Monday, April 4, 2011

reaction time

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


  1. This is a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing, and for taking the time and effort to help Dee work through her issues. As a puppy-raiser, I learn much from reading blogs such as yours!

  2. Wow, that must have been a frightening experience for you both. Dee must really care about you, to be willing to re-learn to be confident with street crossing. I'm so glad to hear that your partnership survived!


  3. Love this post, I'm glad she got her confident self back after all that work with her!

  4. It was scarey; I had to make myself go practice with my cane only for awhile before I was confident enough with traffic and could bring Dee along on leash. She's the best dog I've had. @brilliantmindbrokenbody

  5. Me too, there were days where I didn't think it would happen. @Selene

  6. What a good dog! It takes a while for the dog to get their confidence back. I'm so glad that you two are working well again.

    Ushi my guide dog was attacked a couple of months ago. She isn't bothered about it now, but i am really scared. It takes alot of courage for me to keep going, and not stop and wait. That only makes the situation worse, but it is so hard.

    Take care, and well done D! What would we do without our traffic training! Take care, torie and guide dog Ushi.

  7. I am so glad you and Dee weren't seriously hurt, and that Dee was able to regain her confidence. Fortunately, Gilbert and I have never been in a scary situation like that, but if we ever were, I hope I would remember your courage and dedication.
    Actually last week, a bus came really close to the curb where we were waiting to cross a street on my college campus and Gilbert backed me up. My dad was with me and told me that I would not have been hit if he had not backed up, but it is wonderful and reassuring when our guide dogs remember their traffic training. In your case, it saved your life. Excellent post!

  8. Wow, that does sound really frightening! You both handled it with such quick thinking in the moment, though.

    I am so glad you stuck with Dee and helped her work through her fear, and that it paid off with her being a confident guide again. Yay for teamwork!

    I'm also really interested to hear that GDB is including clicker training for handlers. Is this something all graduates do now, or did you request it or...?

    Thank you for participating in the carnival, too!

  9. Awwe, I hope you and Ushi are ok. That must have been awful!

  10. Yay for traffic training, good boy Gilbert! I'm glad the bus didn't come close to you.
    @Allison Nastoff

  11. Hi Sharon,
    I'm glad we stuck with it too; Dee's the best dog I've had, but now she isn't able to work and might not be able to guide anymore depending on medical stuff.
    GDB does clicker training for all dogs and grads. It's done with their guiding commands, forward, left right, like that, and the puppy raisers work on it with sit, down, stay, and come. They also teach a hand touch, though it's stationary and only when the dog is on the left side. I like the hand target to be mobile and in all situations, but clicker training let me teach that after guide dog school. @aftergadget