Chugging along and working locks.
This week has been mainly about chugging along and working locks. Daddy says we’ve chugged 32 smiles and Mummy and I have worked 60 locks. I think that counts as plenty of practice! The first set were familiar to me; I remember them from when I was a pupster! My PuppyDaddy is something called a Lock-Keeper there and I visited many times when I was diddy.
It all started with a trip to a pointy building on Sunday morning. This was snooze-on-carpet time, plus a fair few fusses and loves and admirations too! All of which are, of course, always welcome but have to stop when my harness goes back on and it is time to get to work again.
The next bit of workies took us around the familiar streets of the town called Atherstone, to a very familiar human-noshery. I remembered that very well from puppyhood! As we were walking toward it, Mummy realised that I knew exactly which way to go and she got all smiley! We crossed the vroomerway and I took her straight to the door! She yipped something about my PuppyWalkers’ secrets being revealed! We went inside and I settle down under the table. Mummy and Daddy were just beginning slurps when a lovely surprise arrived! My PuppyMummy and PuppyDaddy arrived with their new puppy, who is also called Teddy! It was a very waggy greeting, and they joined us at our table. I was a good boy and settled down again, as did Teddy junior, at the other end of the table from me. We both stayed lying down all the time while the hoomans did a whole load of woofing and munching. (We did get a nice drink each from the special bottle that Mummy has got for me. It has a sort of bowl for a lid so I demonstrated how to drink from it and then Teddy junior had a go. We both approve of this device!).
Afterwards, I got to demonstrate my guiding work with PuppyMummy irene following a little way behind with Teddy Junior. We went along the pawpath past chuggyboathome and then found the park where Teddy and Teddy had a great time of freerunfun! This wonderful time was rounded off with a short time back aboard chuggyboathome. PuppyMummy Irene and PuppyDaddy Pat, plus Teddy junior all came aboard and I got to lie down on all the hoomans’ backpaws while Teddy Junior checked out my toybox.
It was super lovely to meet them all again but I most definitely know that I now belong on chuggyboathome with my Mummy and Daddy and I enjoyed lots of loves and fusses when the others left!
The next day (Monday) the work really began! To start it all off, I took Mummy into town to get some apparently vital supply called coffee, then we got into the lock-work practice thing. I did oodles of ‘Find the beam’ and ‘Find the bollard’ and ‘Sit. Down. Stay’ practices and it didn’t take long to get into the pattern. When there was a bollard to find, Mummy asked me to ‘Sit. Down. Stay; beside it, then she popped my lead around it and let me lie there to watch her do all the work. She does a huge lot of twirlystuff with that bent stick thing, then she puts her bum to the beam and heaves backwards to open and shut the mahoosive gate that traps all the wetslosh and chuggyboat too. When she has finished all that, she gives me loves for being a ‘Good boy to stay’ and we trot off to the next lock. There were some locks without a bollard to find. At these ones, I just had to be a super good boy and do my ‘Sit. Down. Stay’ without my lead around anything. I did get a bit drawn away a few times by something tempting to investigate, or by just wanting to be closer to Mummy, but she got me back into position again as soon as she possibly could. I would have liked to carry on investigating but I do like the fusses and praise when I do what Mummy wants!
This practice has gone on all week with locks to do every day. Most of them were in countryside type places, but some of them were in built up areas. The locks are all very similar but the places for me to lie down to supervise Mum’s work are very different. There were a few that were very close to vroomerways. At some, there were no bollards to find so I had to ‘Find the beam’ and then Mummy looped an extra long lead onto the handle on the beam while she did her twirlystick thing. Then, before she hefted the beam, she unlooped my lead and held the daft end of it in her frontpaw. I had to ‘Come come’ as she walked backwards. She kept me away from the dangerous side of the beam in order to protect us both from a potential tumble into the lock. I certainly don’t want that to happen, because it’s wet in there! It was a lot to learn, but I got the idea and did it without Mum’s instructions after a few goes. In some places I got to lie down attached to a kind of grid of connected big sticks that were holding back some trees and bushes. These were the other side of the towpath and I was a little anxious about being too far away from Mummy, so I watched very carefully. I was super waggy when she came to release me each time! There were also a couple where I got to lie down under a hooman bum-rest, with my lead looped around the big stick across the top. This was a bit closer to Mummy and it meant I got to rest in the shade for the duration.
