Category Archives: Juno walk

Doggy Diaries – Application update

I had to apologize to Alex, my computer, for hitting the space key a little too hard when I got set to write an e-mail. Sheesh, it’s not poor Alex’s fault there are slackers in the world.

When last I spoke with GDB, there were two sets of info missing, my therapist, and my rehab teacher from Saavi. I hadn’t heard anything for a couple weeks, so I called again today. My therapist got her information in promptly after she realized, and admitted, that she had forgotten after some problems with her fax machine.

My rehab teacher still has not done it. GDB re-sent the information on November 4. So I called and left her a message, and also e-mailed her. I will be getting Dave’s help if this continues past today.

The admissions lady was really nice. A pretty english accent. She asked how the weather was and was not expecting me to say it’s cold haha. But it is. It was 37 degreess when B left for work. The high will only be 63. It’s often a misconception that we never get cold here lol.

She said Don is in San Rafael for a few weeks, and hopefully they’ll have the paperwork when he is set to return to AZ. So it’s somewhat possible that I could see Don in a few weeks. Who knows, right?

I know there are still some things on the O & M checklist that have not yet been completed, but they are things I won’t be doing very often. I know I have to know how to do them, but I also know that they are not all an absolute must. Dave said one of the biggest things Don will look for is how good I am with knowing where I am, and I’m good at that. So I’m not worried at all if Don shows up in a few weeks. If he says I still need such and such, then great, I know where I am, ya know? I’m excited to meet him, and to do a Juno walk with him. I so enjoyed it with Dave. I bet it’s a blast with Don!

So that’s where I stand. I have a puppy in my sites who’s in phase 8 right now. I know chances are so not likely of me getting her, but it’s so fun to pretend and say she’s mine. Her raiser is doing the same hehe. We’re both in fantasy land. I was like, yeah not likely since she’s in phase 8 and the raiser was like, yeah but sometimes dogs hang out in 10 for awhile waiting for their perfect match. So, in a perfect world, it could happen and I could get a dog who’s raiser I know. It’s so fun to fantasize about it, but don’t worry, I’m keeping my feet firmly planted. I know I’ll go when I’m meant to, and get the dog I’m meant to get.

Future pup, You have no idea I’m thinking about you right now. You have no idea I think about brushing you and romping with you in my entry way, which is gonna be our favorite place to romp. Did you know that last night I was thinking about where your dog bed will go in my room? There is a great place right under the window, out of my way for if I get up in the middle of the night. There’s a heavy oak dresser there for your early tie down. Did you know too, that I’ve already decided where your crate will go if I need one? In the kitchen. Did you know too, that I read about chocolate nyla bbones and can’t wait to give you one?

I wonder what I don’t know about you. I wonder where you are right now. Are you at college? Are you still with your raiser? Are you black? Tan? Girl? Boy? What does your name start with? Who are your parents? When were you born? Does your raiser blog? Or write on the email list? Do you like cats? Do you know how special you are?

Of course you do. Your raisers tell you every day. They are sad but proud if you’re at school, and they are nearing their end with you if you are still with them. But guess what they don’t know? I have a photographer friend, and she’s great at action shots. So guess what your raisers will get from me from time to time? Yep, awesome pictures. And they’ll get to read all about you on my blog.

Oh, future pup, I already love you so much. Is it possible that I’ll love you even more when we meet? Hehe stupid question. I sooo look forward to dog day! Get ready to get tears in your fur, k? But they’ll be happy tears. And get ready to just let me love all over you!!

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Filed under Alex, desert life, Doggy Diaries, GDB, guide dogs, Juno walk, Orientation and Mobility, pooch preparation, puppy raisers, weather

Doggy Diaries – The Juno Walk

The Juno Walk is a simulated dog walk. I can only assume that a guide dog is never actually named Juno, since this seems to be the term everyone uses for this kind of walk. The point is to show someone what it feels like to be guided by a dog.

First, I’ll explain the dog harness. There is a hard rectangular shaped “handle” that comes up from the dog’s back. The harness is a leather strap that buckles under the dog’s belly, and then their head slips through between another strap, and the handle, so it holds the dog around the chest. The way the Juno walk worked was, Dave gave me the handle, and then he held the chest strap and pulled me with it.

We started off doing sighted guide (where the blind person holds on to a sighted person’s arm, just above the elbow. This is also called “human guide”, because a blind person can guide another blind person in this way) to a straight walkway in my complex. Once we got on the walkway, he explained the kind of commands to use. To tell the dog to go forward, I said, “Juno, forward”. To make turns, the command is Juno, left or Juno, right. Dave asked if I was ready and I said ok…not knowing what to expect. He reminded me to keep tension on the handle, because this lets the dog know its time to move. When the arm is slackened, the dog thinks you wish to remain still. So I said, Juno forward! And Dave took off.

