Phew! What a week!
Before I tell you all about that, I need to make an announcement: Since woofing with my predecessor, I have established that Ma and Pa are really called Mummy and Daddy, or Mum and Dad for short. I think that sounds much nicer than Ma and Pa. So, from now on, Ma and Pa will be Mummy and Daddy to me too – after all – Oakley was a sort of brother dog!
We went on a loooooong choochoo ride. It started in the very familiar choochoo kennel at Rugby and ended in a megabusy hubbub called London. I had to work my paws off weaving Mummy through all the hoomans from the moment we got off the choochoo. We found our way outside and, after finding a very necessary patch of earth that really needed to be watered, we found a big red bus. I found Mummy a seat and then settled down for a jiggledy liedown. When we got off the bus, we went for a bit of a workies – again I had to work hard to weave Mummy through the crowded streets. We left Daddy behind a few times as he was trundling a big rumbly wheeliecase and he was far less efficient at getting through the oceans of hoomans than I was with Mum! This workies took us to another bus stop and another red bus ride, then another!
Finally, we had another workies to a building where we found a senior hooman called Puppa. Apparently he is Mummy’s Pa. Inside the building, we found some more hoomans – lots of them, and one of them is a shehooman called Debbi. She is Mum and Dad’s growed-up puppy.
We went inside a big room with lots of seats and steps. I guided Mummy down a few of the steps and we waited for Puppa and Daddy to go into the seats first, then Mum sat on the end so I had room to settle down on the step beside her. I had a good view from there of all the stuff that went on at the front, on the big upfloor. Debbi disappeared but we could see her on a little rectangle on the wall. She seemed to be waggling her frontpaws about and tickling some black and white sticks all in a row. On the upfloor, there were lots of hoomans doing lots of hoomanhowling. It all ended with everyone in the seats smacking their frontpaws together, while everyone on the upfloor bending forward lots of times.
After all this, we went outside and I took Mummy for a very pleasant workies along the pawment. We found a gate that led us into a park. I would have rather loved a freerun in there but had to content myself with a brief visit to a patch of grass. Maybe another time….. Then we went back and found everyone again in a hooman noshery. I got my dinner in there while they all had slurps. Then we said tattybyes to Debbi and went workies again to a vroomer.
I got to ride in the back with Mummy while Puppa sat in the front and Daddy sat in the seat with his frontpaws twirling the roundthing about. I snoozed for a while and woke up to find us at a new place. It seems this is Puppa’s homekennel. It was nice in there; I got to explore every bit of it and, bestest of all, I got to explore the garden on my own!
We stayed at Puppa’s kennel for a few days and went out from there to do some visitings. We went to a huge church where Mummy and Daddy seemed to know lots of the other hoomans there. They did lots of that hooman hugging thing – and ooooooodles of woofing! Before we went in, we met another hooman called Rosie, and two hooman puppies called Hallie and Theo. It seems that Rosie is Mummy and Daddy’s other growed up hoomanpuppy, and Hallie and Theo are Rosie’s little puppies.
Later we also met a hehooman called James. He is Rosie’s mate and Hallie and Theo’s daddy. So, it seems I have hooman brothers and sisters and a hooman niece and nephew. (Apparently, Debbi has a mate called Ryan but I didn’t get to meet him this time).
We spent quite a lot of time with all these members of my hoomanfamily. We also met up with some other nice friends called Ann and Pete in a hooman noshery. I got to enjoy a couple of very nice freeruns. I do like to explore new parks! It seems that we were in the area that used to be home to Mummy and Daddy, so they know all the good places to go. They promise me we will go back again many times and they will take me to lots of them. I like the sound of that plan!
There was one bit of the week that I wasn’t too keen on; Mummy and Daddy took me to a house where I met two shehoomans. I had to go out into the garden and then into a wooden room where I got soggysquirted and frothied and fuffed and trimmed and seriously poshed-up! I don’t do soggy! I was NOT impressed! Mummy and Daddy seemed very impressed though and called me ‘Super smart boy’. Huffff!
The return journey was interesting; It started with a workies to the choochoo kennel, then a long ride on a choochoo. Then we went workies again in that London place. This time, we didn’t go on any big red bus; instead we went into lots of those magic rooms that jiggle about a bit and then, when the doors open again, outside has changed. In between magic room jiggles, we workiesded through lots of long corridors and it all led us to another choochoo ride. This choochoo was indoors! How weird is that? At the end of that ride, we did lots more corridors and magic rooms before getting onto another normal choochoo. This one got us back to Rugby and so to another workies to chuggyboathome! Phewweeee!
