Today and yesterday have been absolutely insane as far as working the dogs. Yesterday, we ran the Maple South route twice. I did well yesterday, and psyched myself out for today, where we ran the route solo. In most cases, when you do a route with an instructor, they stick with you. There job at first, is to walk close by your right shoulder and out of the dog's view. This way they can not appear as an obstacle (the dog walks on the left side of you in most cases), and they can still give you cues and tips on what you can do more efficiently or better to help the dog work with you more effectively. They also tell you things like the layout of the route, what streets are coming up, things like that. On a normal route, you do it three times or so with instructor help, but each time you do the route, the instructor helps less. Then, the first Saturday comes, and it's your job to solo the route.
Soloing is not graded. It's not a test. They won't, and haven't, kicked anyone out because they did the route better or worse than someone else. The solo offers an opportunity to increase your confidence with and trust in the dog while allowing the instructor to observe you and fix problems that might happen at home. My solo went reasonably well. Velvet made a few mistakes, but she didn't run me into anything at all. The only mistakes happened with turns, and not going up to curbs. Part of these things could have been my fault, but I think what I need to do is be more cognizant of where I am and where I am going. I also need to communicate to Velvet where I want to go. Sometimes, I don't know where I want to go and that seems to confuse her and make life hard for both of us. I forgot, for instance, that I was on the last lap. my instructor If Jim hadn't told me to "suggest right" to get to the van, I would have gone too far. Thank goodness for GPS is all I have to say.
Today we had no dog distractions, traffic checks, or simulated barricades. Yesterday however, was a different story. They brought out the Toyota Prias (don't know if I spelled that right), and tested the dog's and our reaction to that traffic. Priases are very quiet because they spend some time using gas, and some time using electric. When the car is in electric mode, it's whisper quiet, making it hard for us to hear where the car is ... that's where the dog comes in. Yesterday, Velvet did great with it all. Every day, I become more proud of the Velvet doggie. I may even start to call her the Velvenator, or maybe the Velvenatrix, because she amazes me at how cool she is. On the Maple South route, there's this really big lip in the sidewalk that could be a tripping hazzard for me. The first time I went on the route, I told Jim tha tI wanted her to stop at things like that so we showed her by having her sit down at the offending curb and praising her, that we wanted her to hesitate there. After a couple times of doing that, she's been stopping for the crack, and I have time to make sure my feet clear it. Amazing! Fiona did this too in most cases, but it still amazes me how cool these dogs are and how they do it all because theu love you and want to do things right.
We got access to this really nice walking trail they call the leisure path as well today. It gives us an opportunity to walk around with our dogs, and continues the bonding process. The instructors have to run the path with us to make sure that we can do it well with our dogs, and after that, we can use it during the day time. It's 1/3 of a mile, and a good little jaunt that's pretty mindless fo the human and the dog. Basically, it's a relaxing walk. After the solo this morning, and the leizure path this afternoon, I was glad to relax this afternoon though.
I did my laundry last night, and was glad I didn't have to fight the mass, or will have to fight the mass, when everyone wants to do laundry late on Sunday evening.
I used the amateur radio downstairs, probably for the last time in a while this afternoon. It seems as if I'm known for something every time I come to The Seeing Eye, and today was the day. I had been trying to talk to my friend John back in Arkansas on the radio. We tried various bands, frequencies, and I generally transmitted a lot. I couldn't figure out what everyone was saying about how the intercom was acting oddly. They kept talking about "voices coming out of the intercom". I don't think that people thought it was time to go outside to park, but it confused more than a few people. Until today, I hadn't been able to use the radio because I had to figure out how it worked. So when we all went out to park, and after talking on the radio for a half hour, I rrealized that all of the reports I was hearing about at park directly coincided to not only the time that I was talking on the radio, but even to some things I was saying. It's called RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and I can't believe that they've had this station for so long, and didn't realize that there was RF going into the system. I think that people just wondered what was causing it, and never found it. One of the guys who was here last year said it happened, but no one could figure out why. So why do I have to be the one to figure it out? Who knows. I guess I'm just that way I guess. It still was embarrassing, not because I could do anything about it, but because my muffled and distorted voice going "four four, you're four four, 44, roger". And I could have chalked it up to a police radio or something, but no, I admitted it so they could fix the problem.
We switched to a new place in the dining room today. This helps to not only socialize us with new people that aren't in our group, but it gives the dogs a chance to tolerate other dogs as well. I've got two of the Spanish speakers at my table, and me and another guy speak marginal Spanish, so I'm really enjoying speaking lots of Spanish. There really are some cool people in this class.
For another episode of Oh the things that Velvet does to make me smile. I was downstairs getting done with grooming Velvet. When we got done, she got really excited, as she does when I scratch the special spot on her butt, but this time she decided to get really excited and jump around like a jack-in-the-box. Then she decided to grab her leash like it was a tug-of-war toy, and we chased each other around the hall ... me trying to get her to let go of the leash (which was connected to her mind you), and her just trying to be extremely cute. I just got out of the deal more tired than I was before, which was pretty darn tired.
And that's about all I can handle to write about now. Tomorrow's a "no work" day, which will be nice. We even get an extra hour of sleep, but I'm staying up because Velvet didn't pee tonight at park, and so Jim's taking us out again to see if we can get her to pee so she doesn't pee on her mat because of the extra hour. I'll probably wake up at the same time, but who knows. I know I'm tired now, so I'm going to end it here, go outside, and head to bed. Mmmmm, bed will be nice.