Tag Archives: guide dog training



By Carolyn Dale Newell

Iva and I enjoyed three days in Gatlinburg alone. Why is this a big deal? It is the first time in my entire life I vacationed by myself. Last year, I made a few trips without my husband, but someone was always just in another room. My new independence feels unreal especially since we have only been together for less than a year.

In March, we spent a weekend learning routes to the Gatlinburg Convention Center, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. After another trip in May, I felt confident we could tackle this solo trip in August.

Being alone in a hotel room requires sticky dots on the microwave and AC unit to make them accessible for the blind.

People ask me how Iva knows where to go in a busy vacation area. We teach her to target certain places, and she remembers. The hard part is I have to keep a mental map of our surroundings.

We train Iva with a clicker, plus a treat and praise. This makes a spot memorable for her at the convention center, she took a right off the sidewalk. Next came the steps and then the door.

Navigating inside the convention center was challenging. A long corridor with many doors provides many opportunities to make the wrong choice. I cannot depend on sight to choose the correct door. The hum of escalators and drink machines whisper to me, “turn here”. Of course, Iva knows her turn, but I need to recognize them too.

Once we enter the exhibit hall, Iva learned one way to the auditorium. Then Iva targeted my seat with a luggage tag hanging on it, out of the four thousand possible seats.

We teach Iva to target the door at businesses using the same technique. A sighted person must work with me to ensure we are at the correct place during Iva’s training. Iva mastered six businesses and several crosswalks and curbs.

The first time we stayed at this hotel, I knew it was a lovely place for a writing retreat. The beautiful Smokey Mountains towered over our balcony as I pounded out words on my laptop. Iva made this writing holiday possible. God has blessed me with the wonderful gift of Iva. The freedom to walk the crowded sidewalks and go places with no one except Iva is exhilarating.

Of course, everybody loves Iva. Not one day passed without people inquiring about her. Many people offered assistance to us. Waitresses, store clerks, and hotel staff went above and beyond their normal duties.

A guide dog can be a handful. Juggling water bottles, collapsible bowls, and my Starbucks treat. People offered a helping hand when I gave Iva water. One man passed us, and I heard his prayer, “Be healed in the name of Jesus.” Only in Tennessee.

In a world filled with evil, good people still exist. As a disabled person, I could have been a target for the criminal element, but God did not allow that. Some people behave rudely, but good-hearted folks outweigh them.

If we listen to our TV’s and radios, they never cover the story about the nameless faces who stop and love their neighbor. How can we offer a moment of kindness to someone today?

Guide Dog Tales Vol. 22



By Carolyn Dale Newell

You know that feeling you get when your face is about to meet the ground? Thankfully, I regained my balance quickly. Whose bright idea was it to plant trees in the middle of a sidewalk? Even sighted people trip over these sections where underground roots push up the concrete.

A guide dog doesn’t view small lifts like this as a step. We have walked through there countless times, but this would be the last time. Not the last time we walk it, but the last time it may cause me to fall.

I used my clicker and treats to teach Iva to stop at this point. We practiced several times before heading on with our leisurely walk around our little downtown. I try to provide Iva with a variety of routes.

We rested on a bench taking a water break. As I stood up, I told Iva our plan was to go to the Mexican restaurant for lunch with my husband. When we reached the corner, Iva did not go to the curb as usual, instead, she turned right, the direction of our destination. I was shocked because we have only walked there once before.

As we strolled along, Iva came to an abrupt stop, and she went no farther. Something partially blocked the sidewalk, but why wouldn’t she go around it? I reached out and discovered a piece of fence wire across our path. Undoubtedly, this was a construction site. We were forced to find a new route, and it included crossing a busy intersection without a traffic light.

Our patience rewarded us with a lull in traffic, allowing us to rush to the other side. Iva began pulling hard, not because she has a fondness for Mexican cuisine. Iva remembered the dog treat she devoured from the Amish Cupboard, next to the Mexican restaurant. When I instructed Iva to turn left, she momentarily hesitated as if to say, “No, this way, Mom! Remember we went this way before.”

After lunch, Iva chomped down her well-deserved bone.

We had safely encountered our first obstacle as a guide dog team. Knowing we can handle them is rewarding.

Life is filled with obstacles, Not the physical ones, but the difficult ones, like: diseases, addiction, depression, grief, finances, and heartache. We come face-to-face with them, giving us cause for despair.

We take the obstruction to God, but many times, He refuses to move it. Sometimes, God protects us using a blockade. If I had moved that fencing to get around it, we would have been hurt.

Christians forget God has our best interest in mind. Sometimes, a roadblock may be our safety net. We should rejoice in these detours of life, giving God thanks for being our shield.

Next, we allow God to guide us. Iva and I found a new route to the restaurant. This path was not easy because it involved a difficult crossing. We did it, and we will do it on our journey of life.

Perhaps you find yourself standing before a barricade today. Friend, our heavenly Father has a plan for you, and it may differ from your plan. Father knows best, so follow His lead. You may journey unchartered territory. Navigation may be difficult, but God is right by your side. He never leaves His children. He shows us the way, and we walk in it.

Lift up your chin. This side trip has benefits, although you may never know what God protects you from. Now you clinch the rewarding knowledge that obstacles don’t stop you. They just turn you around.

Copyright 2017 Carolyn Dale Newell.