Today, we went to San Francisco. Silly as it may seem, the first thrill wasn’t even an official part of training. Those of us waiting our turn to work with an instructor were sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying some great coffee and good chat. Jim, the retired bank vice president, did the best job anyone ever has of explaining to me how it works to buy and sell stocks. Then, I asked Helen, the nurse who was with us, where the bathroom was located. She gave me clear directions – straight back, past the counter, around an obstacle to the right, and all the way to the back and find the door on the right. Flo executed the commands like the pro that she is and we found our destination in no time. Then, when the real workout occurred, we were both excited and ready.
She worked down Chestnut Street like the amazing dog that she is – past dogs and strollers and loads of people. Past restaurants and little shops and a million interesting smells. She stopped crisply at each curb, and worked directly to the opposite crosswalk when I issued the command. She did turn in once at a door as if to ask, “Are we going here?’ It was – what else? – a pet store!
In the afternoon, we had our first independent route. This is a route where we are each given a set of instructions – one block this way, then four blocks that way, etc. – and expected to arrive at our destination without human intervention. The instructors are watching, of course, but we have no idea where they are. I asked Jessica, my instructor, if I, too, would be doing this exercise since I’d only known Flo for two days. She said simply, “You’re ready.” And were we ever! We did it flawlessly – and it was so much fun!
My love and respect for this school and the people who train these dogs is even greater than it has always been. To give me one dog, realize that it isn’t working, and know that another will is just amazing. Flo was meant to be my dog and now that the tumultuous emotion of the first week is behind me, the road to getting her seems worth it.
She still gets very excited and distracted when she sees Leo, the instructor who trained her, but is quick to respond when I remind her that she’s hanging out with me now.
I was able to take Flo to the giant play yard (they call it the grassy paddock) for some serious play time, and it was fun to see her in pure dog mode. She ran after toys, played a serious game of tug with me, and one time, when I called her, jumped on me with a little too much exuberance! She’s got so much personality, and “talks” when she plays! Heather, her other trainer, took some video of Flo playing when I asked her (Heather not Flo) which I hope to figure out how to upload for its entertainment value.
There’s much more to tell, but the days are long and full. Flo is already sleeping and it looks like a good idea to me!