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Walks with Willow

July 6, 2016

 

Walks with Willow

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

From June 7 through June 24 in Michigan, and then from June 24 through today (July 6) in Milwaukee, my new, fourth Leader Dog Willow and I have been enjoying many wonderful experiences together as we grow in trust for one another.  From the first moment when Willow entered my room number 13 at Leader Dog School, I realized what a calm and sweet dog she is.  With each training session, how seriously Willow viewed her work became evident to me.  Among the many walks which we have already shared, two instances most dramatically demonstrate how my trust in her has easily increased.

 

On Saturday, June 18, (when my Uncle Jules was celebrating his 90th birthday) I was celebrating a magnificent and challenging walk with Leader Dog Willow.  The trainers, students, and Leader Dogs of Willow’s class went to Eastern Market, located one mile northeast of downtown Detroit.  The six-block public market began at its current location in 1891.  One of the longest-running year-round markets in the United States, Eastern Market is the largest open-air, market of its type in our country.  In 1978, Eastern Market Historic District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

 

After hearing the description of the sheds of this vast market, I did not think the hot and sunny afternoon would be one of my most memorable training sessions.  Nevertheless, despite the huge crowd, vendors, variety of food and flowers, music, baby strollers, and an array of fragrances–Leader Dog Willow led me through a few of the very long sheds and back again to the Leader Dog School bus without my ever bumping into another person or object.  Our trainer was nearby to affirm how especially well Willow was working in such crowded and challenging circumstances.  Was I smiling with enormous pride in Willow’s impeccable work?  Of course!  This amazing training session gave me an abundant amount of trust in Willow’s abilities as a guide dog.  How steadily and precisely she worked!  Despite her smaller stature, my 52-pound black lab moved confidently through the masses of market-goers.  The lesson was a superb one to build our confidence in each other, and the training session demonstrated to our trainer what outstanding work she and another trainer had done in preparing this special Leader Dog for me.

 

A little over a week later, when Willow and I were setting off for a walk in my neighborhood, I said “Willow, find the curb.”  She did; as usual, I praised her.  While we were waiting for the stoplight to change and for the onset of parallel traffic at a major intersection, the wind blew down a large, easel-type construction sign–directly in front of us!  I jumped, but Willow never even flinched.  My Leader Dog’s paws stayed firmly at the curb.  More lavish praise for my steady and brave young guide dog!  Fortunately, the light was red; and we avoided being in the path of the falling sign which read “Right lane closed ahead.”  However, the construction work had been completed prior to my return home on June 24.  (After I called about the fallen sign, someone from the city did remove the sign within a short while.)  My sister, who spent the first few days with Willow and me, was walking several yards behind us.  Mary witnessed the incident and also jumped.  Despite the wind (typical for Milwaukee), the weather was nice; so we continued on our walk.  With each step past the fallen sign, I realized that I am so extremely fortunate to have such a, as my trainer once called Willow, “stellar” Leader Dog.

 

Enjoy a “stellar” week!

Alice and Willow

 

July 6, 2016, Wednesday

 

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9 Comments
  1. Alice, it sounds like the heart of a stellar Leader Dog is making her mark upon the streets of Milwaukee. I am so happy for you, and so glad that such an amazing companion has found her way into your life. Willow and you have gathered a little more admiration from Maine.
    Hats off to yet another wonderful post. dp

    • Deon–Many thanks! Always nice to hear from Maine!

      Hoping you are enjoying the summer–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–So nice to read this post and so glad that you once again have an incredible Leader Dog.

    • Sue–Thanks! I have been thinking about you and am sending good wishes your way.

      Take good care–Alice

  3. I hope Willow will enjoy the Bastille Days festivities that will begin right outside your home next week! I am looking forward to being with you and Willow again soon, Alice.
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–The Bastille Days Festival and all the company will offer many new experiences for Willow. I am ready for the crepes and other food treats.

      See you soon–Alice and Willow

  4. Fran Rayce permalink

    So glad that you and Willow are becoming such a strong team. You are both so fortunate to have each other.

    • Fran–Thanks for your comments, your special visit at Leader, and your surprise meeting at the airport! I appreciate your being a part of my early memories with Willow.

      Enjoy the remainder of the summer and your beautiful flower garden–Alice and Willow

  5. Alice, it’s a wonder that sign didn’t land on you. Someone else, not just Willow, was looking out for you.

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