Monday, June 14, 2010

solo day, scary

Wednesday was the big day. This is the day when we do our solo walk. As I mentioned, I decided to be the last one so I could get some other things done. (like laundry and beginning to pack)

My time was going to be around 4pm. By lunch I was wondering if this was going to happen or if I would have to wait until Thursday. Everyone was doing pretty good. Jade got very disorientated so she ended up taking over an hour. She was trying to use a gps for the first time on her solo run. Not a good idea by my thinking. Katja was 2 people before me and she was told not to talk to me about where they took her. She tried to give me a clue but I was too thick to understand it.

Although we were running late they decided to get me done today. I got into the van and they began driving. Yes, I did have my gps in my ear telling me the streets but, too be honest, I could have followed where we were going just by paying attention to where we turned right and left. I was a bit afraid, since I was a bit of a smart ass, that they might take me to somewhere where I really had never been.

They did let me out on a road I had never heard of before but my plan of action was to head west and then north to find the next major road. Having the gps just meant that I didn’t need to ask strangers questions. I ask when I need to but do not enjoy having to ask.

The first couple of things went a bit wrong. There was a car blocking the sidewalk and Bogart turned into the drive, alongside the car, rather than going out onto the street. We got that figured out and got past the parked car. Then we sort of blew the next curb by turning right without getting right to the edge.

It was very hot, so my main goal was to find the most shady way back to the school. I found myself at Lakeshore and Reynolds. I turned left and moved towards Trafalgar street. Once on the northwest corner I headed north to Church street. Walking along the north side of Church street gave a lot of shade. Bogart was working really slow. Probably because of the heat. He would also catch sight of the van from time to time and want to head towards it.

Apparently, I was told later, that Courtney had actually jumped out of the van to say to me it was too hot and we should do it Thursday morning but then I guess I moved on so they let us keep going.

Bogart got himself turned around a couple of time or took a lot of time to figure out his way around an obstacle but he was doing okay. He was probably picking up on my nervousness, knowing that we were being watched. At Navy and Randal we had a bit of an issue. When I went to cross north there seemed to be a car in the way (or Bogart had veered right, I couldn’t tell) Anyway, he went around behind the car and then right to the curb. Good. These angled moves had disorientated me a bit but I finally figured out where my curb was. When we crossed, Bogart was too far right. He went up onto the curb. Once I felt grass under foot I told him “over left” He took us on a diagonal path back to the sidewalk. Once there he did a great job at just walking straight along, not veering into the fire departments drive way. On the bridge he finally started speeding up. Perhaps in his eagerness to get back to the school he blew the curb at Wilson street. I turned him around, walked about 10 meters, turned around again and had him do this over. This time he stopped correctly.

Before I knew it we were back at the school. Leah, Melisa and Courtney were out of the van waiting for me. They congratulated me and said that I should be very proud. I did feel a bit proud but sort of emotionally let down too. Bogart didn’t perform as good as I had hoped and I wondered if I had performed as well as I could have too. The anxiety of knowing in just over a day I would be taking Bogart on his first plane ride certainly was weighing on my nerves.

When I walked in the whole class was waiting for me to arrive and they all clapped and cheered. I thought this was a silly thing when we were doing it but it actually did make me feel really good and a bit emotional. Our cook tony seemed put out that supper was late because they wouldn’t start eating until I arrived. Personally, I think he was just sad that the class was leaving and we’d all be going, many never to be seen again.

The night was relaxing. For awhile I was sitting out in the hallway with Katja and Rhino. Others joined us on and off and at 9 I took Bogart to play outside with Rocco for most likely the last time. After a bit Kenneth showed up with Aidyn too which was nice. It was such a beautiful night but a bit bitter sweet since this would be our last night at the school. I really enjoyed hanging out with John. He was such a breath of fresh air and so funny.

We all headed off to bed knowing that tomorrow would be our graduation and the end of this journey but the beginning of a much longer one.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

on a quest

This morning didn’t really start out all that great. I’m starting to learn that Bogart is not a morning person. (well there is something we have in common) We sort of slept in yesterday and when I got up to take him out he was still lying on his bed and making no move to get up. So I popped into the shower and when I came out he was still lying in his bed. Got to like his attitude he? Anyway, I roused my lazy dog and took him for relief which went fine. Then I popped into get my breakfast but about half way through he started having the heaves and threw up a bit o file. Leah asked if he had eaten and I said no that he had slept in. she found that pretty funny. Anyway, she suggested I try to take him up and see if he will eat anything. I did and the answer was no. I find it hard to get him to eat in the morning so maybe he’ll end up getting fed at work instead when I get back.