Since then, we have had a final couple of workieses around some bits of Rugby before chuggyboat chugged us away! I must say that I am rather enjoying this chugging thing. I get to lie down on the blunt-end deck with Mummy and Daddy while the world slides past for me to watch! I think I am going to get used to this life very happily!
On Thursday, when we stopped and Daddy was busy tethering chuggyboat by its long leads, I got a bit excited to be in a new place. Mummy was telling me to ‘Sit Stay’ on the blunt end deck. I did manage to do this for a bit, but then excitement just got the better of me and I found myself doing a bit of a happydance on the greenfloorfur! Mummy forgave me, but says we will work a bit on that discipline. Ahem! Oops!
After a few minutes, we all set off on a workies to explore. We went along the pawpath, which was a bit squidgy muddy. We went to a bridge and found a path leading up onto the bridge. This took us to a narrow twitten, which was a difficult challenge for guiding Mum because there wasn’t enough room for us to work side by side, so Daddy had to go in front and guide Mummy with me tagging along behind. This twitten led us to a vroomerway and so we went on to explore the village. There wasn’t much there except lots of hoomankennels with some very narrow pawments. It was a challenging workies and I was a little unsure of being somewhere so completely new, but Mummy kept telling me I was a good boy and that ‘Straight on’ was the right way to go. I kept her safe when we came to the many kerbs along the way. I stopped and sat down to await her commands.
We went up a track where we found a big pointy building with lots of little oblongs in the garden. The doors were locked so we couldn’t get in but it was a nice walk anyway. On the way back, when we came to the narrow twitten Mummy and Daddy did some woofing while I waited. It seems they were yipping about something that Mummy used to do with Oakley in places like this. It seems they decided it was worth a try. Mummy asked me to ‘stand’ and she looped my lead, in extended mode, through the handle of my harness, then she waved her frontpaw and asked me to ‘Forward. Go ahead’. I did! I set off down the twitten with Mummy following me. I did try a couple of times to make the most of the opportunity to enjoy a sniff of the local doggysignposts, but I got a ‘Straight on’ accompanied by a gentle biff on the botty from Mum’s backlegbend. I went ‘Straight on’!! Mummy followed, watching which way I went and so I showed her the way. We made it safely back to the pawpath and so to chuggyboathome. Mummy was super pleased with me! I was very glad of a nap before my dinner! It is very tiring being so clever and learning new things!
On Friday, after a little lead walk to do what a dog simply has to do, we set off chugging again. After a while, Daddy chugged us to beside the pawpath and Mummy and I got off. Mummy then harnessed me up and we set off for a very nice workies.
A few bits of the pawpath were rather squishy squidgy but I just went ‘Steady’ for Mum to navigate it. I had no problem of course, 4 paws beats 2 paws again! Most of it though was much easier going and we got in some good practice. Mummy was generally very good. She followed my guidance very well. She did seem to think though, that I shouldn’t be trying to stop to drink all the puddles I find. This includes the giant oblong one that chuggyboat chugs along through. She says that it might not be good for me to drink all that mucky water. But it tastes delicious! Huff! She says we will continue to work on this lesson!
We did our first solo lock today! It was only a tiny one – the wetstuff didn’t go down very far at all – only about a paw’s depth! But it was a lock and we didded it OK! We had workiesded to get to it and Mum asked me to ‘Find the beam’. She helped me to learn what a beam is – it seems it is a huge stick that comes from the big gate in the wetstuff. It has a white end and it dispenses a munchie when I find it! I think I will come to like to ‘Find the beam’!
Mummy then showed me a big post in the ground and said ‘Find the bollard’. When I sniffed this bollard thing, it also dispensed a munchie! Yummmm! Mum then looped my lead around this bollard thing and asked me to ‘Sit. Down. Stay’. I stayed the whole time while she did some strange twiddly twisty things with a big bent stick and then she pushed the huge beam and opened the gate. Daddy then chugged chuggyboathome into the oblong and Mum shut the gate again. Mummy was super duper pleased with me for being a good boy when she finished all her twiddly-hefting and she gave me super loves for it! We then carried on with a bit more workies on the pawpath for a way, before it got all squishy-squidgy underpaw again and we waited for Daddy to stop and pick us up on chuggyboat again. This meant I could enjoy a bit more of that glide-by practice again! Yep! I think I like this life!
