How can it be that my boy and I have worked together for four months today? Where have the days, weeks, and months gone? There is so much I want to say and I just don’t know where to start. I’ll just mention things as I think of them, and hope this won’t be too all over the place. No promises though. * smile *
Last month, I ventured to Florida Mall with Keats. It was his first time there, and he made me very proud, so much so that I just had to go a second time a couple of weeks later. Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that Macys was having a big sale, or that I was craving California Pizza Kitchen. *smile* I have to say that navigating Florida Mall with Keats was unexpectedly easy. I honestly have never found Starbucks that effortlessly. I don’t know why that is exactly, whether it’s the fact that I’m feeling more comfortable with the layout, or the fact that Keats has a very nice straight line of travel, or a combination. I did not notice any left tendency while we walked the mall. It was very easy to walk along the right side when looking for a right turn or a store on the right. We navigated the crowds very nicely. He was quite careful. One time, the first time we went, I ran smack dab into somebody. It was not a brush. He didn’t do that before or since, so I think it might have been partly the other person’s fault. Maybe he or she stopped suddenly, or the person might have just walked in front of us, and in either case Keats might not have had enough time to react. Of course he could’ve simply made a mistake. As much as we might think so sometimes, they’re not perfect. They are dogs, not robots, but that’s the beauty of it too. We just have to be diligent in reworking the errors so he knows he made it and that it’s not acceptable.
As I write, I have Keats on my right, and Sashy in front of me, all sprawled out on the floor. I am so blessed to be able to spend time with both my kids. Yesterday we traveled to Miami on Amtrak. I had my Sachet shirt on, so I felt that I was traveling with both of them somehow. Maybe Sachet was sending Keats good vibes, but more likely, Keats is just one awesome dog. I was super impressed with his work, both yesterday and Thursday.
Let me talk about Thursday first. It was Keats’s first field trip with me. I took the independent living skills class to the Lynx Central Station, to get their AdvantAge IDs, then to have lunch and bowl. Keats was a trooper, and his work was beautiful. There were a couple of students who had lots of questions because they’re interested in getting a guide dog. Keats was a great ambassador. His curb work was flawless, as were his crossings. His trainer was so right when she said he is awesome at targeting. He does a super job at finding empty seats on the bus, even when they’re a little ways back. When we went to the vet Thursday afternoon to pick up Andy’s medicine, we took the bus there, which I hadn’t done with him yet. We got off the bus, navigating the parking lot, and he took me straight to the steps leading up to the doors. Yes, they will often show you places you have been before, but I never take it for granted. I love it when he shows that kind of initiative. It’s just what I wanted in a dog.
Keats had been on Amtrak with me once before, on the way back home from here when I visited in June, but that day, we pretty much stayed in our seat and didn’t wander off to get anything to eat, etc. Yesterday we ventured to the snack cart, and he guided nicely, not bothered in the least by the occasional rocking motion. He slept quietly under the table there, as well as by my feet at our seat. We arrived at the Miami station almost an hour early. While standing there waiting to get off, I overheard one employee say to another, “Now that is a real service dog!” It’s always nice to hear people acknowledge your dog’s excellent training and behavior. So, we got off the train, got our suitcase, asked the conductor which direction to head for the station, and off we went. I failed to ask how far down it would be, so I had no idea when to start encouraging him to find the door. So, I just told him “left to the door,” and without hesitation, he walk to it, turned left, and when I asked him, proceeded to find me an empty seat. What a boy! My parents came to pick us up, and they brought Sachet. She was excited to see us. We relieved them both, and then my dad asked me if Keats knew how to find trash cans. “Well,” I said, “we’re working on it. Is there one close?” He said there was, and so I headed in the direction and asked him to find it. My dad started to tell me we were approaching, but there was no need. Keats was already swerving to the right and went straight for it. It was a different kind of trash than we’ve encountered before, and yet he knew. He certainly impressed my parents.
A little side note about our last trip to Miami, which I realize I neglected to write about. Oh gosh! I’m such an English nerd. I can’t ignore that I ended a sentence with a preposition, but this is more like a conversation than a literary work, so I will not change it and make it sound too stuffy. So, Sashy was super happy to see me. I left Keats with my dad outside, so I could spend those first few minutes with just her. She was wagging like mad, trying to get between my legs, snuffling and spinning around. I did not cry. I just felt immensely happy to see her, and after seeing her in her new environment, at peace that she is happy. After the initial greeting, I came outside and grabbed Keats, and my mom brought Sachet out so they could meet. At first she didn’t know what to make of him, and did her usual little “back off” woofing when he got too up close and personal with his sniffing. But, it didn’t take her long to get comfortable with him. In fact, that same night, just an hour or two after we arrived, the dogs were tugging together. This time when they met again, there was no woofing, just sniffs and happy wags.
A couple of little side notes, Keats has had no further problems with his ears. I’m using a more gentle ear cleaner, and I think it works better for him, and for Andy too. Andy had a little minor ear trouble recently, so both our boys now use the Epiotic (sp?) ear cleaner. Last weekend, I cut the boys’ nails. It was the first time I did Keats’s, because the only other time I had them do it at the vet. I was worried that he might be antsy and move around, but he behaved beautifully. I gave him treats after I was done with each paw, because though he behaved, I know he was not super excited about it. Oh yes, and I bathed him at the beginning of August. He was also very tolerant of his bath, though not thrilled.
I probably won’t see Sachet before her birthday next month, so I brought her a present or two. I bought her a squeaky plush toy with a water bottle inside, so it also makes crackly noises. She wasn’t too excited about that one, or at least not yet. My girl sometimes takes time to warm up to stuff, and she has very definite opinions of what she wants when. I actually bought two of those, one for each of them, and Keats has been running around with both. I also brought some Old Mother Hubbard peanut butter treats, which they have both already sampled and loved of course. I know I can’t go wrong with food for my girl. Last but not least, I brought two kongs which we froze with kibble and water. Sashy used to love her frozen kongs, so hopefully she will still enjoy it just as much. It will be the first time I give Keats one, so we’ll see what he does.
Today we went to see my uncle in the hospital, and I know my boy put a smile on his face. A couple of my family members hadn’t met him the last time we came, including my uncle. One of my little cousins got to see us work, probably more than ever before, and I know we educated him. My mom and I went to get mani-pedis, and Keats impressed some more people there. When we were leaving, the owner said, “You have such a beautiful dog, very well-behaved, and so clean!” They are Vietnamese, and often times they don’t seem to be very familiar with dogs. I’m glad Keats gave them a good impression, of guide dogs, and dogs in general.
The picture with this post is one we took on our first Miami trip, me with both the dogs in my parents’ kitchen. I’m hugging Sashy and I think maybe Keats too? Can’t remember the exact positions of everyone, just that they were both there and looking pretty!