So, let’s start with the basics. I am blind, and as a blind person, I use a cane, but I, for many reasons, choose to live my life with a guide dog in addition to having the option of my white cane.
If you are curious about some of my reasons for choosing to be a guide dog user, see
A guide dog is a live animal. They are not machines. They go through two years of training before ever laying eyes on their blind partner, and then 2 weeks to a month of training with their human. At Guiding Eyes, the standard training program is 21 days. During this period of time, the student learns verbal commands, hand signals, and training techniques in order to work effectively with their trained dog. The dog and human both have to become familiar with one another’s body language, and learn how to work with one another in a variety of different environments, including indoor and outdoor, urban, suburban, and rural areas, as well as public transit. This is what I will be doing for the next 21 days at the Guiding Eyes campus in Yorktown Heights, New York.
So, without further introduction, (drumroll please!) I have arrived in New York! The trip to and through the airport was a breeze. Our flight went incredibly quickly, as we arrived 30 minutes early. I met two Guiding Eyes staff near baggage claim and met some of my classmates as they arrived. As we waited and later as we traveled to guiding eyes in the vans, we chatted about our guide dog experiences, blindness, canes, and our home lives. It’s funny how an experience like this draws a group of people together so quickly. My classmates are already teasing me for being hyper, giggly, and speedy. I even had someone tell me they could hear my southern accent, which surprises me since I did not think Tennessee had affected my accent at all. We have representatives in our class of 13 students from at least 8 states, according to my research thus far.
When we arrived to campus, we found our rooms and met our instructors. We have three instructors, as well as a class supervisor (who happens to be the same person that trained Oleta and myself in 2011), a special needs instructor, and two instructor assistants. The last time I came, there were only two main instructors, a class supervisor, a special needs instructor, and one instructor assistant, so the trainer to student ratio has improved.
I first went to lunch, because I was starving, and got to see and converse with some people I remember from July 2011. I took the 30 minutes or so after that to explore my room. There is an empty crate, hooks on the door for a harness, and a container with dog food, two bowls, a measuring cup, and a bone. There will be a puppy after all! I cannot believe it!
At 3:00 Pm, we had building orientation, followed by dinner at 5:15 and evening lecture. The building has changed a bit since I was last here, but I was happy to find the baby grand piano still in it’s corner in Alumni Hall. That, I think, will be the way I distract myself from the waiting Tuesday evening. Lecture covered GEB expectations for student conduct, the general daily schedule and other house keeping info, and equipment. We received orientation to the harness, martingale collar, training collar, and leash. I will explain equipment for y’all more in detail in another post. We also received our very own new leashes! They are shiny and much stiffer even than I remember. Soon I will be clipping that leash to an actual real live dog!!! I wonder who it will be!