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August 24th, 2007

04:21 pm
Busy week

It’s been a crazy week. I’ve been writing bits and pieces in my limited free time but haven’t had time to proof read and get things posted to the blog. Hopefully, I’ll have enough time to get caught up now. We finished up a little early today so I have about an hour before I have to be in the relieving circle with Cinnabar.

We have had a pretty easy day today. This morning, we practiced walking on a country road with no sidewalks. We were on a semi-remote road and as I discovered, there were lots of bees. I got stung on the arm and I thought Cinnabar might have been stung too. Now I’m pretty sure she didn’t since she hasn’t had any kind of reaction. We had a swarm of bees following us around everywhere. It’s a miracle I was only stung once. The bees seemed to be attracted to my bait bag and probably also to my perfume. It was a stressful walk, but we did really well under the circumstances. The nurse checked out my arm and cleaned it out of precaution, but I’m fine. Just a little bee sting.

After running from bees, we got to go to the mall and have lunch in the food court. It was kind of stressful being in a mall I Don’t know. It’s hard to get oriented in a big echo filled space like that. But we survived and I got to have a cheeseburger and some chicken McNuggets, so that was cool.

After lunch, we did some more practice in an area without sidewalks. This time it was in a residential neighborhood so there were curbs to trail and lots of parked cars and trash cans to get around. Cinnabar rocked the parked cars. She’s supposed to go up to the car and show it to me and let me direct her around it instead of going around it on her own. A lot of dogs try to cheat and just go around the car, but Cinnabar showed me every one of them. We did have some trouble with a tree limb that hung over into the street. Cinnabar ran me into it three times and I had to keep reworking it with her, but we got around it eventually. It was a pretty stress free walk and was totally bee free as far as I know.

OK, so I got today out of the way. Now I can catch up on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. When I last wrote, I was feeling a lot of doom and gloom, but I was able to rebound and work my way through it. I got a lot of comfort and support from talking to the retrain students and some of the staff and was able to get over everything that happened Monday. Cinnabar and I are still having occasional minor mishaps but those are normal mistakes for a new team. We’re learning and will be awesome before long.

Tuesday, we did our first freelance route since our disastrous trip on Monday. Cinnabar and I went to the pet store. I was going to buy some booties, but they didn’t have any. It was a very small local shop so they didn’t carry a lot of your more exotic pet supplies. I did buy a package of doggie clean up bags so that my trip wasn’t totally pointless. I had a little trouble getting back to the street from the parking lot but with a little help from an instructor, we made it out and went back to the lounge. It wasn’t a flawless trip, but all of our street crossings were right on so I felt really good about the route.

We also did a route through City Hall where we practiced stairs and riding elevators. I need a lot of practice on the stairs. It is really weird following a dog down stairs. I feel totally clumsy, but it will come with practice. There was a fountain outside of City Hall that Cinnabar was really interested in. She got quite distracted and I had to use a collar correction to get her attention. They weren’t kidding when they told me this dog loves water.

Wednesday was pretty cool. We made our first trip to San Francisco to work a route. We walked down Chestnut Street where there are lots of boutiques, Café’s and pedestrians. Cinnabar got a little distracted by a couple of dogs, but for the most part she did really well with all of the activity around us. She even passed a really tough test when we walked by a small child who was carrying a bagel. The bagel was right at nose level. Cinnabar looked at it but kept on moving. I was so proud of her. We also rode the bus while we were out. It was so cool taking my dog on the bus with me. I’m still not used to the fact that I can take my dog everywhere. It’s so much fun.

we did a night route Wednesday after dinner. They dropped us off on a corner and we had to walk back to the lounge in the dark. It was kind of awesome. It wasn’t that different for me since I can’t see anything useful in the daylight, but being alone in total darkness with my dog was kind of creepy. I haven’t been out by myself after dark since I lost my vision so I was a little uneasy at first. There was a stretch where there was no traffic and no pedestrians around so all I could hear were crickets. It was cool and creepy at the same time. Cinnabar didn’t seem to mind the darkness. If anything, I’d say that she was pretty excited about working in the dark. She was pulling harder than normal and I had to really insist that she slow down. We did good on all the street crossings and made it back to the lounge in one piece. Our only real mishap was totally my fault. She approached a curb and stopped. I was thinking I had found it since I was expecting one of those goofy flat curbs. But it was a real curb and I slid off it kind of awkwardly. I instinctively let loose with a string of profanities, completely forgetting that there was an instructor lurking there on the corner. I’m sure whoever was there was either amused or horrified by my antics. The cursing was of course at myself and not my dog. She rocks.

