Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guide Dog Training Day 4: Double the Fun

Day four has been a much lower key day in some ways and yet not so much in others. It was mine and Paula's turn to go out to the relieving area earlier this morning and so we were up at 6:30. I really didn't mind since I seem to like mornings better than the other student. Besides, she is the one who let me get my dog first.
We of course had a great breakfast where we accidentally covered some of the topics our trainer had a lecture planned for. We talked about the new Equality Act that was instated in 2010 and how it has changed the access laws in Scotland. We called it our working breakfast since we stayed there past 9 just chatting away. After breakfast we headed out to the tennis court for some obedience. The sun was actually shining so it was quite enjoyable.
The trainer took the other student out first and ran through the routine with her then came and got me. We then ran through a myriad of exercises that included walking our dogs around one another while the other person's dog was expected to hold a "sit" or "down stay." We even switched dogs to hand them over without the dogs getting too excited. When our "group" obedience was over it was my turn to do a few things with Paula alone. We mostly focused on her loose leash heeling her focusing on me. After obedience it was time for our first harness walk of the day. I went second so I went off to my room to type up yesterday's post.
Paula and I are still working on no whining. She's managed to keep it to a minimum, but she likes to lay near the front door and sometimes chooses to whine. This morning while working away on my computer, I dragged her bed over beside me and told her "bed." This means she is to be in her bed with all four paws and is not to leave until she is released. This kept her from crying by the door and worked well. When the trainer arrived to take us for our walk I released her by saying "off you go."
Our second official walk ever went quite well. We did a reverse route of yesterday's walk, but with full sunshine this time. It was very enjoyable walking in the warmer weather. Paula did very well and despite me messing up my newly learned foot positions, we made it through the walk fairly fiasco free. The corner where I sort of did some kind of weird shuffle dance thing, Paula got confused as to what direction I wanted her to go, but I just had her sit so that I could collect myself and we were off again. We stopped on one corner, Paula holding a very nice sit, and the trainer called the woman that Paula lived with during her advanced training. He told her to look out her window and I waved to her. At one point we passed by a car parked against the curb with its doors open and Paula slowed down to carefully guide me between the outstretched doors and garbage bins on the opposite side. It was so good to see that she is already watching out for me. She found the van no problem and it was back to the hotel where I had about an hour to kill which I did by reading my book.
Lunch was excellent. We were joined by a new member of the Guide Dogs staff who wanted to see first hand what a training class did. She works in the office and often sees the dogs in their advanced training, but I think it was good for her to see what the (almost) finished product would look like. It shed a lot of light on why the trainer does the things he does when taking the dogs into the office, such as having them sit and wait at doors.
The afternoon session took a bit of time to get under way because the trainer and our visitor had to go out and set up the obstacles we'd be working around. This happens at LDB as well, but it goes much faster because you have four to five trainers setting up the obstacles as opposed to one. Also, the obstacles stay set out at LDB, but here the trainer has to have us sit and wait when nearing each one so that he could move it into our path. He said he'd get reported if he left them out.
We hopped in the van and drove a very short distance to the beginning of the route. Before getting Paula out of the back of the van, the trainer showed me with an empty harness the protocol for going around obstacles. This particular type of obstacle is called "off curb obstacle" here, but when at LDB and obstacle was an obstacle; no fancy names needed. What I was instructed to do was easy and made sense and so Paula was brought up and I put her harness on. This morning she had moved her face away from the harness a bit, but this afternoon she kept still and even lifted her chin a bit to put her head through; a very encouraging improvement.
