The long way around

Hello, one and all.

Craig and Commando standing on a road

Regular readers may recall that Commando and I have a route that we use as our block walk and that I particularly enjoy taking this route early in the day as it means that there is not much traffic on what is otherwise an extremely busy road. The route takes us along a number of terraced houses with small curbs between each row of houses. These small curbs, combined with the fact that there is no really noticeable change when moving from curb to road initially presented a little bit of a challenge. However, we quickly learned to cope with the situation. But, one of my concerns was always the risk that someone would decide to block one of these small paths in some way, the most likely of which was to park upon it.

As well as being a nice block walk route this route also serves as our route to Commandos Vet. Recently Commando and I were heading to the Vet for Commandos weight check when we encountered exactly the situation I had feared…

We were walking along, at our usual pace. Dealing nicely with the curbs, as had become the norm for us, when Commando began to slow and then came to a stop. I urged him onwards, thinking that perhaps something had gotten his attention, but he showed no sign of moving. Suspecting the problem I reached out with my hand and quickly discovered the cause of the problem. Sure enough, it was a vehicle parked on the curb, with insufficient room for Commando and I to move past it.

Needless to say, I was not happy about this. It was clear that the volume of traffic on the main road was extremely high, and there was no way I was going to risk Commandos or my own safety by attempting to move out onto the road to attempt the off curb obstacle manoeuvre. So, as a result, we were left with a conundrum. Should we turn around and head home, leaving the weigh in for another day? Or was there another way to deal with this problem?

As I have mentioned already, these paths are small and frequent because of the terraced houses. With that in mind, it occurred to me that perhaps there was another, far safer, way around this obstacle. But I realized that would likely depend upon which side of the nearest street we were on. Although the front streets have footpaths the back ones only have road. I reasoned that if we were fortunate enough to be on a front street at that moment then we could turn left, walk down the street, take another left, walk along past the back street and then take yet another left up onto the next front street, travel up that street and then find ourselves back on track. But if that was to work there were two things that would need to happen. We would need to be on the correct part of the street, and Commando would need to trust my judgement and follow the instructions I gave him…

Commando, like most guide dogs, becomes very comfortable with routes he knows and travels regularly. If for some reason those routes change unexpectedly then he can become a little unsure, wondering if perhaps I’ve made a mistake and in a moment we are going to have to turn around and get back on track. When we have had to make changes he often walks a little faster, and tends to exude a general air of uncertainty about what he’s being asked to do. So with that in mind, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I made my move…

Reluctant to be defeated by an inconsiderate road user I resolved that we would try our luck with this new route and see what happened. I directed Commando to the curb, and then with fingers figuratively crossed directed him to turn left. Once the command was given all I could do was wait. Did we have a footpath to our left, would Commando go down it if we did? At that moment, there was just no way to be sure…

Regular readers may also recall that I have mentioned on occasion how strong the bond between Commando and I is. How he seems to pick up on the tiniest of signals and how he always seems to understand what I need from him. Well, dear readers, here was another example. Whilst I had been standing there considering our options and deciding on a course of action, it was as if Commando had been doing the same thing. Perhaps he had noticed those footpaths as well, and perhaps he had worked out that there was a possible route along the bottom of those streets as well. Or perhaps he simply has total trust in my judgement and felt that if I was sure we could make it then we almost certainly could, because once he heard my instruction Commando without a moment hesitation turned to the left and began to walk down the footpath.

Not only did he follow my instruction but he moved at a nice calm pace and showed no signs of being even slightly unsettled by this quite literal turn of events. Once we reached the bottom of the street, where there was a small gap between the houses and a large wall I asked Commando to move off the footpath and to go left. He did so but then hesitated for a second. I thought that perhaps he was about to become unsettled at what he was being asked to do. But he was actually making a slight adjustment to take me around a bollard. From that point on he moved forward, his usual confident self. He ignored the back streets and then took us on a slightly wider angle up onto the footpath of the neighbouring street. We walked up that street, moved right to the curb and, exactly as I had hoped, resumed our journey.

Needless to say, I was utterly delighted with Commandos performance. He had done exactly what I need him to do and we had been able to salvage our journey without significant risk to life and limb. We reached the Bet, Commando was weighed and I was pleased to find that he was just about exactly where he needs to be in terms of weight. We made it home without incident and not long after Commando received a nice reward for some fine work, as we went on a nice free run with Lester.


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