Wow! I awaken for the last time in the training centre. I get up, and I get ready. Everything but the bare necessities are packed. I’m attempting to squeeze the last of it into the suitcase. It all goes in and wow, not even a really split zipper. But it was close for sure. A good sign I remembered everything.
So down to breakfast I go, and we actually have eggs! Anka goes around to every dog and says goodbye to them. She calls me small girl, ever since on visitor’s day I told her that my parents said she looked 35 when she’s 52. She stood behind me and said in a menacing voice, mocking of course, “You! Bad small girl!” So on the last day, she said, “bye-bye small dog.” It killed me. I let Babs say goodbye to Rob from kennels. She must have thought it was weird, I was letting her get away with murder that day.
As I crammed everything in, Anka came in and took Babs’s dog bed. Babs was so confused. She sniffed the area where it once had been. Then she lay down, put her head on her paws, and if there was ever a way of saying, “holy crap my life is changing, she expressed it plainly. No matter how many times I took her busy, she wouldn’t go. Poor thing.
I was the last one out. First Sharon headed for Gildwood. Hello 8:57 train. I should shut up, they were going to send me on the 6:20 train. So off she went. Then as I looked around the room for stray objects, I heard Margery about to depart, without even saying goodbye! So I ran and got student Tim and we said goodbye to her. Poor woman. If there is one regret I have, it’s the way I unintentionally made her feel like an outcast. I could sense it, the way she would never come to the patio, the way she was mad that we kept her up by talking near her room, the slight disdain I could sense that she seemed to hold towards Sharon, but I didn’t have the balls to stop myself from doing the things I did, like continuing to talk there, I may have giggled about some of Margery’s goofy behaviours. Plus I didn’t have the balls to stand up and try harder to make her feel included. So we all said goodbye and saw her off. Poor woman, left a couple things behind. Woops. Oh well, instructor Tim will bring them to aftercare. I get a ton of that by the way. Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, a lot of Thursday, part of Friday and the next Tuesday.
Then a bit later, instructor Timm helped me get some dogfood to take home to start me off. So count them. I have a suitcase packed to capacity, a backpack packed to capacity, and now 4 plastic bags. One with leftover things from the train trip down, one with dog things, and two bags of food. That would have been a train disaster.
I talked to student Tim in the hall. He seemed sad and happy to go home. It was weird. So after a while, I went and sat with him while he ate lunch, a damn fine lunch for the sendoff. I didn’t have a lunch because I didn’t know when I’d be leaving. Dad said he’d be there between 12 and 1. He was a wee bit late, but that can’t be helped. So as I settled down with Babs to watch TV, he arrived. We scooped up all my stuff, and Anka hustled me out.
Then we drove home, and stopped frequently to let her go busy, with no results. Not even when I was accidentally left in a giant field near my mom’s school for an hour. Meet my parents, masters of miscommunication. Apparently I let my dog lead me to the *only* place in the field where I was shielded from view. Thanks, Babs. Oh well. Mom eventually found me and then we went home. And I did the thing I shouldn’t do. In desperation that she go busy, we free ran her. But she was good, and that did help her go.
and so began the long string of errors. Well, the first one was coming home to mom and dad’s first instead of going straight home to Guelph to settle in. The school didn’t impress upon me the importance of coming straight home and settling into a routine so the dog would feel secure and know where home is. . They sort of hinted at it by not being too sure about my plans to go to mom’s first. But they didn’t sit me down and say “Listen, that’s really not advisable.”
So we brought her in, on leash, and she sniffed the place out. Then we hid the cat, because when Babs saw her, she sorta took on attack posture, and we thought hmmm that could be bad. But we took her off leash because she was settled down. She spent most of the evening sleeping.
Hmmm. Yeah, letting her off leash in not even your own house the first night home. Somebody’s a little dim.
Then we showed her to grandma, and the next day, after a long pause while mom and dad did laundry and such, we set off for Guelph. Babs rode in the back of the SUV thingy they had at the time behind the seats, and seemed to take the trip well. We dropped by my brother’s place, and I did another no no. Just shake me. I thought, “Hmmm…she’s crazy on leash. If I put her in harness, she’ll calm down because she knows she’s working.” Bzzz, incorrect! She bolted down the street, sniffing every post, everything, sending people into the grass. It was bad bad bad. My parents had a fit, especially my dad, and he and Dave started joking about whether she was the worst member of the guide dog class, or what, which made me bristle.
