Today we met the District Client Representative (DCR) for the Edinburgh guide dog team. His guide dog is the brother of Magic the Blue Peter puppy. We had a good chat about his role and the role of our representative in the north east. The DCRs are there if a guide dog owner (GDO) has any difficulties and they can signpost them or take up issues on their behalf.
We also had a good chat about technology and I got to have a look at his Kapten which is a GPS device for VI people. The other GPS device is a Trekker Breeze. I think we are planning to compare the two in a session next week. I am quite interested for when Graham, my husband, and I go to new places. He has no sense of direction and I find trying to use Google maps and work a dog difficult.
In the afternoon we took the train to Waverley and walked around the city centre which was much busier. Annie walked me in to someone and I flicked her harness and told her to pay attention and she was more cautious after that. She was fab on the train and just laid down. I even managed a sneaky take-away latte on the return journey.
I was so caught up talking about Rock Choir on Wednesday I forgot to mention free running. A free run is where the dogs get a chance to be a dog, play, sniff, chase and sometimes roll in horrible stuff. We have done two free runs so far.
The first was on Wednesday with another dog Commando. Commando’s owner is blogging on the Guide Dogs website and I will post the link when it goes live.
We first had to get the dogs to walk nicely on the lead up to the field and then we did some obedience before we let them off. When they were given the command ‘Go and play!’ Commando and Annie started to play chase. Annie is very fast and kept over taking him but Commando kept giving it his all. He then decided that the quite fancied the golden retriever which was also running in the field and decided to go after her. The dogs have bells on when they free run and it is lovely to hear the tinkling and the thud, thud, thud of their feet and the sound of the grass moving.
Today we took Annie to the beach and she had a free run. I found that she can dig deep holes very quickly. There was a man with a remote control plane and Annie was following it round and round. She was brilliant at her recall and once I poured half the beach out of my shoes we came back to the hotel.
Tactile paving is very useful for visually impaired people. At the moment I am doing unfamiliar routes during training and therefore I have to feel the tactile paving to know there is a crossing. Once I have felt the bobbles I can start saying to Annie ‘Find the crossing’ if it looks like she is going to overshoot it. It also gives me an awareness that we are approaching a kerb and I can encourage her. Apart from familiar landmarks the only other thing that can indicate there is a kerb coming up is the end of the building line where the light changes from darker to brighter. Some of the tactile paving in Newcastle is metal bobbles and I find these can be quite treacherous in winter when it is icy or when we have had wet weather.