We moved easily around the obstacles that the trainer put out for us. The first one Paula approached and then paused, kind of shifting her paws, as if she were thinking what she should do next. I stepped back to give her some room and she swung to the curb and sat. I told her forward,  we stepped off the curb, navigated around the obstacle and stepped back up on to the curb. The command for that is "over" whereas at LDB we used "Left, left find the curb or sidewalk,"" or "right" depending on what way you needed to move. We managed about four more obstacles without any troubles. Paula found the pole we needed in order to push the button to cross the street and it was pretty much smooth sailing back to the hotel. She makes me laugh when she finds buttons because when she gets close she basically leaps towards the pole and pushes her nose right up against it. She is very enthusiastic She did step me off the path on to the grass at one point, but the path was very narrow/curvy and we were moving quite fast. I was really happy with our afternoon walk.
The rest of the day was taken up by me reading more of my book while the other student was out and then enjoying a good dinner. The trainer has gone home now since he was only spending three nights in the hotel with us, so we're on our own. The other student and I finished our meals, had dessert (I had a fancy hot chocolate) and then headed to the bar for a drink since it is Valentine's Day after all. She treated me to a glass of wine and I promised to return the favor in the future; we do have two weeks left after all. There was a ver strict policy against drinking in my previous classes so I was surprised we could have a drink if we wanted. Both dogs behaved very nicely in the new environment and having to deal with a cyramic floor instead of the warm, carpeted floor that they have encountered in the rest of te hotel. It was a very enjoyable evening filled with good food and definitely good company. The only thing left to do today is Paula's last relief time, brush my teeth and then it's time to curl up under the covers.

Guide Dog Training Day 3: Settling In

It's kind of funny how old habits really do die hard. Yesterday morning was my first morning with Paula and the first thing I went to do upon the alarm going off was to take her out and then get her breakfast. I had to stop myself because her relieve time wasn't for another hour and she is currently eating only once a day. I've been running dogs out even before I use the toilet in the mornings for years and it was weird not having to rush for the dog's leash and my shoes. On that note, we had a successful morning bathroom break and I was happy when Paula left me a present to pick up. Knowing that your dog's bodily functions are working properly is usually a good indicator that they are starting to settle in.
After morning bathroom break and human breakfast, we headed for our make shift lounge to have a small discussion on dog body language. It was interesting and was a repeat of a lot of stuff I already knew, but only because it's something that interests me and I've researched it to death. We talked about dog communication with each other and with humans and covered the debunked theory of Alpha dog training. I was glad we covered this.
After our discussion it was house obedience time. Our trainer took us one at a time and we wandered the hotel,practising "sit" at closed doors, lying calmly at tables and then we covered an obedience routine. The routine consisted of us standing in a wide hallway and putting the dog through a series of "sit," down," "stay," all mixed in with us walking around and away from the dog. We even hid from the dog, telling her to stay. I think Paula did well considering strange people kept walking by her and it was our first morning together. She did get up at one point towards the end of the routine, probably because she was bored, but went back into her "sit" no problem and finished the routine cleanly. The bell she wears on her play collar really helps me know if she is moving and where she's moving to. We also practised this routine outside with the trainer also guiding us in order to practice loose leash heeling. It was blowing and snowing at that point so we kept it short, but Paula did very well.
Lunch was tasty as always and everyone behaved nicely. We weren't sure if we'd be able to do our first harness walk yesterday because the weather was atrocious, but we braved the rain/snow/wind and completed our first official harness walk.
The other student went first so Paula and I were left to our own devices for about an hour. The nice thing about training this way means you get to wait in your hotel room instead of in a bus or training building. There will be days where it will be easier for the trainer to take us both at the same time and we'll have to wait in the van, but it's not an every day thing.
I took Paula out before the walk and she did her business then we loaded her into the back of the van which has ben outfitted with dog crates. She promptly began chewing on a smoked bone and seemed happy. I told the trainer that we weren't going to be able to get her out of there because she liked that bone so much. We drove a very short distance and got Paula out and geared up. This is also different from my experiences as we always traveled in mini buses and your dog would lie at your feet. I was impressed with Paula's self control as I reached into the back of the van and fastened her working collar/leash back on and waited for me to call her out. I put the harness on which she ducked away from at first. The trainer told me she used to do that with him, but eventually stopped. We both figured that if she didn't stop that we'd start using kibble to lure her through the opening and eventually she would stop ducking away. Just something to keep an eye on.
