I have a bit of time, so I thought I would write about how Domino and I are doing, and what I have learned about him so far.
He’s so good in the house, but he moves so quietly. He could get into a lot of mischief if he wanted to. Thankfully, most of the time, the place he wants to be is right next to us, or laying across our feet. When I have to get up, I feel bad for disturbing him!
At first, he wasn’t sure what the routine was, so would want to chase each of us around. But he’s starting to figure out how to settle when it’s not play time or go time.
He has learned that the kitchen is not a place where he should be, and he hangs out at the border. There was one time where he forgot and waltzed in, but that is the only time. Most times, he just parks himself at the edge and watches.
The bathroom is another story. He never drinks out of the toilet, but sometimes he just walks in there by himself and we have to tell him no…or sometimes he’ll try to chase one of us in there when we’re taking care of things. At least he listens well.
One weird thing he does is if there’s a tea cup or a water glass on the desk, he comes running over and swings his head at it, so we have to keep a firm grip of the tea cups so none get knocked over. Silly guy! At least he stopped sticking his face in the water glasses.
In terms of work, he’s working hard to try and learn the area. But he’s super unsure of himself. I don’t remember Tansy being this uncertain when she was new, but maybe I’m just forgetting. His pace is a little weird. I know he can go fast, because I’ve seen him do it, and when he’s sure of what he wants to do, he can move. But when either there is something that’s coming up that he’s not sure what to do about, or he just doesn’t like the cracks in the sidewalk or whatever, he will slow right down. He also slows down when he’s distracted by something, or when he has to poop en route. I’m not used to dogs slowing down when they have to relieve or when they’re distracted, usually they speed up, so I’m having trouble interpreting what his slowness means.
And about the upcoming obstacles, he slows down before I can even perceive them. If he slowed down right before showing me something, that would be fine. But he is super cautious and will see something several feet ahead of us and start slowing down. I’m blind, remember? So if it’s too far ahead, unless it’s making noise, I have no idea what the problem is! Also, if he gets too confused, he’ll just plant his butt. That hasn’t really happened since I got home, so maybe that’s less of a thing. This is all new guide dog stuff and we’ll work it out. I just notice it.
He also takes things very literally. I call him Domino Bedelia. One night, we went on a loop of the neighbourhood so I could show him what pace I like. So I took the clicker and every time he hit a good pace, I would click and treat. At one point, I clicked and treated. Then he wanted to slow down, but he knew he just got treated for going fast. I could feel the war on. “Slow down? Speed up! Slow down? Speed up!” I wondered why. Then I heard it. A car was in an upcoming driveway and was about to pull out. I realized the war was ” slow because car? Speed up because click! Car? Click! Car? Click!” The decision to slow down won out, and I praised the heck out of him. But he was willing to take me literally and keep the higher speed. I sometimes wonder if he gets the bigger picture. Probably none of them do at this stage, but I notice it a lot with him.
He is also a very good rule-follower. This is good in some cases, like when we’re in the house and I tell him to stay out of the kitchen. But sometimes rules need to be bent in the real world. For example, there is this crossing where the Light Rail Train (LRT) goes, and there is an island that you go over before you’re through the danger zone. When we hit down curbs and up curbs, he often gets treats right now. But in this case, I want him to stop very marginally and then keep going in case the bells and the lights start going off when we’re on our way through. But he wants that treat! So I hope he will learn that rules aren’t followed exactly.
He’s also very very very sensitive about my every move. Sometimes I think I’m sending signals that I don’t mean to because he’ll stop dead or look at me as if a treat should be on its way or something. Or if I’m not in the precise following position, he will think there’s something wrong. There’s a reason the instructor would say “Catch up to your elbow.” He was allowing me to pull him around if I got too far behind him, screwing up our line of travel.
I’m also noticing that my foot orthotics, or shoes, or both, need some help. Because of this, my feet are in a bit of pain. I also think that pain is causing me to limp a bit and he’s picking up on that, and that may be why he’s slowing down, especially if I’m on the return route. He is a very perceptive dog. If I can just harness that perceptiveness, I won’t have to say a thing! It will be magic!
And when he knows he’s got this, you can feel it through every bit of his body. That trot trot trot is glorious! But I can’t praise him too exuberantly because if I do, he’ll stop dead. “Cookie? Now?”
When he came home, I wondered when I would start getting new dog comments from the public. Would I get mobbed on the first day? Thankfully, the universe has been kind and they’ve been coming in at a slow trickle, gradually increasing to a steady stream.
I was trying to teach him where a crosswalk pole was so he could find it. We weren’t the fastest at it, and someone started telling me to “go now, the cars are waiting!” I know what they were going for, but I was going for long-term gain here. I’m sure the drivers can get over it. They’re in a car, they can make up their time. But if I teach the dog wrong, it’s a lot harder to get over.
Another one said my dog wasn’t as good as my old one because I had to feed him to teach him stuff and he was looking at me for help. Never mind the fact that she made that comment when we had been home for two days and this was his first try at this route.
Another one said he had a very human face. Can someone explain this one to me? Maybe it’s just because he’s yellow and I’ve heard that those ones have a more expressive face. There’s a picture of him in the Domino meeting post. Maybe someone can see what they’re talking about.
