In a previous entry a few months back, I mentioned I was in the process of applying to a couple dog guide schools. After having time to reflect on my experience yesterday, I thought I’d write about what I learned and what I am hoping will happen if I am accepted to this one particular nearby school.
Yesterday was a warm, breezy, sunny beautiful day for a walk. I first talked about the intensive 25-day training program with a certified trainer from
She fortunately said the drive to Pennsylvania from New Jersey was a nice scenic view, and even the area I am in would be workable for a dog guide. After taking my picture for their records, we worked outside in the neighborhood with my cane. I showed her I could cross simple streets, maintain orientation and I had the basic cane skills down. I have a tendency to veer when crossing streets, which is an area she said a dog could easily correct. After our leisurely stroll with my cane, the real fun began. The Juno Walk, which consisted of me correctly holding the harness and leash in my left hand and the trainer simulating what it’d be like to walk with a dog began. I first noticed my pace increased tremendously; it wasn’t too fast or to slow. We had to stop a few times to correct my tension in the harness handle, but once we got walking I felt so much more free! Now, I’m not at all down with the cane because, well they could say I am not a suitable candidate and then it’s back to being the white cane wielding Ninja chic. 🙂
There was such a difference in my pace; and while I was paying attention to what I could feel through the harness handle, I could enjoy the walk and also pay attention to my other senses. Yes, I know the same can be said for a cane, but there was something so freeing. I didn’t have to shoreline, correct my veering, dig my cane out of cracks in the sidewalk or just hold the thing. In a way I felt like I could move more fluidly. This may not be popular to say, and those who know me know I often say what I think, so here goes. I felt sighted. I felt I could go anywhere at any pace. I could trust the trainer or a future dog to safely get me to where I wanted to go. I’m not at all diminishing or neglecting my responsibility to know where I am going, or to pay attention to my surroundings and know I will always carry a folding cane with me in case I need to find a landmark, but it was liberating to have another set of trusting eyes.
We then drove the mile into town and first worked on lighted intersections with the cane then transitioned to walking with Juno. Our town square is a literal trip. There are planters, a fountain, benches, trees and who knows what else. It’s all aesthetically appealing; however, with a cane it’s an obstacle course. With Juno it was amazing! I didn’t get caught up in objects which my cane would have encountered; I did not have to reorient myself due to veering. Juno skillfully guided me around each planter, bench and even the fountain with ease.
Although I don’t know how this possible dog guide story will end, I am thankful for having the opportunity to experience for myself what it is like to walk and navigate the world with a dog. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on the process.
Until next time,