Guide dog school 8: A four-legged universal remote?
By Brian Fischler
Nash and I did two good long routes with plenty of obstacles today. Nash did an excellent job listening and guiding me. He is real tired tonight, and I had to get him up to lead me out to get a soda, and I am pretty sure that even though I couldn’t see it, Nash gave me an “Are you kidding me, dude?” look.
During our afternoon route, I learned how to get Nash to identify places that I go to often. As we approached a bus stop, I walked over to the bus schedule which was hanging on a pole at the bus stop. I would tap the schedule with my hand, say the word “bus,” and reward Nash with a food treat when he approached the pole.
I would then retreat about three steps away and do it over again about 6 to 8 times, each time taking a step farther and farther away from the pole with the schedule. I would heel Nash with his leash to the pole, not using his harness. Then when I think he has it down, I would take about 7 to 8 steps back, say Nash to the bus, while holding his harness to see if he leads me right to the bus stop. Of course, Nash did it to perfection.
In the future when I am looking for the bus and I think I am near the bus stop, I would just say “Nash to the bus,” and Nash will lead me to the bus. With New York City having so many distractions and so much clutter, it may take a couple of times of teaching Nash the bus stop. Like almost everything in life, it is all about practice and repetition.
Additionally, when I get back to New York City, I can use this method of tagging my apartment building, my subway stop, and pretty much anything that I would want Nash to lead me to. Who knew you could program a dog like a universal remote control? How interesting.
I had a real funny moment with one of the trainers today, as we were talking about being blindfolded and led around. All of the trainers work with the dogs blindfolded to get familiar with the dogs, and they go through everything we will be learning with the dogs. I guess you can say they do a dry run with the dogs before pairing them up with someone who is actually blind.
So the trainer said to me, “You would be amazed at what I have done blindfolded,” and of course I couldn’t help myself, as I responded, “Wow, isn’t that kind of a little too personal?”
We are going to hold off on having Nash and I work the route while I am blindfolded — as I wrote in my last column in this series, I have just enough vision left to be dangerous. We are holding off on me working the routes blindfolded, as we worked the routes much better today. Maybe I just need to get use to being led around by Nash, and put more trust in him.
We had two really cute moments today. I was sitting in a chair and Nash was lying between my legs. One thing I have learned about Nash is the guy likes his space, and likes to spread out. Nash began to push my right foot over with his front paws as he was trying to create more space for himself to be comfortable. Once my foot was moved, Nash settled in comfortably. Then tonight, we were playing around, and Nash buried the top of his head upside down on my leg. No idea what he was doing, but it was unbelievably cute.
I did hear from Nash’s puppy raiser today, a very nice and dedicated woman named Lorraine. Only problem is I found out that she raised Nash as a Mets fan. That is something we will have to work on, as they have yet to teach us a leash command to correct something like that. Well, at least he wasn’t raised as a Red Sox fan!