Monday, May 16, 2011

Going with the Flo

Going with the Flo
When I started the blog, the intent was to write about training with a new guide dog. That training doesn’t really end, though, when you leave the GDB campus, and I’m reminded of it more this time around than ever before.
We’ve been home for seven weeks today – two, then a three-week hiatus, and now two more. We are most definitely a work still in progress!
The good news is that Flo stopped being a cone-head on my birthday, May 2. I successfully completed the 10K Flying Pig (woo-hoo!) April 30, and wanted more than ever to keep walking with my sweet new dog the next day. Her tail had healed, and the trick was to keep her from biting it. I took off the e-collar, first as a test, and her joy was so infectious that there was simply no way I could put it back on. I sprayed her tail with Bitter Apple every day which kept that little mouth from biting on it, and we began again to work as a team.
We have kept pretty much to short, simple walks – and have gotten lost a few times – but with the gentle leader on to keep her hyperactive nose from sniffing everything that isn’t nailed down, we’re making progress.
Her first road trip was May 7, when Caitlyn and I drove to Eastern Kentucky University for the graduation ceremony of my stepdaughter, Kendra. Flo was a hit -- and practically perfect.
Then, May 11, I had to fly to St. Louis for the annual conference of the IAAIS (International Assoc. of Audio Information Services), where I serve as a public director on the board.
I travel a fair amount, so this was the first test of my “real life” for Flo, and at least one of us was more than a tad nervous.
The flight to St. Louis was Flo’s second ever – the first being the return home from San Rafael. She’s small, but exceedingly wiggly, so getting her to lie still at my feet was initially a challenge. When she finally settled, though, she was perfect the whole trip. I asked the flight attendant to hold her while I walked to the back of the plane for the bathroom. When I came back, the flight attendant confessed that she forgot about Flo who had slept through my entire absence. Yay Flo!
In St. Louis, she went to meetings and restaurants and had stellar behavior everywhere. I successfully taught her where my room was using the clicker and treats which, for her, was the highlight of the entire trip.
I learned that if I forget the gentle leader, she can’t remember to do her job – grazing a particular pillar twice and falling off a steep curb once were reminder enough – but I remind myself that with every dog, it takes time to develop what I call the physical telepathy between dog and handler. We’ve only barely begun to establish that connection but, for her first trip away from Cincinnati, I’ll give her a B-plus!