Meeting both my Guide Dogs for the first time was an unforgettable experience.
I went away for training with Khan my first Guide Dog. One of the Guide Dog instructors bought him to my room. I was sitting in a chair with a treat in my hand. He came over to say hi and get the treat (typical Golden retriever). For me it was love at first touch, but it took a little longer for Khan to bond with me.
With Wiley I did my training at home. He was driven down to Canberra by one of the Guide Dog instructors from the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT training centre at Glossodia on Friday 7th July 2012.
I went outside to meet him and take a test walk. He jumped down from the back of the car and I gave him a pat and treat. My first thought was that he was really tall and lean. I took hold of his lead and bent down to give him a cuddle – he leaned into me which I really liked.
I then put him into harness and gave him the forward command. He stepped forward and I noticed that the harness felt so different to when I walked with Khan. He had a similar jaunty pace but the forward pressure on the harness was lighter.
He kept a really good pace which I loved. One of the great things about working with a Guide Dog is that I walk faster and more smoothly than I do with a cane.
It only took about 5 steps before I knew that he was the right dog for me. I finished the walk and quickly told my instructor that I really wanted to work with this beautiful boy.
Wiley also seemed keen to stay with me but that might have been thanks to my pocket full of treats 🙂
Our Guide Dog Instructor came home with us and we went through a couple of things like feeding, grooming, basic obedience, tolieting, equipment etc. I was told that it was OK to take him for a walk around the block on a normal collar and lead but to not go any further. I couldn’t put him in harness and work him on my own until we had been through the team training program.
We had the weekend together to start bonding. The next two days consisted of lots of cuddles, grooming, walks and games with various toys. I asked family and friends to give us the weekend on our own as I didn’t want to overwhelm him by expecting him to meet lots of new people.
From the minute he walked in my front door Wiley made himself at home. He ran around sniffing and exploring but as my place is quite small that didn’t take too long. He spent quite some time investigating the toy box pulling out each and every toy before he found a nylabone and started chewing, giving out a contented sigh every now and then.
He slept well the first night on his bed which is by the side of my bed. Guide Dogs are not permitted on furniture like sofas and bed. I didn’t sleep quite as well as I kept listening for signs of him being restless.
I must admit I spent most of the weekend in a mild state of anxiety. I wanted to do everything right, I was worried he might be eating too fast, not drinking enough, not going to the toilet as often as he should.
I recalled from my training with Khan that the first few days are full of second guessing so I told myself to relax and simply enjoy the company of my new boy. The instructor called to check how things were going and they told me it sounded like things were going very well. I also had their number in case I needed to chat about anything which was very reassuring.
By the time Monday morning came around I couldn’t wait to start our training program. I knew it was going to be an emotionally and physically demanding few weeks but at the end of it Wiley and I would be a team and ready to face an exciting new future together.