Flying provides one with a tranquil environment to ponder about life. After completing the two week training from the Guide Dog Foundation, I have much to reflect upon. This post features some of my thoughts on the training received, goals for the next couple of weeks, and feelings on the future.
GDF’s ten day guide dog program is precisely the way I like to learn, jump right in and start running. One does not have the time to stop and smell the roses, rather there is just enough time to understand enough about being a guide dog handler to not sink when one departs. The training staff understands this, and ensures each student possesses the necessary time and ability to absorb each day’s lessons. Equally important, if not more so are those peer mentors who returned to acquire a new guide dog after retiring their previous beloved companion. These mentors are extremely generous with sharing their real world experiences and emotions regarding guide dogs. Between these formal and informal instructors, one finds themselves surrounded by subject matter experts in a safe and friendly environment. I owe much to these individuals who allowed me to relax and receive their knowledge as Black Jack and I transition home.
The next steps are extremely crucial, as it involves establishing the home and daily life routines. Luckily, the schedule GDF set forth can easily be transposed once one returns. This is precisely my goal for the next couple of weeks. Black Jack will encounter enough uncertainty making his way from a regimented training schedule to a home situation again, that at least I can ensure he knows when to expect food and break times.
Overall, I am satisfied with both Black Jack and the preparedness for heading home. Another couple of days would be very much appreciated, since ten days of training shrinks to eight days of actually working with the guide dog once one factors travel, initial lessons, and administrative requirements. However, this will be offset thanks to receiving a home visit from a trainer within a couple of weeks after leaving the facility and easy access to staff via email and phone. Despite this level of contact and feelings on the program, I still possess some reservations that only time will decipher whether they are self induced doubt or real situations. A major facet every guide dog team undergoes is the actual amount of time required to complete the bonding process. The time at the school only serves to prepare one for this long term relationship building endeavor. Its estimated to last anywhere from six months to over a year before one hits their stride. Until Black Jack and I complete this, we will encounter our ups and downs.