It has just been over one month since I retired Glacier and it is finally today that I've been put on the waiting list. Originally, I had been under the impression that I was put on the waiting list to get a new guide dog as soon as Glacier retired, but I was quite wrong. So, the three months to a year of waiting starts today. As I am sure you are all aware, this does not make me very happy. However, a guide dog trainer-the one we've been dealing with since we moved here-assessed me today and although I do not feel much better about the very long wait, I am feeling much better about the process.
The application process for this particular guide dog school is much different than that of Leader Dogs for the Blind, the school where I got both of my previous guide dogs. I think, in a way, each program has its pros and cons, but that in the long run, I will benefit greatly from the Guide Dog Organisation's approach. Sure, I have to wait much longer, but the success of the match is much higher.
When I applied for my previous guides, I did not spend any time with the trainers before hand. The interview process wasn't very vigorous either; with me just having to have a videotaped walk to get Jetta and not even having to do that to get Glacier. All the trainers had to go on was the answers I had filled out on an application that didn't even address lifestyle, what sort of worker I needed Etc.
My assessment today was much more in-depth and that made me feel more confident in getting a good match. Also, having been involved with the trainer for a year instills confidence.
We chatted for almost two hours about my lifestyle, what characteristics I'd like in a dog, if I preferred girl/boy or breed of dog and many other important things that I think will make this matching process so much better.
We did an empty harness walk, which is similar to the "Juno" walk you do the second day you arrive at LDB. This walk is used to determine voice inflection and walking speed. This particular walk was also used to determine my ability to follow directional changes, posture, stride and my preference for how strongly the dog pulls on the harness.
We covered some other important aspects of a working dog suited to me, such as, willingness to work, adaptability and a few other characteristics. We discussed the various environments I would be taking my dog into and whether or not I ever left my dog at home. We even talked about what sorts of transportation I would take on a regular basis. Again, it all made me feel excited and confident about deciding to go with the UK organisation instead of flying back to North America.
The trainer reiterated that he couldn't guarantee a time frame, but that he'd rather me go two months more without a dog, struggling to get around, than get a dog quickly and spend the next four to eight years struggling with my working relationship. I've already been there done that. I do not want to do that again. I had to agree with him. He also said that he wanted to give me a dog that was brilliant when I got him/her, but was that much better at our six month check-up because I worked with the dog. I took this as a compliment and ensured him that he wouldn't be disappointed.
So now that all of the paperwork is done, all I can do is start my waiting game over again; a game I thought I had started a month ago. Sometimes there are necessary evils in life and waiting for the right working partner is just one of those. It stinks being reliant on others because my cane skills are so terrible, but once I meet and am matched with my new dog, it will be all worth it.