Our local guide-puppy-in-training, Tully, is in her last month of training before she goes to Guide Dog School in New York. We went along on what's called a "Walk and Talk," where trainers from Guiding Eyes for the Blind checked on her progress.
Tully's learning she has to give up a luxury most dogs have.
Said Sarah, Tully's Raiser, "Tully can still get distracted by smells. She uses her nose an awful lot."
Like most dogs, Tully wants to lean in and move toward something she smells. That can pull a blind person off course.
Said Jodi Haveles with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, "One of the things we teach them is they don't have to lean in and put their nose on something, or in a plant, or lean into a person that's passing by."
Instead, Tully's learning to do what's called "air scent," simply smelling the air to discover what's in the area.
Trainers are also changing the way they give her commands.
"Midway though you used voice or hand or collar cues, or a combination of two. Now what we're trying to do is ask Tully to respond by voice only," explained Haveles.
That's because blind or visually impaired people usually won't use hand signals. They'll use their voices.
The trainers also put a harness on Tully for the first time. A harness is metal and has some weight. A dog can find it uncomfortable.
"We're looking at the comfort of the chest and of the body piece looking to see if she's okay with that feeling on her haunches," said Haveles. "She did awesome. She was actually really excited about it. It didn't change her one bit."
That's due to their dressing Tully in a vest, a bandana, and even funny costumes over the past year. The outfits helped her get her used to wearing things without pulling them off.
Now they're getting close to saying goodbye.
Said Sarah, "I'm going to be sad, I'm not going to lie. I'm going to be sad. But just today seeing her get her harness on and trotting around in the parking lot. Wow, she's really ready for this!"