In three more days, Keats and I will reach our 6 month milestone. As I sit here pondering how we’ve grown as a team, I can’t help but get a little emotional. He continues to earn my trust more and more. Just today, we had one of those moments that reminds me of just how thankful to God I am for my guide dog. We were at Lynx Central Station, our main Orlando bus terminal. We had gone inside to purchase Access Lynx tickets. This requires two crossings, in an environment that is very noisy and where reading traffic is quite a challenge. I am always a bit hesitant to cross, because I’ve had a couple of close calls in the 11 years I’ve been riding buses. If I’m hesitant with a dog, imagine with a cane, which I did for about two years. Anyhow, we were on our way out of the terminal, headed toward our designated bus bay. We crossed the first busway which is the more narrow one. Keats stopped at the edge of the crossing for the 2nd one. I took a few moments to listen. It was almost quarter after the hour, one of the higher traffic times, when buses are moving in and out of the station. When I thought it was safe, I gave Keats a forward. Off we went across the first lane of buses … and then he began to slow down. I started to wonder what the deal was, and then he stopped, very deliberately. Next thing I hear, a bus rolled right along in front of us, no hesitation. I praised my boy, trying to remain calm so as not to get him excited in the middle of the street, but inside I wanted to pick him up and hug him right there. I commanded him forward again, and we completed the crossing. Casey and Andy were right behind us, and Andy stopped very suddenly too. Of course, lots of praise and a nice treat after crossing the up curb. This was a first for us. He had done a traffic check at a driveway, but not in the middle of a crossing. I have seen him do traffic checks during training, but we weren’t on our own then. It’s different somehow. All I can say is that today’s experience definitely increased our trust factor.
It’s hard to imagine that an exuberant young dog can do things like this, but he is an amazing worker! One of my friends who is an orientation and mobility instructor was commenting the other day that Keats is a very focused worker. I love that about him, and how tuned into me he is. Whenever I call his name, no matter what he’s doing, he looks up at me. Last week, I let him loose in one of the classrooms with the door closed, to play with a friend’s dog who was visiting. Boy did they play, running loops around the room and chasing each other. But, when I stepped out for a minute to get water for them, he sat in front of the closed door until I came back. I never asked him to stay. It just melts my heart when he does things like that, letting me know how attached to me he is.
A few weeks ago we visited a friend. I wish I knew what about that house was different. Perhaps it was all the animal smells—they have two dogs, a cat, chickens, and there are cows next door. Perhaps it’s all the nature smells—they have at least an acre of land around their house, maybe more. I don’t know, but whatever it was made Keats whine. He had not done that anywhere else. It wasn’t a constant thing, just a few little whines here and there. They were so pitiful!
I think I have the goofiest dog on the planet. One morning we had put the food down, and Keats was in the room with a bone in his mouth. He usually has some kind of toy in his mouth most of the time. So, I gave him the ok to eat, and he took off with the bone. I guess he forgot to drop it until he got to the food bowl, at which point he probably remembered he had a bone in his mouth, and dropped it right in the middle of the food! The week after, he did that at work, only this time into the water bowl. What a goofball!
On a more guide-work related note, Keats is doing fantastic with a variety of targeting tasks—seats, trash cans, stairs, doors, Casey—I think that’s about it. He picks up things very quickly, and does good at generalizing. I was wondering the other day about how dogs generalize. Do they actually think, “This is a trash, and this is another trash?” Or is it more like, “This is something mom has me find, and this is something else she has me find?” Sure would be nice to know what they are thinking.
The 1st picture with this entry was taken at work today. He is sitting in my office and he has one of those water buffalo horns in his mouth—thanks Kevin! The 2nd one is of Keats and Andy by the fridge, Keats with his head on Andy. The other day they were soooo cute laying curled up side by side in the same bed. I tried taking a picture, but I never have claimed to be a photographer. Plus, it was 3 in the morning and I had just woken up, and I was trying not to move so as not to disturb them and make them break their cute pose. It was adorable! Hopefully they’ll do it again some day and I’ll actually get a decent picture of them.
I think today will be the day I post all of the entries I’ve had living in my Braille Note for a while. I also think that very soon, I will create a Keats sound for my voicemail on my cell. Yes, Sachet is still on there. It’s just that my boy isn’t vocal, so it’s not as easy to get him to participate. I’ll get creative though. I often think about how special Keats is. Last week, it was brought home by the reactions of a friend who is not even a dog person, but she was clearly impressed with him. I so love this dog!