Hello, Uschi!

Uschi lying on the living room floor

Above is one of the few photos I’ve managed to get of Uschi today. She’s proving to be quite a fidgety thing and so mostly all I’m getting is a big grey blur where there should be a GSD. While Yara was long and lean, Uschi has a much stockier build. In fact, in every way that Yara was angular and long (body, legs, tail, muzzle), Uschi is short and thick. I’d say she’s probably about equal in size as Dolly was, but with much different in build. She’s a sable, as I mentioned before, but much lighter than Yara with more grey in her coat. Her under side and legs are a very light grey, almost white color.

I mentioned earlier that due to postponing the start of training a day, we had planned to actually get some harness work in. (Actually I think I neglected to mention the harness part, but I do believe I said something on Twitter last night.) Well, thanks to the snow, we didn’t end up doing that. Instead, we did the usual Day 1 stuff: going over paperwork, meet and greet with the new dog, and being left to bond for the night. With a small deviation, we took a trip to my doctor’s office where it has been confirmed I have a sinus infection. Then we went to the pharmacy for what turned out no apparent reason because they didn’t end up receiving the script for my antibiotics and decongestant. It also happened to be when the doctor’s office was closed for lunch, but thanks to a good friend I ended up getting my prescriptions without having to walk through the ice and snow with just my cane. After all that, we were left to on our own until tomorrow morning when the real work begins.

Mostly, I’ve learned that she is very easily excitable, which I think will be one of the big things we’ll have to work on. Definitely she will be a dog that few will have the opportunity to pet because even a little attention sets her off. She’s also a licker. Unlike Dolly she doesn’t seem to want to coat every inch of exposed skin in her slobber. She’s more a stealth licker, managing to get me in the face a few times already today and swipe a glass I was currently drinking from.

She’s already raided the toy bin and found much enjoyment with trying to make me deaf. Seriously, I thought my previous guides could be kind of obnoxious about squeaky toys, but Uschi was going at the noisemakers in the toys to such an extent that Jason and I actually couldn’t talk over her! It’s also looking like she isn’t nearly as responsible with soft toys as either of her predecessors, so I don’t think the giant fleece monkey or bone will survive very long. And that’s assuming she doesn’t force me to toss them just from sheer annoyance. She did find the cow femur in the bin and chewed on that while I ate my lunch.

Let’s see, what else can I tell you . . . oh, right, she is super quiet! I mean, she has literally whined one time all day and that was to tell me she had to take a tinkle. I’m totally in shock. I even mentioned as much to Jason, who confirmed that she’s incredibly quiet. She’s been pretty curious about people coming up to the house, but even when my friend rang the doorbell when dropping off my scripts, Uschi didn’t make a peep.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s tons more to say, but it’s dinner time for the both of us. More tomorrow, I’m sure.

Dog Day! (Take Two)

Due to circumstances completely out of my control, it ended up that my guide dog instructor did not make the trip up here from CT as initially planned. Instead, I’ll be meeting Uschi in a few short hours and we’ll be starting our training later today.

I’d say I was incredibly upset and/or disappointed to have to have training delayed, but in all honesty after everything that’s gone on with Yara especially these last few days, I don’t even think I’d fully processed the fact that I was getting a new guide dog. Granted the house seems very empty and quiet and coupled with my own neurotic habits it’s plainly obvious that I’m sans a guide dog at the moment. Still with hardly two weeks notice, I honestly don’t feel it has completely sunken into my apparently dense brain.

Also, based on what came out of my nose when I got up earlier this morning, I’m starting to think I’m in denial that this sinus thing isn’t a full on infection after all. I’ve also developed a cough and it seems to be slowly taking my voice away, which are also bad signs. I’ll be calling my doctor this morning and hopefully I can get in sometime today without it hindering guide dog training too much.

Anyway, best get myself ready for the day. Assuming I get the chance, I’m sure to have another post up later today about Uschi and training.

Dog Day!

