Posted by Greg
I apologize, there will be no pictures in this story. Our camera has a problem, which will hopefully get fixed in the next few days. If a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe these words will be worth at least a stick figure drawing.
Melissa and I only speak English, but our accents can be quite different on some words. She was born, raised and lived here in South Texas her whole life. She has a definite Texas accent. One time when we were traveling in Oregon, she asked a lady where the post cards were in a gift shop. The lady looked up and said, "There is a kiosk in the far back corner of the store. What part of Texas are you from?" On the other hand, I was born and raised in Missouri, but have been in Texas since the early 70's. So I have learned to use Texan phrases like, "I'm fiixin to go to town". And I've also learned that the letter "n" is attached to the end of just about every word here in Texas. However, I have still retained some of my Missouri accent. For example I say Missoura instead of Missouri, and my kids are always telling me there is no "r" in "wash" ( I evidently say "warsh"). My pronunciation of the word "wire" is also sometimes confused with a clash between civilizations ("war").
By now you are saying "Great Greg, but how does that relate to Smokey". Melissa had taken Smokey for a neighborhood "fun" walk last Wednesday. A "fun" walk in puppy raiser terms is an exercise walk - eg the pup does not wear his blue jacket because he is not technically "working". But, on ALL walks the pup needs to maintain leash manners. She got to talking to neighbors about things going on in the neighborhood. She got back slightly after dark, and was telling me that Smokey was going crazy on the leash. Pulling, lunging, running in circles ... just acting crazy. We are supposed to expose our guide dog pups to night time walks and the suggestion is to start with walks at dusk and gradually work into the darkness. So I was thinking he was reacting to the fact she had been out after dark and he wasn't used to it. The next evening at dusk, I put his jacket on him and took him for a "forward" walk - eg a "working" walk. This is a walk where we use all of the appropriate commands and the leash manager (who is supposed to be me, but Smokey tries to take that role from time to time) decides where and when to go. When you want the puppy to go, you say "Forward" and step out with your left foot. Ultimately you want to be able to tell the puppy "Forward" and it will step out first. During these walks with Smokey, I also usually practice sit/stay, down/stay, come, and a few other commands.
One of the other things we have learned from Southeastern Guide Dogs is to be aware of the puppy's reaction to objects and situations by watching his tail, ears, and body language. If he is shying away or acting fearful of an item or situation, we are taught not to force the situation. Have the dog sit at a distance. Let the dog observe whatever they are fearful of and we observe the dogs reaction to it. Another tip we have picked up is that sometimes if a pup is fearful or anxious toward an item, talk to that item like it was a person in a calm voice. For example if the pup is afraid of a vacuum cleaner, you can sit the pup where he or she can see the vacuum and say "Hey there Mr. Vacuum, how are you today? Man, do you have nice wheels!" A person might hear you and call the padded ambulance, but it can help the pup get over his fear.
At that time, Smokey was acting a little fearful of traffic. At the end of our street is a four lane Texas highway. I walked him down to the end of the street (with his jacket on) using the forward command and practicing other obedience along the way. When we got approximately 60 feet from the highway, I gave him the sit/stay command. There we sat for a while, just watching the cars and trucks go by. His head was going back and forth (kind of like someone watching a tennis match) as the cars went from left to right or right to left. I decided to try talking to the cars and trucks as they went by. You can say hello to only so many cars. So I decided to tell Smokey the makes of the vehicles as they passed.
"Look Smokey, there is a GMC pickup. There is a Honda. That is a nice Harley Davidson. Look at the paint job on that Volvo." This went on for about three minutes when I said. "There goes a Ford Mustang". Smokey immediately broke his sit/stay and started walking towards the highway. I said "No", and made him go back to where he was and sit/stay. It wasn't until the next Ford went by and he broke his sit/stay, that I realized my accent got him. My "Ford" and my "Forward" must sound to Smokey like my "Wire" and my "War" sounds to humans.
Chances are my accent is not going to change while Smokey is with us, but it is great to see he has gotten that command down. He definitely knows what Forward means. He knows what he is supposed to do no matter how you say it.
Again, sorry no pictures this time. Hopefully by our next blog post, the camera will be back up and running again.
- ▼ May (9)