Watching As Guide Dogs Are Trained!

Yesterday I got to watch something truly remarkable. I got to watch a session where SA Guide-dogs Instructors Hayley and Permit trained their dogs for traffic work.

What this kind of training entails is two instructors, each with one dog at a time, and another instructor in a SAGA vehicle, yesterday it was Guide Dog Services Manager

They do practice this on their training walks with what is referred to as “natural traffic”, cars that happen to come along during their training, but traffic work is a step up from that.
They head for a quiet suburb, and then using driveways and intersections down the length of about four blocks – determined at the start of the session – the instructors will walk with their dogs and the instructor in the car will turn into driveways, cross-streets, and approach stop streets in front of the approaching instructor with the dog. Its done at different speeds, sometimes with sudden stops or with the driver of the vehicle backing away and approaching again.
This gives the instructor with the dog the opportunity – under controlled circumstances – to correctly instruct the guide-dog-in-training on how to react and what to do.
The instructors have two viewpoints to each interaction and should the dog be over-eager, or react with fear, they can correct the behaviour appropriately and gently, and end the interaction on a positive note.
This is essential to prevent the dog from associating approaching traffic with a negative experience.
It also gives the instructors, as a team, the opportunity to observe the dog’s reactions to cars and crossing streets as part of their eventual decision on who to partner the dog with.

Its phenomenal to see how well the instructors know the dogs, and how patient they are. Not only must they give the same instructions to each of their dogs, they must tailor how they praise and correct behaviour according to the situation AND the individual dog. This is certainly not a cookie-cutter-training process.
There are no assumptions made with regard to a dog’s progress and personality. An apparently bold dog may be a little nervous in traffic- and vice versa- and each dog is monitored throughout the walk to make sure it has a positive experience and responds properly. And this isn’t done once for each dog, the training is repeated in different areas and on different days so that the dogs know the “rules” apply no matter where they are, as well as to make sure the dogs are okay in any area.

And get this – they have to use different cars and different drivers for these sessions because the dogs are so smart they can actually get accustomed to the drivers and the cars, and they could start thinking that cars can’t or won’t actually hurt them since the SAGA staff are so careful during these sessions!
In real life situations of course, the cars don’t always stop!

It was absolutely fascinating.

I want to say a big thank you to Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Hayley; her dogs Zaiden, Cayla, Chiva, Elliott and Bramble; Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Permit; his dogs Zama, Shaun, Abby, Ari and Dakota; and Guide Dog Services Manager Gail (who was behind the wheel today), for allowing me to come along and watch you work.

I Know I’m Scarce Here…

but I actually blog once a week – at least – about our furry family!
I blog about our dogs and cats and about the guide dog puppies we raise for SA Guide-dogs on one of my “other” blogs.
Its called “Conradie Zoo“.
I split the blogs years ago because I was getting comments about all the cat pictures on my regular blog… Teehee…

Recently, I blogged about our beloved yellow Lab, Riddick, who ended up having surgery to remove a foreign object from his intestines as he has a tendency to swallow the things he chews on. He’s still in hospital so they can make sure there’s no infection, and I miss him so very much.

I also blogged about our two “old ladies”, Thelma and Louise, and how they handled the move to our new house.

And I post a weekly update about our newest guide dog puppy-in-training, Lennox, who also has his own Facebook page!

So I may not be blogging here very often, but I am blogging.


Have you ever…

I spotted this on Tanya’s blog and she found it on Harassed Mom’s blog!

1. Been pulled over?   Many times!

2. Plucked your eyebrows?   Not myself, I’ve had it done for me though.

3. Pulled an all-nighter?   Many of them! For work and for fun.

4. Baked a cake?  I’ve lost count of how many cakes I’ve baked…

5. Fallen down in public?   Twice that I can think of, I slipped on a mall floor once and I slipped on rainy concrete at work once.

6. Been caught making out?   *coff* oh yes…

7. Taken a pregnancy test?   Several! Always with a sense of dread, whether I was wishing for a positive or hoping for a negative.

8. Broken a bone?   I had a broken collar bone as a baby, but not since. I’ve always been a chicken when it comes to adventurous things like climbing trees and such.

9. Had braces?   Nope.

10. Gone skinny dipping?   I don’t “skinny dip” so much as “chunky dunk”, but yes.

11. Made a prank call?   Oh yes! One in particular I will never forget, I called my folks where they were visiting with friends and told them our house was on fire… 🙁

12. Screamed during a scary movie?   Nope.

13. Gone out without underwear?   Uh huh.

Heeeyyy!! What happened to #14…?

15. Opened Christmas presents early?   Maybe… Does midnight on Christmas Eve count? We sometimes did that as kids.

16. Been in the hospital?   A few times, when I gave birth to my knucklehead, when I had my wisdom teeth out, and a few times for asthmatic pneumonia.

17. Had food come out your nose?   Not that I can remember…

18. Toilet papered someone’s house?   Nope. You can’t get close enough to people’s houses to TP them in South Africa! 😛

19. Laughed so hard you cried?   Oh yes. And laughed so hard I had an asthma attack, and laughed so hard I wet myself!

20. Burned yourself with a curling iron?   Nuh uh. I’m such a doofus with my hair that the most I can manage is a ponytail, so if there is any curling to be done I have someone do it for me.

No #21…?

22. Eaten food that fell on the floor?   Cookies or some such yes, otherwise no.

And no #23!??!

