To Troy and Back

After two snowstorms in a week, I believe it is safe to assert that I have guide dog training bad weather luck. When I trained with Dolly we had a record high temps and a drought. Also, there was a tornado. Training with Yara led to two blizzards over the two weeks we trained.

Headshot of Uschi sitting in the living roomIn fact, I’ve been apologetic for quite some time about the mere possibility of training this winter because I’d already been convinced of my ability to bring about horrid weather. I even said as much to Jason when he called. And yet, I think everyone thought I was kidding or at least speaking with great hyperbole.

Yesterday seemed to be the turning point for our instructor. We had planned to take another trip to the mall and before taking off had decided to go to Crossgates this time around. After driving for a remarkably long time, we passed Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which opened a few months ago in Troy. . . .

Somehow the GPS had been giving us directions to the Troy Atrium, which caused me no small amount of amusement since we basically were headed in the opposite direction of where we had intended to go. So, we decided to take a “break” for lunch. As we ate, the snow only seemed to fall harder and harder and it seemed pointless to even attempt a drive to the mall with the roads as bad as they were. In fact, it took an inordinately long time to just get back home!

Hopefully, today will prove at least slightly more productive.

Traffic

Uschi in harness, looking very serious, standing in my snowy driveway

Training today was pretty short since we were doing traffic checks. I always find traffic check day to be incredibly nerve-wracking, especially since I took a pretty good spill last time and then managed to slip and fall on my own driveway this morning. Anyway, Tommy came up to drive while Jason walked the route with me to prompt us on the appropriate time. Without a doubt, Uschi is the most sensitive guide I’ve worked when it comes to traffic, not only making a clean stop but often backing up quite a bit. Tommy joked that she actually “multi-tasked” a bit referring to a cat we came across that clearly distracted her, but she was still very mindful of the van turning in on her.

Both Jason and Tommy noted that because of Uschi’s incredible sensitivity they didn’t want to completely stress her out so we didn’t do an incredibly lengthy walk. Maybe two blocks or so, which did seem to take awhile to navigate since it’s so damn icy out! But even so I feel very confident in Uschi’s reaction to traffic and even during that short walk she was starting to display some avoidance, showing me nearly every house on the street and trying to walk me further up a few driveways. It was pretty amusing, honestly.

After all that we took a trip to City Hall to get Uschi licensed. The clerk who was helping us seemed to defy the physics of incompetence and somehow gave me a piece of paper that says I renewed Uschi’s license. But I have a tag and they didn’t charge me, so I guess that’s good enough. We also took a trip to Parkside Vet to start a file for Uschi and give them the necessary paperwork on her medical history and vaccinations. They also took an initial weight for her that neither Jason nor I agree with. But they weighed her twice to be sure and it still came out as 60 lbs. Jason said he personally weighed Uschi when filling out the “current” weight on her medical history form from the school and she was 70 lbs. I have to side with him because she definitely feels substantially heavier than Yara, who was 65 lbs at her highest. No way does this dog weigh less than that! Oh, well, I’m glad he was present for that initial weigh-in because I’d have probably fainted if I had another dog lose double digits in her weight. We’re blaming it on different scales for the moment, though I did point out that I weighed Yara on both and the result was similar.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Tomorrow we’re doing more inside stuff, including my mortal enemy: the escalator.

Downtown

I am currently typing this out during a major coughing fit, which seems to be happening every few minutes at the moment. I suppose it would be pointless to say that I’m still miserable or that this will no doubt be another short training update.

Today we took the bus to downtown Schenectady and walked around in the biting cold. Uschi was great on the bus. An elderly lady on the ride down seemed very concerned for her warmth and some random guy on the return trip was making quite a fuss about her bare feet. (I have tried the boots on her and she’s fine with them, but I haven’t yet made her work in them.) We stopped in a few shops along Jay Street, including a lovely little antiques shop where my instructor nabbed a German shepherd lamp! We visited the library again to get Uschi used to the route there and the entryway, since it seemed to bother her a bit yesterday. We at lunch at Nico’s Pizzeria and it was quite good, though, I don’t understand why they only had one small container each of cheese and pepper for the entire restaurant.

We also did some further obedience stuff this morning, adding in go lie down to our regimen. Uschi and I will have to work some on our own to get her familiar with that command being for the bed in the living room, but otherwise she’s a very reliable with commands.

