Coming Home

Last night was my last night at the seeing eye Inc., it was filled with so many mixed emotions. Excitement, anxiety, and a bit of sadness. As I mentioned in my last post, everyone here has become like my second family, it’s going to feel so different being home and not getting to see these wonderful people every day. I’m going to miss my morning crew we would have coffee, listen to some music, and laugh. It was always a great start to my day. I loved getting back from working with Ilo and after a long hard day, someone would always brighten it up. Everyone was so supportive of one another, it was great getting to know each and every person there and I hope we all are able to stay in touch.

When I woke up this morning, I got emotional. This past 3 1/2 weeks have been full of ups, downs, at times I even had doubts about the process. Training was intense, it was fun, and overall it has been extremely rewarding. It’s crazy to think that just 3 1/2 weeks ago I was matched with this amazing loving and extremely hard-working dog. It’s hard to believe that I went from holding the harness handle so stiffly, from slowing down when walking because I hadn’t develop trust yet, to now where I walk so carefree, and completely have faith in Ilo.

I was so fortunate to have my instructor drive me home. We left at 6 AM and arrived at my house at 8:30 a.m. he helped me introduce Cupcake to Ilo, The introduction was full of wagging tails, but Cupcake is definitely jealous. It’s going to take some time for her to warm up to him, but eventually I know that she’ll grow to love him! Once I said hi to everyone, my instructor took me to my campus. It was so nice to finally be in a familiar area, for the past few weeks I have been in an area that I was not familiar with. At times I would get frustrated when I couldn’t learn a new route, and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t from around there. I must say, walking in a familiar area with Ilo for the first time was extremely liberating. I can say without a doubt that Ilo is a college boy now! We were striding down those halls and around campus so smoothly, It was an amazing feeling. We even worked on targeting the shuttle location where I wait for the bus to go to the train station. I can’t put into words how it feels to go from being a cane user to now a guide dog user, the experience is different and in my personal opinion I feel more free. I am extremely happy with my decision to go through this process, I got a phenomenal dog, I now have a wonderful extended family, and I feel like I regained peace of mind as well as and extreme confidence boost. Although I’m done with class and I am no longer in Morristown New Jersey, the process isn’t over, it’s just beginning! I’m ready for any challenges that will come my way, and I will welcome those challenges with open arms. I have an outstanding dog, I love him to pieces, and I can’t wait to begin this new chapter! I will keep up with this blog, probably not as much as I did during class. But I will definitely keep everyone posted! I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experience! Good night from me, Cupcake, and Ilo!

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My last full week at The Seeing Eye

I haven’t posted on here in a while. Last week was full of adventure! I’ve just been working on freelance trips with Ilo and enjoying every minute! We’ve worked on navigating roped lines, going to coffee shops, the pet store, navigating a local university, and even going on leisurely walks. I know I’ve said this before, but I find it so surreal how every day I learn to trust him more and more. I learn to follow his movements, and also know when he’s getting distracted, in the beginning I couldn’t differentiate the two. throughout these past few weeks we’ve had many ups, some downs, but overall this whole journey has been an amazing experience. I am extremely happy with my school choice, I have a phenomenal dog, and I couldn’t be more happy!

I can’t believe that in just a few days I will be home with Ilo! I am excited, but I must say I definitely will miss everyone at the school. Everyone here has become my second family, my fellow classmates have been very supportive, we all have a good time, and overall we just all have a great dynamic. You very rarely can have over 10 people living under the same roof and everyone getting along, so the fact that everyone does is amazing! I’ll miss all of the random weird songs being played in the common lounge, all the weird but funny jokes, and all of the great conversations. There has never been a doll moment at the Seeing eye.

Today was absolutely phenomenal, I went to NYC with Ilo and it was so liberating! Ilo navigated the city like a champ! I went around people and obstacles, we just breeze down each block, it was the first time in a long time that I fully enjoyed a walk and my worries of getting disoriented or bumping into someone went away because of this lovely boy. I admit that when I woke up this morning I was extremely nervous about going to the city, because I know how noisy and crowded it is, and I haven’t been there since I lost my vision. I almost changed my mind about going because I was worried that it would be too much. But I’m extremely happy that I went, I enjoyed every minute of it! I had such a carefree time, and I know that if I can handle New York City, I can handle my university and hometown with no problems! It was so gratifying to be able to navigate a new area so freely with no fear or hesitation. Which is something I struggled with a lot before coming here for a guide dog. I sometimes would even decide to stay home rather than going to a new area because I didn’t want to have to go through the hassle of hitting something with my cane, trying to figure out what it is, and what way is best to go around said object, instead I can just worry about where I’m going and know that Ilo will smootly guide me around objects, and I will no longer have to worry about what the object even is.

