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Chris Trudell-Conklin and her guide dog, Cody, a 2-year-old golden retriever.

Pup-dates: My CNIB Guide Dog training experience

By Chris Trudell-Conklin, President, Guide Dog Users of Canada

My guide dog training experience was like no other! It began with me being picked up at the train station by my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Rob, along with my new guide dog, Cody, an exuberant golden retriever. What a welcome reception Cody gave me. I’ve been a guide dog handler for 30 years, but I knew then he had my heart.

Our training class affectionately nicknamed ourselves as the "This is Life" group, as we encountered many obstacles along the way.

On day two, we were in a hotel lobby in Kitchener training with our guide dogs, practicing how the guide dog finds a chair for their handler, and then how the handler navigates where the chair is to sit in it. Hotel management told us we couldn’t train with our guide dogs and that our dogs were too close to their restaurant (even though it was closed). We assured them we weren’t breaking any laws, but we still felt uncomfortable and unwelcome at that hotel.

So, we decided to move to a different hotel. We went to the Comfort Inn in Waterloo, where they were completely accommodating and welcoming to us and our guide dogs. In fact, we dined at their restaurant with our guide dogs – like we’re legally allowed to do.

Cody was a star through all of it. We also mastered navigating street crossings, obstacles, curbs, traffic, shopping malls, escalators, dog and people distractions, and much more.

I was fortunate to be able to train in a different city than from my home area. It was beneficial for both of us, and helped us learn to work together.

Thank you to CNIB Guide Dogs for my wonderful boy and to my guide dog mobility instructors, Rob and Sam, for your support and the many laughs throughout this journey. I look forward to many years with my new golden sidekick, Cody.