We went back to San Francisco Thursday morning. We went to a busy financial district. There was a ton of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. I was really impressed with how well Cinnabar and I glided down crowded sidewalks without bumping people. We were zigging and zagging all over the place. It was so fun. We rode some escalators and learned how to get through a revolving door. There were pigeons around that Cinnabar had a hard time ignoring, but for the most part she stayed focused on her work. We had to rework a few errors, , but it was a fun route. Our biggest error was when Cinnabar ran me into a handrail that caught me right in the ribs. We were moving at a good clip so it didn’t feel real good, but I kept my cool and just reworked the error. That kind of stuff will get better with time.

After we finished, we got to chill out in Starbucks while we waited for the rest of the class to finish. I had a Carmel Frappuccino. It was awesome. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet, but my roommate and one of the retrains convinced me to try a frappuccino and I am now officially addicted. It’s probably a good thing there are no Starbucks near my house. I love these things and they come in so many awesome flavors. I get one every time I get a chance to go into Starbucks. I’m
Almost as obsessed with them as my roommate, but not quite. That girl is all about her Frappuccinos. It’s hilarious.

We got the afternoon off yesterday. We were supposed to have a workout, but the training staff was sensing a lot of fatigue from the class and gave us the option to rest in the afternoon. I decided to stay in because my knee has been hurting quite a bit the past couple of days. I can walk through it, but I figure a little rest will help me get through the rigorous workouts during week 4. They really stress the fact that they are interested in seeing quality routes, not quantity. I kind of feel like a wuss, but this is the first time I have accepted an offer to rest and I think it will be better for me in the long run.

I found out lots of fun stuff about Cinnabar this week. Her puppy raisers live near San Diego. She shared her puppy home with a Great Dane and a Shihtzu . Her puppy raisers took her to the beach and she had a blast playing in the waves. I also learned that her mother, Omega, belonged to GDB and her father, Hemet, is a stud from Canine Companions Inc. CCI is a service dog school that provides assistance dogs to people with various types of disabilities. Apparently, Hemet is quite the stud and has produced many high quality dogs for GDB and CCI. I also met with the vet here at GDB to go over Cinnabar’s medical history. She has been quite healthy and has only had a couple of minor ear infections and an allergic reaction to a be sting. It wasn’t serious. She just had some swelling in the face. The vet said it was pretty common and wasn’t a life threatening allergy. She also got a bump on the head while playing in the kennel but she healed up just fine.

I went to the gift shop here at GDB and bought a bunch of cool crap for my dog. I got some leash luggage. It’s a cool little pouch that attaches to the harness handle and is great for carrying around little essentials like poop bags, a head collar and a clicker…. Which reminds me, we had a clicker training seminar Wednesday. It was really awesome. We are learning to teach our dogs certain behaviors using the clicker method of training. Basically, The instant the dog performs the desired behavior, you click then give a food reward. It is all positive reinforcement and involves no corrections so the dogs love it and learn really fast. The first behavior we are teaching is to get the dogs to find an empty chair. This behavior will come in handy when looking for a seat in waiting rooms or on the bus. Cinnabar did great. She was taking me to a specific chair after about 15 minutes of work. Now I’ll do the same thing with lots of other chairs in various locations to get her to generalize her idea of what a chair is. This is a really powerful technique and can be used in many applications. I can teach her to find stairs, handrails for going down stairs, pedestrian crossing buttons and all kinds of other cool crap. Clicker training is used on all the dogs in the early stages of their training, but my class is only the second group of students to be taught how to use it. I have used clicker training in the past with Horatio, but I am really getting a lot of benefit from this formal training on how to do it correctly. I can’t wait to teach Cinnabar all kinds of crap. I might teach Horatio some new tricks too.

OK, so back to my shopping at the gift shop, I got the leash luggage, a rain coat for Cinnabar, a tug ring for us to play with and a blinky light to put on Cinnabar’s collar at night so we will be visible. I’m having way too much fun shopping for my dog. It’s ridiculous. And the sad thing is that I’ve thought of a bunch more crap that I want to buy for her. I am such a sucker. I’ll buy anything.

We started picking up after our dogs yesterday afternoon. I had my first opportunity to pick up poop this morning. It was semi-traumatic, but not as bad as I thought. I got a big laugh from the instructors and my class mates when I blurted out , “ Yay, I popped my poop cherry!” It was so funny. It was one of those moments where I kind of forgot that I needed to be on good behavior and it just came out. There was a brief moment of stunned silence followed by hysterical laughter. It was sweet.

Whew! I think I’m all caught up now. I kind of feel like I might have forgotten something since so much has been going on, but I can always add it later. Toodles for now.