Me and my guide dog’s journey began around 5 years ago, which you can read all about by clicking here.
Last month, I had a potential guide dog match stay at home with me for one night and this included practicing walking together. My Guide Dog Mobility Instructor and I both felt that it went very well. As a result, I started my training at the end of August, and I am currently training with my first guide dog.
It has been amazing to learn different commands on how my guide dog can safely guide me, how I can spend him, which means taking him to the toilet, and how to pick up the mess. Also, what his feeding patterns are like and how to understand his actions and behaviour. Moreover, I learned different techniques of navigating steps, train stations, narrow spaces, busy and cluttered pavements, taking him on a free run and so much more!
I am sure you will get to meet my guide dog soon. In the meanwhile, here are some tips I can share with you about guide dogs: firstly, you should always ask if you can say hello or stroke them. A guide dog could be working and therefore a distraction could, potentially, put both the owner and the guide dog at harm. Secondly, always be mindful with food around guide dogs. They are trained not to scavenge, but they cannot be at fault if temptation arises. Grapes and chocolate are definitely a no-no as these can be poisonous for them. Lastly, if you’re playing with a guide dog, try not to get them too excited as they like to play back, and it will be difficult for the owner to calm them down. Also, if a guide dog is settled and calm, then it is best to wait until they are active again before interacting.
With my guide dog, I have managed to walk to my train station, get onto the platform, get onto the train, out the other end and walk to my office. This is something I haven’t done since December 2016 after losing a bit more sight. I am now also able to walk to my bus stop and get the bus and go to my local shopping centre, confidently. I also learnt the route to my hairdressers, doctors and chemist. It feels so fantastic to just go somewhere when I want and not when others can take me!
Of course, I still have a lot to learn whilst on my guide dog training. However, just 3 weeks in, I feel my guide dog has made a huge change; independence wise and helping me to be out in the fresh air as opposed to being cooped up in taxis.
Adapting to waking up early and making sure I have all his belongings that I may need when out and about, as well as factoring him into my life, has been an easy adjustment to make. My family simply adore him, and when he is not working the harness comes off. We love playing with him, watching him play with his toys and taking him out on his free runs.
You can follow updates on my guide dog progress by following my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/visualeyeswithbhavini
Written by Bhavini Makwana, ELVis Activities Coordinator