In addition to the Elm Street route today, I also sat on a panel discussion with two of my fellow students. The audience was comprised of orientation and mobility specialists in training. We were asked questions about working with a dog, the benefits and drawbacks, our experiences working out in the "real world" with our dogs, etc.
One thing I kept returning to was just how respectful the Seeing Eye is to we students/graduates. First, just in the treatment of each student as an individual. Second, in respect to our relationships with our dogs. Once we all leave training, our dogs are ours. Garrett is mine. Thus, when it's time for him to retire(hopefully a decade from now), it will be my choice where he'll go. I can keep him as a pet, I can give him to friends OR the Seeing Eye has a long list of those ready and willing to adopt retired dogs. To the best of my knowledge, The Seeing Eye is the only dog guide school in the country to give their students this choice and this level of respect. The others require the dog to be returned to the school where they'll be farmed out from there. I don't like this idea, so the Seeing Eye will always have my "business" and support.
Today was an especially Arctic day in Morristown. Real temp around freezing, but wind gusts as high as 25 mph. Still, we braved the elements and went out on route. Garrett had virtually no issues along the route and really seems to be a great worker. When he trots, I feel like he's really in the working zone and is doing his job well. Again, barricades that cross the sidewalk were present. In this case, Garrett has to walk me to the edge of the street, wait for his command to go into the street, then hug the street line until we're past the obstacle. Throw in the routine traffic checks, both planned and unplanned, and the planned and unplanned dog distractions and it can be a challenge. Yet, he did it with the grace I've come to expect from the G Man.
Tomorrow ends this route with another solo. After the morning solo session, we'll start free lance training, including airports, escalators, restaurants and, best of all, New York. I should have some great stories to share from NYC!