I selcted two dawgs for this trip, Bo'sun and Katie. Bo's is an excellent puller - for me. Katie has been prepped, but has never been tested on real sidewalks.
Jack, our young volunteer, has never been in a wheelchair, but he does ride a unicycle. He thinks it's going to be easy. We head to Broadway in Eagle, the kindest ADA main street in the entire Eagle Valley. We park on the South end, unload and I show him how the chair assembles. I pop him in and send him off, no dog to help, for a tour, from the bottom to the top of the street and back. I want his impressions.
Jack isn't as swift on the circuit as I thought he would be. I figure he is getting the hang of the chair. Upon his return, I want to know what he's learned:
- The sidewalk slants towards the road.
- People won't meet your eye.
- He already has a blister on one hand.
I'm pleased, Jack has learned more than I wished. I thought it would take another hour to get a blister. Jack also admits that he crashed twice already. I'm not about to admit how many times I've done that.
We take a moment and I play the dog for Jack. I show Jack how to position his elbow and how to follow me as I lead. Then I instruct him how he can turn by moving his hand left and right, not moving his elbow, and the wheelchair turns. We crack up because it's so easy when we are doing it, but later when he tries with a pup, it's not so smooth.
So next I match Jack with Boatswain. Bo's is an amazing puller, but he's my baby, and always looking for approval from me. But Bo's has a bond with Jack that is awesome, I don't think this is going to be a problem. I lead off with Katie before them.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Jack & Bo'sun go off for a Broadway tour alone. This time no one avoids his face, they smile. Bo's helps him not to slide towards the street. Jack doesn't trust the elbow turns and gets another blister.
But Jack gets it. When you have a dog, people connect. Assistance dogs aren't just physical assist, they make a social connection. Everyone wants to greet you, meet you. From being a pariah, you become a celebrity. We made a side trip into the Eagle Pharmacy - the Everything Place, and ran into several teachers from Jack's school as well as one of my fellow patrons of physical therapy.
It's Katie's turn. She's totally toy-centric, so I grab a stick. Bo's & I and quick-step ahead with the stick; Katie goes nuts. She's pulling! Off they go around the County building loop. Um, I think she just pulled Jack OVER. Oops! Or was that Jack hot-wheeling again?
Now I made a deal with Jack that he would study his copied text for his day out. I get home and all those sheets are still on my dining-room table. We are going to fix this.
It's Halloween and I had my first normal in years ghosts & goblin night at Jack's parent's house. I helped spread webs and black lights. I admired weak and terrific costumes. After living where no Trick-or-Treater ever dared, it was wonderful to see the flood of costumes. I really liked the Ghost-Buster and the lil' Cinderella.