I am a proud guide dog user, and a proud graduate of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, based in Yorktown Heights, New York. Both of my beautiful black labradors were bred, raised, and trained through GEB. I got wonderful post-graduate support from my trainers there, and expected to continue attending for successor dogs for the rest of my guide dog working life, and then I moved internationally.
As far as I can tell, Guiding Eyes would still be willing to work with me as someone that has already worked with them twice. I actually already did meet up with my trainer about a month after I moved here (she just happened to be coming on vacation and stopped by to check in with us ha. That’s definitely commitment), but there are complications when I need post graduate support, with the distance being so great. Thus, I am considering transferring to my local guide dog school.
In some ways, I am quite bewildered by this idea, because I have loved my experience with Guiding Eyes so much, and even more so as a returning graduate. It is lovely to have that connection with trainers and staff, and have that whirlwind catch up session any time you have a field visit or go back for a successor dog. If I carried on going there for every one of my guide dogs, there could be staff there when I am fifty that were there when I was sixteen. In that way, it is a very special relationship that I do not want to relinquish too easily. That said, I am also a naturally very curious person, and would be interested to observe the various differences between the two schools by pursuing follow up support and training with my local school… that in addition to the minor factor that they are not located an ocean away, which does make any necessary extra support a bit easier to organize.
So, it is my local school that will be delivering a follow-up visit with Prim and I tomorrow, and I am looking forward to the process. I am hoping to get a couple of things out of the visit.
1 Work on impulse control.
now that Prim is not only responsible for my safety, but also my baby’s, I am much more conscious of the way food and dog distractions can be dangerous, even life threatening. We had a frightening experience not too long ago, which I will write about another time, that convinced me this is an area that needs a bit of work for us as a team.
If I were to work with a Guiding Eyes instructor on dog distraction, I would expect them to encourage me to use a combination of leash corrections and counter conditioning (rewarding Prim for looking at me rather than looking at the other dog). I would anticipate possibly some use of the touch command, which I have described in another post, and other obedience exercises in the presence of other dogs. I assume the trainer tomorrow will expect that my training may be slightly different to that of his school, but I hope he will describe what he would personally do to work on this. It can be so helpful to hear other perspectives, more tools in your tool box and all that.
2 Work on a challenging route.
Most of my daily routes are not all that complex, and the truly complex one is sadly a long enough walk that I think it would be a bit unmanageable to do with the trainer, but there is one I can think of that I have never quite gotten a firm handle on, and that seems always to be a bit of a struggle for Prim in the distraction department.
3 Obtain a harness from the local school.
This feels a little strange to do, because Prim was trained by Guiding Eyes, and represents them, to the extent that a dog can represent an organization, when she puts on the harness with their name stamped into the leather, but I have requested whether we could be issued a harness from our local school, as recent events have revealed that the GEB harness is much, much different from the one people expect to see here, and that has caused problems more than a couple of times.
The only major snag in all this is that my childcare plan got derailed last minute, which means baby has to be there while we work on all this. How will all this go? I have no idea… but I shall update here with any relevant thoughts.