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Adjusting to a new era


Yesterday Adam retired Lenny (Leonard) his guide dog of eight years. I have to say this man inspires me as usual. He has this sort of Spock logic which can be astounding. I am the illogical one at times when it comes to all things emotional like giving up a pet but the whole thing is Lenny was not my pet.

Lenny was a very special kind of dog. His love of work never faded and he is still full of life but Adam wanted to do the right thing for Lenny and for Guide dogs so he decide he was ready to retire Lenny because frankly he wasn’t working him. He tried to give him back to Guide dogs about two years ago but someone told Adam Lenny was too old to retrain. Since neither one of us are working at the moment we can’t afford the medications that Lenny is on due to irritable bowel syndrome that he was diagnosed with not long after he turned 2 but Guide dogs helped with reimbursing us the cost of the medicines.

Another circumstance that affected Adam’s decision was the fact that Lenny was dog distracted. It didn’t matter if he was in or out of harness. If Lenny saw a dog, “George Bush” (He had to get them before they got him) came out in him. He had to show that he was the dominant one so that the other dog would be intimidated. Grady, the bane of Adam’s life, was also vying to be the dominant dog but Lenny always held his own. It was Mitch our eldest Labrador who acquiesced to other dogs.  He has gotten stitched in his ear from Grady but for the most part our pack was tight.

I didn’t want Lenny to go but I know in the long run it was the best decision for all of us. The house is certainly quieter. Adam got to sleep in to 6:30 this morning. Lenny would always want to be up at 5:30. The stress of walking the dogs and keeping an eye out for other dogs was pretty tolling on my nerves. I am pretty certain that I can let Mitch and Grady go at the beach and everything will be okay except when Mitch gets wanderlust in him.  Mitch is going to be 12 in July and getting arthritic but let him free run and you wouldn’t have any idea about his problems.

Lenny will be 10 in December but he still has lots of life in him. We want him to find a great home and are pretty certain he will get what we want for him. He is well loved in Glossodia (The Guide Dog Centre in NSW). I know everything will be ok for Lenny because he is very lovable and energetic. He is a great head thrust-er. He knows how to get attention but he could also be a tad clingy. He always had to be near you.

We had a good chat about Lenny with the instructor who picked him up in Coffs Harbour. She reassured us that everything would be fine and she would let the new owners know we would like to stay in contact. She also saw Lenny’s progression from puppy to trainee to full fledged guide dog. She has helped Adam and Lenny in their work together.

I feel very privileged to have seen for myself the potential of partnership between a guide dog user and guide dog. I have seen them grow and know what a wonderful team they became. It was sad letting go of Lenny for me but I can’t ever phantom how strong Adam has been about letting go. I guess its his Spock logic that comes through so strongly. I hope one day after I get my degree to go on to become an orientation and mobility specialist and perhaps even become a guide dog instructor.

Some people can’t let go of the past but Adam truly knows when to let go and when to hold on. His vision on what he wants in a partnership whether it be canine or human is breathtakingly extraordinary. Words can’t quite express the emotions coursing through me. I feel inadequate in translating this into words but I had to attempt to do it.

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Life Is A Rollercoaster


Today Adam and I first took Mitch out for a walk today to scout for dogs. Grady was going to get to go too but he decided to get narky with Mitch resulting in him being left home with Lenny. We did a reverse route that we did with Lenny the other day. There were going to be dogs for us to follow-up on what we learned. It was good to know that for when we wanted to work with Lenny which we did once I returned Mitch to the back yard. I got Lenny on lead and handed him over to Adam to get ready for his walk.

I find at times when I try to put into practice what I learn from observation I often wish I had taken notes instead of relying on my memory. I had recorded the session with Doug but after listening to it, it wasn’t as clear as we wanted because it had been drizzly so my raincoat and foot steps pretty much drowned out the sound of Doug’s voice.

We decided to go ahead today to work Lenny. All was going well. We found two little dogs behind their fence but the owner came out all apologies for the behavior of his dogs. I explained to him that it was fine. We wanted that sort of behavior to work on Lenny’s problem. The owner continued to chastise the dogs. Adam and I pushed on. We took a left onto the next street. I could see a beagle further down the road. I told Adam about it. We continued on with me giving him prompts. When we needed to make another left, the beagle and two other dogs came after Lenny who was of course, quite tense. I was trying to block Lenny’s vision when the second dog came up behind Lenny. Finally the owner came out calling for his dogs to come back.  Everything was a bit hazy for me to recall clearly since I am trying to monitor Adam, Lenny, and the other dogs. I know the owner had to come forward to get the other dog because he was lunging towards Lenny whose fur was all hackles and had completely tried to turn around in harness. I felt out of my depths but we persevered. As soon as I knew we were safe enough from the dogs for Adam to get Lenny refocused on him. Adam then gave him a nice scratch to get rid of the energy he had from the encounter. I knew we were going to encounter at least 3 more dogs behind fences. The next dog we encountered, Lenny was a tad distracted. Dogs were barking all around us. Every time Lenny would look to Adam, I would have Adam stop to reward him for the behavior.  The next house we would pass had two retrievers in it. I was hoping we’d get to walk past but of course, the owner came out because of the ruckus the dogs were making, looked down the street where we were walking up from, and instructed her dogs back into the house. We were a tad disappointed but we persevered. Over all, I think the walk was pretty successful. I am still a tad unsure but I think with practice we’ll become a well oiled machine.