It was all very hard work but all good fun too. Every so often, when Daddy chugged into the oblong, he brought out a nice bowl of water for me to slurp while I supervised Mummy. I also got ‘Busy boy’ commands in suitable places along the way. So, I worked hard looking after Mummy, but I got well looked after too.
When we were doing the flight of locks that brought us up into Birmingham City, we had hoomanfriends with us. Paul and Christine came along to help Mummy to do all the twirlystick and beam-hefting stuff. This was super helpful as it meant that Mummy and I could really concentrate on learning what we need to learn together when we are working locks. It also meant that my first experience of doing this in the city setting was less daunting. Mummy worked a lot on my ‘Sit. Down. Stay’ practice and also had better time and opportunity to try out suitable ways for us to work together with lots and lots of hoomans coming by. Some of them were on wheeliezoomy things and some of them wanted to fuss me. Mummy was very polite but asked them all to leave me alone as we were learning together as we went along. Most of them obeyed her and left me alone, but a few simply couldn’t resist and so my bum simply found itself lifting up and wagging to receive the fusses. Mummy then politely asked them again to leave me alone and got me back into my ‘Sit. Down. Stay’. I was happy to receive the fusses, but I think Mummy was determined to try not to let me get them. She says that my discipline is necessary for our safety.
On Thursday night, quite late into darktime, a visitor arrived. It was my hoomansister Debbi! She stayed aboard chuggyboathome with us. That meant that I had a bedroom buddy for the night! Of course, I still stayed on my fluffy rug, but Debbi was on the table! Except… the table went down low and made a hoomanbed! This home has some surprises! It was nice to have a bedroom buddy and I greeted her in the lighttime with a good selection of my squishytoys! I’m not sure if she truly appreciated my soggy offerings but I tried to share nicely!
Debbi came chugging and lock-working with us on Friday before she disappeared again. She complained that Mummy was walking too fast. Mummy said that she doesn’t call me TurboTed for no reason!
On Saturday morning I took Mummy for a workies. Apparently she knows this area quite well, but has never gone to the shops from where chuggyboat is moored. I have never been here before. We set off along the pawpath under the bridge then a ‘Find right’ took us upslope and to the busywizzy vroomerway. ‘Straight on’ took us along the pawment, with a few kerbs to stop at on the way. I did my duty and kept Mum safe. We found our way to a crossing over a busy road. We had to wait for quite a while until there was a gap in the vroomers whizzing by big enough for us to cross safely. I then had to ‘Find the steps’ and take Mummy down them. I stopped and sitted at the top first though to let Mummy stick our her right back paw to feel the way down, then we went down and found ourselves in a shoppy area. I tried to use my initiative and take her into Costa as that was on our left, but she said ‘Not today. Straight on’. I thought hoomans always have to go into Costa! Oh well. Nemmind! We went ‘Straight on’ and then found a much better destination: Pets at Home! I steered Mum straight in the door! Good Mummy was very obedient and accepted my guidance this time! It was crazy hectic in there but I guided Mummy safely around all the hoomans and other pooches. Well, I may have steered her just close enough to one or two of them to sneak in a quick sniffygreeting as we passed by! Mummy says I am not really supposed to do that but she also says that I am a dog after all and it is really difficult to avoid nose-to-nose contact in such a doggy-packed place.
Mummy selected a few things and we set off to ‘Find the checkout’. As we came around a corner I got a bit excited. There was a living toy on the floor! It was a fluffy hoppy twitchy-nose. I REALLY wanted to investigate but my excitement seemed to alert Mum to its presence and she made me go into a ‘Sit’. Booooo! I had to stay in that sit until a workyhooman scooped up the hoppy twitchy-nose and put it into a see-through room near the checkout. Then Mummy asked me again to ‘Find the checkout’. I did and she asked me to ‘Sit’ while we waited our turn to go to the hehooman who was beeping things. I was being a good boy and sitting nicely but my bum found itself lifting up again when another pooch came to greet me. It was a big white boy with a smooshed up chin and very short fur. He started off with a sniff and a boof of his paws on my shoulders, but then he turned all scary and growly at me. I backed away and Mummy pulled me to the other side and saved me, and growlerboy got told off by his hooman and dragged away. Mummy did her checkout stuff, packed the things into her bright yellow backpack and asked me to ‘Find the door’. Then, when we were outside, she stopped and fussed me and said ‘Let’s find the way home’. I gave her my bestest head toss and pranced off to guide her back the way we came. ‘Paw-perfect superstar’ she called me! Well, of course! It was a great opportunity to show her how clever I am and to put all my training into action!