I let him rest for a bit while we had our morning 9am meeting. They told us that we were doing quests today. We would be groups of 2 or 3 and they would give us a place we had to find. In order to find it we had to ask people on the street if they knew where it was. I hate these sorts of games and probably was a bit whiney.  Leah was laughing because I had pulled out my gps and she thought I was typing in the name of the place. Hah, she has obviously never seen me try to use my gps and how long it takes me to type in a search string. I was, however, making sure that street announcements was on. I was g going to try to change it so that POI’s would be turned on as well but I couldn’t remember the command in the ten seconds I had to do so. POI’s are Points of Interest which are things like stores, cafes, tourist attractions etc. I usually have this turned off because it gives too much information if I’m just needing street names. I use Mobile Geo and have it set up to tell me the next intersection. With a couple of quick taps to the screen I can find out what street I’m on, the next intersection or the closest POI’s.

I was with Katjyia and we were asked to find The roasting Apple. Sounds good but actually it’s a house ware store according to Courtney. Yippee, I get to ask people where the roasting apple is. We knew we had to get downtown so we took the first way we were taught which was Rebecca to Ker to lakeshore. As we were crossing Rebecca at Kerr we heard our teachers yell something. Both Katjyia and I were totally confused. In retrospect we should have just continued crossing and waited for them on the other side. However, being nervous students, we did an around command and took our dogs back to the curb.

It turned out that there was a woman in the bushes who had fallen over while she was taking a pee and her friend was yelling for help. These were two elderly women who might have had some other mental health issues going on. Apparently when the woman was helped up by Leah the whole world got a view of her privates. She didn’t seem embarrassed at all while she pulled up her underwear and pans. Her friend was telling her she should get some of those adult diapers since they are great and then things like this wouldn’t happen.

Okay, well that was interesting. Off we go again. The first people we encounter are some guys on a bench in front of Tim Horton’s. the guy says he doesn’t know where it is but he thinks it is on this side of the road further downtown. We continue …

I hear a man walking towards me. Well, I think it is a man because of the jingling change in his pocket. I stop him to ask for directions and surprise surprise, it’s Katy from our class with Byron, Bogart’s brother. Katy has weakness in her left hand so Byron has been specially trained to walk on her right. This is why I didn’t notice the dog. Regardless she wasn’t very helpful, although giggling a lot so off we went again.

Katjyia hit the jackpot by asking a woman where this store was when we were at Navy and lakeshore. I over heard the directions and they sounded very good. Off we went. It sounds like this store is at the end of downtown, beside lu lu lemons. Bogart sort of walked me over to a bench were people were sitting. I corrected him, telling to be careful but then took advantage of the situation to ask these people if they knew where the store was. Basically got the same directions as before so we knew we were on the right path.

Once we crossed Trafalgar we had to pay more attention. The next person we asked said it was 3 doors behind us. We turned around and walked about three doors back. I was then engaged in conversation about poodles as guide dogs. Before these people left I asked them what the store was behind me and, yes, it was the one we needed to find. Success at last!

We then walked the quickest way to the school I could think of. Bogart still wasn’t feeling well. He was guiding me around everything pretty well but he sometimes would stop and take a bit to make his decision, especially if we were in the shade.  he was also walking very slowly.

Once we got back I took him upstairs and got him some water. I let him lie about in the air conditioned room until lunch was over. Then Katjyia, Katy and myself were driven downtown and dropped off and told to go back to the school. This was sort of a dry run of our solo walks that we will be doing on Wednesday. Then they will drop us out of the van but not tell us where we are. We are to ask people and then get ourselves back to the school. For us who use gps’s we are allowed to use them because we will be using them in our home environment. Besides, as Courtney said, it actually adds another layer of complication to our walk since we’ll have to be listening to the gps and paying attention to our dogs and our walk all at the same time.