I recognise the place where we are moored now! It was part of my puppyhood! I did some of my puppytraining around these locks at Atherstone, with PuppyMa Irene and PuppyPa Pat. I am superwaggyhappy to be back here! I hope I can get to show Mummy and Daddy all the bestest places! On Saturday morning, I got to strut my stuff taking Mummy to Aldi for some shopping. We went workies along the pawpath to the ‘upslope’ then along the streets to ‘Find the door’. We did it! It was good!
When we came out of the shop, Mummy stopped and tried to work out her bearings (whatever that means). I waited patiently but tried gently to urge her to the left – the way we had come in. There was a hehooman there though, who pushed Mum forward to the crossing, telling her ‘This way love. Here’s the crossing’. Then he tugged her by the frontleg across the black and white stripes across the vroomerway. I went with them of course, but I knew this was wrong. I tried my bestest to hesitate and stop Mum going the wrong way, but this hehooman was very insistent, so we had to go his way. Once across the crossing, we turned left and got to the bit of road that we needed to cross in the first place.There was a vroomer parked on the pawment here, so I had to take Mummy on an offkerb to get around it. This was a tricky manoeuvre on such a busy vroomerway, but we did it OK after a bit of a wait for a quiet lull in the vroomers. Getting back onto the pawment was a challenge though because this was on a bend and it was all a bit discombobulating for both of us. We ended up going the wrong way! Mum clearly thought we were heading in the right general direction because she kept telling me ‘Straight on’ ‘Good boy’ ‘That’s right. Straight on’. I wasn’t so sure though and I kept trying to stop and turn around to look back. Finally, Mum got the message and realised that we were going the wrong way! She stopped us both and said ‘This is the wrong way isn’t it Ted? About turn’. I gave her my haughtiest possible ‘told you so’ toss of the head and we swung around to go back to find the crossing to go the way we should have been going! I then got a ‘Clever boy! Well done! Find the way home’. Yessss! That was the cue I needed! I stepped up into full trot and off we set. Pawperfect route to home! I wondered if my ears would survive the superfuss they got when we arrived! Heehee!
Later in the day, I got to take Mummy and Daddy along the pawpath and through a gate. That took us to a FREERUN! Yayyyyy! And, if that in itself wasn’t fun enough I got an even bigger waggytail happening: I found a pal to play with – a rather lovely German Shepherd girliedog who just happened to be there in the park. Then…. even bettererer still….. Gizmo arrived! Gizmo is a Guide Dog Pupster in training! He is a fifteen months old yellow labrador x goldie and, between the three of us, we had a bit of a riot! It was fabulous fun running and rolling and chasing together! It didn’t go on for super long but it was super high energy fun time! Then, Gizmo brought his hoomans (Stephen and Jacquie) back to our chuggyboathome. I got to share my bones and toys with him! Well, actually, he helped himself from my toybox, but I was waggy to share with him. I think the hoomans spent the time noshing and woofing, but, to be honest, we pooches were too well occupied with toys and bones to really bother about what the boring ones were doing! I did have to tell him off when he finished his dinner far too fast and then came and tried to help himself to mine! Young upstart! He didn’t get away with that one! The hoomans kept him away while I finished munching!
So this leads onto this week’s educational bit:
How does a Guide Dog work?
We are all trained to work on a ‘straight line’ principle. We will guide our hooman charge on a continuous route along the same road until told otherwise. When we come to a kerb, we stop, sit and await further instructions. If the route is to continue on in the same direction, then our hooman will listen for traffic and then, when they deem it safe, will give the ‘Forward’ command for us to cross the road. It is up to our hoomans to discern by listening when it is safe to cross. We dogs are trained to follow the command ‘Forward’ to take them safely across to the opposite kerb. However, if we have spotted a vehicle approaching that our hooman has missed (some are so quiet that their feeble hooman ears don’t hear them!), then we will refuse to obey the ‘Forward’ command and stay firmly sitted at the kerb. If our route is to change direction, then we will get a command of either ‘Right’ or ‘Left’ and will then turn accordingly. Then our tragectory will continue along that ‘straight line’ until further instructions.
Over time, when we get used to certain routes, we may well then know which way to go without any further instructions from our hooman. For example, we may well know every step of the way to a regular coffee shop, pub, library, Dr surgery etc and will simply guide our charge there and back without needing directions at all.