They also noticed he got excited if they asked him if he liked pizza. Someone else got him all excited about the word Pizza too. I wonder if someone called him Pizza Boy because he’s Domino, and the whole Domino’s Pizza thing.
But the funniest one I got was one guy said “Is that a new dog? The old one used to be black! Or did you dye it yellow?” Um…nope. On a related theme, lots of people wonder where the other one went, never mind that I’ve been walking around with a cane for 9 months. I guess it’s not noticeable until I walk out with a tall, yellow dog.
I watched my own graduation. That’s always weird. When it’s going on, it’s a blur. But when you’re watching it, it’s possible to notice things. One thing I noticed was that I said he was subtly playful. His play isn’t subtle at all now. He’ll be snoozing and then decide he wants to play right now! He’ll walk over to one of us and put his paws on us like he wants to climb us. It makes me laugh. He’ll get up in the morning and grab a bone or a kong. Sometimes he wants one of us to hold the bone while he chews it. Sometimes he wants to tug with the kong. Um, dude? There isn’t a lot of room there. He loves chasing that kong down and bringing it back, growling all the way. And his tug games have definitely picked up their ferocity. It’s fun to see the change.
Especially fun to see is the level of zoomies. He hasn’t done it often, but after a route where he felt particularly proud, he tore around our place, having a great time! If you had recorded it and told me it was a Tansy recording, I would have believed you.
He also does more flopping and shukhing in the mornings. I think he’s starting to feel at home.
We have discovered that he loooves fruit. We were chopping some up for a smoothie and he was very interested. I gave him some bananas and he frigging loved it! Then when we made another smoothie a couple of days later, he was very intrigued! He couldn’t take his eyes off Steve while it was being made, then he chased him around the living room when he was bringing it to me, then he watched him get his own and the nose was on high alert, just hoping some was for him. Sorry, Dom, no bananas for you today.
With Tansy, I seemed to only need to groom her every other day. But with him, it’s an every day thing…until I figure out what his hair needs. It doesn’t take me long, but I pay attention to his big bushy tail and his soft ears and the hair underneath them. I also do it at night so I have all the time in the world to pay attention.
I don’t know if Domino is as into music as Tansy is. I caught myself singing a few different songs to him while grooming him. I wonder if any of them will have meaning for him. The first was Sister Golden Hair. I was thinking about the way his hair feels, and I just started to sing.
The next was “Golden Years” or in his case, Golden Ears. I start to sing it while I’m brushing out his hair, under and around his ears looking for mats.
Another one I find myself singing is “Stand” by REM. Tansy used to know the “stand” command, but he doesn’t seem to know it. I’m trying to teach him but it’s going slowly. I found myself singing the song as I tried to show him what I wanted.
And I can’t remember how Tansy managed to learn “turn around”, but I’m trying to teach him the same. Inevitably, it’s Total Eclipse of the Heart” time.
I’m still learning how to get him to let me brush his teeth. He adores the toothpaste, but he doesn’t seem to like the toothbrush. I have tried the big end of the toothbrush and the finger brush, but he seems to be a fan of neither. Then I have to wipe off the big bunch of toothpaste on his shnoz. Maybe I’ll try the small end. Silly guy!
Now I think I’m down to the odds and ends. I found his family tree page and read about his litter. I also see that he’s the seventh Domino so far. Lucky 7? Anyway, I had this silly thing I would say to Trixie. I would tell her she was a trooper…no, wait, that’s your brother. That was because she had a brother named Trooper. Now I found out that Domino has a sister Dandelion. So if I’m picking up his poop and I think I feel a dandelion get snagged in the gift, I say “Gross! You pooped on your sister!” I hope nobody hears me and thinks I’ve truly lost it.
I was so happy that for years, I didn’t have any guide dog abandonment dreams. I thought I was over that. But I had one about Domino. I had a dream that I stumbled into this huge lecture hall. The floor was slanted like in a theatre and it was full of guide dog users. I squeezed into a seat and figured out that this wasn’t where I was supposed to be. So I stood up and headed back out the door, holding onto what I thought was my guide dog. But then I noticed suddenly that this dog was massive and his gait was totally different. Not only that, but his harness had tape on the handle! At first I thought I was nuts, but as we tried to walk more and more, it was very obvious that this wasn’t my dog. I was trying to figure out how I was going to walk back into that huge lecture hall and find him when I woke up with this compulsion to make sure Domino was in his bed. Of course he was. He was on tie-down there. Everything was fine. Let’s hope that was a one-off.
During his time with me, he has already amassed several nicknames. He already had “Dom” but I find myself using it, along with “The Domster”. I also call him “Ghost Boy” because of the way he moves like a ghost, silently floating around the room. But one day, I randomly called him “Droolio Iglesias” because of how much he drools! Good lord! I thankfully don’t have to wear a drool rag anymore, but it’s apparently visible. I was walking with someone who said he had a little bit of foam around his mouth. Foam? How long until some John Q. Public thinks he’s rabid? Give me time, I’m sure he’ll have a list of nicknames a mile long.
Wow! That post turned into a beast! But all in all, I think we’re going to be fine. I was out with a friend yesterday and he was telling me the things Dom was glancing at, and they were places we had been before. So he is putting things together. We’re just very very new. Plus, with me working from home, we tend to keep going to different places. So the poor guy doesn’t have one primary route to work on! But even so, he’s figuring it out.