Guide Dogs: A Natural Bond

Don: Holly’s actually a very adaptable dog She seems to know exactly what’s inside my head I don’t know how she does it But she’s just marvelous Having a guide dog has meant so much to me He’s how I get to work And he’s how I get home He’s like my baby and my companion He enriches my life by just being in it Humans have a close affinity with dogs because we’ve lived in close proximity for thousands of years Guide dogs have a very intense role with their owners They are more in tuned with them than many pet dogs, I think Holly is a very happy and joyous dog who loves it when the door bell rings She loves people Holly is now seven years She has a birthday in December she’ll be eight years old I don’t know which of us who will last the longest We will have to wait and see I had some sight up until the age of seven And I had Infantile Glaucoma which meant that I either lost my life or lost my sight In the 1960s, I’d heard about The Seeing Eye Dog Training Unit in Morristown, New Jersey Which is the birth place of modern guide dog training When I went to Britain as a 20 year old to train as a Physiotherapist Before I came back to New Zealand I said I must get myself a guide dog Rosemary: We met in England at the Physiotherapy School For The Blind I was born with a sight defect I’m legally blind but I have broad peripheral vision So, I feel that I have got a good functional level of sight Don is very generous with his guide dogs We are allowed to love them as much as we want to Don: The first dog I got was Jassle Jassle was the 4th guide dog in New Zealand There were three others before me Of course, guide dogs were very unusual in New Zealand Many of us did talks around the country We had to publicize the benefits of guide dogs and the ability to bring them into restaurants and houses and public places So, we were a band of pioneers really Jassle first came back to Auckland in the mid-60s I rang up the bus company and said I’ve got a job at Auckland Hospital and I’ll be catching the 7.30am bus They said, “Sorry Sir, no you can’t bring your dog on the bus.” “It’s totally prohibited and against the law.” “We won’t have it.” So, the Howick Bus Company said “Show us what this dog can do?” “Does this dog really hop on the bus and keep quiet?” “Yes” I said, and they said, “We’ll take you for a ride around the block.” Jassle jumped onto the bus and went straight under the seat as they are trained to do and he drove me round the block And Jassle stayed nice and calm And he said, “That’s amazing” And, “Not only can you bring your dog on the bus at any time,” “but I will give you a free pass as well.” That was the beginning of giving me some confidence that guide dogs could begin to be accepted in New Zealand We managed to get the Dog Registration Act changed so that guide dogs could go into public places And happily that’s the way it now stands We breed about 100 to 120 puppies

here at Guide Dog Services every year because we need variety They need to be perfect They need to have perfect health, they can’t be scared of things They need to pass about 55 tests that we put them through Donna is what we call a maiden bitch This is her very first litter Five little gorgeous black puppies And they will be six weeks old tomorrow We bring them up to this room and we have all this colorful stuff for them to explore and play with New experiences, that’s what the little mirror is about, on the wall So they can start to see themselves and go, “What’s that?” “Am I happy with that? Am I not?” All the lovely colorful dangly things you can see from the ceiling are there deliberately to try and help teach them to look up In the wild, dogs don’t have any predators that attack them from above So, looking up is not natural for them But we need them too if they’re going to be guide dogs So that guide dog handlers don’t get a tree branch in the shoulder or head These dogs are very intelligent and they’re able to learn a huge amount Guide dogs are very adaptable and they need to be because they’re exposed to a lot of different events And they have to go to different destinations We have guide dog handlers who work in the middle of Auckland city trains, planes and buses, all over New Zealand for business purposes They need a dog like Head Dot there He’s the most confident puppy that we’ve had in a long time He’s just up for anything We have other slightly older people, retired and they like to take it slow up to the local club 2-3 times a week or to the dairy or go and visit friends So, a quieter type of dog is needed We need the variety We’re encouraging them to try new things Encouraging them to climb on those colorful objects And we let them fall off If everything as much as possible is positive and we let them develop at their own speed, then they’ll get more and more confident And that is one of the key things we need – confident decision makers On the Puppy Program the puppies are placed with a puppy walker at 9 weeks of age And they have them from a year to 16 months The role of the puppy walker is hugely important because we need to get them bonding with that dog, and also developing the idiosyncrases and individuality that each puppy can have to offer I was dropping him off at school and saw somebody with two Labradors I said to them, “My son wants a dog but I’m not too sure.” She said, “Have you thought about puppy walking?” I had never heard of it before So, I went home and Googled it and was very interested The role of the puppy walker is to socialize her to different areas So anything that has different sounds, noises, smells, people Training experience is the rubbish truck because the noise can really unsettle them It can really frighten them But what we tend to do is just watch them Not make a big deal out of it And if their body language changes they might need some encouragment But we wouldn’t say, “Poor puppy,” or feed into that fear or uncertainty Just say in an upbeat way, “You’re okay, you’re alright, let’s go.” I am very connected with her They are with you more than pets because you do grocery shopping with them you go to the pool with them with your kids or you go to sports and restaurants with them She’s been on date night with my husband and I into the city As a puppy walker you always want your puppy to do the best You never want to think that you’re the person that’s failed them

