It sure feels good to have a harness handle in my hand again. I had been afraid my skills would be really rusty after a year and a half, but aside from a few times when my hand and foot signals worked faster than my verbal commands, everything came back to me as if I hadn’t taken a break at all.
For those who aren’t guide dog handlers, our pups take a variety of cues from us to figure out what we want from them. They know words like “right” and “left,” but those words are also paired with hand gestures that indicate where we wish to go. We point our feet, and to some extent our heads and bodies, to align with our intended direction of travel as well. It sounds complicated, and it can be hard to put everything together at first. But before long the commands and gestures become second nature. Right after I retired Anlyn, my last guide dog, I found myself giving the “forward” command and the foot cues to my white cane now and then.
Miss Labragirl and I repeated the same short route four times, twice yesterday and twice today, to build our confidence as a new team. Our working styles match up well. She’s very serious and–like me–quite the perfectionist. If she makes a mistake and brushes my arm against a fence once, she’s going to make darn sure she keeps me well away from that fence every time we pass it after that.
At home, my girl is quiet and unobtrusive. It may take a little while for her to relax and get used to me, since she spent a lot longer with her puppy raiser family than most dogs do because of the pandemic. I’m okay with that.
Tomorrow, we’ll do a more complex route with heavier traffic and a stoplight. Then we’ll go to an outdoor shopping center to work inside Target and Petsmart. I think Miss Labragirl and I are up for the challenges.
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader.
As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.
Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her preteen daughter, and their pets.
Please visit https://www.brightsideauthor.com or http://www.facebook.authorjepinto to find out more.