We had no problems walking back and Katy made it the whole way under the bribe of a cheeseburger from her mom. I was disappointed because I didn’t get a cheeseburger! The only issue we had was our dogs feet were getting hot when we were standing around waiting for the other too go. Bogart did a couple of weird things but really he only walked me into two people and one there was really no where to go between the person and the bus shelter. He is also smart enough to to see the van even when it is behind us. At one point he went over to the curb just thinking that any car would do. I knew what he was doing but let him continue to see if he would navigate around the trees

In the night Alex gave us a talk on our rights and what would be in our graduation pack. The most important piece of information for me was that transportation carriers must provide a seat for the dog as long as they have appropriate notice. That will be very helpful when flying. We’ll see how it goes on my first flight on Friday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gary's guided tour of Toronto

The challenge this morning was to figure when to do everything with a different time line than we’ve had all the time we’ve been here. Anyway, Bogart and I had it figured out and were ready to go by 7:50am as directed. We always have trouble getting out of here on time but this time we had an 8:28am Go train to catch into Toronto and they only run every hour on holidays, which today is in Canada. We all piled into the van. since Michelle was sick we had heard she wasn’t coming along. Katy and her mom also didn’t want to come along. Thanks to this there was quite a bit more room for us and our dogs in the van. The sliding door closed shut, swoosh wham and we should have been ready to go. “Hmm, where are the drivers? “Jade was really starting to worry. It was 8:07am and we have not left. Then Courtney popped her head into say that Michelle was coming and had until 8:10am to get into the van. People in the van were starting to get restless. I was starting to get a little anxious but what is the worse thing that could happen? We miss the train and have to take the next one.

Well as we were about to attempt driving the van ourselves Michelle showed up and the trainers piled in. We got to witness Courtney’s grand prix driving skills as we hustled to the go Train station. We still had to buy tickets for everyone as well, not to mention get our dogs back into harness once we got out of the van.

As you probably all guess, we made it with time to spare. (well, okay about 2 minutes to spare, but who is counting? Jade?).

We got on the go Train at the accessible car which is one that has a ramp instead of stairs which was pretty cool. It is about a 45 minute train ride into Toronto from Oakville. I listened to some music and enjoyed a bit of chit chat with my class mates.

Once we arrived at Union station we nervously got off the train and followed Courtney’s directions very carefully. I find train sations to be very nerve racking with all the noises around, especially when I'm not familiar wit hthem. In the station, as we discussed our route to take, it became obvious that I knew the downtown probably the best of anyone, perhaps except Kenneth. I proposed what I thought would be a good route that would have us on the subway, walking on some city streets and then taking a street car to another subway to get us back to union station. Everyone seemed to agree and off we went.

Michele uses Union station more than anyone else so she knew how to lead us out and to the subway station. When we got there we took the train north on the University line. We then got off at Queen Street. It was funny in the subway trying to decide which exit to take. Although I knew the way, it has been 20 years since I lived in Toronto. So I had to get clarification on the signage. I think it was Courtney who was reading the sign that would take us to a west bound street car but forgetting that this wouldn't be on the west side of University Ave. Once this was clarified we headed off to the left and than right up the stairs to the road. Bogart got a little over excited and walked me right into the back of Kenneth,bonk!

No offense to Courtney and Leah, but their sense of direction isn’t well developed, at least not in Toronto.  Once we got the group situated we headed west on Queen street. Being a holiday Monday, there really wasn’t a lot of foot traffic but enough, mixed with all the obstacles, to make our dogs work. John was having difficulties with Rocco really pulling. Bogart too was pulling hard except when he was in the lead, then he calmed down to a reasonable pace.

Once we managed to get to Spadina, the next step was getting on a street car. Of course, this is the intersection where the streetcar platforms aren’t in the same place they normally are. It must of looked pretty funny to passers by. There were eight people and six guide dogs all lined up at the curb trying to figure out how to proceed. Basically, we had to wait for two street cars heading opposite directions to pass to know where they would stop. Once we figured that out it was full steam ahead to the platform. We managed to walk out into the middle of the road, tell our dogs “over right” and they led us onto the platform. Getting on the street car wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but, again, it was pretty empty. This street car takes us right into the subway where the north south and east west lines meet which was convenient.

Once off the street car we managed to follow the signs to the correct subway platform. This street car tunnel never existed when I lived in Toronto so I wasn’t quite sure where it dumped us out.

Anyway, we got to do another subway station which was good practice. This one was another one with a platform on each side, meaning it is a more narrow station than some of the central platform stations. Courtney had a big scare when she was leading jade to the escalator and saw Kenneth get off at the bottom and turn right. To the right was the abyss!! She yelled “Kenneth stop!”. Luckily he had also figured out what was going on and Aiden had stopped too. Kenneth joked that this is why he needs a new dog. The last one fell in. ,chuckle>

Once we had piled onto the train Courtney was happy that all were accounted for. 