This is a bit like having a Plunket checkup, I love it So, Leila has just come out of kennels? Nicky: Yes And everything went okay? Nicky: She struggles a bit with her adaptability when she’s away from me, it seems I would suggest that in the home over the next few weeks, change things that you do around here If you normally feed her at 7pm, change it to 8pm And vary where you sleep her I would be visiting Nicky, to supervise her puppy Leila, to check on the progress she’s making to set new milestones for her along the way And also to offer support and coaching for Nicky as a volunteer walker “Pull her back and stop,” good that’s right Nicky: Leila, Leila, back and stop Leila, leave, good You may not feel like you’re winning But you’re teaching her that, “Okay I do have to keep stopping.” That’s right pull back, release Nicky: Good girl, leave Well done, and heaps of praise Nicky: Good girl, good girl This is a lot they need to learn and cope with, so they need to be confident The latest way of training is all positive reinforcement And there is no punishment used What we do if we don’t want a behavior to occur is do what we call “Extinguish it” by ignoring it Nicky: I normally have to walk her down this section of the footpath because she loves all that down there That’s how we train them, for a client there are billboards, rubbish bins, so we want them nice and central as they go So just move her back on this side and shorten the lead Nicky: Leila, sit, sit Good girl, settle That was a good opportunity to see tha dog outside the library It’s something I’m uncertain of at times, so it’s nice to get your input Definitely her level of dog distraction is high and if she was a working dog it wouldn’t be acceptable for her to behave like that But we have to remember that she’s just over 12 months old Nicky: She’s trying to get to the crumbs under the table Nicky: Good girl, settle, good girl, settle, that’s it When our puppies do wear their red coats, we do deem them to be working The majority of puppies would spend a couple of walks a day in their red coat But the rest of the time it is fun time The play time is equally important for them They are puppies, they’re not miniature guide dogs So they need to release energy and have fun at the end of the day Noah, my seven year old has grown so much with Leila He spends a big part of his day just lying on the carpet cuddling her And in the mornings before school they lie on the kitchen floor paw to paw and nose to nose There’s recent research come out of Japan and they looked at what we call ‘puppy dog eyes’ where people stare into each others eyes, or stare into a puppy’s eyes and they feel a lot of love There’s actually a release of Oxytocin What they’ve discover is with the puppies equivalent to when a mother and baby look at each other, and there’s a bonding process that goes on Dogs certainly experience emotions, similar to the emotions that we experience So they will be sad, they maybe unhappy about something I don’t know sometimes how I’m going to pass her back You have to tell yourself that you are their foster parent, that they are not your pet and it’s going to be hard But you are doing it for the greater good I get up about 6.30am sometimes a bit later

I have my shower and Prentice tends to wait outside the door Then I feed him and that’s his favorite part of course He gets pretty excited He watches Mum eat and waits patiently, sometimes Usually he just wants to get going So, I quickly have my breakfast and then we’re out the door Walking up to the bus station and ready for work He gets excited going to the bus station because he loves to work I was born with Congenital Cataracts In both eyes I was completely blind So they did about 13 surgeries before the age of four They managed to give me some sight in my right eye And pretty much none in my left eye, which was a lazy eye I can see very large print up close for a short period I am very short sighted Maybe half a meter in front of my face to see basic things “Good boy, it’s alright.” “It’s alright the cat’s not there.” The thing with the harness is that it allows you to feel the body movements of the dog I can feel when Prentice turns his head left, I can feel when he turns it right I know when his attention will jerk away to something else When he’s suddenly alert his body becomes stiff His whole aura, for me, becomes very tense and unsure “Straight across.” You’ve got to trust that your dog knows exactly what they’re doing And if they say, “Stop” then you stop The guide dogs will be happy to do exactly what their owner tells them But a guide dog has to think twice about something when it’s told to, “Go forward” and there’s traffic coming The dog needs to be able to say, “No it’s not safe I’m not going.” They certainly can make snap decisions on their own I was with my guide dog instructor once, we were chatting and walking along the street And suddenly Prentice stopped and a car screeched in front of us He actually saved all three of us really It does seem a lot of pressure to put them under And yes it is pressured, it’s a hard job that they do But they seem to cope very well with it And they also have the up side of constant companionship “Find the button please.” “Find the button.” “Good boy.” He ignores everyone, he’s very “mummy orientated” and very focused Almost from day one he was watching me He sort of knew that I was going to be the person that he protected and looked after This is my very first job I’m really enjoying it I love working here I love the people and I love the environment We’re in the National offices for New Zealand Blue Light Adventures We’re a youth charity and work with kids at risk Prentice is a laugh It took us a bit to get use to the protocols around having a guide dog You’re not sure when you can play with the dog and when you can’t And Michelle’s helped us through that It’s a complex relationship, I guess When he’s got the harness on, the way he behaves and looks after her is really remarkable