In just a short amount of time I have developed so much love for this handsome little guy, sometimes I think about it and I can’t believe that it’s only been three weeks. It feels like we’ve been together for a longer amount of time. I love his cuddles, how excited he gets when we play, and most of all I love when he curls up on my lap. It is the funniest and cutest thing ever, this huge dog curls up in a ball when I sit crisscross applesauce. Everyone here always makes fun of me because I’m always on the floor with him on my lap, but I love it! Even though sometimes he makes my legs go numb haha. He is such a love bug, we are definitely a great match!

Until tomorrow, good night from me and Ilo!

My first relaxing weekend!

I have been so tired lately! But the new week has started, and I am ready! Friday I did some more freelance work. We did country roads again in the morning, and then in the afternoon we learned how to navigate a hotel and a movie theater. I was surprised that Ilo did not try to eat the popcorn from the floor! He is such a good boy! Saturday I had the day off, it felt strange not having any set plans. I just hung out with some fellow classmates all day and also walked on the leisure path a few times to tire Ilo out. It was extremely relaxing and very much needed!

Yesterday was another relaxing day. I did work with my instructor, but we didn’t go out. My group got the opportunity to place an order for any extra equipment that we wanted. I bought a extra leash and collar along with a grooming brush called the zoom groom, it’s mainly used for massages. Ilo loves it! I also got his puppy profile yesterday. It was so nice to hear what type of family he grew up in and how he interacted with not only the family members but the other dogs in the household. I learned that he grew up in a family of six, four children and a husband and wife. There were three other dogs in the household, one of them was another seeing eye dog in training. Apparently Ilo played the big brother role and would cuddle with the dogs if they weren’t feeling well. The family had many great things to say about him, end it made me so happy to know that he grew up with a lot of love. He is a major cuddler, and just a little love bug! Extremely smart, playful, happy, and mellow.

Today we went to the grocery store. I learned how to navigate with the cart and holding Ilo alongside me while whoever is assisting me pushes the cart at the other end. Again, I was extremely impressed at the fact that he did not try to grab a quick snack while walking around. So many things were in reach and he just kept walking along like nothing was there! After that, we came back to the main campus for lunch. Once lunch was over, we went to the mall. That was extremely fun! We started out by getting oriented with the mall, my instructor described the layout, then we walked around and he would tell us what stores were around and helped us find landmarks that would be helpful to identify where we were. Once we got acquainted with the area, he made us walk around the mall by ourselves and find our way back to the food court. It was so amazing being able to work so smoothly around the mall without bumping into anything or trying to navigate around something. And I have to say, I’ve never been to that mall, but I found my way around! It was helpful that the layout was similar to the mall that I go to back home. Ilo did an amazing job at not getting distracted, and trust me there were many opportunities. There was one obnoxious guy that started talking to Ilo and my classmates dog saying “oh look at those dogs, how cute! Yeah, good job work!”… come on people, what makes people think that’s OK? I responded by saying “these dogs are working, please don’t distract them”. I know that lots of people love dogs, and that they’re super cute, but if you know they’re working you should have enough common sense to not talk to them or stare at them. That’s the same as someone stopping and staring at a person and saying “awww cute human”. Would you like that? No. Haha. That’s the end of that rant.

Overall, I had a fantastic weekend and a great start to this new week! Each day I feel closer and closer to this handsome boy, and I honestly couldn’t be happier! It’s crazy to think that in just one week I will be back Home! Until tomorrow, good night from Ilo and I!

Day 10 and 11

Yesterday I had my solo, it went pretty well. I probably did better than I think I did. But Ilo definitely was great! After my solo I came back to the main campus to have lunch, once lunch was over we began what they call freelance. Freelance is where they try to re-create scenarios that you would encounter back at home. For example, I commute to school taking the train and the bus, so yesterday afternoon I rode on the bus and the train with Ilo. I’m surprised how well he did because of all the noise, it works out well because will be taking the train a lot when school starts up again! I must say, what these dogs do is amazing! My instructor was telling me to tell Ilo to go forward while I was in front of the train tracks, the train had not yet arrived so it was just the tracks. So when I told him to go forward, he immediately turned right instead of going forward to avoid leading me down onto the tracks. It’s so comforting to know that this dog is going to protect me in this way.

