This post is a combined update from Thursday and Friday (Day 5 and 6). I apologize for the length in advance!!
Thursday Day 5
Today Wesley and I went to Portland in the morning and worked our primary route. It felt so awesome! Things just seemed to fall into place and it felt like we were clicking nicely. Even though it is still very early in the journey, I can already feel a bond forming between Wesley and I. One thing I am really noticing this time in training is that my voice and body language communicate so much to Wesley and he is super sensitive and responsive to what I do or say. And today I started to settle into the routine that Wesley works best with which means being purposeful with my voice volume and intonation and making sure I follow through with presenting the appropriate body language for what I am asking of him. He is looking to me for direction, encouragement, praise and leadership and I am trusting him to keep me safe. It is a mutually beneficial relationship with very dynamic two-way communication.
After our morning route, we returned to GDB campus for a big Thanksgiving feast with all of my classmates and also our instructors, supervisor and their families. It was so incredibly delicious!! For those who know me well, I love to eat good food and a lot of it! I cleaned my plate and still had room for two pieces of pumpkin pie that was amazing! Even though I spent Thanksgiving away from my family for the first time in my life, I really enjoyed the company of some really wonderful people. I am also really grateful for all of the kitchen staff and volunteers who came in to serve us on such a family-focused holiday.
Thanksgiving is a really fun holiday for many reasons and I’m realizing as I mature and get older that it is becoming more and more of a day to reflect on all of the blessings around me. I couldn’t list everything that I am thankful for if I tried but there are some things that are profoundly humbling today. The fact that I am in a beautiful facility eating delicious food and receiving training with a life changing partner is reason enough to give thanks. And the fact that I am given all of this free of charge is even more incredible. I am grateful for Guide Dogs for the Blind and all of the work they do on a daily basis. Every person in this organization has a distinct role and and I wouldn’t be here if even one of those roles didn’t exist. So much energy, so many resources and a huge amount of genuine love are poured into these beautiful dogs who offer blind people a whole new world of independence. It may sound cheesy but I just want to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to anyone who contributes to the GDB mission. Your selfless actions do not go unnoticed and the impact you make is one that lasts a lifetime.
I am thankful for many other things including my dear Wesley, my beautiful family, wonderful friends, supportive community and most of all I am grateful to have a good and gracious Lord who is my rock and salvation. It is through His love and sacrifice that we live to enjoy His kingdom and all of His living creations both two and four-legged.
Up until this point, the weather here in lovely Boring, Oregon has been more than cooperative. My classmates and I have returned from routes sweating and commenting on how warm and pleasant it is outside. All of that came crashing down today! By the time we go to Portland and I headed out for my route, it was pouring rain. Now I’m a proud Seattle girl and I can handle pretty much anything in terms of weather but this wet, windy morning was just plain uncomfortable. Thinking I was just being whiny and needed to pull up my big girl panties and suck it up, I pushed through and focused as much as possible on the sweet boy at the end of my leash. Despite the awful weather, Wesley tried his very best for me. But eventually the wet started to get to him too. He occasionally drifted toward the overhangs on the buildings trying to get out of the rain but I politely asked him to maintain our straight line despite my similar discomfort. He wanted to go as fast as he could so we could get inside and got a bit antsy while we were waiting for traffic. I understood his unease but eventually had to firmly remind him that he still had a job to do. I made sure to talk to him and tell him that it was ok to slow down because we were in this together. Toward the end of the route he began to calm down and settle back into the plucky little trot that I experienced earlier in the week. Maybe it was because we were working our way back to the gdB Portland center or that I relaxed but I was still proud that we were able to pull it together for a solid ending to an otherwise difficult outing.
After we finally made it back inside, Wesley and I dried off as best we could. I’m not going to lie, it was slightly adorable how he leaned into me as I rubbed him down with a towel. We then packed up the team and headed into Gresham for an afternoon route. The plan was to practice some sidewalkless work but when we got there I started to feel a bit sick. Airing on the side of caution, I decided to pass on the afternoon route so Wesley and I just cuddled up in a comfy beanbag. The picture is of us all hunkered down, catching some snuggle time. As our wonderful nurse went to take the picture, Wesley leaned up and licked my face (kind of precious!).
When we returned to campus, Wesley and I worked on some clicker training with our instructor. I found this part to be super fun. Wesley got so excited when he figured out that if he showed me the chair we were targeting, he got a click followed by a food reward. His earnest effort to play the game and receive the reward just made me smile. It is something that he obviously enjoys and it builds his confidence as there is really no way he can lose this game. Its all about setting him up for success every time. In the evening we practiced brushing our dogs’ teeth and cleaning their ears. This is a review for me as I did these things with Retha but it was good to see how Wesley did with them too. He did not like the ear cleaning very much but as usual was very patient and trusting for me. I just talked to him and he did just fine. He seemed to like the teeth brushing though. I guess any dog would as we were using the delightful poultry-flavored toothpaste (Yum!!!). I was sitting on the floor next to him while I brushed his teeth and right when I wasn’t expecting it, he licked my face and let’s just say I got a little taste of the toothpaste too! Just for the record it is not as delicious to this human as it might be to my lovely canine. Despite my surprise, I couldn’t help but smile at his little sign of affection.
Now as I sit writing this post, listening to the rain outside and enjoying the soft sound of Wesley sleeping at m side, I am happy. I finally feel complete again and it is such a simply good feeling. I hope everyone gets to feel this sense of wholeness at some point in their life.
Thank you all for reading and following my journey. I hope I get to know your story as you get to know mine. Feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like to connect.