Monday, March 25, 2013

Yay Buses

Today was Monday which meant that Nala and I headed down to the university campus for our evening class. Technically, tomorrow is our last day of lectures and to be honest, I'm quite glad. This program definitely is not what I expected it to be, but that's not the point of today's post. The route to the university is the one where we had so many problems on that snowy day two weeks ago. Today, however, was a new day and I can't explain how impressed by Nala I am. Tomorrow we will have been matched for just a month and already we're working so well together.
As usual, I gave myself a lot of extra time to ensure I didn't feel rushed. Rushing about and making decisions under time constraints is when mistakes happen and it's really important that Nala and I do things as close to right as possible. I had a  meeting with one of the instructors to discuss my dissertation topic and so I left nearly an hour and a half before class started. It's not convenient, but it means that we have a lot more leeway for missing buses or getting turned around.
Today we didn't really need  that extra time. We got to the bus stop with hardly any problems and even got on the right bus without any assistance from other bus travelers.
The walk from the flat to the stop wasn't perfect, but it was solid. The first street we cross, Nala always has a tendency to put us in the grass as opposed to the up curb, but I think it's something I'm doing. It could also be because the day that it was snowy we ended up in that spot and she started frolicking. This in and of itself could solidify it in her mind that we go to the grass instead of the curb. Despite this, it was easy to re-direct her to the left and back onto the sidewalk. We cleared all other curbs fine and didn't have any problems with traffic when crossing. The best part of that stretch of the journey was that I was confident enough to start asking her to find the pole and she knew exactly where to go. She planted her nose against the pole and wagged about while I fished her kibble out of my pocket. I was so excited. We crossed and then crossed again an then I had her find the bus shelter. There were other passengers waiting, but none of them were taking the same bus as me. That kind of worried me, but I knew that it was something that I'd have to deal with at some point, so why not now?
The first bus pulled up and everyone got on. The driver told me what the number was and I told him thanks, but no thanks. The second bus pulled up, the doors opened and the driver called the bus number out to me. I was shocked. The bus drivers were being exceptionally helpful. Again, I said thanks, but no thanks. The third bus arrived, doors opened and again the bus driver called out what number it was. It happened to be the bus I wanted and so Nala and I boarded. I asked him for the stop I needed and he said he'd let me know. He also said that he wouldn't start driving until I was seated. Again, shocked. It must have been nice Mr. Bus driver day or something.
As per the norm, Nala lay down at my feet and didn't move for the whole ride. She definitely was alert, watching everyone going by, but she didn't budge. Just when I thought we must be getting close to my stop, the bus driver pulled over and told me that it was my stop as he had promised he would do. Relief rushed through me as well as gratitude to a bus driver willingly and happily doing his job. I took the time to thank him properly as I exited the bus, but I'm not sure he will ever really understand the magnitude of what he did. It's so simple to tell someone they are at their stop and so complicated for them not to to.
Nala and I turned down the road and began the short distance to the side street that we needed. I wasn't exactly sure where the opening was and so the trainer and I had worked on showing her a railing to find that is opposite to the street opening. For people who have never seen UK streets, you are probably confused. Why wouldn't Nala just find the curb and then we turn down it? This street is called a "close" which means that it's just sort of an alleyway. These are much more difficult to find. As we neared where I thought the opening was, I began saying, in a very happy voice, "find." I didn't really know what I wanted her to find because the railing is not a pole and calling it that seemed strange. Also, I didn't want to force her to the railing, if she knew where the entrance actually was. The trainer would probably argue that I should have her go to the railing regardless, but it's very disruptive to our line of travel since it is across the sidewalk. My suspicions were right and Nala pulled a hard left and got us into the close without having to find the railing. We most certainly had a party. From there it was smooth sailing with Nala pausing at one curb, finding another pole so we could cross the street, crossing correctly and then finding the door into the university building. Then, it was up the elevator, or lift as they call it here, and into class with an hour before class started. Thankfully, two of my classmates had heard Nala's bell jingling as we came down the hall and they came to keep us company.
It was a great trip; definitely a confidence booster. I don't know why I fret so much about getting lost. Usually you can get "unlost," so it really shouldn't be a big deal. Nala is also a fabulous worker and I think that, with time, I won't mind getting lost with Nala. As she's already demonstrated, she is pretty reliable and that is something that will only get better with time.


Liz said...

Hi Jess, I'm a long time reader, since way back - even before you moved to Scotland, and I've never commented before. No idea why, as I love your blog!

I'm a UK Puppy Walker and I read with interest your description of the dog you had been matched with - if I hadn't known that my last pup was in the Liverpool area, I would have sworn it was her you were talking about.

You can't imagine how much I laughed when I read her name and date of birth.

My girl's name is Pippa and she too was born on 28 May 2011. So I checked the names of all the pups in the litter and Pippa is Nala's sister! No wonder it sounded familiar.

Pippa was/is a "ditch runner" - she would find the muddiest, dirtiest ditch then run back and forward at great speed until she was completely covered from nose to tail in mud. Sound familiar?

Anyway, Pippa was "on class" just a week or so behind you and Nala, so following your story has been an absolute delight for us to read.

Pippa was always so keen and eager to please she was an absolute joy to have. In many way she was what we would call a WYSIWYG dog - What You See Is What You Get - she wore her heart on her sleeve, so to speak. You could always tell how she was feeling.

If Nala is as beautiful, both inside and out, as Pippa then you've got a very special dog there.

So looking forward to reading more of Nala's adventures with you.

P.S. You sound like the kind of GDO all we Puppy Walkers hope our pups will get.

Just Jess for now said...

Hi Lis: I am so glad you commented. Wow, it really is a small world isn't it? So strange how the internet has made things that way. Was Pippa profiled on the Guide Dogs Facebook page or the blog? If she was, I used to read about her and think "I'd like to have her." LOL Nala and Pippa sound exactly the same. Working with Nala is such a joy so puppy walking someone like these two must be such an amazing experience. I want to thank you because without people like you, or Nala's puppy walker, we wouldn't have these fantastic dogs to work with. I don't think puppy walkers hear "thank you" enough. so, that is meant for all puppy walkers/raisers out there; you guys are fantastic. PS: Thank you so much for that really sweet compliment. As guide dog handlers you never know if you're doing it right and it's so nice when someone who is involved in the whole process compliments you. hugs PPS: please comment again. :D