For those of you that rely on Facebook or Twitter to be alerted to posts, you may have missed yesterday’s announcement. As a word of advice, the script that sends a notification to those social networks takes a backseat to actually populating the post on the website. So, if those services take too long to respond, the notification doesn’t go through even though on my end it says it has. Better methods to keep track of posts here are definitely through the syndicated feeds: RSS or LJ. If you’re a Blogger user, you can “follow” my blog by going to your Dashboard and adding it. Of course, I won’t stop sending notifications to Twitter and Facebook, I just wanted to note alternatives that are slightly more reliable.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand: guide dogs!

Dad and Keith came over last night to pick up Yara and I’m rather relieved to say that my neurotic worries about reluctance in taking her seem rather unfounded. I’m going to assume my dad was just stressed when I spoke with him Tuesday because he was much more optimistic about everything yesterday. I think it’s safe to say we all have our kid gloves on at the moment because my father and Keith aren’t nearly as familiar with Yara as they were with Dolly. And vice versa. Mostly, this is because I lived at home for much of the time I worked Dolly since I was just starting college. So, for her part when she went to live with them as a pet it was like coming home. I think for a bunch of reasons Dad and Keith have tried to distance themselves a bit from Yara. Basically, it’ll be an adjustment for everyone. Myself included.

I’ve said many times that I’m more aware of my guides when they aren’t around — infrequent as that may be — than when they are. This is because so much of our interaction becomes almost subconscious: petting a head both to comfort her or check that she’s not into something she shouldn’t be, checking on her whereabouts in the house during the rare occasions she’s not right there, etc. My dad called shortly after they all arrived home and I’d already caught myself doing exactly that at least five times in the hour or so that elapsed during their drive. I won’t even be without a dog a full day and I’m left wondering how I got through 21 months sans a guide dog!

I’m sure to hear more today, but as of last night’s call Yara seemed to be doing pretty good. She whined a bit in the car, but was otherwise pretty quiet. I’m totally shocked by this since even for a shepherd she’s pretty whiny. She went right for Dolly’s old crate, which they’d set up before leaving to pick her up, and seemed pretty settled. Dad said she seemed to be looking for me a bit, wandering to the back door. But they were distracting her some with treats and Keith went and found Dolly’s monkey toy, which I think is actually bigger than the one I got Yara for her birthday.

Dad called again this morning and said that she was doing pretty well. She spent most of her time at the back door, including sleeping pressed against it all night. Somewhat odd, since her crate is right near it and I’m sure far more comfy than the cold floor. Before going to bed they played with her a bit and she even followed them upstairs and hopped in bed for a bit, chewing a bone. Keith took her out and fed her this morning and she followed him about the house as he got ready. But eventually she went downstairs and Dad said she’s basically been in her crate since. I’m taking the fact that she hasn’t whined much as the best sign.

As for me, I still have the stupid sinus thing, but I do feel better than I did Tuesday or even yesterday. At the very least I don’t have a sore throat or that horrible sinus headache that made even my teeth hurt. I’m taking this as a good sign that I just have a cold and not a full out sinus infection. The latter would definitely make guide dog training much less fun. Even so between the inability to breathe and the nervousness about Yara leaving and meeting Uschi, I had a very hard time sleeping last night. I finally gave up tossing and turning and have been up since about 5 a.m. For so little sleep, I certainly have an abundance of nervous and excited energy. Thankfully there’s lots to keep me busy, so I’m sure the time will pass quickly enough before Uschi arrives this afternoon.

Dog Day! Anniversaries

In lieu of being able to write out the post I’d intended, I tweeted yesterday that it marked eleven years since I was partnered with Dolly and a year and a half that Yara and I have been a team. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has gone by; I still vividly recall meeting both girls. Though, I’ve only ever blogged about Dolly’s meeting (which I’ve no doubt I’ll elaborate on someday). Until now, of course. :-)

“Slaphappy” would be a good word to describe me a year and a half ago. I was so wired from the excitement and anticipation that I didn’t sleep the night before. I tried a few times, but couldn’t get my mind to calm itself enough to give my body any peace. In fact, I spent most of the night and morning preceding Megan’s arrival pestering everyone I knew online via message boards, Twitter, AIM and the like. The only problem with this was that most of my friends that would have understood or empathized with my punch drunk giddyness were sadly unavailable and so I was left with babbling to those who probably didn’t care or only vaguely got how incredible of a day it would be.

