Good morning, I hope this post finds you all doing super well.
Here, Blue and I are readying to go out on a training trip. For Blue this means taking a quick nap in his crate before we head out. For me, it means writing a bit. Writing is something which has gone onto the back burner a bit due to our heavy schedule. This morning however, I’ve a little time so I thought I’d share a bit with you.
Today, our training trip consists of country work. But rather than my trying to tell you what that means I’d like to show you. To do this I’m sharing an excerpt from my latest release, Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book One How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life.
I’m not sure how Walt my instructor will teach or how Blue will handle country work, but the following piece will give you an idea of what is about to take place.
Be sure to keep reading after the excerpt ends for information on how to pick up a copy of this and all my other work on sale.
Thanks in advance for reading.
Book cover image description: A garden with rocks and pebbles, surrounded by grass and trees. To the left, a bench sits below a tree with a seated dog silhouetted on the grass in front of it. An ethereal glow of gold and green shines through the middle of the picture with the title of the book written in fantasy style lettering in darker gold and with black shadowing.
In this, the first book in her memoir trilogy, Pathway to Freedom – Broken and Healed: Book One – How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, Patty shares how her decision to gain complete independence with the help of ‘The Seeing Eye Guide Dog’ school in Morristown, New Jersey, reveals to her a glimpse into worlds she had never before known existed.
Dancing Down the Street…
The next part of training I had to complete was country work. When doing country work, you’re walking in an area where there are no sidewalks. Your dog must keep you safe at the edge of the road, and you must check from time to time with either your foot or your cane to see if you’re where you need to be. If not, you must give your dog the right commands and hand signals to make the dog take you back to the edge of the road, out of the way of traffic. I hated this kind of work the worst of all. I found it to be exhausting and very nerve-wracking. But I knew I had to learn it. So, like it or not, learn it, I would.
One morning as I sat in the dining room finishing my coffee, Drew parked himself in a chair at the end of the table.
“Almost time for the first trip. You ought to hurry if you want a smoke before we head out.”
“I don’t see why I have to do this part at all. I already told you all the places I go to have sidewalks.” I lamented in a wheedling voice.
“Listen,” Drew said firmly. “I know you think you’re unlikely to run into the kind of situation where country work will be required, but I’m here to tell you, you’re most likely very wrong.”
“But, where I…”
Drew took my arm and shook it to get my attention. “Look, Patty, I’ve been training people to work dogs for going on thirty years. I know darn well what I’m talking about. I know, for you, this part of training is nerve-wracking, I know you don’t like it, but it is not negotiable. If you want that dog lying there at your feet to go home with you, you’ll put down that coffee cup, pick up that harness, go down to your room, finish getting ready, and meet me out front in fifteen minutes. End of discussion. Are we clear?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered grumpily.
“Good. Now let’s not have any more arguing. Sometimes the things we find the hardest to learn will, in the end, serve us the most.”
When I came out into the parking lot, I found Drew waiting on me. “Glad to see you decided to show,” He said.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t?” I asked incredulously. “I don’t like doing this, but I love, want, and need Campbell, so of course I showed. Besides, you’d have half killed me if I hadn’t.”
Drew chuckled. “Come here, and let’s get your reflector vest on.”
I walked over. “How come a reflector vest? We’ve not been wearing these.”
“In this training setting, since there aren’t sidewalks separating you from the cars, it’s best to take this extra precaution. I still hope you’ll order one before you go home. I know you’ve traveled a lot in your neighbourhood, but the way life is about to change for you, believe it or not, you’re going to walk more by yourself, go more places, and you just might find your old instructor knows a thing or two about what you’ll need.”
I smiled. “Well, old wise one, I’ll take it under advisement.”
“Hey. Watch that.”
“Well, you said it. I’m just trying to be agreeable. You told me no more arguing.”
Drew laughed as he helped me buckle into the vest. Then he took my hand and said, “I’m sorry I came down on you so harshly in the dining room, but this really is necessary. You cannot possibly know what you might encounter. I mean it when I say you’ll be doing more on your own. I promise you, once you get the hang of working this dog and realize what the two of you are capable of, you’re going to find, whether your Donnie wants to go with you or not, you’re going to get out amongst the masses, and go faster and further than you ever dreamed possible.”