Last night we had a lecture about veterinary care. That was the longest lecture we’ve had yet, but I learned a lot of valuable information. I also learned how to give a dog a pill, which for those of you that have pets know that it’s not easy. I think I’m an expert now! My dog cupcake back home better watch out, she used to give everyone a hard time, but now I know how! It Felt like a long day yesterday, I passed out as soon as I laid in bed haha.

Today we did more freelance work. We worked on country roads which was an interesting experience. I don’t live in a rural area, but they have this as a requirement just as a precaution in case I ever move or travel somewhere with country roads. This afternoon I worked on taking the escalator with Ilo, it’s so much easier than going up and down an escalator with a cane. The school doesn’t really recommend taking the escalator because it could be dangerous for the dogs paws, but they like to teach you how in case you really have to. It was really good, like I said it’s easier than using a cane. Something else we worked on today was the follow command, this is going to make my life so much easier! You literally just say “follow” and Ilo Took me wherever the person in front of me was going!

The school was having a merchandise sale today, and I kind of went a little crazy shopping! But I bought a few useful things. For example, I bought two collapsible bowls that will be easy to travel with especially when I’m on campus all day. I also bought a cute bone shaped poop bag holster. Things that I bought that weren’t really necessary were; A sweater with different dog breeds the school has with them in harness, a shirt that is similar to the sweater, a few coffee mugs for myself and my family, and I also bought a plush yellow lab toy for my nephew. So it seems like I’m going to represent my school well when I leave here haha.

Good night for now, Ilo says to have a good night also!

Day 8 & 9: Is the week over yet?

Yesterday we started our new route, this one is longer and a bit more difficult than the previous one. They called this week hell week, because this is where the dogs start to test you to see what they can get away with and the difficulty of the route can be stressful. When I heard about hell week, I thought to myself “oh i’ll be fine, how difficult can it be?” Well… I am stressed! Ilo is great, its really me that needs some improving. Because the route is longer, I tend to forget where my turns are. I’m also having a really hard time with the sidewalks on this route, they are flat and some of them are round corners which make them difficult to detect. I have to learn to stop when he does, but because the curve is so flat, I am thinking that I’m still on the sidewalk so I tell him to keep going, and I can’t do that! We did this new route twice yesterday, and twice again today. Today was a little better, but I again need to work on detecting the flat corners. Luckily my instructor partnered me with this other woman and her dog to do the walk, having someone with me to confirm or deny where my turns are is extremely helpful. One thing that I find extremely difficult and I really need to work on is lining myself up at the corner the right way. But I worked on it a lot today, and I am confident that I’ll be better tomorrow. I’m a little nervous about tomorrow, my partner and I are doing it solo, which means that the instructor will still be there, but he will be far away from us observing from a distance. At times when I keep making these mistakes, things can feel extremely discouraging. But I know that I need to be positive, I’m not from around here so it’s normal that I don’t know the town. My instructor said that at the end of the day they don’t really care if I make the wrong turn, all they really care about is that I know how to safely navigate with Ilo but if I could know the route that would be a plus haha. I know I’ll be OK, positivity is the key! I have an amazing dog, I just have to listen to him when he’s telling me something!

Aside from doing the route, we learned how to clean the dog’s ears, brush their teeth, and even how to give doggy massages! Ilo loved his massage! They recommend giving them massages at least once a day to wind down, plus it’s a great reward after working hard all day! Today’s stress becomes tomorrow’s strength, Wish me luck on my solo. Good night from me and Ilo!

Day 6 and 7: Time is flying bye!

Yesterday was so great, Ilo and I Walked on the same route we’ve been doing for the last couple of days. But this time the instructor was a little bit further away but close enough to help us out if we needed it. I was again partnered with someone else to walk the route with and rotate at each corner. Overall it was really good, I feel like every day Ilo and I get vetter and better as a team! It’s so crazy how things can change so much in so little time. I went from holding the harness so Stiffly and had semi trust, to now where I am just relaxed zipping down the sidewalk without a care in the world enjoying every minute of it! We also started working on clicker training, we started off by targeting my door for my room. For people who aren’t familiar with clicker training, this involves hanging a bell on your desired object or location, then for this school instead of saying find, they use the word Zook. After you say zook, you wait for the dog to ring the bell then you immediately use the clicker and give them a treat. You do this a series of times and slowly transition from the clicker into praising them. It’s amazing how fast these dogs learn new things! My boy is just a rockstar! Such a great boy!