Our walk was incredibly wet and cold, in typical Scotland fashion, but it was fantastic. I had a hard time keeping up to my little bullet because I was wearing Wellies and my feet felt clumsy, but she was very responsive to me asking her to slow down. My other dogs' cue for slowing down was "steady," but Paula's is something that has completely slipped my mind right now. She worked very well despite the weather conditions and was very good when I reminded her to "straight on" when she was being too nosy and peaking into people's gardens that we past. There were a few curbs she refused to move up to when we were nearing the van, probably because she knew we were getting close to a dry place, but we reworked her up to those curbs and made sure she sat and waited for me to tell her to turn. She found the van no problem and waited patiently for me to take her gear off and get her up in the van again. It was a short walk, but it was very satisfying. The trainer obviously walked along behind my shoulder, but he let us do the work and wasn't attached to us in any way. My first few walks with Jetta the trainer had a leash clipped to her harness, but since then I've been free to fly solo.
Upon arriving back at the hotel we toweled off and sat down to have another short discussion. To be honest, I can't quite remember what it was about because we all went off on tangents about guide dog owners being responsible for picking up their dogs' poop. After that the other student and I sat around chatting and then it was feeding time for the dogs. It was our first meal on our owns and I was very proud of Paula. She went to and stayed in her bed until I blew the whistle then came charging over to me and gobbled down her food. Then it was human feeding time again.
We spent the rest of the evening just sitting in the bistro and I pretty much collapsed into bed after taking Paula out for the final time. She did both and I was satisfied with that. I did deal with some whining yesterday from time to time, mostly when the trainer walked us back to our room, but it was minimal in comparison to the day before. She also seemed to settle a lot more after our short but speedy harness work. I think working is so exciting for her that she associates the trainer with working and therefore is incredibly attached to him. We will be doing more harness work today and I really hope it will help solidify that I'm fun and exciting in her mind.
Last night she took a minute to settle again. She whined a bit and stood at the front door. When I called her name to get her back to her bed she galloped over to my bed an leaped on top of me where she continued to tap dance despite my "offs." Eventually, I managed to pull myself out and point at the floor and say "off." She promptly hopped off and got into her own bed. She slept soundly after that. So soundly, in fact, I had to poke her in the middle of the night because she woe me up with her very loud snoring. She may give Otis a run for his money in the snoring department.
I think it was a good second day and I definitely see potential here. I do recognise that I need to watch the pitch of my voice though because if I am too happy or excited when I ask her to do things she either doesn't do it or gets way too excited and rushes. This goes for both obedience and harness work. Otherwise, I am very happy.
PS: Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Guide Dog Training Day 2: Paula Arrives

Yesterday was the day that our dogs arrived. The morning started early with a good breakfast, some lessons in "house obedience" and foot positioning for harness work and after lunch the beasties arrived.
House obedience consisted of teaching us how to work with our dogs through doors and proper behavior in public spaces. We worked on telling the dogs to sit when entering and exiting doors and having them tuck in for meals. Foot positions were taught outside in the tennis court and is important when working with your dog in harness.
There are two positions so obviously named position 1 and position 2. Position 1 is the stance you take when your dog has stopped at a curb. You are standing at their shoulder. Position 2 is the stance you take when about to set off. You put your right foot back, leaving your left foot closest to the dog's shoulder to prevent the dog turning its body across yours. This basically guarantees no sniffing and hopefully a straight line of travel. We practised other foot positions that are necessary when turning at corners Etc. This was all new for me as I've never had to do a lot of foot work before. The reasoning, to me, is sound for the foot positions and so I don't mind doing them.
We were issued our equipment which consisted of grooming tools (Zoom Groom, slicker brush and comb), harness, working half check collar, bell (to know where your dog is), whistle (for recall and feeding), leash, Kong and Nylabone. The whistle was new to me as well as the concept of a "working" and "play" collar.