Once again, I found myself wishing I could tell Drew the truth about Donnie and me. I wanted more than anything to ask his advice, but I was so frightened he’d decide Campbell shouldn’t go home with me, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
When we arrived in the residential area where I was to train, we got out of the van, and Campbell immediately took note of his surroundings. At first, no matter what I did, all he wanted to do was scent the air and check out the grass along the edge of the road. Finally, in exasperation, I gave the leash a slight snap and commanded in a firm voice. “Campbell! Leave it! Enough!”
“Very nice,” Drew praised. “I was wondering when you were going to start making a believer out of him.”
“Remember the other day when I ran into that blasted parking meter?” I smiled.
“Yes.” He laughed. “Indeed, I do.”
“Well, I’m glad you think it’s funny, old wise one. I didn’t, and I decided right then, this dog would not only know when I was pleased with him but also when I wasn’t.”
“Good girl,” Drew declared. “That’s the spirit. Now, let’s get to this lesson. We’ve got a lecture this morning, and we can’t be late.”
“A lecture?” I demanded dramatically. “In the middle of the day? What fuckery is this?”
“Young Lady! Such language,” Drew corrected sarcastically.
“Oh seriously,” I scoffed. “I’ve heard you talking with your instructor pals. It’s not the first time you’ve heard a variation of that word.”
He swatted me playfully on the arm and commanded, “Hup! Hup! Let’s get going. As you start forward, there’s a ditch on your left. The object here is to walk at the edge of the road out of the way of traffic without getting too close to the ditch.”
“Oh, wonderful! Get run over or fall into a ditch that’s most likely full of water.”
“It’s a drainage ditch.”
“Lovely!” I exclaimed.
“Okay, as you walk, every few steps you want to suggest left and then check with your cane to make certain he’s got you at the edge. Since he’s walking alongside you at your left, you also want to be careful you don’t shove him in. Give it a try.”
As Campbell and I started out, I immediately found he didn’t like the cane. Whenever I brought it across in front of us to check where we were, he would back up or simply sit down.
After a moment, Drew instructed, “Okay. Stop for a minute. He’s obviously uncomfortable with the cane coming right across in front of him so close. Let’s have you use your foot to check your progress.”
Facing him, I asked, “How does that work? I mean, I’m walking along here, and every few steps I’m suggesting left with a hand signal and slight turn of my body at the waist, so I already feel like I’m dancing down the street, and now you want me to check with my foot?”
Drew laughed. “That’s a pretty good analogy. Rather than crossing your cane in front of you to check, every few steps, you’ll reach your right foot across, in front of your body, to judge how close you are to the edge. Once you get the rhythm, you’ll be able to do it with no problem.”
“If you say so,” I reluctantly agreed. “Okay. Campbell, forward.”.
While Drew had been explaining the new dance step, Campbell had taken it upon himself to thoroughly investigate the edge of the ditch. Already feeling nervous enough, I wanted no part of his sniffing while I tried to get us coordinated. But I needn’t have worried. Campbell took to this new way much better, and soon we were making good progress. Before I knew it, we’d traversed the block and were back at the van where we started.
“Fabulous job!” Drew praised as he walked up. “And here I thought you said you’d never figure this out. Do I maybe have you mixed up with some other redneck from Tennessee?”
“Thanks, Yankee.” I sighed with relief. “I really didn’t feel comfortable with all this, but I suppose it wasn’t as hard as I imagined.”
“Well, I’ve noted your imagination is at times bigger than your reality.”
I started to protest, but he continued quickly, “That’s the case for almost everyone, including your instructor, but let’s keep that just between the two of us.”
“Three of us.”
“Huh?” he asked.
“Campbell, you, and me.”
“Oh!” He laughed. “I don’t think Campbell’s talking.”
Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.
Currently Patty’s books are all on sale until July 31, 2021. Pick up your copies today at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/PattyFletcher