Life is a roller coaster in more than one way. I think it’s the way that we handle the ups and downs that help define who we are. I can see this metaphor in action with the working relationship between Adam and Lenny. I also see it in my life in general. The walk with Lenny felt like a roller coaster. Roller coasters can be fun and scary all at the same time. A lot like life which is why I love this song so much. Enjoy!

Empowerment Through A Little Thing


To say I am floating on cloud 9 is a bit of an understatement. I really can’t go into a lot of details about this but I am really pleased with something that I got to experience with Adam, Lenny, and Guide Dog Instructor Doug Ritchie. In previous posts I have tried to convey how frustrated I have been with Lenny’s dog distraction. I felt pretty inept about trying to help both my hubby and his guide dog in these sorts of situations. Today though, I feel so empowered. It wasn’t anything earth shattering but Doug gave me some great tools to help my hubby and Lenny work together better as a team. It’s still a long road ahead for them. I am sure though if we all work as a team that we will be victorious. 

You can learn so much sometimes just through the power of observation. It was terrific getting feedback from an expert. We aren’t sure if this will cure Lenny with his dog distraction but I feel better equipped when we come across the situation. I am sure that Adam in time will also feel more in control of the situation as we all use techniques that were shown to us.

We won’t be able to walk all the dogs together because it will make another dynamic for Lenny. Until we have a better idea of how to help Lenny and ourselves cope with the dogs, Mitch and Grady will have to be walked separately. I am also toying with the idea of trying some of the techniques on our own pets for behaviours that I want to instill in them. I think I will get more fit from all the walking we will be doing which is a great added bonus. It’s going to be very interesting.

I always think to myself that sometimes it’s the little things that makes me the most happy. Today it was a little thing that made me feel empowered. I hope that you will find a little something that will empower you as well.

I will keep you updated through the blog about the dog distraction results as we progress.

Mitch trialing a water harness with Adam at Hyams Beach

Lenny, Adam’s Guide Dog


Lenny relaxing in the kitchen in Werrington
This blog will express my opinions on Lenny, Adam’s guide dog because that is all I can do. I can speculate on Adam’s feelings but this blog is going to reflect my take on the relationship that I see developing between Adam and his dog. I also have an effect on the relationship but I try to minimize myself as much as I can but for me it’s sort of hard to do because I love them both so very much.

In my blog about Mitch, I credit him for Adam’s change of heart with the attitude about him getting his own guide dog. My approach to animals and Adam’s approach are two different things. I am much more a feelly touchy sort of person where Adam can be affectionate but he can also be a lot more detached. I am the one who is on the ground loving the big slobbery licks that dogs give so freely. Adam is just not that sort of person. He doesn’t like being licked by anything or anyone.

Adam’s decision to get a guide dog was not taken lightly. He isn’t the sort of fellow who does things by the seat of his pants for the most part. He likes order much more than I do. He contacted Guide Dogs NSW in 2007. He was assessed. I got to observe the whole process when the Guide Dog Trainer came out. It was quite funny seeing Adam interacting with the trainer taking him for a walk with a dog harness up to Werrington station pretending to be a dog (the trainer) while Adam was the handler. The trainer told Adam that they would be in contact once they found a suitable dog for him. Later on I think it was in July, Adam was contacted that a dog was found for him. The dog then ended up injurying itself before they were matched so Adam was back on the waiting list. In October or September we drove out to Glossodia for the Guide Dog Open Day, it was then that we got a glimpse at a dog that they hoped would be matched with Adam. In November, Adam went to Richmond to train with Rinni, the guide dog chosen for him. They were together for training in Richmond for 3 weeks. I drove to visit because Richmond wasn’t that far from Werrington where we lived. I was told not to give too much eye contact or attention to Rinni. After the 3 weeks intense training that the pair received, they came to our house. For another 3 weeks, Adam and Rinni did training to get to work and other places that Adam needed to get to. I observed what happened. Adam was getting up ridiculously early to try to toilet Rinni so that they would get to his work on time. Rinni was a stubborn dog. He could also be mean to Mitch. We were not allowed to let the two dogs interact alone in case Rinni got hurt during free runs. I wasn’t sure why they thought Rinni would get hurt when Rinni was the one holding down Mitch making him cry during the free runs.The day Rinni was to graduate and become Adam’s guide dog, Rinni was his stubborn self, he pooed in harness in the middle of Central Station not indicating that he need to go after Adam had tried leash relieving him for half an hour before they went into the station. At this point, Adam was very frustrated. He expressed his frustration to the trainer. He thought that having a guide dog was supposed to offer a sense of freedom not chain him down in unrealistic tolieting behaviors that made him have to get up two hours earlier just to try to get the dog to poo in hopes that Adam could make it to the train station or work without the dog doing it in harness. Adam told the trainer it was unacceptable and he’d rather not have a guide dog if that was the case for him. He was better off with the cane. Guide dogs reassured Adam they would make it right so Christmas 2007 it was just Adam, me, and Mitch.