My previous dogs only had one collar which they wore all of the time. I bought my own bells to put on them so I knew where they were during free runs. So although that is new with regards to a guide dog organisation providing them, it wasn't a foreign concept to me. As for the whistle I actually think it's a great idea.
When feeding your dog you are to place your dog in a down stay somewhere in the room. You then put their food between your feet and blow the whistle, indicating to them that they can eat. The whistle is also used during free runs for recall. By using this technique during meals, you are reinforcing recall as the dog knows that the whistle means food at their handler's feet. It was pretty cute when I blew the whistle last night and Paula came running from her bed and dove into her food bowl at my feet.
We had a great lunch of soup and sandwiches and I tried Scotch Broth for the first time. It is not what I expected. To me broth is a thin liquid so I assumed the soup would be a thin liquid void of anything chunky. Scotch broth is the farthest thing from "broth." It is quite hardy and I was incredibly full.
After lunch our trainer went off to collect our dogs from their borders' houses. This is new for me  as my previous dogs were in kennels on site. Most of this organisation has their dogs in training living in people's homes to make the transition from training to a working dog as easy as possible. The other student said I could get my dog first because it was my first UK dog. I thought that was sweet.
Around 2.40 a knock came on my door and I opened it to admit the trainer and a very excited Paula. Her name is Paula, but it may change to Nala some time in the future. I went and sat in my chair and Paula leaped on to the bed, tail wagging. She got a sharp reprimand for this and she was quickly back on the floor with all four paws. She tried a repeat performance once the trainer left, but a sharp "no" had her springing to the floor in no time. She's a cheeky little, or not so little, thing.
The trainer left us alone for about 25 minutes so we could get to know each other. Paula spent much of that time standing by the front door crying. I've never had a dog react this way and it was almost harder than when Jetta stood staring at the door for an hour without moving. I sat patiently with her though and only pet her when she stopped whining. Every once in a while she would tap my face with her nose and eventually she lay down by my legs and rolled over for a brief belly rub. It was these short breaks from the whining that told me that we could make this work.
When she finally settled, the trainer returned to take us for a short stroll around the hotel to do house obedience for real. That went well and I was very impressed with her responsiveness. She had to be reminded to "wait" quite a bit as she likes to rush a bit, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
We had another short lecture on feeding and at some point we relieved the dogs. The day was sort of a blur and I just know that every time the trainer left us Paula would resume her crying. It got to the point where she would at least be interested in her bone when we got back inside our room, but even today she cries when he leaves us.
We took our dogs to dinner with us which sometimes doesn't happen on the first day. Both were very well behaved. Paula also relieved both times I took her out which is a relief since sometimes dogs won't go for someone new. She refused to poop until this morning, but pee was what we were worried about.
Paula was born on May 28, 2011, the same day Mr. K and I had our wedding. She weighs a wapping 30 kilograms and eats more than the male Labradoodle. She's also heavier than he is which is probably normal since the Poodle in him would make him lighter.
I was a bit concerned about bed time as she seemed to be having troubles settling. We had our last relief, or spend as they call it here, time around 9, but the other dog didn't go out until 9.30. That meant when she heard the trainer in the hall, it was another while before she settled down again. That is another difference between the two programs I have been through.
Previously, all dogs went out at the same time and also on a particular schedule. Since there are only two of us, we can decide what times to take our dogs out at. I think there are pros and cons to both, but in a bigger class like the ones I attended before, simultaneous relief times are probably the best way to go. With just having two of us we can tailor the times to our own schedules. There is some uniformity in the mornings and around bed time, but we don't go out at the same time. It also allows the dogs to do their business without being distracted by the other dog.
