Going to school to get a guide dog is sort of like boot camp, not that I’ve ever been to boot camp. You get up at 6 am, you take your dog out, and you have breakfast. At 8 you start morning training, which often involves getting on the bus and going somewhere to work with your dog. When you’re not out with the dog and the trainer, you’re on the bus, bonding with the dog (and your fellow students). There are up to a dozen students on each class, but sometimes fewer. You’re out there working in all kinds of crazy weather, because when you go home, you will be out there working in all kinds of crazy weather. Everyone hops on the bus and goes back to campus for lunch around noon. The afternoon has more training, usually off-campus, and then you’re back at the Foundation by 4:30 to feed, water and break your dog. Dinner’s shortly thereafter, and then lecture is at 6:00. Sometimes it’s a lecture; sometimes it’s a demonstration. Some demonstrations (like how to handle various types of restaurant seating) involve your dog, but for some (leash and harness corrections), it’s better to leave the dog on tie-down in your room. At 8:30, you take your dog out for one last break, and then you hang out until you decide to go to bed. This varies slightly on weekends, in that there is no afternoon training or lecture on Saturdays or Sundays. But you’re still up at 6 to train in the morning.
A month of this is exhausting and emotionally draining. I love going to GDF, for the camraderie, the fact that for a few weeks I don’t have to burn energy trying to live in a sighted world, the fact that I don’t have to figure out meals or anything like that. But by week 3 of school, everyone is hypersensitive, and there can be a lot of infighting and such. I bet that happens at every guide dog school. It’s still an incredible experience, and I’m glad to have had it.