Last week I had an orientation lesson – Wiley and I were being taught how to get from the Guide Dog office to a local cafe. It wasn’t very far but ended up being one of the most challenging lessons I have had.
The reason for this was the need to navigate of a couple of very busy car-parks. Obviously parking in that area is an issue because people were driving round and around, often leaving their cars idling while they picked up or dropped off people. I had at least four roads that proved almost impossible to cross. On one occasion despite seeing that I had a Guide Dog and was trying to cross someone parked their vehicle directly opposite me thereby blocking my path across the road. The instructors I was with tried to educate them but the driver couldn’t care less.
The problem with idling cars is that unless we are at a zebra crossing or traffic lights I can’t give Wiley the command to go forward. To uphold and reinforce his training if I hear a car engine, even if I am confident they are idling I won’t ask Wiley to step off the kerb. Sometimes, like the other day this means I can wait for ages.
The instructor and I discussed different solutions to the problem. One is to get sighted assistance to cross the road. In this situation I would drop the harness handle and take hold of the persons elbow. Wiley then isn’t responsible for guiding me and doesn’t require the forward command. The second option is to ask the driver to turn off their engine. The third is to drop Wiley’s harness handle and use a long cane to cross the road. This is much the same as getting sighted assistance but doesn’t require me waiting for someone to help. Since the lesson I have been carrying a long, light weight cane whenever I am working with Wiley.
Thankfully the instructors were able to figure out an alternate route. It has its own challenges but it takes out all of the trickiest road crossings. Happily now getting my soy hot chocolate will be easier and not nearly as perilous.