Also, in my previous guide dog training experiences, we used "tie downs" when we didn't have our dogs with us. Not to mention, dogs were always on leash, glued to your side. It was said to help with the bonding process and also to keep them from doing bad things. Here, the dogs do not stay on leash once in our rooms and do not have a tie down area. That means they are free to roam when you are gone or when you are sleeping. I was a bit worried about this at first, but once Paula fell asleep last night, she was out-no tie down needed. The other student said her dog got up to have a good sniff around at some point last night, but eventually got back in his bed. I think the tie downs prevent such things, but at the same time, doing it this way gives the dogs more responsibility and begins the trust bond early. I think since the dogs come to us from homes, this approach is appropriate whereas the dogs coming straight from training kennels may initially need that structure.
I think it was a very successful first day. The whining was a bit difficult to deal with at first, but we're working through it. I had planned to write all of yesterday's events out last night before bed, but it was a good but exhausting day and I just fell into bed and slept soundly; once Paula settled of course. Today, thus far, has been another eventful day. So, come back later or perhaps tomorrow for another update. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Guide Dog Training Day 1: Getting Comfy

As you can probably guess by the title of this post, I have successfully made it through my first day of guide dog training. The first day of any guide dog training program I know of is guide dogless. The day is spent orienting yourself to your surroundings so that you can provide consistent and reliable instructions for your new dog. The hotel we've been put up in is incredibly nice and all of the staff have been more than accommodating. There is a 20 metre pool, gym and I think the bathroom alone in my room is bigger than my bedroom in my flat.
The guide dog trainer picked me up shortly after nine this morning and then we went off to the bus station to pick up the other student. The other student is a very nice woman who is now training with her fourth guide dog who happens to be a black Labradoodle.
Arriving at the hotel, we sat in our little "lounge" which is a bedroom with table, chairs and a small love seat that has been set up for our use. The bed's been removed to allow room for seating. There is always tea, coffee and cookies available and this is where our dogs' food will be housed during our stay. This is also the room that we will use to have "lectures" of sort.
After a quick coffee break we headed to our rooms to unpack. Unloading my suitcase made me realise just how purple my stuff is. I have purple Wellies with purple liners, purple jammies, scarf, purse, socks purple Etc. The trainer took us each individually around the hotel in order to show us the various rooms we would need to know. I even got a quick tour of the gym facilities.
We had a tasty lunch of soup and sandwiches in the little cafe type thing and then it was back to learning routes around the hotel, including the area where we'll take our dogs to relieve. My dog uses grass so my relieving spot is different from that of the Labradoodle's who will be using a "spending pen." This concept was foreign to me as all of Leader Dogs' dogs go on leash, but I think the idea is that the dog is just let into the pen and does his/her business off leash. If I'm incorrect, I'll let you know once the dogs arrive.
 I may have fallen asleep briefly on the very large, comfortable bed for a moment or two. My nap was short lived as we had another quick run through some routes, a brief meeting about some housekeeping items such as getting photos for our guide dog ID cards then the other student and I sat and chatted for a while. We retired to our rooms to freshen up for supper and then it was back down to the cafe thingy for a very tasty pasta dish. We can order pretty much anything we want on the menu and judging by tonight's meal, we're in for a real treat. The food is quite good.
It doesn't seem like a whole lot when written down like this, but I'm glad we didn't have our dogs already. Learning the ins and outs of this place was enough for one day. The hotel is quite old and there are a lot of nooks and crannies one could get lost in. I'm not exhausted or anything, could be due to that nap I had, but I'm definitely ready to put my feet up and relax.
In fact, I'm off to have a bath and then it's sleepy time. We have another busy day with an early start and our dogs arriving after lunch.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Necessary Imprisonment

Starting Monday I will be whisked away to a hotel to complete training with my new set of eyeballs; a furry, four legged set at that. It's my third time going through this process and despite some differences between the UK and North America, the sequestering of students and dogs is a commonality. This lack of contact with regular day activities didn't really seem like a big deal to me until I was talking with a few friends about it and I realised that this process is incredibly misunderstood. So, me being the thoughtful person I am, I am here to, hopefully, clarify the training process for those wonderful people who have never and probably will never go through guide dog training. ;)
First thing is first, it is probably one of the most emotionally and physically demanding things I have ever experienced; this coming from a girl who has trained for and competed in three Paralympic Games. So much is riding on the outcome and you only have a very short time frame in which to make sure everything is as sound as possible. There have been and will be moments of elation, frustration, excitement, annoyance, nervousness, fear, joy and everything in between. Sometimes you can even experience all of these things all in one day if not in only one training session.
