While Wella’s nap continues, I make a FaceTime call to my husband (Steve) and son (Jordan) to catch up on the day’s events and introduce them to my traveling companion and our newest family member. Wella wakes up and stretches during our conversation. I can tell they’re happy for me, but so wish my phone’s camera could do her adorable personality justice. We hang up, so I can FaceTime Lindsey for her to meet Wella as well.
Larissa returns to my room around 4:30, to ensure I keep Wella on her feeding and relieving schedule. She watches me measure kibble for accuracy and to ensure I add the appropriate temperature and amount of warm water to her food to aid in Wella’s digestion.
We step outside, past the patio to the relief area, where she talks me through the process of relieving my dog: lengthening the leash; walking Wella in a circle around me to my right and telling her to do her business. When she stops, I calmly and carefully place my hand on her back to determine if it’s angled or arched.
An angled back indicates urination, so I do nothing. If the dog’s back is arched, I cautiously point my left toes toward her bum, wait for her to finish and start to walk again. I then command her to “sit” a few steps away. Carefully following the direction of my left foot, I then approach the evidence with a “bagged” hand, and scoop it up. There is a bag receptacle on the far side of the planter separating my patio from my neighbor’s to the left. Relief areas are hosed down and sanitized by staff after each relieving session.
Each dog accompanies its handler to the dining room for meals. For now (because we are not proficient as teams in harness) each dog walks on a short leash at its handler’s left side, in the “heel” position. Because the GDB facilities house clients who can’t see, there are no obstacles or protruding objects as a general rule, so it’s safe for us to move around the dormitory in this fashion.
To foster a sense of reliance within each guide dog team, we are instructed not to interact with one another’s dogs, and the dogs are not to interact with each other. Likewise, staff is discouraged from interacting with the dogs. The instructors interact directly with the animals only when absolutely necessary. For the most part, they instruct us on what commands, rewards or corrections to give in specific situations to elicit the response we desire from our new partners.
With the oiled leather braid of her leash in my left hand and feeling the occasional brush of her soft, shiny black coat against my corresponding leg, Wella and I escape to our patio after dinner. There we meet Carrie, the afternoon nurse, who has agreed to use my phone to take Wella’s and my first picture together. Carrie moves a chair, allowing me to sit in front of the planter, providing a background of orange flowers in tasteful contrast with my purple shirt. Wella lays at my feet. I post the pic to Facebook with the caption: “Everybody, meet Wella: 54-1/2 lb., 21” tall.”
After our photoshoot and an enjoyable conversation with Carrie, we retreat to our room. I review the reading assignment via MP3, as I sit beside Wella on the floor, winding down by stroking her belly and back. It’s been a wonderful, eventful day for which I’m most grateful. I suspect we’ll both sleep well tonight.
Copyright (C) 2015 Donna Mack Anderson. All rights reserved.