Every day I get dispatches from Beth that stress the highlights. But I asked her to outline a whole, typical day for me.
Whew. The dogs do wonderful things, but it ain’t magic. It’s tons of hard work that will continue back home. Here’s Beth’s account of her latest day of training:
- 5:30 a.m. Music comes through intercoms to wake us up. Today it was Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” One morning it was “Baby its Cold Outside.” Every day, a different song to wake us up.
- 5:35 Put bell on Harper’s collar.
- 5:40 Trainer came to each door with a bowl of food; Harper must stay in his assigned place by our bedpost as we answer the door. The bell on his collar gives him away if he moves off his place, and he has to go back. He can’t have his food until he stays in his place.
- 5:45 Harper inhaled his food, then I healed him to the bathroom (heal as in walk with leash, but no harness), measured out two cups of water, he drinks what he wants, and I empty out any water he didn’t drink. He only gets water when I give it to him, part of the “bonding,” he better follow my commands and keep me safe so that he can have water!
- 5:47 Dressed up warm then out to the courtyard for “park time” – 17 blind people with their dogs circling around them, all of us urging our dog to empty. Trainers are with us and call out to let us know when we’ve had success: “#1 for Dilbert!” and Dilbert’s owner whoops it up to encourage him to always go on command. “Harry has a #2!” And his owner squeals with delight. Today was a red letter day, Harper did his #1 AND #2 fairly quickly, and once they do both you can have them lead you back into the building (and warmth!) using the “inside!” command.
- 6:00 Back to our room brought empty bowl to nearest lounge and set it in the sink for workers to pick up, made myself a cup of tea to bring back to the room (we’ve all been told to use lids).
- 6:15 Shower.
- 6:30 Harper led me to nurse’s office; he sat quietly under a chair while nurse checked my blood sugar level, I took appropriate insulin
- 6:45 Announcement over intercom “first floor ladies, head down to the dining room” or “men from upstairs, start heading to breakfast.” We all parade down to the dining room, our dogs leading the way.
- 7:00 Each student has an assigned seat in the dining room, we give dogs a series of commands to go “left” “forward” or “right” to get to our seat and praise them when they achieve their goal.
- 7:15 Breakfast. The dining room is lovely, white tablecloths and all. Waiters and waitresses come to get our orders so the dogs will know how to act in restaurant
- 8:00 Off in vans to training center in downtown Morristown.
- 8:15 Today was our “solo” route. We’ve been practicing a route around Morristown for the past couple days. The route includes T-intersections, four-way stoplights, a two-way stop sign, talking walk signals, left turns, two right turns. During the solo the trainer is still behind us, but quite a distance behind us. He doesn’t give us any clues as to where we are at or what lies ahead; we do it on our own. Today’s route included a barricade across the sidewalk that forced us into the street, a dog distracting us and a traffic check, all provided by the Seeing Eye. In addition to the distractions the Seeing Eye “planted” there were natural distractions, too — ours included a fire truck and ambulance whizzing by us at an intersection. Harper did great. The walk was actually a lot of fun.
- 9:30 Caught shuttle from the training center back to the Seeing Eye school
- 9:50 Down to nurse’s office for blood sugar test. I don’t always test my blood sugar this often, but the schedule here is so different than at home it’sgood to have it checked to make sure.
- 10:00 Tea time. This is optional, but I usually go. Another opportunity for Harper to learn to sit quietly under a table, plus get to meet other Seeing Eye staff.
- 10:35 Announcement over intercom told us to give dogs two cups of water again, empty out any water they didn’t drink and then take them to park time.
- 11:15 Down to nurse’s office for blood test
- 11:30 Made my way with Harper to the grand piano in the Eustis Lounge — it’s a Yamaha and sounds beautifully bright. Played the piano until they called lunch.
- Noon Lunch
- 12:45 Took Harper for an additional park time, always a good idea to give them an extra chance to park before you go out and work. Don’t want them to have to empty while en route.
- 1:00 p.m. Van ride with fellow student down to training center in downtown Morristown.
- 1:15 Our trainer gave us directions to go to a drug store, very tight aisles, and any time dogs ran us into anything, we had to give them a correction. Harper ran me into a display of some sort, had to do it over. Second time was the charm, he avoided it.
- 1:30 Our trainer directed us to department store, and we learned how to get off and on escalators.
- 1:45 Our trainer directed us to local city park where we worked on squirrel and bird and rabbit distractions.
- 2:30 Shuttle bus back to living quarters.
- 2:45 Groomed Harper.
- 3:00 Nurses office for blood test.
- 3:15 Downstairs to do laundry, they have Braille labels on the washers and dryers so we know “small” or medium” loads, that sort of thing.
- 4:15 Went through our daily obedience ritual: heal, come, sit, down. Rest. “Good dog, Harper!”
- 4:35 Put bell on Harper’s collar.
- 4:40 Trainer came to each door with a bowl of food. Same drill as the morning: Harper had to stay in his place by our bedpost as I answered the door. The bell on his collar gives him away if he moves off his place, and in face he did and he had to go back. Second time was the charm. He stayed at his place, and he got his food.
- 4:45 Harper inhaled his food, then I healed him to bathroom, measured out two cups of water, he drinks what he wants, I empty out any water he didn’t drink.
- 4:47 Dressed up warm and out to courtyard for “park time.”
- 5:15 Call for dinner.
- 6:30 Upstairs to common lounge for class lecture Tonight’s was by a Seeing Eye veterinarian on keeping our dogs healthy. There’s a lecture on a different topic every night. Having to go upstairs for these lectures teaches our dogs to negotiate stairways. We also go down a flight of stairs for park time, plus downstairs for grooming and laundry purposes.
- 7:30 Free time: Played with Harper, playtime is encouraged to keep up the bonding. Plus, it’s fun!
- 8:00 Announcement over intercom: Give each dog one cup of water, dress warm and out for park time.
- 8:15 See nurse for one last blood sugar and for check of legs and feet (for diabetics only, can’t see our own feet and have to be careful we didn’t get blisters or anything like that with all the walking).
- 8:30 Put Harper on chain near foot of the bed. Harper usually falls asleep right away, and I’m never far behind him.
Tomorrow, we head for Manhattan. You know, like Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I’m serious. All of us who live in big cities are encouraged to take this trip to learn how to go through turnstiles, ride a subway and work through crowds. So I guess if Harper and I can make it there, we can make it anywhere.
Harper and I better rest up.