I had a hard time sleeping last night. I tossed and turned for what felt like eons as visions of Labradors danced in my head. It had been no different on the three other life-changing occasions before I met my previous guide dogs. Okay, the first one in 1993 was a golden retriever and not a Labrador, but the anticipation was the same.
When morning finally came, I got ready for the day and made myself a cup of coffee. One of the nice things about in-home training is that it happens in a familiar environment. I didn’t have to settle into a strange dorm room or eat in an unfamiliar cafeteria.
I had just settled down with my coffee to scroll through Facebook on my computer when I heard a knock at my door. My heart jumped like it had been launched out of a sling shot!
I answered the door like a reasonable adult, even though I felt more like a five-year-old at a birthday party. Michelle, my trainer, stood there with the sweetest, most mellow brindle black Labrador I’d ever met.
I’m not at liberty to give out much information about Miss Labragirl right now. Once her puppy raisers have been notified that she’s been placed with me, I’ll post her name and picture. In the meantime, it’s enough to say she’s a rather fluffy-coated fifty-pound black Labby with brown markings on her legs, around her face, and under her chin. She’s very calm and gentle, which is the temperament I’d been hoping for in my next dog. Nothing seems to get her jazzed up, not excited neighborhood kids dropping by or the old man from across the street walking his poodle or the city workmen pulling up out front to fix the leaking water meter.
Once Miss Labragirl and I had greeted each other and I had signed a bit of paperwork for Michelle, we went through a big box of accessories that had come with the pup. I’m telling you, that girl brought along more stuff than Barbie!
In addition to the usual harness and leash, bag of food, fleece bed, and treat pouch, there was a grooming kit with a rubber Zoom Groom, a slicker brush, a bottle of ear cleaner, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. There were two kinds of high value treats for use in training, two different clickers to choose from, a large Kong, a Nylabone, a tug toy made from three rubber rings, heartworm and flea prevention meds, dog booties, and also a flashing light beacon to clip on the harness and a black and yellow windbreaker with the Guide Dogs for the Blind logo and reflective tape to wear at night for keeping visible.
When the box was empty and Miss Labragirl had her breakfast, Michelle left us for the day. We’ve just been chilling and getting acquainted. The real training will start tomorrow with a walk to the old elementary school where my daughter and I both used to go. I chose that route because I could probably follow it in my sleep, I did it so many times, first when I was a kid and then picking up my daughter every afternoon for years. I figure it will be good to start my dog out on a route I’m familiar with.
The other nice thing about in-home training is it takes up a lot less time. We’ll do one route at nine in the morning, have an hour break, do another one about mid-morning, and then be finished for the day.
Miss Labragirl is sacked out in her crate. I think I might follow her example and steal half an hour on the couch before I check my daughter’s bags one last time. She’s heading off on a seven-day canoe trip with the Scouts tomorrow morning.
About the Author
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 and is a contributor of The Writer’s Grapevine Magazine where more such articles as this may be found.
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.
Her website is: http://www.brightsideauthor.com.