Of course, as with anything one anticipates, time was crawling by. I was pretty much out of my mind with impatience by the time noon rolled around . . . and by three o’clock was nearly to the point of panic. The doorbell rang sometime after that and my crazed excitement evaporated immediately into a mess of nerves and trepidation. A million different thoughts zoomed through my head, too many to even fixate on any particular one. So, while I was definitely disappointed that Megan wasn’t standing on the other side of the door with leash in hand, I was actually just the tiniest bit relieved to delay the meeting just so I could collect myself.

That delay ended up being something like 45 minutes while Megan went over all the various paperwork and equipment she’d brought with her. This all seemed to go by in a blur, though I tried desperately to pay attention. Eventually, whether by reading my lack of interest or because she actually was finished with what she needed to say, Megan put her hands down on the table and looked me straight in the eye, “So, are you ready to meet Yara?”

Yes! I shouted in my head, though I only managed to nod my head, feeling a stupor engulf my brain. I waited inside while Megan first took her puppy, Stella, for a walk and then Yara before lightly knocking on my door to be let in again. I don’t remember what I did during those few minutes, aside from sit at the table fidgetting, but it felt like an eternity had gone by.

The first thing I realized when I pulled open the door was that Yara was a lot bigger than I’d imagined her. Taller. Longer. The second was that she wasn’t remotely what I’d call “grey” as she was described to me over the phone and in her paperwork. But all of that was pushed out of my head almost the instant I thought it as she tried to drag Megan into the house and bounce around all over. I suddenly felt exhausted and old just watching her; how any living thing could have that much energy and not explode confounded me!

Megan had me walk Yara through the apartment to explore and we attempted to feed her. Megan didn’t stay too long after Yara was brought in and all too soon we were left to ourselves. Obviously, if there had been an issue I could have called her and her hotel was not even five minutes from my home. But, believe it or not, I was quite literally scared to have her go and leave me with the crazy beast of a dog! (Go figure, eh?) The very fact this was so stressed me out a bit. As did the constant ear-piercing whining. Eventually, though, Yara calmed down and settled herself.

She spent the majority of the afternoon, evening and night staring at me. It was kind of unnerving, especially in the middle of the night when every move I made caused her to jump up. But strange as it might sound it was also endearing and I grew used to her constant supervision rather quickly.

Truly, she’s a very interesting companion.

The Terrible Twos

Yara a dark sable German shepherd dog, is pictured lying on the floor looking off to the left.Pictured on the left is my new furry companion, Yara. She’s just over 28 months and, as to be expected, very much a two-year-old dog.

Yesterday was a pretty laid back day. We didn’t do too much beyond letting her explore the house and some basic obedience. Not surprisingly, I learned that I’m not so great about “dog-proofing.”1 Yara discovered all kinds of stuffed animals to try and chew, fish food to sniff, and all manner of things to knock off shelves and tables. Her tail is very long so this isn’t much of a surprise, but it’s clearly going to be an adjustment to have such a young dog again. She’s also quite the whiner, which I found out is rather a common German shepherd thing. Thankfully, she gave me a bit of a reprieve towards the end of the day because I never would have gotten to sleep!

Megan gave me a bit of information overload, I think, but we went over everything from basic care to putting the harness together. One thing I learned was how to “target” with Yara, which is something of a game that Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation uses. I need a bit of practice. We also worked a bit with using a gentle leader on Yara. I found it gave me more control over her when she was being especially exuberant or “mouthy.” I’m not sure Yara enjoys having it on all that much, though.

Today, we do harness work for the first time. Currently it is 23°F and it’s not going to get much warmer! There’s a chance it may even snow!

  1. Dolly has spoiled me.