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Day 1 of Guide Dog Training

Day 1 of Guide Dog Training

What. A. Day. I don’t think I’ve had a day where I have experienced so many emotions in such a short period of time. I’ll start at the beginning.

I had a sleepless night; I was anxious about the day ahead. I couldn’t really put my finger on why my belly was churning and my chest was tight and painful. I tried to do some deep breathing, put on The Simpsons and sleep the best I could knowing that today was going to be a big day.

Not only was I meeting my Guide Dog Lacey for the first time, we were also capturing the moment on film for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. Before I got to meet Lacey we did a bit of filming but all I could think about was when she was going to get to my home and if she could hurry up before I wet myself from excitement and nerves.

As time drew closer to her arrival, I started feeling a little more nervous and the anxiety creeped in. It still felt surreal and the enormity of the situation wasn’t really sinking in. I had thought about this day for a while and now that it was upon me, my emotions had increased to overdrive. While I was waiting for Lacey to be brought into my house (ever so slowly might I add) , the anticipation was almost unbearable. I fidgeted and kept looking out the glass doors for a sign of movement that she was here. I just wanted to meet her already!!

When she walked in the room I unexpectedly starting getting watery eyes. The first thought that went through my head was “OMG she is a beautiful Guide Dog” and then, “OMG I am actually legally blind”. It hit me. I felt drawn to Lacey and so scared at the same time. Luckily, when her big brown eyes caught my eyes and her golden floppy ears came into my peripheral vision, I instantly relaxed and wanted to roll on the carpet with her. She is seriously a stunning creature and knowing that she was going to make such an impact on my life made the water start trickling out of my eyes.

I think she liked me too. The team let me have some time to bond with her and give her pats and cuddles. She was so gentle and I could tell she was a loving and loyal dog. By this stage I was so relieved to have finally met her and I hadn’t thought about what I needed to do next to take care of her.

Basically day one of training was about bonding and making sure Lacey was conformable. I learnt her routine of toileting and feeding; she needs to be toileted when we wake up, before bed and every 3-4 hours inbetween. Her “bathroom” is a patch of grass in my front yard. When I take her to this spot, I need to change her lead length and then use the command ‘quick quicks’ which tells her it’s time to do her business. I then walk her around in a circle as she sniffs to find the perfect spot. When she relieves herself, I run my hand down her spine to tell whether she is doing a wee or poop. If her spine is flat, she is doing a wee, if her spine is curved, a poop which I need to locate and pick up.

Image: Lacey posing for the camera.
Image: Lacey posing for the camera.

Lacey gets fed once a day in the afternoon and she gobbled the whole bowl of food within 30 seconds! She also gets treats throughout the day to reinforce her training and behaviours. There are so many intricate details to a Guide Dog that I was never aware of. For example, when you are going down a flight of stairs, she needs to stop at the top of each and pause (to get to her bathroom we have three flights!). When we go up stairs she stops on the first stair with her two paws and pauses, to let me know there are stairs. She ‘sits’ before we enter the house and pauses before we exit. There was so much to think about! But once I got into the routine it started happening naturally for both me and Lacey. Her muscle memory is about a thousand times better than mine!

The other key part of today was letting my family know what is expected of them. The most important thing for my family was to make sure they get into a habit of not commanding Lacey, as that is up to me. They are allowed to pat her and cuddle but just can’t tell her to “sit” etc. I have quite a large family and Lacey enjoyed meeting every person. She seemed to take more to the males of the house (naughty naughty) and really bonded with my brothers. It was a relief to know that she felt comfortable with my whole crazy family!

Lacey was also lucky enough to meet my numerous cats (yes I am a crazy cat lady). It was interesting to watch them interact and luckily we didn’t have any clawing incidents. The smallest of my cats followed Lacey around the whole day and they all took turns sleeping on her bed!

Since Lacey arrived, she hasn’t left my side except for when I had to shower. I got her to sit in with my brother in the next room and I could hear her crying through the wall! I yelled out to her and my brother informed me that once she heard my voice she got excited and her tail started wagging. I guess that means we are successfully bonding!

Image: Lacey fast asleep on the floor after an exhausting day.
Image: Lacey fast asleep on the floor after an exhausting day.

She is currently sleeping on the rug next to me (she is exhausted). For the first few nights she is tethered so she doesn’t wander around the house, chase the cats and eat their food. She looks incredibly comfortable I don’t think she will wake up until the morning! She also has her fan club of cats sitting around her also sleeping. I am so relieved that she is comfortable and that the animal harmony is continuing.

Bring on Day 2!

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