By Ann Chiappetta
This post is a follow up to the last post I made called Hard Decision. Let me say right now that I feel immensely blessed to have the dog guide handler community beside me while I experience this transition. Only handlers know what other handlers go through and I have so many wonderfully empathetic folks ready to support me – it really is amazing and humbling.
This post is about the little things, the things that come into play for when preparing to let the retiring dog assume a new role and the new dog move in beside you.
For instance, I wonder how it will be with three dogs in the house. How will my older rescue dog, Nikka, take this intrusion? She was a bit unwelcoming when Verona came home with me, so I have to be prepared to make the same accommodations with the new dog, too.
Then there’s making sure Verona and I can work together for as long as possible until a new dog is identified for me. I hear Tom Petty sing’ the waiting is the hardest part’ when I think of the months that will have to go by before I get the call.
I also have, it seems, a new problem with how I hold the harness handle, and have transitioned to a canted handle, not quite an ergonomic one, only a mild angle. It feels so much better on my wrist and shoulder. Verona has been a good girl throughout all the equipment switches and I sometimes get to wishing she would last forever – then I get impatient with how slow she is and how unwilling she is to take on new routes and I know that retiring her is the best thing for both of us. She once was enthusiastic and looked forward to new routes and new routines, but now, well, while she is still eager to please, she often balks when we go out of her comfort zone. This is probably the most frustrating for me, as I do different things depending on the time of year and my volunteer responsibilities. I may not venture into New York City often, maybe 3 times a year, but when I do, I rely on her skills to get us around safely and with little stress or trouble. After all, I know how to travel in metropolitan areas; I just don’t want to live in them,J.
Thanks to Guiding Eyes, we now have another harness, number 3, and it floats above her body and has a little upward bend that eases the tension on my wrist. I think this will get us by for the next 6 months or so.
Guiding Eyes has a modified program called the action program where a person can combine campus training and then follow up with home training. This is my plan, as I will require less time on campus due to limited vacation and leave hours at the job. While I love staying on campus, I know that the three week program just isn’t realistic for me and I am happy that this program is available to me as a student being trained with a successor dog.
Well, I’ll post this and get the next bunch of updates ready for next time.