We were very privileged and fortunate to be able to travel this week to St. Augustine to visit with the students at The Florida School for The Deaf and The Blind, FSDB for short. Founded in 1885, the school is part of the public school system. "The School has grown from three small buildings on five acres to 47 major buildings on nearly 80 acres of land" as per their website. Our audience also grew, from 8th grade students, to 6th, 7th and 8th.
The day started early as we had a long drive to St. Augustine. We put Trapper on a tie down in the back seat and that seemed to work better for all of us. Otherwise, he is shifting around the entire trip trying to get comfortable, while squishing my legs in the foot well.
We arrived at about 1 pm, scheduling our talk at 1:45. Our audience was about 90 students, as well as their teachers. We met in a small auditorium and were given instructions on the microphone, and the interpreters that were present. They would sign what I was saying to the students, and when the children had questions of us, they would interpret so we could understand. That part went so smoothly, I forgot I had an interpreter signing.
The students had LOTS of questions, and they were very good questions. Where are Trapper’s parents? What toys can he play with? How many hours a day does he have to wear his coat? How do you know he is happy? What happens if he can’t be a guide dog for some reason? What happens if the guide dog user dies? How did we get involved? What was our training? Can you show us some of his commands? Why does he have a chain on his neck? And…what would happen if you let him off leash? Hee hee, you don’t want to know.
Trapper did beautifully! He greeted 90 plus kids and their teachers, didn’t bark once, although he did squeak a little on stage. He was quite obedient when given his commands, but did become a little restless in the middle. Larry was chief puppy wrangler and had him do his puppy exercises, and even took a trip outside to get some of his energy out. When we asked him if he was happy, he wagged his tail obediently:)
The students were VERY good! They were all quite polite in taking turns asking questions which made the entire visit go smoothly. It is an interesting assignment for the students, and they are fortunate to have several components of the assignment come visit. The book outlines the raising of a guide dog, and then giving him back to the school, and his placement with a guide dog user. An actual guide dog user will be visiting to share their experience receiving a dog, and the author of the book will visit the school to speak to the students. I’d say the students are very fortunate to have all of these experiences, and Trapper was glad to be a part of it!
The last leg of our trip, we passed a carousel and stopped to see if we could expose Trapper. As w got out of the car there was a big NO PETS sign and I thought to myself, I hope we don't have a problem taking him inside, even in coat. We opened the gate and the manager of the ride says to his employee, "Now this is exactly what I was telling you about. These guide dogs, even when they are in training, have access to any place they want....if they want to ride the carousel, you have to let them including the dog". I was so surprised to hear him state things correctly, and complemented him on his knowledge. He asked if we wanted a picture of Trapper on the ride, and of course we obliged.