Its all about timing and structure. Dogs thrive on routine, and at The Seeing Eye, where Dora was conceived, born, nurtured, and trained, there is a time for everything. This was evident in our daily routine during my training earlier this month. Heres how the schedule went.
5:30 a.m., Rise, feed your dog, take her out to empty, and return to your room to shower and get dressed. 7:10, Harness up your dog and go to breakfast. Meals at any dog guide school are a vital part of the dogs training, because they need to learn to lie quietly under the table. Believe it or not, this actually happens, even when there are 4 or 5 dogs under the same table. The trick is to place them with their noses facing out. 8:00, a.m., drive into town for training on the streets of Morristown. 10:30, offer water and take your dog out to empty. 11:00, meet in the common lounge for a lecture on such topics as making a smooth transition to life at home with your dog, accessibility, dog food, medical care, and education of the public about dog guides. 12:10, work your dog through the now crowded dining room for lunch. The staff at the Seeing Eye has lunch with the students, so in addition to the 20 students, 20 dogs, and 5 instructors, there are many more plates to pass by and not sniff. . 1:00, back out to the streets of Morristown. 4:30 Feed your dog, offer water, and take her out to empty. 5:10 Dinner. 6:15 Lecture in the common lounge. 8:00 Offer water and take your dog out. Meanwhile, on your own, groom your dog, brush her teeth, run through an obedience routine, and finally, play with her. You might even find time to have a cup of coffee with other students at the coffee break, which of course, is scheduled from 10:00 to 10:30.
When some of my acquaintances asked me when I would be going to pick up my new dog, I had to explain that its not a matter of plunking down some money and picking up the leash and taking off. Its hard work, and this routine goes on for 2 and a half weeks, 3 and a half for first time dog handlers. Its a huge commitment. Thats why it took me a very long time to decide that cisco and I were not a good match, and that I needed to return to train with a different dog. In my next post, Ill talk about how the matches are made, who makes the decisions on who gets which dog, and why. Meanwhile, you can imagine my routine each day, even now that were home, starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending at 8:00 each night, exhausted, but very satisfied with our progress together.