Buses and Bridges

Greetings one and all.

Many, many, posts ago I mentioned that part of our Guide Dog training includes learning how to work our dogs on public transport, including buses and trains. 

I have noticed that if we are out walking, and we happen to be passing a bus that has recently stopped, Commando will turn ever so slightly towards the bus door, as if to say "do we need to get on this one?" This always makes me smile, and shows just how attentive Commando is to the world around him, and how ready he is to do his job, whatever that may require.

When I was partnered with Commando I had expected that we would be using buses on a fairly regular basis. However a change in venue for my HND course, and a quirk of public transport in my area, meaning that no buses actually stop near the College campus my course was moved to, along with an unfortunate lack of variety in destinations of buses in my area, has meant that we have hardly ever used buses!

However recently an opportunity arose for us to once again get onto a bus.  We had a meeting at the University where I will be studying a degree top up course in September. Although, once again, we will not be able to get to the campus where the actual course is taking place by bus, the main administration of the University is in a building which can be reached by bus.

Since the purpose of the meeting was to arrange my support for the course, and since I was unfamiliar with the area, I was accompanied on this trip by the College tutor for students with visual impairments, who has been extremely helpful during my time at College. We walked out of the College to the bus stop, where luck would have it that a bus was already there. So a quick "find the door" from me had us onto the bus, following other boarding passengers. We found a seat, and I was immediately impressed by the fact that Commando knew exactly what he was supposed to do. Letting me sit down first and then snuggling himself down at my feet, without any prompting from me.

He remained that way for the duration of the journey, and when it was time to disembark he lead me nicely down the bus and off it without any problems. He then did very well working in a new area, following my directions, which I in turn was receiving from the tutor. I'm told that he was constantly looking around taking in every building and every turn of this new environment, whilst at the same time guiding me very nicely.  Although I had forgotten to bring his Gentle Leader, which is helpful for slowing him down when in new locations, this time Commando was taking things at a nice pace, responding well to the "steady" command.

When we arrived at the University, we were a little early, so we sat in the coffee shop, where Commando was once again very well behaved, just lying at my feet. Of course his head was up and he was taking in everything that was going on around him.

When it was time for the meeting we left the coffee shop and proceeded via lift to the floor we needed. Commando has never had any problems with lifts, as we have used them during our trips to the Metro Centre, and he knows what they're all about. We arrived at our destination, and the meeting went smoothly. Then it was once again time for Commando to work. We left the building and proceeded to the bus stop we needed, again with Commando taking in his surroundings whilst guiding perfectly.

When we reached the bus stop, we had to wait for a bus. Once it arrived though, Commando did something that surprised me greatly. Technically, whenever we reach a set of steps Commando is supposed to put his front paws onto the first step, to indicate that we have reached steps. He is then supposed to wait for me to signal that we are to climb the steps. However Commando rarely if ever does this when going up steps. I could enforce the rule, making him stop, and wait for my command, but I can always tell when we are heading up steps, and so I don't interrupt the fluidity of our walk to make him wait. He does however always wait for my signal when we are coming down steps, which for safety sake is a must. This same rule, dear readers, also applies to boarding a bus. Commando is supposed to put his front paws on the step onto the bus and wait for my signal. He didn't do this when we were boarding the bus first time around, most likely because the bus was already there and he was following people onto it after I told him to. However, once the bus pulled up this time, and the doors opened, much to my surprise and amazement, Commando took a step forward, placed his front paws onto the bus, and waited… 

For a second I wasn't entirely sure what he was doing, then I remembered the rule for boarding buses. Naturally I gave him a great deal of praise for that little piece of work. Once again, his behaviour on the bus was perfect.  It was as if we had been using buses every day.

Once we arrived back at the College we had our first encounter with a rather unusual piece of architecture. To say that the roads outside the College are busy would be something of an understatement. As a result someone decided that it would be a good idea to build a foot bridge above the road to allow safe crossing. I have no idea how old this structure is, but I'm going to guess that it's rather old. It has very narrow steps leading up to it and down from it. Were I using the cane I could envisage a number of potential problems with this bridge. In fact at the time I was told that a student using a cane had run into trouble with the bridge once or twice. But fortunately for me, I had Commando. He initially chose to take the ramp when going up onto the bridge, and didn't seem at all phased by the fact that he was walking high above the traffic below. On the way down, when we encountered the narrow steps he took nice tentative steps, obviously realizing that these steps were a bit more challenging than steps we have encountered in the past. Once we had negotiated the bridge he took us nicely back into the College and to the building we needed. Clearly happy to once again be on familiar ground, where he knew where he was going and what he was supposed to do.

Once we were back in the office, it was time for a nice big drink of water and a well-earned little snooze.


Lisa, 4:56pm Tue 19 Aug 2014:

Glad I read this. A reminder of what these dogs can do and how important they are. Thank you. From a GD puppy walker...

Gillian, 11:02am Tue 19 Aug 2014:

Commando is doing a wonderful job and obviously well in tune with you,

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Craig And Commando

Craig is in his early thirties and completely blind. His blog details the day-to-day adventures he experiences with his first guide dog, Commando.

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