MY JOURNEY WITH TITAN
JUNE 2013 Part 1
Hello once again everyone and thank you for following my journey with Titan. This month is the most profound time in any Guide Dog owners’ life because this is the time we leave the comfort of the training centre and hope that the bond that we have formed with our Guide Dog is strong enough. Yes, unfortunately that is reality. No matter how well you and your Guide Dog have worked during the training, there is always that possibility that both of you will not adapt to your specific lifestyle or that the owner might find that owning a Guide Dog does not enrich their lives like they fantasized.
Anyhow, on the last day at the training centre, we do a walk with our Guide Dogs. Nothing unusual you might say, but it is, because there are very important people watching us from a distance – and no it is not big brother, but rather your Guide Dog’s puppy walker. After the walk we get to spend time with the puppy walkers – for them to tell us all about our Guide Dogs’ early development and of course for them to spend one last time with them. Then it is in the car and time to return home.
We returned home late on the Saturday but that did not deter my parents from being there to welcome the new addition to the family. Titan sniffed around his new surroundings and greeted my children and parents with lots of love and vigour. It was almost as if he knew that he was home. I thought that it was going to be stressful for Titan to adapt to his new environment, but he eased into it so quickly that it felt as if he had always been there. The only stressful part (I thought) was once again getting into Mommy mode and reminding my youngest son that he cannot leave toys lying around, as Titan might chew it. But amazingly enough this was not the case, as my youngest son started taking on the role of an older brother to Titan.
Okay so that being done and a peaceful night over with, it was time to go shopping. Getting the whole family into the car for the first time was like going out with your new baby – prams, bags etc, but despite the adjustments, we all got to the pet shop in one piece. Okay Titan, lets show everyone what we have learnt and go get you a couple of things. What was I thinking? Going anywhere for the first time, your Guide Dog tends to pull. Think of yourself or your children going to somewhere like Gold Reef City for the first time. You do not want to stand in queues, you want to rush through the gates and go on as many rides as possible. Well, Guide Dogs are not different. After much time we eventually made it into the shop from the parking lot.
Anyone who has ever been to Pet Masters will know that they have the biggest variety of goodies to satisfy everyone’s needs and I did not know this until I got inside. With all the choices I eventually gave up and decided that Titan was the best qualified to choose for himself. So we laid out the food of our choice on the ground and asked him to choose his flavour – it was so cute. He sniffed each bag but kept on coming back to one, which he eventually sat in front of – now how can you deny his intelligence?
Enough now of that, back to the story. On your first week at home you get an after care trainer who comes to your home. This trainer ensures that your Guide Dog has settled into the home, introduces you and your Guide Dog to the local vet and centre managers and helps you to introduce your Guide Dog to your normal routes. Yes, I know – why the routes?
Take a blind fold and put it over your eyes and walk down the road – do you know every loose brick on the pavement, when the pavement ends, are there obstacles? You might say that you will not know, but me as the person with the disability will know because I walk it every day. That is the point – I know it, but my Guide Dog does not. He still needs to learn which pavement to walk on and where is the safest point to cross the road. Another point not commonly known is that yes, your Guide Dog can take you around or under obstacles on the path but he cannot judge whether the low overhanging branches are going to miss you or not. So as you can see, having a trainer there to assist the both of you to adapt is imperative.
My route is quite simple – I use the Gautrain. So my trainer, Titan and I took a couple of rides so that Titan got used to going through the tag-in points, escalators, stairs, getting on and off the train and of course which way to walk to the tag-out point and to the waiting car. Titan was so calm and collected – the only hitch we had was the escalator, but with the help of the trainer Titan soon overcame this phobia.
Phew – Titan is settling into home life and my routes. The next question is will he settle into my work environment? This is a question that will be answered in next month’s snippet of Titans journey.
But, before I say goodbye, I would like to ask you – do you remember the day your puppy or adopted pet came home? Please write a few short words telling us all about it and send us a photo. The best one will be chosen to receive a mystery prize sponsored by Pet Masters Boksburg.
Have a fabulous month ahead and we look forward to you sharing your adventures with us.