Fin. (49/49)

July 26, 2009

Holy crud. It’s 9 am. Blogathon 2009 is over.

I can’t thank you all enough.

It’s time to sleep a lot. Good night, everyone.

Here’s one last chance to pledge:

Post #: 49/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Sleep well, fellow bloggers.

Many thanks (48/49)

July 26, 2009

I am thankful for so many people who have made this Blogathon possible.

First of all, the folks who started and run the Blogathon event have worked their butts off, and I appreciate that. My teammate Eustacia Vye has provided amazing support and good humor over the past 24 hours and in the planning of this day. Jason, Ricky, Cate, M-E, Patience, Miriam, Jack, Kristen, Sarah, Nyren, Boe, and Toby have been the best pit crew anyone could ask for. Ms. Pup has been incredibly patient about weird happenings she couldn’t possibly have understood. My Blogathon monitor Sohorhapsody has been encouraging and positive the whole time. Lots of wonderful people have commented and kept things going.

And thanks to all of you, we have raised $1321.34 for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. I can’t wait to let them know. They are so excited that we’ve been doing this, and you have all made it possible. And together, the sponsors of the 146 bloggers participating in Blogathon 2009 have raised a total of $41,281.93 (as of right now) for charity. I’m so proud to be a part of this, and I’m humbled by the support I’ve received.

Post #: 48/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Winding down (47/49)

July 26, 2009

I’ve been sitting in my living room with a bunch of people (and dogs) watching Babylon 5 and chatting. There’s an hour left. And I think we’re going to make it. It’s been an incredible experience. My chiropractor said he could probably fix me up when I see him in a few days. Which may be when I’ll wake up. So don’t call me today. :)

Post #: 47/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Light at the end of the tunnel (46/49)

July 26, 2009

I confess that I’m running out of steam and topics here. Well, I have a list of topics, and a few of them are still left, but they’re kind of involved, and I’m not sure I can do them at this point. I am pleased to say that a valued member of our pit crew headed out a while back and found a bakery around the corner with fresh croissants, so I guess I’ve had some breakfast. I’m also up-to-date on my meds and such. So aside from being exhausted, I’m actually doing reasonably decent self-care. A bit more hydration and maybe some Airborne, and I’m pretty set.

I should probably start cleaning up, because I’m sure not doing it at 9!

Only an hour and a half left to pledge before Blogathon 2009 ends! Have you gotten your pledge in yet?

Post #: 46/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

It’s a world of goldens, a world of labs….(45/49)

July 26, 2009

I know primarily about guide dogs in the US, but of course they exist in plenty of other countries. They originated in Germany, and I know of guide dog schools in Canada, the UK, Israel, Korea, and other countries. GDF actually uses training philosophies that are more British than American, but I’m not sure what that means. I’ve heard there was a guide dog in Singapore, but it was trained in the US, and its reception in Singapore was lukewarm at best, even by the blind community. But in several countries, guide dogs are probably about as common as they are here.

Sometimes there are some issues with accessing island nations, who are keen to prevent the spread of rabies. They have a strict quarantine system, which isn’t so great for people who need to travel with their guide dogs. There are procedures for people traveling to some of these countries where they can send in blood samples from their dogs ahead of time to ensure they’re free of rabies.

Post #: 45/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

People are still awake enough to ask questions?!? (44/49)

July 26, 2009

I’ve got a few questions from new reader Ben:

Have you ever had trouble taking your guide dog somewhere that doesn’t allow “pets”? I know they are supposed to let you, but does this mean they always do?

Happens pretty regularly, actually. I walk into a business, and the first thing I hear is “no dogs!”. I explain that she’s a guide dog, and sometimes they back down. Sometimes they don’t, and there’s a confrontation. I have a lot of trouble in taxis, too, and the police have been inovlved a couple of times. It took me about a week once I got home to get a serious access challenge somewhere. It can get pretty exhausting.

You say your dog is a good fit for you — did you pick her out or were you simply assigned one at the start of training and it happened to work out well?

I did not pick her. The trainers match people with their dogs. It’s a little bit art, a little bit science, and a little bit magic, I think. They have a lot of information on each student, including the kinds of places where they usually go, whether they use public transit, if they’re around kids or other animals a lot, are they in urban or rural areas, do they travel often? They know our gaits, our general walking speeds, and any mobility issues we might have. GDF is small, so they generally don’t call you up for a class unless they have a specific dog in mind. The larger schools will have 30 people on a class and 30 dogs, and they’ll all match up somehow, and there can be switching if necessary. They’ll fit someone into whichever class has room next. When I got to GDF, they interviewed me again to make sure they still wanted to match me with the same dog, but I think they were pretty sure in my case.

Post #: 44/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

ESP = Extra-Sensory Puppy (43/49)

July 26, 2009

We have a question from Justin:

My followup question is how much of the communication between you and Ms. Pup is explicit direction, and how much is her reading you, and you reading her?