We had 45 minutes to wait for our go Train back to Oakville so leah offered us ice cream. I took a milkshake instead and enjoyed it immensely. It was pretty hot outside today.

The train ride was uneventful except for Rocco had some nasty gas that was pretty embarrassing. I’m sure he felt better letting it out but we all sure didn’t. H probably was feeling much more relaxed and wondering why we , his friends, were all holding our noses.

In the afternoon we took a nice walk down to the beach. Besides getting some rays and enjoying the warm weather, the other reason for doing this is to have some practice at walking on roads with no sidewalks. The whole group headed down which was pretty interesting. Two trainers with 8 clients and many dogs with personality. Except for pulling a bit much Bogart did fine on the way there. We had to walk down a flight of wooden stairs from the road down to the river and Denise, Katy’s mom, said we looked like pros coming down there. Nice and smooth. That was nice to hear. It did feel pretty good. We ended up at some picnic tables on a hill above the marina. Nice view, nice breeze and a warm sun made this wonderful. We had lots of laughs chatting. I learned about a cool bag from lulu lemons. It’s a pooch bag or something like that but it has pockets for a ball, treats, pickup bags and the normal things you need as well. It’s got a strap that is sort of courier style. Have to check that out once I'm back in vancouver but it seemed fashionable and practical.

Bogart got comments from Courtney as he stared at himself peeing. "Hey, I'm a cool guy. look at how great I can pee. Cool man." Needless to say I gotraazed about my dog after that. The trainers also did one of their tricks where they switch leashes on the client. It is to se how observant we are about our dogs. This one didn't work so great since they attached me to Hedda, a small lab.The first thing I always do when I go to pick up my harness is pet my dog. So no joy on that one gals. Well, I'm sure they still got to see a pretty funny look on my face for the first second or so while I figured it out. :)

On the way back Bogart got in the lead of the second group which means he wasn’t pulling anymore and walking at a good pace. He had another great maneuver where he could have gone forward up a curb, over a bit of grass and then onto the sidewalk but instead he walked around the edge of the curb and onto the wheelchair curb cut to get onto the sidewalk. Very good.

The embarrassing thing that happened though was when he stopped for no reason I could figure out. I had just checked to be sure that there was no obstacles in my way when I heard Courtney yell that my dog was taking a dump on the sidewalk. How embarrassing. Usually it is Rocco who does these sorts of things, not a proud poodle such as Bogart. It was a pleasure to pick up Bogart’s offering. At least Courtney offered to find me a garbage to put it in. I guess the lesson I learned was that Bogart went onto grass several times and I corrected him back to the sidewalk. I guess I should have pulled off his harness to see if he had to go.

Besides that , he guided all the way back with no collision for me. Have to like that.

After dinner, Leah said we needed to decide who was doing the speech on Thursday. We explained that we had planned on figuring this all out at the morning meeting but we ended up all being in Toronto at that time. Leah said that’s great but we need to figure this out now. So we did our nominations and it was clear that that there were two people who thought that they would b interested in doing the speech but the rest of the group wanted Katjyia and myself to do the speech to represent the younger and older, I mean more mature, members of our class. How do I always get myself into these situations? Eventually I’ll have to admit I like doing this sort of thing won’t I . With that in mind, the film crew will be back on Thursday to film the graduation so me being involved in the speech will give them some more good images to use for the story.

Katjyia and I are going to work on ideas tomorrow and then bring them to the group to help us with little funny stories to get people laughing as well as what would be some key points we would want to be conveying.

Tomorrow we will be doing two walks. The plan is to do quests. This is where they tell us what to find and we have to go downtown and find it by asking Joe public where it is. Sounds like tons of fun! (yeah, you’re getting my sarcasm I’m sure.) I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A day off ... big sigh

Ah, finally, Sunday has arrived. It is so nice to have a day off. Well, of course, there is no day off when you have a dog but at least there are no meetings and no places we have to go. It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed to take Bogart down for his morning constitutional. Then we came back upstairs so he could eat and I could lie down again for a bit.

Breakfast was a simple fair but highlighted by Janis’s freshly cooked cinimon buns with icing. Mmmm, they were very good. So good that I had to have a second one.

After breakfast, I came back upstairs to try and get caught up on my blogging. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I’m not exactly getting each day done on the day it is for. It is actually more work to do the blog than I thought but considering how little I can remember of the last 3 weeks I think it will be a precious tool to help me remember everything that happened here.

