Sunday, September 21, 2008

ZTC5: College in its final phases

Good day fellow senior classmates,

Note: Zane requested Dad to complete this training update.

It has been quite a challenging pace of training over the past three to four months and it is so gratifying that we can now move into our senior phase of training to become a guide dog. We have passed the basic training, the intermediate phases of obedience, distractions and obstacles. We have passed the advanced phases of buildings, elevators, stairs, escalators, trains and so much more. Now we have entered the final phases.

Phase 9: Advanced overhead and obstacle training

This senior phase means that we have to take more responsibility in knowing when there is an overhead obstacle, narrow passage, traffic check or whatever it is. The instructor is blind-folded and we must do our job such that the handler is kept safe and out of harm's way. We must exercise intelligent disobedience and await the handler to recognize the problem before proceeding. Once we have successfully passed this phase, we can now move into the final phase of training in preparatiion for blind students.

Phase 10: Prep for Class Training with Students

Each one of us had to go through another thorough physical examination to ensure that we were heallthy and medically ready for the rigors of class training with a bunch of blind students. This is what we have been being trained since we were about six to eight weeks old. We have gone through all the training with our puppy raiser, the four months or so of training with our coach and instructors. This is the time to "fish or cut bait."

Our coaches and instructors now put us through all final testing to ensure that each one of us pass our tests with flying colors. I know I passed fudging only on sniffing some food, but I did not eat it! What was key is that all instructors were blind-folded for ALL tests, so we had to do very well or we could have not passed.

It might be worth recalling that only about 50% of the guide dogs that start the guide dog process, actually make it through to this point. So we went through all the final tests:

- final traffic checks and intelligent disobedience

- final obedience commands including food refusal

- final buildings and stairs and elevators and excalators

- final guide work using all commands and recognition of obstacles in all settings

Dogs that passed all these tests could be put in class-ready status. We do not get a diploma, but we do sort of graduate as "sum-a-good-doggie."

This was some really tough training, but I can attest that I have used just about every phase of the training in some form or fashion with Richard. I appreciate all the hard work that my Coach Jessica and all her colleagues put into making me a number ONE guide dog.

In class 680 (Dad's), there were 28 of us ready for prime time guiding. 18 studetns in total came to GDB that November, 2007 looking for a new set of eyes. 20 of us actually were used since two of us had to be career-changted. I'm so happy that I found Dad. He is such a great handler and my new friend.

Hoorah, throw my graduation cap in the air!


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