Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another milestone

Little things make the heart go pity pat sometimes. I've been stressing about getting Cali into a vehicle other than the trailer. Of course, you know I like to create baby steps. We've done a lot of preparation for jumping into and out of odd places. I even figured out how to make the back of my SUV lie completely flat. You will be surprised to learn that I've had the thing for 2 years and didn't know how to make it go flat. In fact, I assumed it didn't.

Then, yesterday at lunch with a friend it just seemed obvious. Where the heck have I been for all that time. You know necessity is the mother of invention. Since I didn't think Cali could jump in the back of the SUV without help I created the little course you see on the video. Like me, once Cali realizes it's possible there is no stopping her.

Having been in the Bravada she knew she could and she did. We did it just like Alex and Panda did. Panda is another mini horse guide. Alex is Alexandra Kurland her trainer and my teacher. You can see the Panda video along with other clicker training video under the label "We're using clicker training" down on the right hand side of this blog.

I sat in the seat and had Cali target my hand. The next thing you know there she is standing on the floor of the Bravada. Wow! Out was no problem either.

Tonight or tomorrow I go to pick up my friend's bus that is wheelchair accessible. We'll have that right here to practice with. I'm envisioning having a friend drive the bus to the end of the driveway. Cali and I will walk to the bus, get on and together we'll go somewhere to practice walking.

It seems anti-climatic to say that we also extended our "walk". Past the mailbox, down the road facing traffic, across a bridge over a stream (she stopped there to tell me it was a steep drop off), on to the next driveway, stopped there, turned in left, straight (this was good because straight was not the obvious way to go), to a stone wall, turn right, back down the driveway to the road, wait for no traffic, cross the road, stop at the guard rail on the other side, turn right, shoreline up the road facing traffic, stop at another scary drop-off, stop at two more driveways, at the end of the second driveway turn right, wait at the white line for all noise of cars to be silent, cross to the shoulder, stop, turn left, past the mailbox, past my driveway to the other side, turn right, shoreline up my driveway to home, find the stairs, up the stairs, target down the stairs and after all that, load up in to the Bravada. Whew! We doubled the distance we walked at least.

Now, of course, she was not guiding the whole way. We are, after all, only on week 2. That said, she did a good job of keeping pressure on the harness, finding forward and holding a shoreline. Sometimes she stopped, sometimes I stopped her. So, it was a little guiding and a little teaching. A nice balanced mix. The plan is to start on obsticales this week.

Today, I also carried a walking cane to simulate how Mona might also use her cane to help her orient and find what Cali points out. That way she will know that Cali is right on target or has perhaps made a mistake. In the beginning Cali thought is was a target stick and targeted the tip. When we got to the road I left it behind so as not to confuse her. We did pick it up again and Cali taught me that I could carry it folded and only open it when I wanted to check on what she pointed out.

There seems to be varying opinions from the guide community on whether the guide should alert the handler to an obstacle by stopping or take the handler safely around on her own. Panda guides by taking Ann safely around over heads, poles etc. You can see this on the video clip further down on this blog. Panda stops at changes in terrain like curbs, sidewalks to grass, sidewalk to road pavement. So, it will be up to Mona to decide which she would prefer. Since Mona will be working with a mobility coach, we don't want to rock the boat on this. It's hard for me not to have an opinion. To know one needs an opinion on the subject is the neat part of the training.

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