Just before lunch I took Bogart out to the courtyard to run about with his friend Rocco (lab) and Aiden (white poodle). They had a very good time which was nice to see. We then headed off for lunch which was really great pizza. After lunch I hung out in the front of the building first with John and Rocco who were waiting for John’s wife. And then Katjyia and her parents. At 2pm Denise (Katy’s mother), Jade, Leah, Courtney and myself headed over to the Moonshine cafĂ© for their blues jam. It was nice to go and have a drink or two with some of the adults. I really enjoy hanging out with Courtney and Leah. I got to play after the first set. We played a couple of songs that I play in Rain shadow which was fun. It’s hard to just hop up and play really well but those who came to watch said it sounded great. Just as we were getting ready to leave John, the owner, came over and asked if I would like to play again. Of course I said yes and asked Courtney to have Janis hold my supper or give it to one of the extra people staying. However, I gave clear instructions that I was to be saved a piece of Janis’s freshly made cheese cake. I ended up playing for most of the next hour which was fun. Onwards the end John and his wife Chris showed up so I sat and had a drink with them before heading back to the school to rescue Bogart from my room.

He didn’t seem to care that much and was just lying on his bed when I came in the room. I took him down to run again with Rocco as a reward for his patience. It was then that I found out that plans had changed and we were now going to Toronto on Monday instead of Tuesday morning. Breakfast was now at 7:15am and we were to be out of here by 8am. Wow, no sleeping in and actually we’re going to have to b up even earlier. Oh well, I’m looking forward to the whole trip. I used to live in Toronto about 20 years ago so it’s always like visiting my youth when I go there. I’ve suggested we take the go train to union station, take the subway to Queen Street, walk west to spadina and then take the spadina street car to the subway and back to union station. We’ll see if I get my way or not.

Doggie's in the mall

It seems that everything came together today since it was the day that we were supposed to go to the mall and it was pouring rain. What better day to do a mall day? Leah is still sick so Courtney was going to have to do this with us all herself. The main goals at the mall were to do up and down escalators, elevators and stairs with open backs.

Once we all got out of the van and got our dogs harnessed (easier for some than others), we headed into the mall. Courtney took half of us up to Tim Horton’s to wait while she worked wit the other half. Katy hung out with her mom and Katjyia, Laura and Michelle went off shopping on their own. They all have quite a bit more sight than the rest of us.

When it was our turn, John and I followed Courtney to the first escalator down. Courtney was telling me that in training Bogart was bomb proof on escalators, elevators and stairs so that was good to hear. He hasn’t pulled any of his stair refusals while in harness in public. He still does this from time to time on the stairs in the school but not too often any more. John was having some issue with Rocco and he asked Courtney if he could just walk around the mall on his own. He lives in this area and knows the mall well and also has enough sight to get round even without a dog in this sort of lighting.

Courtney helped me find the HMV and, to my surprise, they had the CD I was looking for but couldn’t find in Vancouver. Not only that but it was on sale for $10.00. for those who might be interested the CD is Middle cyclone by Nico Case. When ever I go on a holiday or to some place interesting I like to buy a CD as a way of adding a musical memory to the place. Last year when I was in Cologne Germany I bought a CD by a popular alternative band. I have it on my phone so songs from it will come up from time to time.

After HMV Courtney just had me go down the stairs, walk around, back up the stairs and then down the escalator to the bottom floor. From there we took the elevator up to the third level and started pulling the group together. We all headed down to the main entrance . Here we had to wait for Courtney to go back up to Tim Horton’s to bring Michele and Laura down to see them manage the elevator. There was some mumbling about us having to wait for those two since they had been shopping around while we were doing what we needed to do. If they had time to shop one would think they could of had their Timmy’s at a time when it didn’t have the rest of the class waiting for them. As we enter the last week, I think everyone’s patience is getting a little shorter. We are all eager to get home and se how things will work out with our new partners.

In the afternoon we worked on food distractions and dog distractions. Treats were place on the floor in the main hallway and we had to walk our dogs through them without them trying to pick anything up. If I can be totally honest, I went up to my room after our late lunch, laid down on my bed and fell asleep. Jade came and got me so I missed the food distractions test. I'm sure bogart would have done great at being distracted by the food. that is the purpose of the test isn't it? :)

The dog distractions were interesting. Courtney brought out a golden lab named sable who had been disqualified from the special services program because she was just too hyper. First Courtney walked by with sable on leash and had her come right up to our dogs. I had to sit Bogart down several times but he listened fairly well. Then Courtney had Sable off leash and got her to wander around our dogs. You have to imagine this crazy panting hyper lab being encouraged to come and play with our dogs. Bogart didn’t handle this so well and needed a pretty hard correction. He is one who likes to play for sure.