It is not only physically demanding because you are walking constantly, but you are expected to be focusing the whole time while you walk very quickly with a dog you don't know or trust yet. If it was just walking then it would be a piece of cake, but you are attempting to learn your new dog's movements in order to be able to interpret them. You spend time playing with your new dog and grooming your new dog all of which require a small amount of physical exertion. Despite the playing and grooming being small and enjoyable forms of physical activity, they shouldn't be discounted. All of these things add up over 20 plus days of doing this every single day. It's like going to work and never leaving. Of course it's enjoyable work for most, but you always have to be aware of your new dog and what your actions will do to your budding relationship.
It's also physically demanding because of the stress that the emotional roller coaster places on your body. Everyone knows the adverse effects of stress in a long term capacity and although I wouldn't say that a person suffers long term physical consequences due to stress from guide dog training, there is definitely some stress symptoms that occur.
Training with a guide dog is one of the most liberating and exciting experiences there is and none of the things I have written above is meant to take away from that, but I highlighted these aspects in order to make a point.
With all of these things going on, how is it possible to expect a person and his/her new dog to thrive in the person's every day life? What if the trainee has kids at home? If he/she is training from home, then the demands of the children will definitely be another factor the trainee has to contend with. In my case we have three other dogs in the home. It is probably better for me to be secluded with the new dog without the distraction of the other dogs wanting my attention or trying to play with the new dog. There are guide dog programs that train people in their home environments, including Guide Dogs UK, but for many people it is more beneficial to train in a controlled, quiet environment.
All of the emotional and physical demands are enough to contend with, on top of bonding with someone you are supposed to trust to keep you safe for the next nine to ten years. Why complicate things by throwing in more factors? This is why most guide dog trainees are "imprisoned" for about a month and this is why we do it willingly. We want our relationships to be successful and we will do anything we can in order to ensure the success; including forsaking our loved ones on Valentine's Day. (Ahem, sorry Mr. K).  Simply, most of us need the quiet and mostly distraction free environment to be successful.
So, starting Monday, Mr. K and I will be restricting our communications to probably text messages and phone calls. Even then, if I am in the middle of a training session I obviously can't answer my phone or text him back. He's invited to come visit me on the following Sunday, but there are specific time parameters and I'm assuming location restrictions. Presumably we'll have to stay on the hotel property. It was basically the same when I attended Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Michigan. We'll probably be able to see each other again the Sunday after that and then hopefully I'll be home. It's just the way it is and in the long run it will be the most beneficial arrangement.
So, yes. It's odd being told when and whom you can spend time with, but training with a guide dog isn't your every day, run of the mill experience either.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Little More About my Girl

Am I that predictable? Those of you who guessed, guessed right. :)
You are right. My new dog is a Golden Retriever Labrador cross. Apparently, according to one of the trainers, these dogs are used nearly twice as more as any of the other breeds. Flat Coated Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are also used, but a few years ago the Golden/Lab crosses were used about 45 percent of the time. They've also started using Golden Retriever German Shepherd Dog crosses with some success, but I think this is in the beginning stages. I had hoped for one of these, but since I've already waited six months, I am quite happy with my Golden/Lab cross.
So, what else can I tell you about her?
