So you want to be a puppy educator?Submitted by SAcommunity on Tue, 05/29/2012 - 09:46
Being a puppy educator has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
I love dogs, I have grown up with dogs.
In the last couple of years I really wanted a dog of my own, but I it never seemed to be convenient as I spend most of my life at work. Then I came across the Royal Society for the Blind Puppy educator program…and I thought…what a great idea, I can have a dog, take it to work with me everyday, and train it for a year to be a guide dog to eventually assist a blind person. Sounded perfect!!
I asked my employer who is the ABC, expecting the ‘powers that be’ to say no, but surprisingly they were very supportive and thought it was a sensational idea.
After a police check, a house and a workplace inspection by the RSB and a thorough risk assessment at the ABC, I picked up Barley on International Guide Dog day in April 2011. She was super cute!
I must admit it wasn’t easy at first, the toilet training was a chore, not only did I have to train her at home, but also at work . Attempting to get her out of the building in time was tough, the first few months I spent most of my time on all fours cleaning the carpet, the stains are still visible on the first floor at ABC Local Radio.
She is dearly loved by all at the ABC. She has created a fun and happy environment in the workplace and I reckon Barley’s been a source of stress relief for many people too– well she was for me!
She’s quite a little celebrity as not only is she well known at the ABC, listeners of ABC Local radio would know of her too, listeners of The Country Hour got to choose her name. This was a special treat as all the dogs usually come with names, but getting the listeners involved was a great initiative for the ABC and great publicity for the RSB.
As part of Barley’s training, I took her to weekly training sessions with the rest of her brothers and sisters. The early stages of training consisted of toileting on command by saying ‘busy busy’ (Barley is still mastering this unfortunately), and dog distraction. The latter is the downfall of many guide dogs in training, if you can’t master this, more than likely the dog won’t pass.
I’ve had Barley for a year now, she has passed her first assessments and has been accepted into the formal program in July…which is great news for the RSB. For me, not such great news as I’ve become very attached to her, more so than I thought! So the day I have to hand her back, is a day I’m dreading…I know it’s for a good cause – but I still feel sad!
The formal training goes for five months, and if she passes that, she is then paired up with a visually impaired person. I get to go to her graduation ceremony too – which is when I’ll get to see her again and meet the person she is paired with. I think from that moment, I’ll get closure!
For more information about the Royal Society for the Blind, visit www.rsb.org.au or give them a call on 8417 5599.