Its been a busy week. Wednesday morning we solo’d our second route, including staged dog distractions, finding our way around barricades across the sidewalk (so its necessary to walk along the street for a section), and avoid “traffic checks.”
Its sorta sick, but I actually enjoy traffic checks with Hugger. A driver from The Seeing Eye purposely tries to cut us off, either by making a turn into a street we’re crossing or pulling into a driveway as we come by. Hugger slams on the brakes to avoid the madman and his car. This behavior is called “intelligent disobedience”, in which she is taught to ignore my “forward” command if she doesn’t think its safe, and she’s a star at it, smile. Falmouth attracts crazy drivers during the summer, so we’ll get lots of practice when we get home.
Its been 95F the past few days, so Wednesday afternoon was light work finding our way around an air conditioned grocery store (and drinking cappuccinos), making sure the dogs behaved when surrounded by wonderful smells at the meat counter and pet aisle. And we had our usual afternoon and evening lectures, this time about dog health, teeth care, and feeding. But we wouldn’t want Hugger and myself to get lazy, so we got to go for a night walk too.
At 9pm, after it was dark, we headed back to Morristown. The village center is hopping in the evening. Crowded outdoor cafes, live music, tons of people strolling the sidewalk. The dogs don’t behave much differently at night – like cats, they have a lens that helps concentrate light (yes, I learned that in a lecture, smile), so their eyesight is honed for dawn and dusk. And they don’t have the same difficulty as we do adjusting to bright headlights followed by dark either. But the experience walking thru the crowds was perfect practice for Woods Hole in the summer. Hugger is more patient than Whit was, and didn’t nose her way through the slow pokes. Instead she plodded patiently until she saw a gap, then zoom, we were through, with our instructor making a mad dash to catch up.
Yesterday included a bus trip and a train ride (the dogs are taught to “intelligently” disobey if we ask them to walk across the train tracks or off the platform), a visit to the Morris Frank statue (the gentleman who brought guide dogs to the US and started The Seeing Eye, and unlike Whit, Hugger behaved like a lady and did not bite the metal guide dog’s tail), a trip through a department stores with escalators and glass elevators (they no longer teach commands for “upstairs”, “downstairs”, “up-escalator”, and “down-escalator”, I need to ask why), and access to the fenced play area (yay!).
They call this time “freelancing” as we practice going to areas where we’ll be working the dogs in “real life.” When it cools off, we’ll go to country roads (without sidewalks, like my neighborhood, and many of the roads around Woods Hole), NYC (great practice for AGU in San Francisco), and maybe Jockey Hollow State Park (I’ll see whether she indicates trees roots and other foot-catchers, which will be helpful when walking thru Beebe Woods). Unfortunately the beach is far away, so I’ll see how Hugger feels about the ocean in August. We’ll also practice more clicker training so I’ll be ready when we get to a big meeting (or need to find those trash cans!).