I thought that if he was bigger, he'd pull harder. Of course when he sees someone or something he likes, he can pull harder than Jetta ever could, but when we are just walking along, and he is minding his own business, he is very light.
Another surprise was how sensitive he was and still is. Jetta was stubborn and required a much heavier hand to keep in check, whereas, Glacier often just needs a verbal reminder and he's back on track. It was a hard lesson to learn as I worked with him for almost two years before realising this. It nearly cost us our working relationship. Once I discovered that gentle verbal reminders and just snapping my fingers were all he needed, we began to bloom as a working team. Now, three and a half years later, I think we are finally finding our groove. I've been asked why I stuck it out so long with him and my simple answer was that because I knew he loved working and that he was good at it: I just had to figure out how to be the handler he needed to be successful.
Aside from working, Glacier loves a lot of things that you would consider regular dog things. You can't have all work and no play. One of Glacier's favourite thing to do is find a particularly dirty patch of grass or mud and roll in it until he turns into a Chocolate Lab. It doesn't matter where we go, he always manages to find a hole for his rolling pleasures. Murphy's Law; the white dog gets the dirtiest. I've also mentioned before how he loves to lie in wait for any unsuspecting passing by pup, usually Roscoe, and then run full tilt after them and tackle them.
Glacier doesn't necessarily do a lot of things that would be considered typical to a Labrador because his formal training would have discouraged such behaviors. Retrieving, for example, is not one of his strong suits. In fact, I don't even think he knows how retrieving is supposed to work. Often times, if you throw something he doesn't even chase it. He also does not like swimming, but I'm not sure if that is because of his training and upbringing or because he's just a strange sort. The one thing that is not negated by his training is his love for food. In that regard, Glacier is a Labrador deep in his bones.
Speaking of food, Glacier had a horrible habit of eating everything when I first got him; especially things that were not edible. He ate velcro, Brillo pads, floss, earphones, a doll's face...the list could go on and on. I don't know if he has an oral fixation or what, but his eating of everything got him into a lot of trouble; including surgery to remove the velcro, doll's face, pen cap, goggle strap and whatever else they found. Most recently, he decided it was a good idea to snap the end off of a soft, puppy Nylabone and consume it. That resulted in him throwing up every morning for two weeks until he finally threw it up. It doesn't matter how Glacier proof I think something is, he always manages to surprise me. His oral fixation has lead to some pretty useful and interesting experiences though.
When we first arrived here and were staying with Tenie and the girls, Tenie dropped a peach on the kitchen floor. Glacier strolled over, picked it up and brought it to me, setting it into my lap minus teeth marks. The soft peach was completely unharmed by Glacier's very powerful chompers. I think that if he had been trained to be a service dog, he would have done well. When people come to visit, he always has to greet them by carrying something to them, such as my slippers, a shoe, his bone, a blanket he's snatched from the couch...he never hurts the objects, just shows them off.
For those of you who have been reading for a while, you will know that even though he does not destroy his "gifts," he definitely has the power to do so. Glacier has one of the strongest set of chompers I have experienced. He destroyed a hockey puck in less than seven minutes and tore the top off of a Black Kong (King sized), in less than fifteen minutes. There aren't very many toys Glacier won't destroy and so we are very selective in our household as to what we buy for the boys, and Hermione as well. Otherwise, we would have a toy graveyard in our living room very quickly.
A few quick, fun facts about Glacier:
1. Glacier was born March 16, 2007. His Mom's name was Babe and his Dad's name was Sigh; both dogs were a part of the Leader Dogs for the Blind breeding program.
2. Glacier was raised in Marquette Michigan and his puppy raiser was a teacher; I believe for a Kindergarten class.
3. Glacier was not the only one from his litter to graduate from Leader Dogs for the Blind as a full fledged working, guide dog. He had a few siblings in my class; one of them was named Murphy.
4. Glacier is one of the only dogs I know who refuses to play with the Kong Wobbler properly. Instead of whacking it around to make the kibble fall out, he'd rather sit down and try to chew the top off.
5. One cue Glacier refuses to learn, or remember, is "follow." At Leader Dogs for the Blind, the guide dogs are trained to "follow" a sighted person that is pointed to by the handler. No matter who we're following, Mr. K or Tenie, Glacier decides to not follow. I don't know if he thinks they are going the wrong way or if he feels like making up his own route, he will not follow. In malls or such places, where we are all traveling as a group, I often have to heel him and take an elbow; otherwise, I will not be arriving at the same destination as everyone else. In his defense, apparently "follow" is one of the hardest cues to teach a dog and since he does everything else so well, I suppose I can give him a bit of a break. That is a new conclusion I have come to as I have worked very hard over the years to get him to follow reliably.
So, there you have it. Some old and new information about Glacier; the big Yellow Fellow with the big heart.