And quite a different dog with the harness off And we can play with him like a normal dog without the harness Throw the ball for him and pat him They switch as soon as you put the harness on, they change and switch And that’s really important because they’ve got that measure of what they should be doing at that time “Hot cholocate, let’s go find the door.” Prentice knows where each isle starts When I say, “Find the next isle” he’ll find the next isle for me And he will watch out for any trolleys or other little obstacles He will weave me around people He also knows exactly where certain things are He often stops right in front of the chocolate “It’s the chocolate isn’t it? Yes it’s the chocolate!” I have a little machine called “Ruby.” And it takes moving video or snapshots of things and then enlarge them on screen to look at them He knows where the counters and self-service checkouts are And when I say, “Find the one that’s free, Prentice” he will go to one that’s empty “Find a spot” “Find a counter” Don: Holly’s prone to picking up bits of rubbish on Queen Street from time to time She’s not adverse to snatching a tissue that had a hamburger wrapped in it So, those are the sorts of things that need to be controlled a little because we’ve got a job to do here, Holly, (laughs) And we have no time for loitering in public places Whereas one of my previous dogs, Senna she stayed close by and wouldn’t leave my side They’ve all got different personalities and you have to work with those personalities in a way to really get to know them and build on their strengths And that’s all part of that bonding thing that is so critical to a good working relationship Working with Jassle taught me a lot about my own emotional life But the bond was really demonstrated at the end of her life One day, Jassle jumped up to the train and she winced a bit, thereafter she started limping I took her to the vet and he x-rayed her It was determined she had actually developed a tumor, a sarcoma on her back thigh and that her leg had broken So, she worked for a week on this broken leg still guiding me about Once I knew her leg had broken, I would go off to work in the morning, leaving Jassle at home and she would creep into our bedroom and get up on the bed Now, she never did that, only in those last days But it shows the affection and the bond that there is She was a wonderful dog Announcer: Michelle Anne-Marie Jackson and her helper, Nelly I got Nelly when I was 17 years old She was my guide dog until she was 11 years old She was my baby It was very hard when I lost Nelly I got very upset I knew it was coming because we got the diagnosis of lung cancer So we knew that it was a matter of months, maybe weeks And it turned out to be two months I had to make the decision, I took her to the vets and had her put down Our dogs are incredibly special

and they’re special to our whole guide dog family When one of our dogs passes away we organize a plaque and often we’ll have a memorial ceremony It’s imporant, they are important and they’ve done an amazing job Everybody who’s had a dog that’s close to them and they have lost that dog, they find that they can’t just go out and get another dog to replace it They need that time to grieve and to remember everything they did with the dog Then they’ll come to a point where they start to long for a dog and long for that companionship again My parents said that they wanted me to have another dog because they felt safer with me with a dog and they knew I was more mobile and more independent when I had a dog, compared to having a cane Years and years later when Senna was very new, and Jenny came to visit Senna, she said to Don, “Dad what does it feel like to be complete?” And we said afterwards, that was an interesting comment But we realized that it must have been how as a small child just knowing that Don and a dog were a unit Don: All my four dogs have helped at various stages of my life It’s all about loving them to bits and making sure that that bond is there It’s an unconditional relationship that they give to you They’re not asking to be judged or judging themselves They are very forgiving Michelle: It’s definitely an emotional bond for me, anyway I think Prentice loves me How do I know? Because I always get kisses in the morning I can just feel their eyes on me I love him He’s my buddy