Today was my solo trip! This means that my instructor was far away from me, and it was up to me to remember the route and navigate with Ilo. I have to say, I love this dog! I can’t even put into words how amazing it is to walk with him, he immediately guides me around things along the sidewalk, things that I wouldn’t even know was there and it doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is I safely get around them and continue going about my business! There were a few minor things, but it’s important to remember that it’s only day five with the dog, and at the rate we’re going I am honestly impressed with how well we’re doing! Tomorrow we start a new route, wish me luck! Good night from me and Ilo.

Day 5: What a day!

This morning I woke up to take my handsome boy out and I have to say, he is more of a morning person than me haha. Waking up at 5:30 every morning is hard, but you know what? It’s so worth it! After I got up, I got ready and headed off to breakfast. The food here is pretty good, I can see why they just released their own cook book. Once breakfast was over I went back to my room and waited for my instructor; we worked on obedience again. Which involves my instructor knocking on the door, me telling my dog to sit and rest, then opening the door. If he gets up, we had to repeat the process until he does it correctly. He did so well, he’s an extremely good dog! On our morning walk, my instructor paired me with another woman and her dog. One of us would walk in front of the other and at the end of each block we would alternate. They do this to prevent competition between the dogs, so that they learn to go about their business. Another reason they do this is to get the dogs to walk around someone that’s in front of you if they’re going to slow. My boy did so well! He is such a rockstar! We did what’s called a traffic check, which involves an instructor driving a car in front of me while i’m approaching a driveway or street, the dogs reaction is that he’s supposed to stop or back up. This boy does such a good job at protecting me! It feels so liberating walking with this amazing pup, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love this fast before! We still have a few minor things to work on, but overall he does an amazing job! Guess what? His name is Ilo! He is a very handsome yellow lab. Until tomorrow, good night from me and Ilo!

Day 3 & 4

Day 3: I woke up and jumped out of bed as soon as my alarm went off. Dog day is finally here! Throughout breakfast, all I was thinking about was “what dog am I getting? What will their name be? Will the dog be a boy or girl?” Once I finished eating, I went to the common lounge to wait for the morning lecture. It was torture haha, I just wanted to meet my pup! The reason we had a lecture before meeting the dog is so that housekeeping could clean the rooms. I waited in my room for about 25 minutes, each time I heard the door open at the end of my hall I would get so excited, I would go close to the door and get no knock. Then finally when I heard the knock on my door, I was so excited! I got such a exciting hello! He jumped on me and started licking me. I immediately fell in love! Although, it was really hard when the instructor left and he started scratching on the door and whining for the instructor. They said it will take time for him to stop doing that. The reason for this is because my instructor is the one that trained my dog, so he’s attached to him. But the more he works with me, the attachment will transition towards me. They gave us some time alone to spend with the dog, I learned that he loves belly rubs! Later on that day, we went on our first walk together. I have to get used to following his movements, but overall it was really good! He even let me around a puddle so that I wouldn’t get wet! What a good dog! Walking with a dog is completely different from walking with a cane, I felt so free. But it was a little overwhelming, I learned so much in one day and I’m just waiting for everything to sink in. Having to remember to say his name then forward, raising my voice so that he can hear me clearly, correcting him when he makes a mistake, and following his movements. It’s a lot! But in the end, I know it’s going to be worth it!

Day 4: today was such a great day! I got up, took my pup to go do his business, gave him breakfast, then got ready for the day! I feel like I have a kid,, it felt so different to have to take him out before getting ready for the day. But it’s such a great experience! I had breakfast, after that, we went to the downtown training Center to do the same walk that we did the day before. This dog is a rockstar, he did so well! He got a little excited by some kids, so now I know he loves kids which is good because I have a four-year-old nephew at home! And once I told him to leave it, he went back to guiding me! After the rest of my group did their walks, we went back to the main campus to have lunch. After lunch my instructor came to the door to teach the dog to obey me when I tell him to sit and rest while I open the door. If he disobeyed and got up from sitting, I would have to close the door put him back to sit, tell him to rest again, then open the door. After a couple tries, my rockstar did very well! Then we went back to the downtown training center for the second walk of the day. This time, out on the same route they put obstacles for the dogs to guide people around. When I walked with my dog, he did really well, but there was one barricade that he did not stop, so I had to correct him which involved me turning around and doing it again, after the correction he guided me around the barricade like he was supposed to! When I was walking towards a driveway, a car was pulling in and he immediately stopped me, it was such an amazing feeling to know that this dog is going to protect me in a way that a cane never could. He even pays less attention to the instructor, which is an amazing feeling to know that he’s getting as attached to me as I am to him! I love this pup! Until tomorrow, good night from me and my handsome boy!