There’s a lot of both, and the more used to each other a team is, the more implicit the communication can be. I’ve actually been instructed to be more explicit in commanding her, so she knows that she’s not the one in charge and coming up with all the ideas. On a familiar route, we can go the whole way without me saying a word except for some praise, but to her, it’s almost like she’s choosing where to go. So even if she knows the route now, I’m supposed to go back to basics and outline most of the commands.

But yes, after six months or a year together, we became able to read a lot of each other’s movements and signals. We can communicate a great deal through the harness handle. Slight pressure or a pull in one direction can steer me around an obstacle or encourage her to speed up or slow down. It’s pretty amazing.

Dogs don’t talk much; they do everything via body language, so she makes a point of reading mine. She knows when I’m getting up from my seat, when I’m done with a phone conversation, and a lot of other things about me. Likewise, I can tell a lot by her facial expression and the position of her ears and tail.

Shortly after getting Ms. Pup, I started reading some dog behavior books, including one recommended by my trainer at school. I figure that Ms. Pup has been kind enough to learn to understand some human, so the least I can do is learn a little dog.

Post #: 43/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

For here, or to go? (42/49)

July 26, 2009

Many schools do primarily on-campus guide dog training, and GDF has historically been one of those schools. But recently, they are expanding their services to fit different people’s needs. Someone who takes care of three kids is not going to be able to hop off to Long Island for a month. So now GDF offers three options, depending on the needs of the student. Many students still come to campus for the full 25 days (or slightly fewer for a re-train). A few receive their training entirely at home, over a period of a couple of weeks. And some do what we call combo training, where they spend part of the time on campus and part of the time doing home training. Even someone who has done on-campus training receives follow-up of some sort at home. These options mean that GDF can serve the needs of more students than ever before. I myself am a fan of on-campus training, because I like having the ability to focus entirely on training, but that’s not going to work for everyone, and I realize that. Heck, I have a hard time getting a month off of work myself.

This past fiscal year, 99 guide dog teams graduated from GDF, which may not be much for some of the larger schools, but is a big number for us. So I guess people like having options.

Post #: 42/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Mr. Sulu to the bridge, please. (41/49)

July 26, 2009

For some time, GDF had a really nifty program where graduates were trained to use a device called the Trekker in conjunction with their guide dogs. The Trekker is an accessible GPS system for blind people to help them with navigation. It’s a fairly complex device, but with training, it’s really useful. GDF provided the Trekker and four days of on-campus training for some graduates who had been with their dogs for six months or longer. Needless to say, the Trekker was not cheap, and the waiting list was quite long. I was lucky enough to receive a Trekker, which I named Mr. Sulu, after the navigator on Star Trek. I was trained to use the Trekker together with my dog for effective navigation. It’s an incredible device, really, and it was very helpful, when I remembered everything about how to use it. Unfortunately, mine is currently broken. The Trekker works with a PDA, and the battery hatch on my PDA for it is jammed. Also, the original PDA manufacturer no longer makes PDAs, so later Trekker users are supposed to get a different kind. But the new kind is so buggy when used with the Trekker, that GDF is holding off on training with it anymore until the bugs are worked out. Which may make it difficult for me to get mine working again.

The company that makes the Trekker is now making a simplified device with somewhat less functionality, called the Trekker Breeze. It’s apparently much easier to use, but not as useful a machine. GDF is now conducting a couple of pilot classes to see if the Breeze is a worthwhile device for resuming the training, and they’ll announce their findings in a few months.

Your contributions allow this training to continue, and help blind people navigate even more surely with both a dog and a Trekker.

Post #: 41/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Keep ‘em coming! (40/49)

July 26, 2009

Briiana, a new reader, asks:

So you’ve mentioned distraction techniques a few times now. Would you tell us what they are/what you mean when you mention them?

Sure! A large part of the problem has been me, actually. I see a dog coming, and I tense up, because I’m afraid of Ms. Pup’s reaction to the dog. She notices me tensing up and figures there’s something to be tense about. I also have a bad habit of tightening up the leash, which is counterproductive; the more restricted she feels, the more she’ll fight against it. I have to learn to relax and acdt casual.

If she just notices another dog, that’s okay, but if she reacts to it, tries to interact with it, or otherwise loses focus, I’m to give her a leash correction with a harsh “no”. These don’t hurt (I’ve tried them on my own arm), but they do get the dog’s attention. Putting the dog in a sit-stay if necessary can also help, although if we can casually walk by another dog, that’s preferable. Taking my time and making sure she gets things right, and not progressing until she’s gone through her sit-stay or up-stay properly is really important, because if she thinks she can get away with something, she will. Interestingly, she seems to respond positively to the added discipline and structure.

We’re also restricting her play with other dogs, and having her wear a Gentle Leader every day. The former is supposed to cut down on her automatic association of other dogs = play, and the latter helps me feel and control where her head is moving. Where the head/nose goes, the body tends to follow.

Making sure that our obedience and responses are solid on other commands makes a lot of difference for dog distraction technique too. If she’s responding well to one type of obedience, she’ll respond well to others as well.

This is some of what we’re doing. I hope it explains a bit.

Post #: 40/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.


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