Can you spot the no no before the one I spotted? Trucking her all over to everybody’s house like she was some kind of circus act and then expecting her to work properly. Not smart.
We went back home, which was better, but she was still a crazy sniffer. I was exhausted and having trouble controling her. And then we ran into loose vicious looking dogs! Oh my oh joy oh boy! But we made it, thank god. All I could manage when we got finally home was “wasn’t…this…bad…at…training…centre…never…this…bad…”
So we made it home, and my dad continued to flip out, which didn’t help my stress level. The next day, that night, and a wee bit longer, I had to take her all the way to this park to busy. It wasn’t that far if you j-walked, but it was still kinda far at 6 in the morning and at 10 at night. And there was this little yorkshire tarrier that liked to bark at her from the neighbour’s house. But she’s good stuff, because even when she had a bit of the runs, she held it all the way to the park. Give her a medal! And then this freak offered her chocolate and she kept trying to make meals out of park litter, so that was driving me nuts.
I was completely bushed. It was hard to even take her to the park. That was about all I had the energy to do. I could come to life long enough to take her to the park, but that was it, folks. I think I had a little system crash from all the stress. I felt ill, so much so that I sent my parents to do my grocery shopping, something I don’t like to let my parents loose on. But I didn’t care. I didn’t even have the strength to muster up to get up and put them away. So mom and dad babied me until the end of Sunday, thankyou thank you mommy and daddy! Then they left, and I was alone with Babs until Tuesday.
After an excursion to the park Monday morning, in which I got lost I might add, but found my way home, , the lady who helps me orient to places and helps me with routes from one place to another showed up…unexpectedly for me! I looked like death. Complete death. And this is the point at which I remember that I did book this session.
So I drag myself out and we try, let me emphasize, try, to do a walk. But Babs becomes a little scavenger. Eating everything off the sidewalk. But I manage to get them back from her jaws. Devil devil devil!
And so begins the real hell…
We come back home…and I flop. Then my friend shows up just to see the dog. and then the lady who was there in the morning comes back and we do another lesson. She’s good for a while and then starts to scavenge again. I’m truly bushed now. Don’t do much in the evening.
Then instructor Tim shows up and we do aftercare, or start it. AT the beginning, I’m terrified that he’ll think I’m wasting his time. But like usual, he makes me feel better, and we write down a whole wack of things to do. That afternoon alone, we find a better relief spot right beside my entrance. No more park for me! Yee woo yea jump and dance and celebrate. Tom the landlord is awesome. He let me use that spot and he was all cool about it. Next we go to the store, and they’re fine in there, the bank, the buses, and Diana’s restaurant.
I remember being so worried about the convenience store. It’s run by Pakistani folk, and I know some of them have real issues with dogs, so I was not going to face my first denial of access alone. But we walked in there, and the older guy was more obsessed with Instructor Tim’s watch than my dog, and they’ve always been fine. With either Babs or Trixie, I haven’t had a single denial of access yet! Let’s hope that holds!
The jerkfaces broke the crossing to Diana’s. Cry cry
cry! They’d better fix it. Lame construction.
He leaves that night and Babs and I just hang out and I talk on the phone.
Then Wednesday was an awesome day. In one day, I got signed up for the guide dog allowance from ODSP, got her registered with a vet, got her city tags, he showed me how to grocery shop with the dog, oh it was absolutely stellar. Oh and we went out for lunch. Did we go up to the university that day? No. I don’t think so.
Thursday we went up to the university. I think on Wednesday I took her to the place where I answer phones too, which instructor Tim affectionately calls snaky because the corridors are so snaky. So we did the university library, all that fun joy. We recapped some things, and we played a dirty dirty trick on Babs. Instructor Tim called me and said “Set off to the bank and I’ll watch from a distance.” She was stellar…until we left the bank and turned around to go home. At one corner, she got something in her mouth. I reached in, and she clamped down harder! Ouch ouch ouchy I can still feel that! I get it out, howl with pain, hurl it, thwack her across the nose because it hurt so bloody, and I’ll emphasize that, bloody! much! I drop the handle and wait for instructor Tim.