It's actually hard because I really don't know much. I keep forgetting to ask her age, but we've estimated somewhere between 18 and 20 months. I'll have that confirmed next week. I'm not entirely sure how much she weighs, but surprisingly she's almost as big as Roscoe. That was slightly shocking for me since the majority of dogs I see here, males and females, aren't nearly as big as Glacier or Roscoe. Sure, there are some exceptions like this giant of a German Shepherd named Flint that we see out on our walks, but on a whole, the dogs are smaller. So, when I got to check her out, I was pleasantly surprised at her size. She's definitely bigger than Jetta. The trainer described her as medium sized and I would say that is pretty accurate.
She's yellow of course, having been bred from two very yellow breeds. She's got kind of highlighting like a Golden Retriever would, but isn't nearly as light as Glacier. To me, she feels like a crossed dog, but to just the average person, she would just look like a Labrador. She's just a bit thicker and her fur a wee bit longer, but she's definitely not feathery like a Golden. At some point during training, I'll attempt to post a picture. The problem is that with blogger's new interface posting photos/links/everything else that is not a regular post is nearly impossible.
Other than her name, that is all I really know. I know she likes to work and is a bit excitable, but very easy to re-focus. Apparently she alert barks at doorbells, so I'll have to stay on her about that. She seems to be quite playful and personable which is nice as well.
So, what about her name?
Well, about that.
I'm in the process of seeing if I can change it for a multitude of reasons; the most important being that I have a family member with the same name. It's weird just thinking of her with this name, I can't imagine what it would be like to work with her with it. It's just not a dog name. So, until I get that all sorted, I'll keep that to myself for now. However, I'll tell you the two names I was thinking of switching it to and you guys can either guess what her name really is or tell me which one you like better. That or you can do both. :)
Her potential names are:
Nala (from the Lion King)
Petra (which means rock and is also the capital of Jordan).
Can you guess which one I chose?

Monday, February 04, 2013

The count Down is On

It's only seven short/long days before I go into intensive training with my new guide dog. Short because there is still quite a bit of stuff I need to get done before going, like laundry, but it's also long because when you're excited for something like this the days usually seem to drag. However, this guide dog experience is a bit strange for me.
The last two times away training there was only me to think about. This time I am leaving at husband and three other dogs at home. It's kind of odd because although I am so excited, part of me is kind of sad because I'll miss them all; especially the husband of course. I'll be in the hotel for only two and a  half weeks and Mr. K is allowed to come visit, but leaving him behind for that amount of time, even though it's not that long, makes me miss him a little bit already. That's a good thing, right? ;)
So that is how it's different this time around. I had never really thought about it before-having to go away to get a dog and having family still at home. The last two times, all I could think about was the upcoming adventure and question what kind of dog I would get. This time around, I already know who my dog is. Another difference. Not bad, just different. In fact, knowing who SHE is makes it all that more exciting.
Woops. Did I say she?
Since training dates have been confirmed, I figured I could at least tell you that I've been matched with another girl. I always thought I was better suited to work with females and so was excited to find out I had been matched with a girl. I've seen her three times now. The first was to do our initial harness walk to see if we were in fact compatible; the second to have her meet the fuzzy family; and the third was completely by chance. Her trainer has been bringing her into our neighbourhood as promised and so one morning when out relieving the dogs, I ran into the pair going off to train in the rain. The trainer said that they were reviewing the route to the vet and the previous morning they had already gone over the route to the gym. It would appear that everything is moving right along. Now, I just have to get myself ready by getting that big pile of laundry finished so I'll have clean clothes during training.
We won't have laundry facilities on the site unlike the other training centre I've been to before. So, having enough clothes to last nearly twenty days is going to be a necessity. I also have a few essential toiletries to pick up such as toothpaste. I probably shouldn't make off with the tube that Mr. K and I share. The trainer said we could pick up anything that the other student or I may forget, but the more prepared I am probably the better. Besides, who wants to get caught without toothpaste?
Other than getting those little details taken care of, I'll spend the next week enjoying my family, fuzzy and non, and just let time do its flying/dragging thing that it does when one is excited.
PS: So: I told you she was a girl, but can anyone guess what type of dog she is?