Lastly, we went out to the courtyard to work on obedience . First we had the dog sit. Then we had them sit and lie down. Lastly we had them sit, lie down and we walked the length of a long leash from them before asking them to come. When they came to us and we had them sit, they would get a treat. We did this several times. Courtney said we should do this for a couple of minutes every day. It will help us gain the respect of the dog. This is also good to use to refocus the dog if yew feel they are not paying good enough attention.

Saturday night I mostly hung out in the room. I did get a chance to run Bogart in the courtyard for some exercise.

Sunday is our day off. For excitement I am going back to the Moonshine for their rock/blues jam around 2:30pm. It sounds like Leah and Courtney are going to come to watch for sure. We’ll see if anyone else wants to pop over.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention something that happened that was quite interesting. We were told that we had to pick a classmate to do the speech for us at graduation. Saturday morning at breakfast Kenneth proposed that, since there are two distinct age groups, that it would make sense to have two speakers. He suggested Katjyia and myself to be those two speakers. Everyone at the table agreed but what we didn’t know was that everyone wasn’t at the table. So I was called to a meting Saturday night so, as a group, we could discuss this issue and come up with a plan. It took much longer than I thought to agree on how to proceed. Apparently a couple of other class mates were interested in doing the speech. Personally I am not attached to doing the speech at all so am happy if there are others who would be interested. After 45 minutes we decided to have nominations on Monday morning at our early meting. it was a very interesting process where people were trying to do the right thing but didn’t exactly use the right methods. We also had much discussion on what special thing to do to thank our two trainers. In the end we came up with a plan that met everyone’s goals. It will be interesting to see what happens at our Monday morning meeting.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We're in the movies

Well Friday has arrived. This is the day where I have scheduled the team from TAC TV to come and shoot part two of our guide dog story series. I have to admit to being a bit anxious about the whole thing. I still am inexperienced at doing stories in the film format and having not worked with the Toronto team before there is a bit of mystery as to what that will be like.

""I began the day dressed casually so we could film me arriving at the school. Oh, this is a good time to return to the hair dryer story. I don’t think I gave an update on this topic. On Tuesday we were getting our pictures shot with our dogs so I wanted to look good. I borrowed Katjyia’s hair dryer. I brought it into the room and plugged it in in the washroom. Hey, it isn’t working. You can imagine the wheels Turning slowly in my head. “Hmm, maybe it wasn’t my hair dryer but the plug in.” What this reminded me of is that the plug in on the far wall where the computer is plugged into is turned off by a light switch by the door. But over the past couple of weeks I learned that this switch is down for on and up for off. Why you might ask? I have no bloody clue but figured it out when I thought I was charging my laptop and found the battery more drained than when I had plugged it in. so I tried both hair dryers in the plug in by the bed and surprise of all surprises, they both worked.! I feel better now. Of course, why it took me two weeks to think to ask any of the several teenage girls about borrowing a hair dryer one can only guess. 

I got a call from Stuart saying that they’d be arriving in about ten minutes. I decided to wait for them outside in the sunshine. When they arrived Stuart introduced me to Paula who dealt with the sound for him. John, from the Vancouver TAC office, had sent a list of shots that he wanted to have for the story. I talked with Stuart and said that we should get those shots but if there was anything else he saw that he thought would be good for the story to let me know and we could film it.

We began with the shots of me coming into the school dragging my suitcase behind me. Then I took them up to the room in case this is where we wanted to do our interview section. We decided to do it outside but we got some great shots of Bogart. I’d have him standing beside me and then Stuart would call him. After doing it twice Bogart totally got what he was supposed to do and would walk straight to the camera. The last time we did it I think Stuart had to deal with a Bogart nose print on the camera lens. With a name like Bogart it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is good on film.

I then had to join my class to do a group photo. I think we’ll have to do one more of these so Leah, who was sick today, could be in it as well.

Once that was done we decided to interview me while sitting on the bench in front of the building with Bogart at my side. This went well. I am wondering if we should have done more filming of me talking and if there are more things I should have talked about. I’m still new at this and have trouble straying from the offered scripts. Also, so much has happened in the past three weeks I can barely remember what would be interesting. Writing this blog will be a great help to recall what I actually did while being here.

