Our goal was primarily to avoid the rain, and secondarily to try working our dogs in the busy and chaotic mall setting. So we traveled to the Bridgewater Mall, about twenty minutes away, and to save time, all of us four classmates went together. So Jim could work with us all individually, he deposited us all within smelling distance and greatly in the midst of fast food paradise. I was the last person to work the mall, so I had plenty of time to talk with my classmates about how I wanted to get food. I hadn't eaten much lunch earlier, so I was genuinely hungry. So I asked Jim if I could experiment and see if I could direct Velvet safely over to the nearest food line. It took courage but I couldn't handle it anymore, so I got up from our table, telling the rest of the people there that I'd yell if I couldn't find them. The first thing I came to wasn't the food line but one of the other instructors ... busted! But when I told him that Jim said it was ok for me to check out some foodage, and since I was right near a line, I forged ahead. The line was pizza, and since I didn't want to risk separating myself from my table mates, and since I could (a) pronounce and know well the staple at this joint, (b) I actually thought that pizza sounded good and (c) ex-college student ... enough said, I attracted the attention of the people on duty and got myself some peperoni. $6.40, ridiculous I know, got me a slice of the goodness and a drink (root beer), so I was happy, especially when I easily found our table with Velvet's help of course. The pizza was reasonable, and since we only can choose from lemonade, orange juice, crystal light, ice tea, coffee, or water (all very wonderful selections, but on a daily basis, it's nice to be unhealthy at a meal), I was happy, healthy, and pumped up since I'd been able to trust Velvet to help me with the special operation. It made my day, and my grease quota!
There's also something special about working through a mall. Like I've said, it's a chaotic thing for us humans, especially those of us who are male and hate shopping, but I would guess it's especially chaotic and confusing for a dog. Velvet didn't falter today, weaving me in and out of people, and surging to find pockets where we could fit through the crowd. I know that if I'd done the same with a cane, I'd have lacerated or injured a few ankles thereby annoying most of the bystanders within a three foot radius. This is me, perhaps others who use canes are better than I, but I know that in this setting, I'd be a pinball amidst the shops, food courts, and kiosks. I don't remember all of the turns, but Velvet took them at my command, and it was amazing.
We also worked on patterning, which basically involves repeating steps of a route, in our cases the steps to get to Radioshack of all places. I used patterning a lot when I was in college to teach Fiona to turn down sidewalks when there were several choices of sidewalks to turn on. Dogs have an uncanny sense of direction and "where have I been". So they'll hesitate slightly to denote a place that you have been to or a sidewalk you might just want to go on. That way you can tell them to turn, and you'll be then on your way. We didn't do too much patterning, but I think Velvet, with some practice, will be good at it. You really don't know if the patterning has worked well until you get completely lost and the dog either finds a path that you've been on so you can get back on track, or with me, in many cases, finds the way home on a path that you patterned your dog to take a year previous. Just having the dog sit, and praising them, retracing your steps, doing it again and again, denotes a landmark that the dog can pay attention to. Hey, they're getting praised, so if they pause a bit or, if you wanted to, turns in at the right time and they get praised, then that's what they live for, and if we keep praising, they'll keep doing things that gets them that paycheck of praise.
We've been given the power as of tonight to let our dogs off leash and see how they do for short periods of freedom around the room. Velvet has done well with this so far, and I'm getting good at keeping her excitement level down a bit so that she doesn't cannonball around the room going crazy. She responds very well to spoken scolding, and I think if I'm consistent, she'll be golden. Fiona is very sneaky about getting things like food from the table, or generally misbehaving. She knows that she's not supposed to do something, but she knows that if she does it really quiet, I won't catch her. Velvet's much more direct and loud about things, and I hope it stays that way because I'll be able to nab her and continue to lay down the law.
Today was, minus the rain, a very good day. As with all trainees and dogs here at The Seeing eye, we have peaks and valleys of greatness. we all go through good periods and bad--especially when we first start training, and also when we get home. I'm just goad that we're away from a trough now, and headed uphill Let's just hope that the uphill trend continues as we travel in New York City tomorrow for the ultimate test of our progress. It's hard to imagine that I got Velvet on the 28th of April, 11 days ago. We've taken a few steps backwards from time to time, but we're so so far ahead of where we started. We've got a ways to go yet, and it won't be all roses and tulips, but I think we're headed in the right direction now.
I don't know what we're doing in the city, but whatever it is, it promises to be pretty fun. It might even involve a trip into Central Park, which I've never been to. I'm headed to bed "early" tonight, because I don't think I'll have time to take multiple naps tomorrow, so I'll close here. Onward, upward, and most importantly "FORWARD!"
breakfast: scrambled egg and cheese on an onion roll
lunch: Vegetable soup, stuffed shells with spicy tomato sauce, garlic bread DessertL Italian cream cake, yummy.
dinner: veal marsala, mashed potatoes, carrots, dessert: orange cake with glaze
breakfast: pancakes, bacon
lunch: Mushroom soup, chicken tetrazini, broccoli, dinner roll dessert: key lime pie
Dinner: fish fillets with lemon time sauce, french onions and rice, sauteed zucchini. Dessert: apple tunronver
I didn't eat all of the choices I've listed. There's always an out if you choose to take it in the salad plate or soup, usually tuna or egg salad or chicken, something like that, or you can have a sandwich. Everything's good.