Day 2: is it Wednesday yet?

This morning I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, I knew I wasn’t getting my dog today but I guess my body just naturally woke up early due to overexcitement. And guess what? I couldn’t fall back asleep after that. So I started watching Netflix until about 5:30, and I got ready for the day. Breakfast was pretty good after we ate, my group loaded up into the van and we went to the school’s downtown training center where we took turns doing Juno walks. Each instructor has a group of about four students, while the instructor is out with someone else, we are free to talk to other students waiting for their walks or just hang out on our phones. I went on my walk first, my instructor would speed up or slow down and I would tell him what pace felt the most comfortable for me. He also checked for what type of pull was most comfortable, some dogs pull lighter/harder than others. On my way back from the walk, my instructor teased me. He told me that he knew what dog he was going to match me with, but he couldn’t tell me! I’m so anxious to know! The entire day I kept asking myself, can it be Wednesday already? Can the day be over so that I can get my dog tomorrow? The anticipation is killing me! After my walk I just hung out until the rest of my group finished. Once my group was done, we came back to the main campus to work on learning how to put the collars on the dogs as well as the harness. I had a hard time putting the harness on at first, but with practice it got easier. My instructor is so nice, if you don’t understand something he goes out of his way to explain it so that you can understand. Luckily after practicing how to put the harness on I had some free time to relax before lunch. After lunch we headed back to the downtown training Center to do the second Juno walk of the day, they mean it when they tell you they will work in all weather conditions! It was raining when I went on my second walk, but thankfully it wasn’t raining too hard. On the second walk, my instructor focused on commands as well as leash corrections. I honestly need to work on my leash corrections, I know that it doesn’t hurt the dog but when I think I’m doing it correctly my instructor tells me that I need to put a little bit more force. So hopefully in time I’ll get used to it. Something else I have to work on is raising my voice, I have a naturally soft voice, especially when I’m in public and my instructor said that I need to be louder so that my dog can hear me give clear directions. When we got back to the main campus, we had some more free time before dinner. I again just hung out in my room relaxing. Dinner was fish tonight, and I don’t like seafood so I chose to have salad to substitute. Once dinner was over, when heading back to my room the women in my hallway were hanging out talking so I joined them. We were waiting for a fire drill, once the fire alarm went off, we found the emergency exit and went outside. After the fire drill The women in my hallway as well as myself just hung out and talked before our lecture. The lecture was quick, we just discussed what we should expect tomorrow and what the schedule would be like. Unfortunately we don’t get our dogs until after we have a lecture in the morning. Once the lecture is over, we all head back to our room and the instructors bring us our dog’s individually one by one. I don’t even think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight! If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, it’s because I’m too busy with my lovely new dog! Just a few more hours to go, I can’t wait!

Day one: I’m here!

The day has finally come, I’m here! These past few months I’ve been awaiting this day, and it feels so surreal to actually be here. I started out the day getting breakfast with my family, then I hopped on the train and when I arrived, I was greeted by a staff member from the Seeing Eye. There were two other students on the train as well. It was a 30 minute car ride from the train station to the school, it was nice getting to know the other students that were in the car. One of them is receiving their first dog like myself, and the other student is receiving his fourth dog. When I arrived at the school, I was greeted by my instructor, as well as the two admissions directors. I have to say, this school has an amazing atmosphere! Everyone here is so nice, and made me feel welcome as soon as I walked through the door. My instructor assisted me to my room, and helped me learn the layout. He gave me about an hour and a half to unpack my stuff and get settled in. He then came back to my room and showed me around the building. After that, it was time for dinner. I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m a picky eater so I don’t think it has anything to do with how it was made. After dinner, I went on what they call a Juno walk. A Juno walk is where the instructor acts or takes place of the dog; the instructor holds one end of the harness while you hold onto the opposite end. The instructor then imitates what the dog would do, they do this to get you accustomed to how to position yourself when holding the harness, as well as to learn the commands. Another reason they do Juno walks is to learn what your natural pace is. After the walk, there was a lecture; we just discussed the school’s rules as well as what we should expect in the next few days. Overall, it was a great first day. I can honestly say that I feel like I picked the right school for me. All my nerves were calmed as soon as I walked through the doors. Tomorrow will be more lectures and two different Juno walks. I don’t get matched with my dog until Wednesday morning, I can’t wait! I hope Wednesday comes soon! Now time for bed, I have to get used to early mornings. Wish me luck tomorrow!

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