Yara Goes to the Mall

I woke up this morning thinking I’d beat my alarm and since Yara wasn’t being all crazy excited I figured I would just roll over and wait for it to go off. Except I ended up falling asleep and it turns out I’d forgotten to set my alarm last night so I ended up sleeping until 7:30 a.m. Oops! Yara was very happy when I finally crawled out of bed. She’s always so enthusiastic when I wake up and I have to get her to calm herself before I can take her off tie-down and put her leash on. She has to rub all over me and flip around on her back and jump around with her bone a bit.

For her breakfast, I mixed more of the canned food with her kibble and she ate nearly all of it. One thing is certain, she’s not turned off by the smell of Abady because that canned stuff smells pretty raunchy, too. At least she’s eating more regularly. It really helps getting a schedule down. Since she was good and did all her business and ate so well, I gave her a bit of free time before Megan got here while I tried to wake myself up enough to get dressed and all that. I hate waking up late, I just feel all discombobulated for the rest of the day.

Anyway, Megan and I went downtown and took a decently long walk for some outdoor work. It’s warmed up a bit and even though it snowed some last night most of the ice and snow had melted or been cleared away. There weren’t many people out being so early on a Saturday, so it was pretty basic and straight forward curb to curb stuff. Yara did extremely well. She got distracted by a few people, but never anything really bad. Even when Megan ran off ahead to try and distract her, she still responded to just my verbal correction to keep her pace. In fact, she’s so super cautious and attentive that she slows way down if I just misstep or falter. She’s such a sweet girl. It’s cute.

Afterwards, as the title suggests, we went to Rotterdam Square Mall! First we did some obedience stuff with Megan trying to tempt Yara to break her stays. Since we were right by the food court we had quite a few people milling past and I think some people walking must have thought: “What the heck are these women doing to that dog?” It must have looked very bizarre.

After that we walked the length of the mall just to see how Yara would do. She slammed my shoulder into one of those display window walls that kind of jut out, but other than that she did terrific. She was a little distracted by all the people, especially the kids, but she got back on task fairly quick and relatively easy. I love that she tries to walk me on the right, rather than Dolly who always curved to the left and made me walk against everyone. Of course, with Dolly’s left side thing, I always got to part people like the Red Sea and that’s always fun and amusing!

On our way back, Megan ran ahead and tried to set up some distractions and pedestrian obstacles and the like. Yara was great and extra cautious and I’d have to prod her along. I have to remember to not be all “GEB-minded” and use the leash so much to encourage her since she’s so sensitive it seems to make her get stuck more than move her along, but some training habits are a bit harder to learn anew.

Having finished our mall tour, we had some lunch in the food court and talked about some plans for next week. I couldn’t help but comment on everyone’s reactions to the dog while we ate. Especially this one mom who walked by with her kids and said plain-as-day to her children as she pointed at Yara lying down at my feet, “Look! That doggy is working!” I’m sure her little kids had no understanding of what she meant. I know when I was a child I never would have understood how much “work” it is for a dog to be so well behaved in such a crowded place, especially with food involved. And really, lying on the floor hardly seems like work anyway. The thing about kids, I’ve learned, is they have one of two reactions to seeing a guide dog: total shock and awe at seeing a dog or complete and absolute fright, usually resulting in abruptly bursting into tears. I always feel bad about scaring little kids with my guide dog and we gave a few children a bit of a fright while we walked through the mall and later at Hannaford’s. It’s pretty jarring to just see a dog out in a store in the first place, and I imagine that is much more so the case when the dog is so very big in comparison to you!

Before heading back home, we went to Hannaford’s so I could pick up a few things. Yara got to practice some more heeling behind a cart and she was actually exceptionally well behaved today. She only whined once and that was at the checkout and I think it was partially at the injustice of not being able to sniff at the display of potato chips or something at the foot of the conveyor belt. Again, she was a bit solicitous with people around the store, but for the most part nothing too bad. She’s still not half as bad as Dolly with the people distractions and Megan said exactly my thoughts later that she believes Yara will just get used to it as time goes on. She suggested that over the weekend when I take Yara back to the mall to just take some time to sit on a bench and let her just be in a sit or a down and watch people without letting her get all friendly and stuff. We’re hoping that by doing so, she’ll be able to get her focus and not be so easily excitable by everyone around her.

Once we were back home, Megan and I worked on some more obedience things. She showed me some practical applications for targeting, like how to use it to get Yara into harness or how to recall her. We also worked some more with go lay down and stays, increasing the distance I walk away from her and having Megan try and distract her out of the command. In short, Yara and I have lots of homework to do on our two days “off!”

Can’t believe our first week is already over. It really flew right by! I’ve got to say, I’ll be a bit sad when next week is over. Training can be very fun, if not entirely exhausting.

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