The title of this post may lead you to believe I am comparing Bertie to the fictional children’s story character the Ugly duckling but I can assure you, and you can see for yourselves in the picture attached, he was far from that. I indeed am referring to the partnership we began together and the beautiful and incredible bond we now enjoy that can merely be compared to the graceful swan. Back in February, we celebrated our second qualification anniversary and I reread My training Blog that I had written during that time whilst reflecting a lot.
Training with Bertie was a difficult thing to adjust to. Anyone who has successfully worked with dog number one and goes onto dog number two with reservations, self doubts and yet so much expectation can tell you it is the most traumatic experience of guide dog ownership possibly aside retirement and death.
Bailey, my first guide, who in actual fact, this post cannot be without him in it; was self confident and I often believed he could go anywhere without me and do just fine. New places never phased him and he was the perfect first guide for me. Bertie, on the other hand, needed me to be his confidence and for me to take the lead. Especially during those first weeks, months and even the first year. Guide dogs specifically estimate, a solid guide dog partnership is achieved between six and twelve months. And for Bertie and I, I think twelve months is very accurate.
bertie is much more sensative and needs my patience much more than Bailey ever did. He’s taught me to be calm, even when stressed because he does not respond to me very well if I’m stressed out and am asking him to do something. He’s closely matched to my emotions and I always have to bear that in mind with him.
Saying all this though, truly shows the path we’ve travelled together and how far we’ve come in two years.
Bertie is not yet four, yet some of the work he does on the daily resounds the experience of a guide much older than him.
This week, work has been taking place around an entrance I use into the mall and he has successfully guided me around fencing on the stairs but what he did yesterday will probably amaze me for a few months to come. He pulled me to the far side of the stairs and I trusted him to the point I just went with him. The ground began to slope downward and I said, “Oh, we’re going down the ramp”. i knew there was a ramp there from previous experience with friends but had never asked bertie to work it. It’s an S shaped ramp and I wasn’t sure he would pick up the line we would need to get back on track. I prepared myself to direct him but he didn’t need it. He calmly walked with confidence to the tactile crossing, placing his little nose on the post and wagged his tail. I was unbelievably proud of him. A dog that two years ago needed encouragement to do the smallest thing in harness, has achieved the ability to use his own initiative to get us around a very complicated obstacle.
I’m grateful every day for him and what he brings to my life. I would not have the ability to go out to work every day, go to the shops or meet friends or even just go for a walk without Bertie by my side. I am very blessed and proud to have this little hero at my side and more so of the partnership we have built together. He’s my little legend and here’s to many years together ahead of us.
I love you Bertie Pops