We are also trained to take our hooman to a crossing where there is one to use. This might be a zebra crossing, where the same principles as above apply, or it may be one of those crossings with a box that our hooman needs to press the button on, to make the vroomers stop, and either a bleeper sounds or a little cone twirls under the box for hooman frontpaws to feel. Either of these is an instruction that it is the right time to cross the road. Some of us, like me, have been trained to ‘Find the box’ for our hoomans. This is where I take Mummy to the side of the crossing place and put my nose on the pole to show her where the box is. I get a little treat for doing that so it is a super nice bit of work for me!
Sometimes, hooman vroomerdrivers try to be very kind and helpful by stopping and waiting for us to go across. This is very thoughtful but is actually rarely helpful. We Guide Dogs are all trained not to cross a road in front of or behind a vroomer with its engine rumbling. There are exceptions to this; like at a zebra crossing, but we know the difference. At crossing points that are not zebra or bleeper crossings, will often find our blind hooman handlers waving them on. This is not meant to be rude or ungrateful, it is simply doing what we are trained to do. You see, a rumbling engine often hides the sound of other vehicles approaching, or other dangers on the road. So it is safer and better for us to wait a little longer until the road is actually clear. Daddy tells Mummy that drivers often wave their front paws from behind the windscreen to tell Mummy to go across. She can’t see that wave, or the flashing of the vroomer’s lights, so she will continue to stand with me at the kerb. Sometimes the drivers get a bit cross about this, but they simply don’t realise that she can’t see their kind gestures! We are just waiting for the engine rumblings to go past so she can hear when it is safe to cross.
As for drivers that park their vroomers on the pawments! Well! They are RUDE! When the pawment is blocked and I have to take Mummy on an offkerb to get around the obstruction, it can be really dangerous. It means we have to walk out into the road and it puts both of us in big danger. It is equally nasty for hoomans who have to move about in wheelchairs and for those with little hoomanpuppies in wheeliecarriages too. PLEASE SPREAD THE MESSAGE THAT PARKING ON PAVEMENTS IS WRONG, BAD, NASTY, INCONSIDERATE AND UNNACCEPTABLE!
Do Guide Dogs make mistakes?
Well, we are dogs first – real dogs – not robots. We have to learn a lot! It takes about 2 years for all the training, beginning from very tiny puppyhood. We are all bred and chosen very carefullly for our temperament and intelligence. We are highly trained and super clever, but we are DOGS! We have instincts and personalities.
Our human charges also have a lot to learn about us as individuals and about working with us. We go through five weeks of intensive training together, under the guidance of a Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor (GDMI). At the end of this, we do a ‘qualifying walk’. This is where the GDMI plus another Guide Dogs bosshooman follows us on a walking route. They walk a little way behind us so that we don’t know they are following us and they are assessing us. If we do well, then we are then pronounced to be a ‘Qualified Guide Dog Partnership’. Then we are free (under the rules) to go out on our own, without the GDMI supervising us. This is a challenging time for both of us as we are still learning about each other, but it is now that we really begin to form a good partnership. It takes probably many months to truly ‘click’ together and be a seamless team. During this time, we continue to learn a lot about how to work together.
As we meet new challenges and situations, we have to learn about dealing with them together. For me, this is especially relevant as Mummy and I are a bit different from ‘normal’ partnerships because we live on a chuggyboat and will move about all the time. So, we have new places to work every day/week.
Sometimes we Guide Dogs have to be ‘corrected’ on a mistake. This is usually a humanbark of something like a stern ‘NO’ and can be accompanied by a little tug or flick on our lead and/or harness. This is necessary for the learning process and we generally learn quickly. The correction is always followed up with lots of praise and fuss and loves when we do things right. We are not being hurt or harmed in any way from this, and there is always ooodles more praise and loves and fusses than corrections. So, if ever you witness a Guide Dog Owner like my Mummy, doing any of these things, then please don’t worry or try to intervene. It is all part of our learning together. (Different techniques may be used by different people in different areas.)
Equally, sometimes our hoomans make mistakes, like Mummy did yesterday on our route through town, where we ended up going the wrong way. I knew we were going wrong and I slowed right down and tried to turn around. It took Mummy a few attempts at this to get the message. Unfortunately I can’t flick her lead and she doesn’t speak woof, so I can’t tell her she is being daft! I just have to patiently wait until she gets the message somehow! Well… she is the one on the daft end of the lead and harness!
We do make some mistakes and we learn from them. We also have further GDMI visits from time to time to check on our progress and Mummy can use her tellingbone anytime to call for extra help or advice.