Operator error

Follies and fortunes with Honey

The follies and fortunes of owning a mixed breed dog have been part of our co-existence for three years now. It was of course my foolishness that requested a “hypo-allergenic” dog as a guide dog companion. Having no previous experience with either a poodle, or a golden retriever should have been a warning signal. Choosing this breed mix was a new challenge altogether. The misfortune of owning such a hyper energetic dog is that I do not run marathons for a living. Frisbee has become our mode of energy draining!

In this day and age of technology driven work and social lives this is one sign that we hope not to see. However in-frequently it’s message interrupts our screen this message clearly points fault. Today while blind guide training my dog the message spoke loud and clear. Operator Error was flashing a message loud and clear. Let me explain myself.

For the past month Honey and I have been training independently on guide dog behavior. Most days we work together-that’s a joke. The independence that I mention is without the aid of a certified guide dog therapist or trainer. Together, I have learned that she still backs away whenever the harness comes out. High value treats help some. Together, we have been learning the words or commands associated with the use of the harness. Together, we are learning some completely new skills.

HOWEVER

Yeah, you knew that one was coming. Because of her her hyper energy and sensitive nature, communication between the operator and the wearer has been rather botched. For starters, we have had three years without the use of the tool. The harness acquired less than a month ago is new to Honey. Most guide dogs get the harness fitted at full growth spurt completed. Approximately one and a half years.

Day One had my sensitive hyper bee jumping kangaroo style every time the handle found contact with anything. She has always gotten more agitated every time we get ready to go somewhere. We would try to put her in a stay mode, and it never worked. The more I move around, the more she moves around. Getting ready to go anywhere, meant there is a sixty pound banana following you. We were sure to run into her frequently in the search for shoes, coat, hat, purse, backpack or anything else needed for the “going.” Needless to say, it has taken her three weeks to learn STATUE. Learning that the harness handle bumps into chairs, doors, walls or other items if she does not stand still, took a little bit of patience. So week three has arrived and Honey now stands still in statue after the harness is on. Yep, she’s smart. (Three weeks seemed like a long time to me.)

Okay, next lesson.

With the harness on our roles are completely reversed. She is no longer a sixty pound banana behind me. Now, I am the drag weight in the tractor pull. Wherever she goes, I follow. This is hard to do. TRUST. That’s not very easy to do when this jumping jelly bean has broken my nose in the past. Her excitement has to be toned down somehow. So the other day while going for a walk, I actually followed her. Into the ditch we trailed the scent she had just discovered. However, because free-time is not while she is on the harness, it did the kangaroo hop that she does when she is excited and does not know what is next. “Oh, no, where are we? What are we doing here? What happened to the road we were walking on? Why do feel like sliding down a slippery slope into the abyss? Where’s the road? Where is my walk?” It worked. She got us back on the road and towing the white line on the edge.

On to the blind guide training and the operator erro. So today we took the harness for a five minute waltz. Just the the green house and a few other frequented places on the acreage. At first I said, “Go to…”. Each time I began with that phrasing she turned to go for a walk. Ergh. My frustration was setting in. Doing this trust thing is not going very well, I told myself. Try again. “Find…”. YAY! We have success.

Finding OUR way

Find is her favorite game. We have spend many rainy days playing find tug, or find car, or find ball, or find cookie. I show her the toy we are using, ask her to sit-stay or place. Then I go throughout the house pretending to hide the item until I choose a spot. Sometimes I continue pretend for more than the actual placing of said object. Then I return to Honey and praise her for stay and say FIND.

So, operator error flashing, I began to ask my harnessed guide dog to “find” various places around the acreage. Wahlah! We had success. Apparently GO means a walk, or the car, or go with. Communication to a dog has always been a challenge for this family. We had a little dog for ten years that refused to COME. But if you said “Go” follwed by your own name, he came right to you. Somehow in the training years come meant bad things to the little furball. I hope it does not take me ten years to figure out this girl.

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