The last thing to film in the morning was sidewalk obstacles. This is when the side walk is blocked for some reason and I would need to go out on the street. The school recommends getting the assistance of a sighted person if possible just like you would do when using a cane. If this is not possible then the dog is trained for this situation. The dog walks to the obstruction and then stops. We have to figure out what is going on so we don’t wrongly correct our dogs. Once we see it is something blocking the sidewalk then we tell our dogs “forward, find the way.” Once they head out on the road (after we’ve decided the traffic is safe) we immediately step back a bit from the dog and say over right, over right until the dog puts us back on the curb. When this happens we give our dogs lots of praise. Heading in the opposite direction we would say forward, find the way and then over left once the dog has gone onto the street. As we said over left we would step up on the dog.

We filmed this with Courtney and myself wearing microphones. I think it should make for some interesting shots.

After enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch I had Ian give Stuart and Paula a tour of the newly renovated kennels. To finish off the day of filming Ian and I headed out for a walk to the local grocery store while being filmed and wearing microphones. Ian was explaining to me that I need to constantly be communicating and motivating Bogart. He took me into the grocery store and got us going up escalators again. We walked around the store, showed me how to use the follow command and how to make sure Bogart doesn’t start sniffing up everything around him. We ran into Laura and Katjyia with the trainer Sunny at the store so walked back with them. Once back at the school, Ian sort of gave us a pep talk about how good we are doing. In a month, they are really trying to turn us into dog trainers. It is good that our dogs are having behavioral issues while still at school so we can use the trainers to help us through them. The skills we learn here will help us with our dogs once we get home

The last interesting thing of this very busy day was going for my first night walk. This is important since dogs see differently at night and so do I. I can’t see much of anything so have to totally trust the dog. We left at dusk for a 45 minute walk and it got darker as we went along. Bogart was pulling at first but soon, with prompting from me slowed to a nice comfortable walking pace for most of our walk. Very nice. At one point I was telling him to find the curb. I couldn’t feel a down ramp so I thought he hadn’t found it. I told him forward, which he did. This had me stepping off a big curb into the street. No worries, it was a quiet side street but I had to praise him and then turn him and get him back onto the curb, praising him again. He did great. At the second last turn before the school, I tested him by knowing that there was a light post right beside us when I asked for a left. He did it perfectly, taking me out and around the pole.

Tomorrow we are off to the mall in the morning which is good since it is supposed to rain

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Off to the big smoke

Well today is the big day where we go to the big smoke, the centre of the Canadian universe, Toronto that is. Our day got off to a slow start because Leah, one of our classes trainers, called in to say she wasn’t feeling very good. There has been a flu going through the special skills class. In the end she was able to get in and help us out with our city adventure.

d talked to Courtney Wednesday night to see if I could sit in the back seat with John since we are the biggest and have the biggest dogs. She said that they could actually move the back seat further back which would give us much more room. I was hoping that it was just going to be john and me back there but the seating arrangements didn’t quite work out so on the way out we had jade beside us and on the way back we had katjia in the back seat. It was great to have the extra leg room but it sure was extra bumpy back there.

We finally arrived in Toronto and parked close to Runnymede subway station. Once we had all unloaded from the van we moved in two groups through the parking lot to a little park where we had to take our dogs out of harness to relieve them. Bogart was so excited he was bopping all over the place. He did go pee which I thought he would. However, unexpectedly, he did a number two. Well what an opportunity for me since I had told the trainers that I needed to still learn how to pick up their pooh. So Courtney came over while he was finishing his business to give me tips of how to position myself. With a little guidance from Courtney I found the gift and grabbed it. Before you faint my hand was , of course, inside a plastic bag. So once I had grabbed Bogart’s digested supper, I simply pulled the bag over my hand and, presto, poop in bag. Then Courtney told me to do the bag up in a knot and off we go. Gary has done the one thing that has been one of the reasons for not getting a dog over the years.  Bogart, in his infinite desire to help me learn, also had another movement when we finished our walks and were relieving the dogs before our trip home. What a helpful fellow eh?

Once we were all happily relieved we got to walk over to Bloor street, cross it and head east. We ended up at a nice restaurant/pub whose name escapes me at this time. So the plan was to sit four of us down while the other four headed off for their first dog guided trip into the subway. I was in the group selected to stay behind with John, Katjyia and Michelle. John and I decided to share some fries and gravy while waited for the others to return. When the waiter came with our order he tripped on Bogart. I didn’t hear Bogart make any noise, he just jumped up. When the waiter tripped, I was worried about Bogart but I also was envisioning hot fries and gravy ending up in my lap. The poor guy was beside himself with apologies. Bogart rearranged himself when I asked for a sit and down and lined up his back with the bench of the booth. This would due until everyone returned.

