I have been putting off writing this article. for some time because preparing for a new dog is more than looking forward to a long-anticipated outing. Getting a new guide dog requires physical, mental and emotional preparation.
As a guide dog ages, it slows down, just like we do. Because their life span is shorter, the slow down is more noticeable. Consequently, I have been walking slower and slower for some time. Now that I am using a white cane, I am walking even more slowly.
To remedy this, I worked out on a treadmill twice a week. This is not intensive training, I know, but I hope it will get my body used to moving faster and I will be more ready to walk with a much younger dog in his or her prime.
I keep up with my Senior Center exercise class twice a week. I also go to yoga classes two evenings a week.
The treadmill work will not continue when I return home. It is too hard on my legs and feet and does not fill in for walking. The walking pace is quite artificial and does not represent the way I walk with my dog. The exercise and yoga classes will. continue. I am switching to three yoga classes and one exercise class. My plan is to add several long walks each week. We will have to learn new routes together to accomplish this.
I have changed my exercise program for two reasons:
- The yoga classes are more intense for me. I think I am ready for this increase in activity.
- The yoga classes are all in the same venue—a clean space where the dog will be in the same general place under the same conditions for each class. I am hopeful this will allow us to develop good habits which will last for our entire partnership.
Mental and Emotional Preparation
I have lumped these two categories together although I know they can be quite different. I am not sure where one ends and the other begins for me in my preparation.
Starting the Process
The process of preparing for a new dog begins with the old dog. For a year or more I talked about getting a new dog. I was trying to talk myself into it. I made excuses:
- The floor was too hard for old bones.
- With time, the dogs just get too smart.
- I told myself my dog, Elwood, was still doing his job well--and he did up to the last.
All this made it very difficult to sit down at the computer in January and start filling out the "paperwork". The link "When partnerships end" on the website didn't help. I wanted my partnership with Elwood to last forever.
Elwood and I kept working together while I waited. I had a tentative class date. It passed. The time was upon me to say good-bye to Elwood and send him off with his new family on their all-summer vacation. I hope to and a half months away will solidify his affection for his new family--people he has known for two/thirds of his life--and be enough of a separation from me that seeing me again will not divide his loyalty. (Elwood is a very loyal dog.) He is also very, very clear about who puts food in his bowl.
Waiting for a class date to be confirmed is a very discouraging process. It is easy to place blame on others or to be convinced there is favoritism. I have no idea what has taken so long. I just can’t imagine the “right dog” is that hard to find or I am such a unique individual that the right dog is so hard to come by.
Getting Ready to Travel
Somewhere along the line, I stopped liking travel. Perhaps it was the number of moves I have made. I just want to stay where I am.
But I have realized I am limiting my travel so much that I am not doing the things I want to do. To this end, I have set myself some goals and I have already achieved one of them by using Uber.
Using a white cane, I learned my neighborhood in a different way. I hope it will help me become more independent and confident when I return with my new dog.
Although saying good-bye to a partner is excruciatingly painful, I am confident I have done as much preparation as I could to be able to start the adventure of a new and successful partnership.