Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on October 27, 2014 on Vision View Point, the predecessor to The Outlook from Here.
By Chad Nelson
After staying at the Seeing Eye for two weeks, getting to know and working with my new guide dog Laura, and having lots of fun and laughs with the instructor and other students, it was time to think about “real world” travel scenarios.
After the first week, when students and new dogs, along with their instructors, traveled a route in Morristown to work with the dog, and become familiar with each other, things changed. Once the “solo” (where the dog and handler work a route without instructor intervention) was complete, it was time to do what is known as “freelance work.”
Freelance was a fun time because if there was something I wanted to do, or a place I wanted to go, we would do it if it was reasonable. I traveled to Wal-Mart to buy a Blue Tooth headset for my phone, and to a drugstore to pick up something for the instructor. We even walked through the Morris County Courthouse. This courthouse is very old and it has a maze-like atmosphere, with lots of twists and turns, stairways, and a lot of people in the halls as they go about their business or attend court hearings.
Laura and I also took the bus from Morristown to Summerset where we took the light rail back into Morristown. The bus was no big thing since I ride one every day when I’m at home. The train, on the other hand, was a really different experience.
Near the end of our training period, I took a trip into Midtown Manhattan with my instructor and a new friend who had just received his next dog. We wanted to walk around and experience New York City. It always sounded like a fun city with lots of quaint shops and people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
We parked at the Port Authority plaza and walked up 8th Avenue. Along the way, we stopped in a small shop that sold t-shirts, and I bought a purple shirt that had the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline on it.
On the way back to the Port Authority, we decided to take the subway instead of walking. I had taken the subway once before when I was in New Jersey 13 years ago when I trained with Pete, my first dog. The subway is a totally unique experience if you haven’t ridden one before. Being underground, the trains are very loud and they move at high speed.
New York was really fun to visit. It’s great to work a dog in the city because he or she will weave around people and things on the sidewalk.
All in all, the experience at the Seeing Eye was very rewarding. This time around, it was a much more pleasant experience than my first time, when I was dealing with some personal issues.
If you have ever thought about getting a dog guide, I think the Seeing Eye is one of the very best places to go. The staff is very helpful and friendly. By the end of the training, it feels like you are leaving behind some wonderful old friends.
If for any reason I wouldn’t get another dog, I will always have very fond memories and a deep respect and love for the Seeing Eye and its entire staff.