24. Shared a sucker with your dog?   No! Eeuw!

25. Been in an accident?   A couple of bumper bashings, nothing major.

26. Spied on your neighbours?   Nuh. I have plenty other things to keep me entertained.

27. Lied about your age?   Nope. I’ve never needed to.

28. Fired a gun?   Many times. I’m not a bad shot either. 🙂

29. Been drunk?   Sadly yes.

30. Gotten a tattoo?   Several, and I would like some more…

On Parenting A Special Needs Child

A while ago, a Facebook friend posted an update that read:

“It’s so easy for a special needs parent to become so wrapped up in advocating for the rights of this tiny community, that their own child fades into the background. I’m constantly aware of how fine that line is.”

Stacey is mom to three little boys, the eldest of whom has De Morsier syndrome, and she is an outspoken advocate for Autism (her blog is here).

Her status really hit home for me and it got me thinking about being a parent to a special needs child, and how I parent my knucklehead.
Many times in our lives, as he and I lived with ADHD and I became more and more determined to create awareness and educate people about the disorder, it became all about me.
How I had to parent a special needs child.
How I had to deal with people’s rudeness and incompetence and crass questions.
How I had to take time off work to get to doctors’ appointments and occupational therapy and shrinks and speech therapy and parent teacher meetings and school conferences.
My son needed far more help to get through every day than I did, but sometimes I was crusading so hard and feeling so sorry for myself that he got left behind.

First of all, let me state very clearly – so there’s no doubt – if your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you are parenting a child with special needs.
ADHD is often called an invisible disorder, and I must be honest – sometimes I am glad for this. If you are a parent to a child with a visible disability or handicap, you are subjected to pitying looks and outright rudeness! Its as if being able to see that someone’s child is different entitles people to ask questions at point blank range.
What’s wrong with your baby/ daughter/ son?
Are you going to fix it surgically?
Was she born that way?
Does he go to a special school?
Oh you MUST try XYZ?
Have you looked into such-and-such a product?
Do people REALLY think that the parents of a child with a disability or handicap of any kind have not ALREADY done – and are doing – as much reading and research as they possibly can?
I get that they just want to help, I just wish they’d think before they speak!

Look at it this way. If you tell someone your child is asthmatic or diabetic- also fairly invisible disorders- people seldom launch into a diatribe about how its a fake disorder created so drug companies can profit. They’re still quick to make suggestions about treatments and tell you of their own experiences, but mostly the show concern and empathy.
If you tell someone your child has been diagnosed with ADHD however, they don’t ask how you’re doing. There’s no empathy. They say things like, “Ooh is she on Ritalin?“, “Well I hope you’re not drugging him!“, and “Oh I was just like him as a child but my parents disciplined me properly.
Do you know that children with an ADHD diagnosis have a worse quality of life than children with asthma or diabetes? They don’t do well at school, they don’t do well with interpersonal relationships, they’re always in trouble, and they blame themselves.

Is it any wonder that sometimes its all ME! ME! ME!

Listen to me! Help me! Show me! Answer me! Anything!
For me, raising a special needs child feels like I am always on the defensive. Even now, with a grown up son.
Every single time someone mentions ADHD, I brace myself for the slew of jokes and opinions that inevitably follow, tossed about by people who only ever read YOU and Huisgenoot, or watch Carte Blanche. Even if they’re not actually talking to me, I have to all but bite my tongue and I am not always successful.

I am constantly second guessing myself and wishing I’d done more, tried harder.
I probably could have. Should have.
If I’d worked harder perhaps my son would have finished school. Perhaps he would have gone on to some kind of tertiary education, perhaps he may even have become the Marine Biologist he always wanted to be.
Hindsight is always 20/20. And I didn’t know then what I know now.

Its exhausting.

Is it any wonder that my son occasionally faded into the background of my battle with ADHD?

Dear Postnet

Oh how I wish you would actually LISTEN when your customers attempt to communicate with you…

Twice now I have been awaiting a package mailed to me, and twice I have not received the notification that you actually have the package.
I have received many more than two packages, obviously, but the fact that I have had this happen to me twice tells me that this is a more common occurrence than you believe it to be.

And now the point of my complaint.

I called you to find out where my package was.
I had a tracking number and thanks to the SAPO website I could see that my package had arrived at the post office from which “my” Postnet branch collects its mail on July 28th (the package had been sent to me on July 25th).
After a short wait I was told that you have had my parcel since July 30th.

You’ve had my parcel for almost 10 days and I have not received a notification.

I tell you I haven’t received the notification and the guy on the other end of the line just keeps repeating that they put the notifications in the mailboxes when they receive the parcel from the SAPO.
I repeatedly try to tell the guy that I didn’t get a parcel slip and he repeatedly tells me that when they collect a package from the SAPO it gets written in the book and a parcel slip is filled in and put into the person’s mailbox.
As I continue to try and get through to the guy that I did not in fact get a notification – despite him telling me how it is supposed to work – I attempt to tell him that this is not the first time this has happened to me and he then decides that the SAPO must have screwed up somehow and I should call them.

By this point in our 11 minute long conversation I am bordering on apoplectic rage!

Can you see what I’m getting at here? That you don’t actually LISTEN when people try to tell you what their complaint is actually about?

And why in HEAVEN’S name is your entire system STILL all on paper!? You have all my information since I rent a mailbox from you – can you not send me a text when a package arrives!?