Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – Final Training Days with Joel

As our training sessions came to a close, we worked in different places and I learned more techniques with Joel. One day, Kathy took me to the train station to practice platform work. When we arrived at the platform, she instructed me to take a few steps away from the edge. Then, she said, “Ask Joel to go forward and when he comes in front of you, moving you to the right, give him lots of praise and feed him. He is going to defy your request because, if he takes you forward, you would walk off the platform and fall to the tracks, which is an extremely dangerous place.” So, I asked Joel to go forward and he quickly crossed in front of me, making it impossible for me to move forward. Then, he pulled me off to the right, well away from the edge of the platform. Obviously, railroad platforms can be dangerous, since there is a large drop at the edge, down to the tracks. It is also not a good idea to be near the edge if there happens to be a moving train, too.

Another interesting part of Joel’s responsibility happens when we are encountering moving traffic. If I am standing at a curb and ask him to go forward, if the situation is not clear and moving traffic is close or rapidly approaching us, Joel will either not move, or cross directly in front of my path, so that I can’t go forward into a dangerous situation. If we are walking through driveways which intersect the sidewalk, Joel pays close attention, just in case someone is backing out of the driveway. If he sees a moving car that is approaching us, he will abruptly stop to indicate danger. This means that he has to focus extra hard as we walk because we do cross lots of driveways along our daily routes.

As our training drew to a close, we also learned how to work through revolving doors, elevators, and escalators. It is interesting to note that the recommendation is to only use an escalator if it is the only option available. They feel that escalators can be dangerous because dogs have gotten severely injured when exiting because their feet have gotten caught. I don’t do a lot of work near escalators, so this will not be a huge issue for me, but it’s good to know nonetheless.

On our final day of training, we took a walk in my mother’s neighborhood because she lives in an area where there are no sidewalks. This is referred to as a country route. It offers different challenges to the dog because he needs to watch for any moving vehicles in people’s driveways as we walk. The driveways are not marked since there is no sidewalk for Joel to work on. Fortunately, my mother lives in an area where there is little traffic on the roads.

Now that the training is complete, it is time for us to begin our journey together.

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