Introducing Boze: Experiences with a New Guide Dog
Getting a new guide dog can be an exciting but challenging experience. Cindy Van Winkle is the Development Coordinator at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. in Seattle and has recently gone through training with her new guide dog Boze. Cindy kept a mini journal over the course of the training, which lasted from September 20th to September 27th, and was kind enough to share her experiences.
Cindy is married and has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. She has spent much of her life championing the abilities of people who are blind including serving four terms as the President of the Washington Council of the Blind, and three terms as Chair for the Washington State Rehabilitation Council. Boze is her seventh guide dog, although two of her previous dogs did not work out and found other homes.
Boze is a longhaired, mostly black, male German Shepard. Living with Cindy will be his second home. His previous home did not work out due to his owner’s love of gun shows and Boze’s dislike of loud noises. Boze came to Cindy from the Gallant Hearts Guide Dog Center in Jackson, Mississippi. She prefers German Shepards as guide dogs and was happy to find a center that still offered training for them.
Ryan, Boze’s trainer, flew with him to act as Cindy’s instructor for the in-home training. Cindy lives in Bremerton and takes the ferry to get to work each day. She began training with Boze by walking around the Bremerton area. In her journal she wrote “Today was truly magical. The feeling of having the harness in my hand once again and moving so smoothly along the pathway of Clear Creek Trail and at Lions Field, was simply amazing!”
Boze’s life in Mississippi did not involve a city as big as Seattle but over the next few days he managed to get on and off the ferry, ride buses, and go up and down escalators. He also successfully crossed streets and navigated busy sidewalks. Cindy and Boze practiced her exact route to work and Boze was able to go through it with growing confidence each time. He was also good about lying down and waiting calmly as Cindy worked and went about her day at the Lighthouse.
Boze did have some areas he could improve on. He was hesitant when passing by a work truck with a loud speaker and running power tools. He tended to walk too quickly down steep hills whenever he predicted where Cindy would go next. In her journal Cindy also wrote that “He occasionally let’s out a short bark or growl when seeing another dog, but stops as soon as I correct him.”
Their training wasn’t all work. On Friday September 23rd, Cindy and Boze went to Karaoke at Sian Palace, where Boze helped Cindy to get through the bar and up to the microphone. At home and in the car Boze has a comfy bed to lie in and relax. He also plays with Cindy’s other dog Gidget, who is a Doodle (Dachshund/Poodle mix).
On September 27th their training was complete and Ryan headed back to Mississippi. In her journal Cindy wrote, “Now it’s our turn, Boze and I, to take each day and learn and grow together, building a strong bond and working team. Here’s to many years ahead with Boze by my side.” Over a week later they are still growing trust and confidence and will continue do so over time. Like Cindy says, “Together we are a work in progress.”