Posted by: arnoldoneal | September 18, 2011

School Days

In my last post I talked about the training that Brody had in order to become a guidedog.  People are often shocked when they hear that I had to go to school and be trained to work with Brody.  They are even  more surprised to hear that I was there for four weeks.  That’s right, four weeks, and it wasn’t any picnic either.

I arrived at Southeastern Guidedog school on Memorial Day of this year and was greeted by Leanne my trainer, along with Carl, Ashley, and the one of the senior trainers, Lynne.  I was very impressed with the campus, the well kept grounds, the comfortable dorm rooms, and a large fence that surrounded the property.  We were not sure if it was intended to keep people out or to keep us in.  My son Taylor made the comment as we drove up to the campus on the first day “Hey dad, it’s going to be like being in jail”.  Not that he, or any of us, have any experience with being in jail, but I guess he thought that with such a large fence like that, it might be similar.

I don’t want to give a negative impression, the school and staff are great, but there was something kinda scary about being somewhere that you cant leave whenever you want.

Our days started every morning at 6 a.m. We would take our dogs out for a walk and then meet in the cafeteria for breakfast at 6:30am.  I must say that the food was really good.  Chef Rob and his assistant Heidi always provided a great meal every day of our stay.

After breakfast at 7 a.m. we met at the feeding area to feed our dogs, followed by obedience training at 8 a.m.  Obedience was often combined with a lecture of some sort and then we would line up at Obedience Alley to do some doggy push-ups and heeling.  Doggy push-ups are good for keeping the dogs focused and teaching them who is in charge.  We did this again at 4 p.m. every day.  I continue to do obedience training with Brody every day.

After morning obedience we would do routes.  Routes could be done on campus, but sometimes we would load up in the short bus and go into town such Bradenton, Sarasota, or Tampa.

Lunch was at noon, usually followed by a lecture or another route.  The afternoon feeding was at 3 p.m. followed by lecture and obedience.  Dinner was a 5 p.m. and our day was over, except for mandatory busy breaks at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.  A busy break is when we take the dogs outside to ‘do their business’.

This was the routine 7 days a week although on Saturdays and Sundays we didn’t have to do routes, but everything else was pretty much the same.

It was a grueling schedule, but we got used to it.  It’s funny looking back on the time at Southeastern, it seemed like some of those days would never end, but they flew by and it was a great experience.

Most of our days were routine, but a couple really stood out.  The first one was the day that I met Brody for the the first time.  Before giving us a dog they reviewed the interview that we did dring our home visit.  This was to ensure that they had made the right choice of dog for each of us.  They had given us a leash to carry around and get used to having in hand. After a couple of days of working the leash and carrying it with us every where, we met in the day room, and one by one they told us our dogs name and description.  When they told me I had a male black lab named Brody, I was excited.  He sounded perfect for me, I thought of Chief Brody from the movie Jaws. I was so glad that I got a manly dog with a manly name. I had told Bobbi Jo that I was afraid that I would get a dog named Cupcake or something girly.  Not that there is anything wrong with names like that, but I didn’t think that would fit me.  One of the ladies in my class got a Goldedor named Biscuit.  She seemed to be a great dog, but dogs with names of baked goods, just aren’t my style.

When they brought us our dogs, they had us wait in our rooms with the door closed.  Then they brought the dogs in one at a time.  They told us that they would bring the dogs to our door, they would take them off their leash, open the door, and we would call them by name.   When I called Brody, he came running in and I put my leash on him.  This let him know that I was his new master.

When Brody ran into my room, he was very excited.  I was overwhelmed with emotion as he jumped around and licked my face.  At one point  I felt compelled to put my hand on his head and pray for him.  I thanked God for him and asked for God’s blessing on our life together.  It was a very moving experience.

Since that day there has hardly been a minute that we have not been together.  I did not know that you could become so attached to an animal.  I guess that when you are as dependent on them as they are you, a whole new level of bonding occurs.


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