Blind World Magazine

Man's new best friend.

Hood River News, Oregon.
Saturday, April 08, 2006.

Maurice has arrived! Once again there is heard the pitter-patter of doggie footprints in the Ken Jernstedt household, and those belong to Maurice, the 19-month-old yellow lab who has stepped into Driscoll's leather harness as a guide dog.

"It's going very well, I think, thanks to Sioux," Jernstedt says after a week with his new canine guide. Sioux Strong, a master licensed instructor for Guide Dogs for the Blind, is Maurice's trainer and is spending a couple of weeks working with the new team.

Strong, who was also Driscoll's trainer - in fact, he was in the first group of pups she trained - took care to find just the right dog for Jernstedt. Normally there would be a 28-day training program for the new team, but since Jernstedt had already done that with Driscoll, she came to work with him and Maurice at home.

"First we go through the basic routine in the neighborhood, then advance to a trip to Wal-Mart, then go to what Ken calls the Heights area," Strong says. This day the outing brought them to the Lions Club meeting at Down Manor.

After the meeting, Jernstedt hears lots of comments like "Glad to have you back here!" and he answers, "It's good to BE here - it's good to be ANYWHERE!"

The bonding between Maurice and his new best friend has begun, but they are still both getting used to each other. Jernstedt had gotten pretty spoiled with Driscoll, who, over time, learned exactly what his owner wanted to do.

"It's amazing what they can learn," he says. "All I'd have to say is, 'Let's go to the dentist,' or 'Let's go to the bank,' or 'the Sub Shop,' or 'Jerry's,' or Dr. Kelly's,' and he'd go right there."

Strong laughs. "It's like he's driving a new car, and he has to program the GPS," she says.

Heading for the car, Maurice gets a little distracted and Jernstedt comments, "This one really likes people."

"What do you do when that happens?" Strong coaches.

"Driscoll, heel," Jernstedt commands, and Maurice comes to attention.

"It's very common when you get a new dog to call it by the former dog's name," Strong says. "Ken's been very hard on himself about that - but he's doing fine."

Strong has finished up her two weeks with Jernstedt and Maurice, and will check in often for another couple of weeks; then she will be at his "beck and call" indefinitely.

Meanwhile, her two trainees will be getting to know each other.

"Oh, yes, we're bonding," Jernstedt says. "But it takes about six months to a year to really bond."

Welcome to Hood River, Maurice.

End of article.

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