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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

OBSTACLES--Traffic Exposure When There is No Traffic

 

Cait Macanliss, over at Dogstar Academy is the host for the 6th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC). The topic for this edition is OBSTACLES.

To learn more about the ADBC, or to find links to past editions, check out founder Sharon Wachsler's post on her blog, "After Gadget."

What follows is my submission.


Sometimes being aware of ones obstacles is the first step in overcoming them.

When we moved from the city to the country last year, I worried about being able to provide enough diverse experiences for my Future Leader Dog puppy. So, I purposefully made efforts to bring FLD Gus, my puppy at the time, to town at least once a week. Twice a month we also made trips to the city and FLD Gus continued to get exposure to crowds and traffic he didn't get up north.

Read my post from the 4th ADBC, "Living the Difference" and you'll see that I eventually calmed down about it all and continued raising Gus to the best of my abilities.

Enter FLD Scout, my fourth Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy. Scout shares the same mother as my second puppy, Mike, who went on to work with Eric, a young man from Spain. (Read my post from the 3rd ADBC, "REACTIONS: Meeting LD Mike's New Handler.") Funny how these posts seem so connected!

In spite of continued trips to the city, FLD Scout is the first puppy I'm raising while living full-time in the country. A rural lifestyle does create obstacles in exposing Scout to heavy traffic, an important aspect in raising a Future Leader Dog. Scout wasn't with us very long before I realized that she wasn't getting the experience she needed.

We were out on our driveway one morning in September practicing loose-leash walking, and I saw the neighbor-kid, Ryan, spinning around on his BMX bike while waiting for the school bus. I headed his way, always open to distraction opportunities.

Hi Ryan, I said as he skidded to a stop in front of us. FLD Scout froze, unsure. Scout, sit, I said to redirect her attention. Everything was new to her, so I helped her little butt to the pavement.

This is Scout, I said as I straightened up. Can you help me train her? Ryan agreed to ride slowly by a few times, keeping some distance until Scout learned that a boy on a squeaky bicycle was okay.

That strategy worked. After only a few pass-bys, Ryan was able to coast right up to Scout, his tennis shoes dragging. She leaned toward him with her investigating nose, but held her sit. Go ahead, you can pet her. Ryan leaned over too, and made fast friends.

I heard the school bus rumble round the corner a mile away at Wiltse Road and start laboring up the grade. Ryan sped off to drop his bike in his yard and hustled to grab his backpack that was lying against a tree.

Another opportunity! I heeled FLD Scout off to the side of the road, had her sit, and waited for the bus to arrive.

The bus groaned to a stop. Scout startled. As I bent over to reposition her back into a sit, the bus's air brakes let loose. Scout bolted in the opposite direction. When she hit the end of her leash she was like a snagged fish fighting to stay out of the boat.

Scout! Sit, I commanded, gathering up the leash. I had to put her in a sit. Good girl, Scout! She glanced up at me. Good girl! I said again and rewarded her name recognition with a bit of the puppy chow I always carry in my right pocket. She lost interest in the scary yellow monster, which had quieted to swallow Ryan.

Scout, heel, I said and walked further away from the bus before it roared back to life.

Here was an obvious obstacle. How was I to expose FLD Scout to heavy traffic when the school bus twice a day was about the extent of it on Brady Road?

Off to town we go!

We walked one block north, south, east, and west, crossing busy M-33 at the only traffic light as many times and from as many directions as we could. Then, for 20 minutes or so, I sat on the peeling paint of a weathered bench on the east side of M-33, just north of the light, with FLD Scout positioned in a sit beneath me. Tandem log-haulers, propane delivery trucks, and a steady stream of commercial freight transport vehicles rumbled by us north and south.

FLD Scout looks up at me as we pause to watch 18-wheelers thunder by us.

"You sure about this?" she seems to ask.


Before long, Scout relaxed into a down and seemed to enjoy the parade.

FLD looks south...

...and north at the passing truck parade.

FLD Scout takes traffic in stride, now. I still make sure to take her to town--in the last week she's been to the Post Office, doctor's office, and Big Bob's Restaurant in Hale, Glen's grocery store and the pharmacy in Rose City, and Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Subway in West Branch.

Guess we're getting out and about more than I realized!


Four months later, FLD Scout is bored at the same peeling bench, this time accompanied by Phyllis and FLD Autumn.

6 comments:

  1. Hey, there's more happening out in the boonies than some people may think!

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  2. lol! Yep, you are right. I learn that every time I do a story for our local paper, the Ogemaw County Voice.

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  3. Excellent article this is great news thanks to update. Overnight Prints

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  4. Yay, you are doing an awesome job with your pups! Food rewards are my favorite thing to use when a dog is afraid. What breed is she?

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    1. Hi Martha! Thanks for your encouragement. Scout is a Lab/Golden mix, from Leader Dogs for the Blind breedstock.

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  5. Hey Patti,

    Thank you for participating in the carnival! As usual, I learned some interesting stuff from your post. Barnum is now getting a lot of exposure to chickens because our neighbors just got some, and he can see them from my bedroom window.

    I only wish I could take him as many places as you are taking Scout! Sounds like you're doing a great job!

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