April 27th, 2008

Fiona and me in the snow

The morning after arrival in which I speak of cream cheese cloud and more of what I'm doing here

I squandered one of my last ... well check that ... my last opportunity to really sleep in. For some reason, whether or not I'm in the central or the eastern timezones, I wake up at 5:30 or before. This hasn't been something I've done forever, just in the past few months of job hunting and general stress.

And now, since I live, breathe, and sleep dog, I now commence my tradition of writing dog. It should be noted that I almost put--in my litany of the emersion of the dog--that we eat dog here. I hastily deleted it, as it thrust sad images in my head, further blotting out turkey and gravy with home made cranberry sauce and that extremely tasty and so glorious cream cheese cloud.
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Last night, we had the general rules and regs lecture along with other things I'll describe further down. We also talked about the mindset that those who are here must have, not only for you to adjust and work with your new dog, but most importantly, for the dog to get used to working with a real human. All this talk I've been spouting about the amazing food is all well and good. I'm enjoying meeting all of the new people in class. The most important thing however, is that I'm here to work with a dog. I think of it this way. I'm going to try to be as focussed as possible because my life simply depends on it. If I am lackluster in my learning and working while I'm here, and if I slack off on some things, it could be detrimental. I'm here so that I can trust a dog to not go when I tell him/her to. What I mean is that the dog has to trust me to follow my commands to get us where we need to be, but we've got to build up a rapport as a team enough so that if I tell the dog to do, and a red corvette speeds out in front of us, intent on killing us, the dog will not let us move forward.

After introducing each other, which always takes longer than you hope it will but is still really enjoyable, we got our first set of equipment--a new wire brush and comb for grooming, a very new feeling leash, and a steel cable tiedown which clips ont a ring by the bed. I'm not the only one that's not from close by here--we've got people from California, North and South Carolina, Missouri, and even Arizona, but most people in this class are from the northeast.

After the meeting, I got intoa spirited discussion with a few of my classmates about disability advocacy, learning science, what I do and have done with chemical engineering, and of course, dog stuff. Oscar is the Spanish speaking instructor, and he hung out with us to talk shop and tell us how he teaches people who speak Spanish. It's truly amazing how lucky we are to live in a country that allows dogs into most public places.

Fun facts about the Spanish speaking dog training process: There's someone in our class who doesn't speak much English. She's from Puerto Rico, aand lives in a relatively small town outside of the capital. Apparently, it wouldn't be a good idea to work a male dog in that area because of street dogs, bent on competition and general mayhem. Also, Oscar teaches the dogs in English, and they respond to English commands and not Spanish ones.

Today will be a really busy one. We've got to do two Juneau walks, one around here I think, and one in town. Then, in the afternoon sometime, we'll actually get to play with one of the dogs from the kennels. There's always a chance that it could go to someone from our class, but last time this didn't happen. We'll go over things like corrections and how to very generally handle a dog.

Tomorrow is the big day, so I'll be buckling down getting myself ready mentally to get this new creature of amazement. I'm still not ready, and I'm still having anxiety about having to get used to getting a new dog, but I'll be ok ... I better be ok, there's no turning back now.

I smell breakfast, and the dogs are barking in the kennels, so it could be time for them to eat. I know there's definitely a breakfast in my future, that's for sure.

More when I have it.
Fiona and me in the snow

First trip in

Just went out on the first trip into town and it seemed to go really well. I seemed to be able to move like one unit with my "dog", the instructor, and that is the first step in getting to a place where I will actually get that dog. The plan for the rest of the day, as far as I can tell, is lunch, and then dog handling with one of the dogs from the kennels. From there, I don't know what will happen. I thought that we'd make one more trip into town, but I was wrong.

It's interesting how I'm able to remember so much of the building, and Morristown itself since I last came here in 1998. I haven't even thought about the actual place much since then, and it seems like it's all coming back to me. Even the set routes i.e.t he names of the routes etc., are coming back.

It was not too cool, but cool enough as we travelled down South Street, which is the main street in town. I'm sure that people from Morristown are used to seeing a person holding onto a harnes which an instructor is holding, but it's still odd to think what they might be thinking. People just seemed to walk right by and not pay us any heed. It gave us time and the ability to practice latteral stepping (basically following close to the dogas they go around obstacles), so that was kinda neat.

More soon.
Fiona and me in the snow

d-1 day and counting

So ends another day, and so it puts me one more day closer to meeting my new dog.

The dog handling session was pretty interesting. In our little group, we met three dogs: a yellow lab, a golden retriever, and a German shepherd. I was surprised at how well I was able to handle the dogs, even the more high strung ones. It was also helpful for me to meet these dogs because it got me more excited and warmed up to the idea that I would be getting a dog tomorrow. I still have moments where I think back on my time with Fiona and wish she would live forever and be able to work forever. Sometimes I worry about how the new dog will work, how I'll get along with him or her, how we'll interact. I worry that I'll compare him or her to Fiona, that I won't give her a fair chance to succeed as my guide. Meeting these three dogs helped me immensely. We didn't get to find out their names--mostly because my instructor had a possibility of placing these dogs into our class, and names here are top secret things only to be revealed the Monday after getting here.

Tonight was a "wine and cheese" social event. I spent part of my time playing on the extremely out of tune piano, but then couldn't stand it anymore and just sat down. Jose and Alfredo, two of the Spanish-speaking students sat by me, and once they found out that I could marginally speak Spanish, we had a great time chatting. It's really been neat to have these Spanish-speakers in class because not only do I get to remember Spanish, but they get to practice English as well. It's also neat to see how the training process works for these Spanish speakers, and it will be extra interesting to see how those students interact with their dogs.

The secret is out now. People know that I am pretty tech savvy, and that I have Windows Vista. So, since I like helping people, I was able to set up two laptops to work with the wireless internet here. I don't mind helping people at all with their computer problems ... I just hope they don't call me at 2 A.M. or something to ask for help. You never know, stranger things have happened :). I'm just glad I can help people out.

It's late now, mostly due to the fact that I stayed up and talked trash with one of the instructors and another guy in class (not my class), so I'm tired, and we're going to be required to get up (sleeping in mind you) until 6. I'd planned to go to bed earlyt, but since I'm actually doing something here unlike what I've been doing at home, I tend to stay up later.

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Sleep calls.
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