This afternoon, we set off again for a workies, with Daddy coming along this time. We went to a big shop first, then went further along the pawments beside the wizzy vroomerway. Then I had to ‘Find left’ and it led to a gate. Once through that gate, Mummy asked me to stop, then removed my harness, asked me to do the ‘Sit. Down. Upsit’ routine, then said ‘Go Play’! Yippeeeeeeee! It was bliss! Long greenfloorfur, lots of trees, lots of sniffs… Ooooh! That freerun was very welcome!
Now – On to this weeks Infoblog:
Distraction of a working Guide Dog; a topic that is often raised by Guide Dog hoomans everywhere. It can potentially put our hooman charge in big danger.
A Guide Dog is a DOG – first and foremost. A highly trained and clever dog for sure, but still a dog. So instincts and temptations still draw us to want to do things the doggy way. We would, by nature, stop and sniff-greet every passing pooch, every lamp post and bush (to read the local weemail gossip!) and to snaffle every possible tasty morsel we can find along our way. We are trained not to do this and our hoomans are trained to keep up this discipline too. When we are on our freeruns and downtime, we can do all of those things as much as we like (well….the snaffling is not allowed because our hoomans seem to think it is not good for us!). We are trained to ignore other dogs as we pass by, working in harness. This is quite hard for us to do, but it is really important because, if we don’t concentrate on the job we are doing, then we could put our hooman charge in danger. (eg by them bumping into something, or stepping out into the road or by falling down steps). If we stop suddenly to greet a fellow woofer, then our hooman might fall over us, or trip on our paws. Just a few examples of possible mishaps that could happen if we are not concentrating.
So, the message is simply this – NEVER DISTRACT A WORKING GUIDE DOG (or any other assistance dog). This includes allowing your pet pooch to greet, sniff, woof, lunge, snap, or anything else that might divert our attention. Please, just keep your dog on a short lead and move him/her out of our way to allow us to pass by.
Distraction can also be a problem from hoomans who maybe mean well, but are really not helpful. Hoomans make all sorts of strange noises and movements toward us working dogs; mouth squeaks, pretend woofs, clicks, front-paw-smacks, leg-slaps, and all sorts of other peculiar sounds and gestures. They sometimes hold a frontpaw in front of our noses, or grab an ear as we walk by, or give us a pat on the head or back, or stroke us – again just a few examples of things that we experience as we are actually on the move.
Some of these also happen when we are sitting or lying down – perhaps in a queue, or in a restaurant or cafe. In these kinds of situations, sometimes hoomans seem to think it is good to make a fuss of us or even to feed us. Of course, because we are dogs, and very friendly dogs at that, we find this irresistible and will seldom turn away the attention. However, it is very unhelpful to our hoomans. If we are wearing our iconic white harness, then we are in working mode. We might be sitting down, but we are still fully on duty and waiting for our next command. Even if we are lying down in a cafe, for example, with our harness removed, we are still best left. Sometimes our hoomans work hard to get us to settle down and relax in the right place while they enjoy a break with a drink or snack. If somebody comes along and gets us all excited with a fuss, then it might well be a nuisance or even a problem for our hooman to get us settled back down again.
Feeding us is really really not a good idea! Despite our doggy instincts making it just about impossible for us to refuse a tempting snack, our hoomans really don’t want us to have them. We are all on very strict rations of good quality food that gives us everything we need to be fit and healthy. If we get porky then we will not be able to do our job so well. If we eat the wrong things then we might be poorly, and some of us have very delicate tummies, so it doesn’t take anymuch more than a tiny morsel to make us icky! If we are poorly and out of action, then our hoomans have a big problem too because we can’t look after them. Also, we are not used to hooman food at all. We are trained to stay lying down while our hoomans eat and, if we get used to the taste of hoomanfood then it might lead on to us finding it too appealling. That could lead us to begin to beg at tables and drool on the floor in anticipation of something yummy. That is not acceptable in hooman nosheries!
So, despite our adorable eyes and looks, we are not starving and we are not in need of love and fuss. We get all the food we need and plenty of love and fuss from our hoomans. PLEASE SPREAD THE MESSAGE THAT IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO FEED A GUIDE DOG.