Fast forward to July 2008, Adam and I just returned from our trip to Vanuatu. There was another guide dog that was trained especially for Adam by one of the trainers who had witnessed all the work Adam had done with Rinni. Adam and I both were skeptical about this dog but the man who trained Leonard tailored him for Adam. When we met Leonard, We knew it might work because within 5 minutes of introducing Lenny to Mitch, the trainer left the two to play in the backyard while he returned to his car to get more things.

Lenny is such a joy compared to Rinni. He is very eager to please. He loves working with Adam. Adam can even touch Lenny while leash relieving him to try to figure out which thing Lenny is doing. If Adam tried to do that with Rinni, Rinni would refuse to go about what he was doing. Lenny is excited when he sees Adam go to the hall stand to get the lead as well as the harness. He even tries to help put the harness on himself.

One of the nicest things with Lenny was that they trained at home. I got to go with them every time they went out to train. I would observe the lessons absorbing as much as I could to try to aid Lenny and Adam’s partnership. The trainers were forever telling Adam to praise Lenny vocally. It was wonderful watching the two of them bond as well as Mitch and Lenny bond.

Lenny trialing a water harness with Adam at Hyams Beach

Lenny trialing a water harness with Adam at Hyams Beach

I have to tell myself not to make too much eye contact with Lenny or love on him too much because I don’t want to interfere with their working relationship. I often wonder if I have infected my love into Lenny. I see how Lenny reacts when he sees me coming towards them when I am picking them up some place or meeting up with them in town. It’s a real chore for Adam to get Lenny back on task if I have shown up or he has to leave me.
I will not pet Lenny while in harness for the most part. I admit when no one is looking, I have slipped which I mustn’t do but it’s only when he’s in the boot of the jeep or we are at home.

It wasn’t long after Adam and Lenny bonded we discovered that Lenny had irritable bowel syndrome. He just could not put on weight. Guide Dogs helped Adam with the medication that Lenny needs. He has to eat special food which all of our dogs eat. We thought he might have to be retired but it was not the case. Lenny is medicated for life but he is an eager helper for Adam always full of love and ready to go for walks whether it be in harness or out of harness.

CloseupAdamandboys In this picture, you can’t tell that Adam is blind. He just looks like a man walking two labs down Mullaway beach. Mitch is on the right and Lenny on the left. Guide dogs always are on the left.

Lenny is dog distracted when working at times. It stems back to when he was attacked by a stray dog. Adam says he has “Bush Syndrome”. He has to get in first before the other dog tries to attack. Guide dogs has worked with them but it’s still not quite resolved. Lenny has had clicker training. One guide dog instructor was about to teach the method to Adam but she had to go down to Sydney to help with training other dogs because NSW is short on instructors. Maybe one day, it will all be worked out.

I am really glad that Adam made the decision to get a guide dog. I love Lenny but know he’s Adam’s dog. I will play with him but think of him strictly as Adam’s dog. I do shower him with affection but try to encourage him to seek Adam out. Mitch and Grady gets heaps of loving from me. I feel sort of bad for Lenny when he comes up wanting me to love on him too. I do a little bit but not to the extent that I do with the other two.

It’s wonderful watching Grady and Mitch get excited when they see them coming down the road and up the deck to the front door. They are a happy pack. I am really blessed to see the bond develop between Mitch, Lenny, Grady, Adam, and myself.

Mitch is our dog, Lenny is Adam’s dog, and Grady is my dog. I like to think of Lenny being partly owned by me but that’s not really realistic. He is part of my family unit though. Adam only tolerates Grady because I wanted him. Mitch though, is our dog together. Lenny is definitely Adam’s guide dog. He helps my man go places. It’s a privilege to watch them grow in their working relationship. I am glad to be a part of this wonderful relationship. I am happy to teach them new places. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I do something like that. If I can help those two work together without getting Guide Dogs in, I think I have helped. We do call Guide Dogs if I am not sure of a route but for the most part, I can do just as well as a guide dog instructor.

Adam is a great cane user. His independence is remarkable. His speed with Lenny is awesome. I practically feel like I am jogging to keep up when they know where they are going or I have to catch up with them. Lenny’s trainers did great work for Adam. They really selected a wonderful dog who helps Adam with his mobility.

It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good man or dog down for long! Thanks for stopping by and reading! Have a great day!