Just then, two women approach me. “Excuse me ma’am, but you’re, um, bleeding. How can we help you? There’s a walk-in clinic right nearby,can we take you inside?”
I’m insistent that we wait for my instructor. Meanwhile Babs is desperately trying to lick something off the sidewalk, which the women say is my blood! Mine! Which is all over my shirt now. I look like I just committed a murder. Instructor Tim thinks that these people are my friends…until he sees them doing first aid on my finger. He runs up and says, “Holy Jeepers!” I can hold myself together until I see him. Then I start to cry like a baby. God damn dignity just went right out the window.
By now my finger is bandaged and somewhat cleaned up. Thank god for those women. At first I thought that wet stuff was just dog slobber.
We go home and he continues to clean it up and it’s bandaged and all covered in polysporin. He asks me if I’d be comfortable going back into her mouth to get things…I said, give me a few minutes before I answer that question.
I remember that trip home. Instructor Tim was guiding me, I was in shock, and as we get closer to home, I can feel Babs wagging and puffing. Ooo! This does not sit well with me. Rage, oh rage. I remember looking down at her and saying “You just took a chunk of my flesh, and you are happy?” Instructor Tim was talking all fast. “She’s stressed. She’s happy to be home. It’s something she knows…” I was still mad. Mad mad mad. It took a long time before I could go into a dog’s mouth without fear. My fingers tingled and involuntarily convulsed and received what felt like electric shocks from time to time because of the nerve damage that hound caused. Strangeley, my hand only started to feell normal after Peter had walked out the door with Babs.
I asked him if it’s true that once dogs taste blood, they want more. He says that’s a complete myth and not to worry about that. He’s completely surprised that she did that.
Yeah, just like they were completely surprised that Willow chewed leashes and brushes and chalk and…
So we sat for a few minutes and then went to the vet’s place and she practically ripped my arm off trying to say hi to another dog/go to the vet because she loves it there so much. We had to keep turning her around, and she’d pout
every time. “Pout pout pout I’m not being allowed to go in there. Mean mommy.”
After that, we came back home and he left for the day, and I turned off my brain and did something else stupid. The friend who came by earlier and I took her on a walk down the bike path. Full of dogs and other wild things. And to top it all off, my friend convinced me to bring her into this rec centre she goes too. Yeesh. never go in there again. That was the weirdest conglommeration of weirdos I’ve ever met in my life. Babs licked one of them, I didn’t catch her, and all I heard was this muttering, “I’m
not into that I’m not into that I’m not into that.” I was like “woe sorry
ma’am.” And she tried to eat so many chip crumbs. After some great fun, we took off out of there. And I went home dead tired.
Friday we went out and went up and recapped some stuff. My finger had swollen so much that it was painful to do practically anything with that hand, which is a bitch because with the dog on the left hand, I had to do everything with that hand. After some verbal and actual recapping of routes, he left for the weekend. I decided to take a book back to the library and go to the bank to get a cheque written, but more to take her for a walk. It went pretty well, but the screwups were mostly on my part. We got back home and rested, until I went to the walk-in clinic to get my finger looked at. It was infected! So infected that the doctor drew on my hand to show how far up the infection had gone, and said, “Come back in 48 hours to have it looked at again,” Then he prescribed me antibiotics and because I couldn’t get them that night, they sent me home with samples and told me to take double doses. Woe papa. So home I came, in shock.
Saturday we went to the pharmacy nearby and got the stuff. I love how people don’t listen. I said, “give me a bag to put this in so I can have my hands free. He hands me this little stapled shut paper bag. Um, no chief, try again. So I go home, and later, we go to the phone answering place for a shift.
She has fans everywhere she goes. I can be taking her for a crap, and she’ll have admirers. It’s sure weird. and I’m still getting used to this spotlight. But ah it’s fun.