My braille teacher had said this would be like getting my car keys back. When Dave took off and I was pulled with complete trust, it was like being set free. I could just walk. I could walk briskly. I didn’t have to sweep my cane and interpret every little thing. I didn’t have to pay attention to my shorelines. I could just walk! It was the most amazing feeling. There is a little rise in the sidewalk, so Dave showed me the way the dog would react to this. Its not very high, but one could easily trip over it. Dave came to a stop, just like the dog would. He told me to probe the area with my left toe, the leg closest to he dog. Once I figured out what it was, I said Juno forward again, and off we went.

After something like this, I would praise the dog. Guide dogs work primarily with praise, and they love to do a good job. We made our way to the office, and Dave stopped. The dog at this point, wouldn’t really know what to do. Its up to me to know that we are near the door. Dave said to tell the dog to “go to the door”. So I said, “Juno, go to the door.” Dave walked me to the door and told me to find the handle. I raised my right hand and the handle was right there! He said the dog will position you to find the handle easily! Wow…

Oh another thing he showed me on the way to the office was if the dog thought we were at the destination and made to turn. Knowing we weren’t there, I would say, “No Juno, forward.” There is definitely a lot to knowing a place before actually having the dog guide me around. I’m built for this, as my spatial location is good. Once when driving in the car with a friend and discussing Mexican food I said, “There is a good place right up here to the right.” I was correct. How I knew exactly where we were, I have no idea. It wasn’t like I was sitting in the car paying perfect attention to turns and stops. So I’m confident I will know how to teach the dog routes.

We made our way back, Dave still going at a good pace. When we hit the spot on the sidewalk, he stopped, I probed, and said forward. Smooth. Seemless. We stopped and talked about overhead obstructions. He said in this case, the dog usually needs some instruction the first few times I would encounter it. I’ll probably hit some branches here and there, at which time I would take the dog back, tell her to “look”, shake the branch and say no, firmly. Retrace the steps and try it again. If she alerts me, I shower her with praise.

Dave had me do sighted guide back up to my door and it was so tedious and slow compared to holding the harness. I told him how much different it is, and he explained that with the harness, I’m holding an inanimate object, connected to a live being. When I’m holding an arm, its different. Its like a steering wheel of a car. You have complete control if you trust your car. With the harness, you have complete control over your dog. When you’re holding on to a person, you don’t really have control, and each person has different ways of alerting you.

For example, my boyfriend kicks curbs and steps for me. I probe with my foot and continue. Its silent communication. Most of my friends are girls, so they might be wearing sandals or nice shoes, so they will all say “step” or “curb”. Its very verbal. Some of my friends are very good at doing “narrow”, where you put your wrist behind your back to signify me that we are encountering a narrow pathway. But my boyfriend does not do this. I feel him turn his body, and I know. So I pick up on cues when I travel with someone on a regular basis. But still, the going is tedious. They are not trained to simply be my guide. They are talking to me, thinking about their day etc. A dog is just guiding me. She is focused on her job, and I think thats a big reason why its so fluid.

There is going to be a lot of trust to be built between me and the dog. Dave I have known and been trained by, so I already trust him. I’m sure the experience with a dog will be completely different at first, until I learn to trust an animal with my life.

I don’t think that will be a problem though. Animals are loyal. Sometimes even more loyal than our closest human companions. This dog will be trained to have my best interests first on her list of priorities.

Why do I keep saying “her” and “she”? I have no idea what dog I’ll get. The school plays matchmaker, so I don’t know if I’ll get male, female, black, tan. One of the women I talked to said almost everyone calls the dog “him”. As in, “Can I pet him?” “What’s his name?” I’m going against the norm for now, and calling the hypothetical dog “her”. =D Of course I’d like a girl dog, but who knows?

One thing’s for sure, I’ve always wanted a dog named Sasha.. I don’t know why. If my dog ends up being named Sasha, I think I’ll faint right there at the school. 😉

Oh yeah, we also simulated the walk from my door to the dumpster, which is a walk I know well. Dave said after a few times, the dog will stop at turns but I’ll feel her leaning to the left or right, because she’s pretty sure I want to go that way, so he simulated this. He said that eventually all I’d need to say is “Lets go to the garbage” and she’d take me right to it!

I’m really glad he knows how to do this walk. Its neat to feel what it will be like, and now the anticipation is even more built up. Now I really can’t wait! It was also reassuring to know that he thinks I’ll be a great guide dog user after the way I reacted to the simulated walk, and the kind of tension I kept on the handle.

This was fun, but now the real work begins. We have to finish up my cane skills. We haven’t done residential in awhile because its been hot, so he wants to see that my skills are still there, and then we’ve gotta work on intersection crossings at big intersections, and plan some routes I can take the dog on. It’ll be good hard work, and I’m looking forward to it. When we first started O&M, it was nice out, so we did a lot of work outdoors. We’ve had to kind of hibernate for a few months now, and the lessons haven’t been very challenging. I’m looking forward to getting back to work, and working towards this new goal!

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, Doggy Diaries, guide dogs, Juno walk, Orientation and Mobility, pooch preparation, white cane