What’s it Like to Train with a New Seeing Eye Dog?

a service dog in a harnessEarlier this month, we published a post I wrote about flying to the Seeing Eye School in New Jersey to spend three weeks training with a new Seeing Eye dog. I’m very happy to report I made it safely to Newark International Airport, caught my ride from there to Morristown and have already been matched with a sweet one-and-a-half-year-old female Black Labrador Retriever. Well then, you ask, how’s life at the Seeing Eye? Here’s an account of how a typical morning goes here — this all happened last Friday:

    • 5:30 a.m. Music comes through intercoms to wake us up. The day before we were matched with our dogs it was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” This morning it was The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.” Every day, a different song to wake us up.
    • 5:35 Dress up warm, then out to the courtyard for “park time.” Twenty blind people circle their dogs around them, all urging our dog to empty. Trainers are with us and call out to let us know when we’ve had success: “#1 for Dilbert!” and Dilbert’s owner whoops it up to encourage him to always go on command. “Harry has a #2!” And his owner squeals with delight. Today was a red letter day, my dog did her #1 AND #2 fairly quickly: once they do both you can have them lead you back into the building (and warmth!) using the “inside!” command.
    • 5:45 Enter room, command your dog to “Go to your place.” Her “place” is her crate, and you leave your dog in her crate while you dish out one-and-a-half cups dry dog food from the tightly-closed bin on the floor near our dorm room door.
    • Zip open crate, say and repeat the word “rest” as you place the dish in front of her. Keep saying “rest” until you stand up, clap your hands and happily call out, “Take it!” Your dog must stay in the crate by the bedpost until you say those magic words. If they go after the food before those magic words, you pick up the food and go through the entire routine again–she can’t have her food until she stays in her place.
    • 5:50 Your dog inhales her food, then you “heel” her to the bathroom (heel as in walk with leash, but no harness), measure out two cups of water, she drinks what she wants, and you empty
      Photo taken during warm weather of an obstacle course that trainers use to teach dogs how to lead their eventual companions.

      The dogs work hard even before they meet their human companions. Here, a trainer teaches a dog how to lead around common obstacles.

      out any water she didn’t drink. She only gets water when you give it to her, part of the “bonding.” She better follow my commands and keep me safe so that she can have water!

    • 5:57 Clean out empty bowls with a little squeegee thing they gave us to do so, put bowls back on their shelf (above toilet) in bathroom.
    • 6:05 a.m.: I don’t know what others do, but I make myself a cup of instant coffee using this groovy collapsible “hot pot” my husband bought me for my birthday last month.
    • 6:15 Check email.
    • 6:30 Shower.
    • 6:45 Call “6368” on desk phone to hear what the menu for today is, check blood sugar and take appropriate insulin to cover breakfast.
    • 6:55 Announcement over intercom “first floor ladies, head down to the dining room” or “men from upstairs, start heading to breakfast.” We all parade down to the dining room, our dogs leading the way.
    • 7:00 Each student has an assigned seat in the dining room, we give dogs a series of commands to go “left” “forward” or “right” to get to our seat and praise them when they achieve their goal.
    • 7:15 Breakfast. The dining room is lovely, white tablecloths and all. Waiters and waitresses come to get our orders so the dogs will know how to act in a restaurant.
    • 8:00 Off in vans to training center in downtown Morristown.
    • 8:15 Today we are practicing our “solo” route. We’ve been practicing a route around Morristown for the past couple days. The route includes T-intersections, four-way stoplights, a two-way stop sign, talking walk signals, left turns, two right turns. Our “solo trip” is Sunday, and during the solo the trainer is still behind us, but quite a distance.

Uh-oh. Announcement over intercom just sounded: time to head to the vans to downtown Morristown. It’s not even 8:00 a.m. yet!


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  1. amy hufker Says:

    u mean guide dog they don’t see for you they guide you