It’s fun, as long as you’re not groggy, sick, and trying to take your dog for a poop. It’s fun, as long as your dog isn’t being an arse. It’s different, that’s for sure.
Sunday was fun. She was a devil and an angel all at once. I took her to the clinic so they could check on my hand. After waiting for like an hour and a half, they said, “ah it looks better.” So I came back home and grabbed things I forgot, then took the bus to Steve’s place, which she found absolutely flawlessly. Only error she made was going to the wrong door, but that’s easily enough done. So we took the bus back to our old stomping grounds and had an ice cream at the boathouse. Oh dogs and ice cream. Everybody who wants a guide dog, get your ice cream in a dish, not a cone! She tried to help herself to ice cream, but who can blame her? So after five minutes of
“leave its”, she calmed down. But I think I dripped some ice cream on her ear. Woops.
After we finished up, we went back to Steve’s, and after sniffing the place out, she calmed right down and we had dinner. I fed her there too, Steve got to witness a whistle feed.
Late that night, I took my first cab with her, and the crankiest guy in the universe was a happy man. Babs, give me your powers of…whatever that is.
It’s worth noting that he was happy, even though she tried to take a slurp of his pop! No, she succeeded in taking a slurp of his pop.
So Monday, in the morning, I had a lesson, which was a challenge. She was being silly, she likes to be silly around the lady who comes to teach me.
She also licked her coffee. The lady was not amused.
Then Monday afternoon, I decided we’ll go to the Royal bank and pay off the part of my OSAP loan that’s with them. So I do that. But the damn construction has messed up the beeping lights. So I got lost, and some stoners helped me get there. God the downtown is full of stoners now.
Actually, you got lost because you were woefully incompetent at the downtown area.
I came back from that and didn’t do too much after that. Sheesh it’s hot. Poor dog will pick up her cong, run with it, and then fall over pufffing. Glad the airconditioning is going in this weekend.
And today was the last day of aftercare. I bombed him with questions. And I do mean bomb. But the genius that he is, he expected that. So we do a couple corners that we messed up before, and of course, with him there, they go absolutely flawlessly. And we redid the university route. That was cool. I knew where I was going without having to know where I’m going in the tick tick sort of way. It was so fast and fluid and all that jazz.
We came back and Tim said goodbye and we had a good laugh over a few things. I don’t think Babs realizes he’s gone for good. Oh well. She’s sleeping. It’s so hot. Please let the night bring relief. Poor dog.
And that was the end of aftercare. Even though her time with me was short, it was eventful. There was her attending my neighbour’s funeral, mooing very loudly at strange times. Aww Babs. She would never go near neighbour Cam at the end. I think she could smell death on him.
There was her eating a bar of soap out of my bathroom and chewing on one of those exfoliating glove thingies. That wasn’t all she ate. She tried to make a meel out of a few other items, like bacon, stones off the road, noodles and bones dropped on the sidewalk outside a Chinese restaurant known to be visited by drunks, kleenex, sauce packets from takeout, whatever she could get her doggy jaws on. I remember when she got a wad of kleenex while I was waiting to cross the street, and an older British woman commented “What a disobedient guide dog!” It was hell. Every single walk was hell. I was constantly on high alert, and my corrections didn’t work worth a shit!
There was the many times that I had to learn that a dog is not a cane with eyeballs, it has to poop, and you have to make allowances for that. Having her drop a plop in the TD bank was a good lesson. There’s nothing like coming inside the lobby, being confused as to why my dog is sitting, and then hearing play by play commentary from a man behind me. “She’s sitting…she’s pooping! She’s pooping!” Oh god. Thank god I had a bag. I still had to timidly walk up to the counter and say “Um, excuse me sir, but my guide dog, um, defecated in your lobby. I cleaned it up, but you might want to sanitize the area.”
There was the buying of a gental leader for the pooch to curb the sniffing and eating, which CGDB didn’t want me to do, but after the hand-chomping incident, I didn’t care what they wanted. I was getting a goddamn gental leader, and it did do a good job.