Once the others returned We had the opportunity to order lunch. Being that I had already had fries I ordered a burger with a Caesar salad. Once we had our chance to go the excitement began. It is much different walking along a busy street such as Bloor street with our dogs compared to the Oakville streets hat have much less traffic and noise on them. I’m starting to see that Bogart has a thing for groups of young women. He had me almost inside another group of talking women. This might be a good thing but not something to encourage.  Apparently the school once had a lab that would go up behind women with short skirts and Polk his nose up there. Just saying hi I’m sure but not really appreciated.:)

So the only real problem we had walking along Bloor street was that I was leaking sunglass lenses. I wear cycling glasses with different lenses I can put in . I carry them in a carrying case that I attach to my backpack. I didn’t know that they could fall out but I learned as I was walking along Bloor. I thought I heard the sound of plastic on the ground. Leah grabbed them and asked if they were mine. Well surprise surprise, they were. Then I realized I was missing my clear lenses. But along came a nice pedestrian with them. That was great. Saved me some money. Luckily being blind I probably don’t notice the scratches on them. 

I had Bogart go “right inside” to head towards the subway station. I had given him the instructions right inside. Find the door, right inside. He was making the appropriate move when a bus stopped beside us and started making all kinds of noises. Not just the normal beeping when they lower the bus but these new buses make a horrible hissing sound that always scares me too. So Bogart made a very quick dash in the door at that point.

Once we were in there against the wall we each started down the stairs. The command was “Bogart, find the stairs.” He went to the beginning of the stairs and stopped. I found the railing and then gave the forward command. He moved nice and steadily down the stairs until the first landing. He continued to the first step and stopped again. Again, I gave the forward command and off we went. Once on the main floor I told him to find the counter. It’s hard to know if this would always work so smoothly since he was following other clients. However, one other client went through the gate that had been opened by a TTC employee. I wanted to go through the turnstile with Bogart. So he found the counter and walked me forward to the turn style. At that point, I dropped his handle, pushed myself through the turnstile and he came through after me. The leash went through on the left where there is a bit of space between the end of the turn style and the railing.

Then the command is “Bogart, Right, find the stairs” This puts us heading for the stairs going the direction we are looking for. Again he finds the stairs and we go through the same process.

At the bottom of the stairs we follow the diagonal wall to the platform. We want to go to the designated waiting area since this is where the cameras are if we have any problems. Also, there is a conductor on the trains and this is roughly where his window is. We are told, when walking along the platform, to keep giving the command “over left or over right” depending on which side the wall is on. The goal is for us to keep close to the wall. We should feel our dog move out from the wall to go around things like garbage cans and/or benches but we want to get him back over to the wall right away. We are told to not give any commands when the trains are coming into the station. It is really noisy. We are also told not to give hard corrections in here either. Our goal is to keep the dog paying attention but not make him anxious. Once the subway has stopped we give the command “Bogart, find the door.” He then walks forward to the nearest door. Once inside the train it is the same as on the bus as far as finding a seat and putting the dog under the seat at our feet. Getting off, we as for a find the door, forward, find the door and off he goes. Again we find the wall before proceeding. Next we head off towards the stairs, asking the dog to over right (or left) and when we feel the opening for the stairs we ask him to find the stairs. In some stations this will be escalators and the dog will respond to the command “find the escalator”.

Once at the top of the escalator I asked to find the turnstile which he did. We went through and then I asked for another “find the stairs”. He did that too and up we went. Once at the top I asked for a “find the door” and off he went to the door. I’ll need a command for “wait while I put on my sunglasses Bogart” but we haven’t managed that one yet.

After this we just walked along the street back to the park by the van to relieve our dogs and get back into the van.

Bogart waited until I was in the van, out of his sight, to throw up all over the sidewalk. I thought that was rather polite of him don’t you?

The ride home was pretty much uneventful.
Traffic had us over an hour late for dinner. Luckily the two main cooks here, tony on weekdays and Janis and weekends, are very understanding and accommodating.

Bogart and I decided to have a fairly relaxing night. Tomorrow I have a camera person coming from The Accessible channel to film part two of our guide dog story. In case we film anything in my room I will tidy up and let Bogart get his beauty sleep before his big film debut.