She’s finally eating. She got hungry enough last night to eat dinner and then this morning kind of stood around for breakfast, so I crated her with the food while I got ready and she ate most of it. I’ve also started having her off leash in the house and for the most part she’s been great. Last night I caught her trying to chew on my coffee table and today she had a little crazy running around spurt, but otherwise she looks like she’ll be fine once she’s got free run. I have noticed that if she’s in her crate (in my bedroom) and she hears anyone headed upstairs (to my mom’s part of the house) she’ll bark, but beyond that she’s been almost completely quiet.

Probably there were other things, but anyway, tomorrow we’ll be getting Uschi licensed and visiting the vet. Oh, and traffic checks. (Eek!) And now, I’m off to take a nap. . . .

Brrr

Uschi is proving to be just as stubborn as another shepherd I know when it comes to food. I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled this makes me. But she did finally eat dinner tonight! Hopefully the food strike is over.

Braved the great outdoors today for the first time and the wintry weather was not fun on my poor, sensitive nose. It was a lovely 25 today with a 40+ mph wind, so suffice it to say it was anything but warm out.

Uschi did quite well during both our morning route walking around my neighborhood and the afternoon wandering through downtown Schenectady. Far too much of these routes required meandering through paths barely wider than a snow shovel, but that didn’t stop Uschi from bringing me right up to every curb. Even if there was a virtual snowbank in the pathway!

She was actually very cute this afternoon. When we returned to the van, she jumped right into a nearby snowbank, lied down, and looked up at us like it was the most natural thing in the world for a guide dog to take a rest in a pile of snow.

Sorry no fun pictures or videos to share today; I’ve felt decidedly awful all day thanks to this stupid sinus infection. I’ve taken two naps already and I’m still exhausted. And while it’s pretty normal that I’m cold and/or can’t get warm from being out in the cold, I am currently feeling utterly frozen.

Tomorrow we’re taking the bus for the first time!

Day Two

Given the snowy weather we’ve had the last two days it wasn’t a big surprise to hear Jason say that we probably wouldn’t be doing much if any street work today. Kind of a shame because that straight curb-to-curb stuff tends to be the easy thing for a guide.

Instead, we braved the mall. Anyone that knows me even a little will know that I loathe and detest malls as a general rule. But with a guide dog they can be a big pain what with the open spaces and random stuff lining the middle of the floors and all the inconsiderate people. But there wasn’t anything substantial shoveled and the snow was still coming down so what choice did I have.

Uschi approached the mall with a level of boredom I’d expect of myself and by our third lap around Colonie Center I think she was starting to get sick of the whole thing. She did remarkably well, though, and didn’t seem at all stressed during our few hours wandering about. She did misjudge a window display and cracked my shoulder into the glass, which actually happened with Yara her first time at the mall, too. She’s pretty confident in harness and doesn’t need much then a little verbal nudging to get her going. And even when I am nudging her on, I don’t feel her taking that stressfully and dragging me along by the harness. I thought it was kind of funny that she started doing one of Yara’s little quirks, where the walk became so routine that she started indicating practically everything . . . especially the escalators. Why my guides always love to show me escalators I’ll never know, but they always seem to love them so much more than I ever do. Anyway, obviously we didn’t attempt those today. And hopefully the sidewalks will be cleared tomorrow so we can finally get some outside work done.

We also did some obedience stuff this morning. Nothing major really, just showing Jason the things we’d done last night: sit, down, sit-stays, and down-stays. We also did some come-to-heels. Already I’m seeing that Uschi is very responsive to me, even with our instructor around. I know a lot of handlers let obedience fall by the wayside — sometimes very quickly — but I’m a firm believer that it’s a foundation that only builds that bond and plus I hate having a housemate with bad manners. Anyway, I’ve always made it a priority to keep an obedience regimen with my guides and I was actually taken aback to have our instructor comment that it’s obvious I do so!

So, all that aside, I thought I’d share a video of Uschi hamming it up with Yara’s squeaky Wubba. In fact, I think it’ll serve as proof of why I may have to impose a moratorium on toys with noisemakers because good grief is she obnoxious!1 Sorry that it’s so dark, but I’m sure you get the idea from the sound alone:

  1. Actually that toy was mistakenly left when packing up Yara’s, so I’ll be relieved to send it to Dad’s. I’m sure Yara will be happy to see it again!