There was the discovery of the oozing lump, which was pretty funny on its own. Funny, but sad. This lady from the CNIB came over, and found a very upset Carin. I had had a horrible day before, which involved slamming into every obstacle imaginable at painful speeds. I had left the TV on at night, and woke up wondering if my regular habit of leaving the TV on was what was screwing her up. I asked the lady from the CNIB, and she said no. Then I had her look at her eyes, wondering if they were stuck shut with goo and that’s why she wasn’t seing things. She said no. and Then I poked the lump which was now oozing and screamed “and what is this!” She stopped, looked at it, and agreed that that warranted concern. She wiped it with alcohol, which only caused it to bleed. We took Babs to the vet right away, and it was removed immediately.
This led to Babs wearing the cone on her head to prevent her from licking her stitches, which was funny, but sad again. At first, she slammed into everything in the house, but she soon learned how to walk around without hitting things. She even learned how to hold the bone with the cone! Now that’s a feat. I woke up one morning to the sound of Babs growling. I had just met Stupidhead, and she was creeping me out, so I thought someone had broken in. Nope. It was just Babs holding onto the bone for dear life in the cone!
Then came the spawning of more lumps, and the multiple biopsies. She looked like quite the sight by the end. People would say “Oh what a beautiful…oh my lord what happened to her?” because she had shaved stitched up spots all over her.
Finally, when we got the news that wasn’t good, then came the decision to send her back. I cried so hard, and the only thing Sue Hawkins could manage was, “Oh, have I thrown you a wabbly?” That puts it mildly. I cried, and cried, and cried, before they sent Peter to come get her.
I remember the day he arrived to take her back. I had built a wall between Babs and me. I couldn’t feel anything for her. I did what had to be done, i.e. grooming, relieving, feeding, etc. but that was it. Then he showed up at the door. He said, “I need the harness, the leash, and her antibiotics. She was still on them for…what was it? Oh I think she had to have some after the surgery? I can’t remember why she was on them, but she was. Those damn antibiotics that she spit out and I kept finding after she was long gone.
Crying, I gave him those things, plus her heartworm preventative and her bone. He asked me if I wanted to say goodbye, and I barely could. I gave her a hug and then handed over the leash. He took her for a pee, and I heard that old familiar snap of her trying to pull beyond what her leash would allow. I couldn’t help but chuckle behind my tears as she left.
What an eventful eight weeks. I don’t think Trixie’s first eight weeks were so eventful. In our short time together, Babs and I visited Barb, where she got her little jaws on a dryer sheet, we went up to the university to work, did shifts at the place where I answered phones, and she watched me start to learn to swim.
But it was not to be. She was wreckless, and the vet worried about my safety with her. It was probably because she was so stressed out and distracted by the lumps spawning in her body that she couldn’t do her job. If she had have stayed with me, she may have killed me, or herself, or both of us.
I won’t even try to blame it all on her. I was not ready. I went to a retrain class, I hadn’t had enough practice. I was as much at fault for our crappy walks as her, if not more. But it would have killed us, that’s for sure.
But in those two short months she spent home with me, she taught me that I did in fact want a guide dog. The good stuff was so good that it sold me on guide dogs. But she also taught me what I needed to know to make sure that the next dog and I would make an awesome team. Babs, I guess you served your purpose.
It’s funny how fast the doggy routines become ingrained. At the same time as I was overwhelmed, I always had bags and the food whistle. I would just do things or think of things as I walked. This automatic doing of certain things was a painful reminder that she was gone. I remember almost telling my cane “forward,” stopping, crying a little as I once again realized that Babs wasn’t there. On a funnier note, now that I have Trixie, I have caught myself telling one friend to come and another one to heel! Woops! Some things are too ingrained.
There are days that I think about calling the Ottawa school and asking how Babs is, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t know. They told me that she had been placed with a stay at home mom with three kids, and they weren’t keeping track of her medical progress. So they may not know if she’s alive or dead. I’m so afraid to talk to those people again because they know I left on bad terms, and calling them would feel awkward. But I should try. I’ll never know if I don’t try.
So that is the Babs training journal in a nutshell. Hope you enjoyed the trip back in time. It was an interesting trip for me too. I hope it helps someone and isn’t just a pile of blather to everyone but me and a couple of people who know me and happen to read the comet.