Puppy Club Day Trip

An important part of raising potential guide dogs is exposure to any kind of travel a blind person might undertake.  People who live in northern Washington use ferries.  Some ferries are small, only carrying passengers.  The Black Ball Transport’s M/V Coho, traveling between Port Angeles and Victoria B.C., is 341 ft. long, with capacity for 101 vehicles and up to 1000 passengers.

It’s good experience for the dogs to be aboard a ship with lots of people and new noises.  It’s only a 90-minute passage each way, and the dogs can practice walking long sets of steep stairs, and staying focused on their handlers.

I love being on boats and ships, any size, from kayaks to freighters.  It makes me feel like I’m in an old Errol Flynn adventure film.  Back when polishing up movies for DVD release was my profession, I helped restore The Sea Hawk (1940), which features a rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  Though the Coho is a sleek, diesel-powered ship, very modern for 1959, this is what was playing in my mind as we headed out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We traveled with five dogs, ranging in age from five months to two years old, and seven human handlers.  Victoria is a much bigger city than these dogs live in.  There were many kinds of novelties for them to observe and adapt to.  There was more traffic, and there were new kinds of animals for them to practice “non-distraction” with.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the streets were filled with artists, artisans, merchants and musicians.  Victoria is nicknamed “The Garden City”, and there were flowers everywhere.

It was the best kind of busy imaginable.  All the dogs did well, and got plenty of exercise.  On the return trip, they all settled down to nap.

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15 Comments

Filed under animal communication, photos

15 responses to “Puppy Club Day Trip

  1. I love these posts. I honestly had no idea there were so many elements involved in training a guide dog how to be successful .

  2. It’s actually quite simple. Labs remain calm around things they’ve seen before. All you have to do is give them exposure to EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD, and they’ll be fine ;)

  3. galenpearl

    As always, I love these posts and the photos. So glad you share this with your readers.

    • Sometimes it’s nice to just put up pretty pictures and music for you to enjoy. I know sometimes I want exactly that when I’m browsing. Glad you liked it, Galen, and thanks for spending time here.

  4. This is fantastic, Mikey. What a wonderful thing you are doing here. My husband is permanently blind in one eye and was totally blind for several weeks a few years back. Because the total blindness was temporary we managed (only just), but these dogs are amazing. I really admire you for this excellent work :)

    • Thanks, Dianne. My wife Mary’s desire to raise a dog combined with our shared intent to increase our participation in volunteering. At first she volunteered at the Humane Society, which conflicted with my schedule at the clinic. They told her about Guide Dogs for the Blind. It was a good way for us to share an activity, and to get to know and train some of the best dogs on Earth.

      GDB is completely privately funded, and will provide the dogs to anyone who needs them for free. They try to match the dogs and owners individually, keeping in mind differences in size and energy level. A sedate little old lady needs a mellower guide dog than a returning war vet.

  5. Love the story and pictures. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

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  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This is a beautiful write-up, utterly beautiful. My God, those dogs are so so special. They are SO special. How beautiful they are. I loved this – the pictures, your words. Just loved it.

    • That’s good! It’s easy to appreciate such carefully selected dogs, I agree. It was also one of those perfect days where everything was beautiful and there were no behavioral problems, so I was glad I took photos. I hope you get more of these kinds of days too. You’ve earned it.

  8. Glad you enjoyed Victoria with partner and the dogs. Great time of year to be there and the San Juan Islands too.

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