Until last year, I spent most of my time in small towns. When I got Dee in 2009, we worked in Portland for a week, so I knew she was confident and did her job well. During training, I was nervous with all the traffic and people, but it was just an every day occurance for Dee.
In May last year, I moved to Minneapolis to attend BLIND, Inc., an adjustment to blindness center where I learned to travel independently and other skills. We took the bus to and from the school every day, so I knew the route well. I had been there about two weeks and was gaining confidence with my travel skills; but, I was still having trouble knowing which were two-way and four-way stops and wasn't sure when we should cross on streets with heavy traffic.
We were walking the two blocks to take the bus home for the evening. There was no traffic moving, but I heard a bus or truck on the other side of the road. I waited a few seconds, and still there was no movement. I told Dee forward, and she went at her usual fast pace. All of the sudden, about 3/4 of the way across, the bus pulled out. I wasn't sure what to do since we were already in motion, but Dee took care of everything excellently. I could feel the bus a few inches in front of my face. She shoved me back a few steps with her body, and she spun me around to face the way we had come from. The bus grazed my left shoulder and kept going. I think I was kind of in shock; I petted Dee and told her good girl, hopp up? We turned back around and finished the crossing, and after we got on the curb, I knelt down to hug her and give her treats. If she hadn't shoved me back and spun me around, I probably would be dead or critically injured.
She seemed fine for the next two days, but that Saturday, she began acting afraid every time we approached a corner. She stopped somewhere between five and ten feet from the edge of the curb; when I got her to the edge and clicked/treated for the approach, she either sat down or immediately ducked behind my legs and faced sideways down another sidewalk. Even when I was sure we had a light and told her forward, it took two or three commands to get her moving; when she entered the street she was slow and hesitant when approaching the up curb.
After talking to GDB, they suggested that I help her gain her confidence back by working her on quieter street crossings and praise and c/t at the upcurb every time she responded well. On the busy streets, I dropped the harness handle and healed her across using my cane. Needing to help Dee feel safe in the street prompted me to practice my cane travel more, and it made me have to be confident in my street crossings. If I wasn't sure, that would travel down the leash and the cycle of problems would continue. After two weeks of this, she approached the curb and only took one step back. At this point, I had her guide me across the busy streets, but I still carried the cane in my other hand, just in case she froze in the middle.
At the beginning of July, my confidence had grown a lot, and Dee's was pretty much returned. What sealed it was traveling to Dallas for a week and working in a new busy environment. My Dee, the wagging, fast-paced, confident guide showed herself again. People told me I should send her back to the school and getg another dog, but I knew we could make it through. I am thankful we worked it out. Her quick reaction and fast movement allowed me to live, and in turn, weboth gained the confidence we needed to keep traveling.
This is my entry for The Third Assistance Dog Blog Carnival