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Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Letter to FLD Mike's Future Handler

FLD Mike has not even returned to the Leader Dog School for his formal training, much less graduated and placed with a person.  This letter is in hope that he will become a Leader Dog one day.  If so, I would like his person to know about our walk this day.

To FLD Mike's future handler:

I don't know who you are, yet, but I'm sure that the trainers at the Leader Dogs for the Blind have selected Mike to be your new partner because they are certain that you and Mike will make a perfect team.

I thought about you yesterday while FLD Mike and I took what started out to be a three mile walk, but ended up at least a half mile longer.  On Tuesday, over one inch of rain fell.  I wasn't willing to take our daily walk in the storm, so instead, Andy and I took FLD Mike to Bass Pro Shop at Great Lakes Crossing after dinner (this is a fishing and camping supply store).  Heeling Mike around Bass Pro Shop proved to be excellent training.  The ducks in the little stream flowing through the store were a tremendous distraction for him; it took more than several minutes to get his attention back on me so we could walk by!

At any rate, the next morning FLD Mike was full of spit and vinegar.  Since the rain had stopped, I took him on a long walk.  Why did the three miles stretch into more than three and a half, you wonder?  Mike had so much pent up energy I did as much backwards walking the first mile as I did "heeling" him!  Per Leader Dogs instructions, whenever I feel tension on the leash, I walk backwards.  If FLD Mike wants to get anywhere, he learns to heel nicely at my side instead of pulling.  Eventually he figured out that I was serious and we had a nice walk.

As we walked, I noticed many sticks and small branches littering the sidewalk.  I know that Leader Dog trainers teach the dogs to guide their handlers around obstacles, but I wondered if that holds true for storm debris.  How treacherous a walk can be without clear vision!  I became aware of other things; often the cracks in the sidewalk were uneven.  Will Mike know to alert you about something like this?  Is there a safe method of stepping that prevents you from tripping over irregularities?  It is amazing what these Leader Dogs can do!

When FLD Mike and I paused at a corner, a mass of maple seeds jammed against the curb caught my eye.  So much rain had fallen that a rushing stream forced all the "helicopters" into a dam over the sewer grate.  When the water drained, the packed seeds created a stunning pattern.  My being able to see this got me thinking of you again.  I closed my eyes to feel the cool east wind against my slightly sweaty face.

Mike, heel.  We continued.

Everywhere ahead was evidence that rainwater had collected and run off; rings of maple "helicopter" seeds marked the sidewalk shores of dried-up puddles much like deposits of seaweed from waves on a sandy beach.  Some edges were easily discerned; others, more subtle, bore a closer look.

I wish you could have seen it.

May you enjoy countless walks of your own with my FLD Mike.


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