Wow, what a day! We woke up this morning and headed down to breakfast in the hotel. It was actually a good breakfast. It is a buffet, and Brad got a pic of Hestia and me getting some food.
Next we headed up to the BarkaLounge, where lots of fun stuff is for sale and people hang out. We bought raffle tickets. As raffle items, they have three miniature plush guide dogs with custom guide harnesses on. One is a black lab, one a chocolate lab, and one a golden. The golden is closest in size to Hestia, so we bought raffle tickets for that one. I hope we win, but boy would it be a long shot!
Hestia got her nails clipped and ears checked by vet techs who were there, which was great. They said I’m doing a great job with both her nails and ears, which is nice to know.
While in the lounge, we got to talk with a lot of super cool guide dog handlers! Two in particular we had a great time with! One is a woman who has a long haired German Shepherd Dog. Her dog’s hair isn’t as long as my friend Deb’s late Dakota, but still amazingly beautiful and fluffy. We got some pics of Hestia and the GSD together especially for Deb. The GSD’s handler is super cool, as is her friend who has a giant lab. I can’t remember their names, but I want to hang out with them a lot more!
Next we headed over to the exhibition hall where I got to try Aira (pronounced “EYE-ruh”). Aira is technology that allows blind and low vision people to use their cell phone cameras or sunglasses with a camera in them and the internet to navigate. An agent connects with them and can see out of their camera on their device, and describes where to go, reads signs or job applications, etc.
Sometimes when I get overwhelmed, I cannot process visual information. So I wanted to try Aira for myself to see if I could use it in situations like that. Our friend and guide dog user Jenine works for Aira, and she set us up with an awesome woman who helped me figure it out. I was able to navigate a bit around the convention center with my eyes closed. It was mostly awesome, though I ran into someone with a cane and Hestia’s leash and the cane got tangled. I did open my eyes to untangle them lol!
Brad got some video, but it was impromptu so we didn’t get a mike on me so you can’t hear the Aira agent. So tomorrow we’re hoping to make a video on using Aira for people with sensory overload or other similar issues. Stay tuned!
We went to lunch at a BBQ place called Dinosaurs with our new friend Dana from Delta. It was an awesome lunch! We talked all things service dogs and flying, and a little bit wheelchair, too. Dana is a wonderful person, and we had a great time chatting. She lives in a state fairly close to us, so we will be meeting up with her in the future for sure. Plus the food was good, too!
It already sounds like time for a nap, right! But that was just the beginning! After lunch we had the GDUI welcome session. We all got welcome bags that had lots of really cool stuff in them. My favorite things in the bag are these reflective slap bracelets. I put one on Hestia’s leash. It works great to take the place of the old reflective strip on her leash that is very worn (from Ollie’s puppy days!).
Some people came in to talk about their research on how walking with a guide dog impacts gait and pain and muscle use etc. It was a very interesting session!
Around 4:15, we headed over to the exhibit hall again to purchase an awesome electric toothbrush system for Brad, but the people at the booth were busy with others. So we walked around and made some good contacts. We didn’t make it back to the booth until the close of the exhibition hall, so will have to go back to buy the toothbrush.
Interestingly, one of the people selling the toothbrushes had a Boston Terrier Emotional Support Animal with him. At least that is what the patches said on the less-than-clean vest. The dog was on a flexi lead, and when it saw Hestia, it tried to attack her! I was very taken aback! Luckily the man stopped the flexi lead from extending and I scooped Hestia up really fast.
I was so surprised because so far most all the dogs have been very friendly with Hestia. Friendly is the right word for it, because alllll the guides want to say hi and/or sniff her. I”ve been working her on the ground and I tell you, she is a rock star! She just walks around in heel, looking up at me, and all these guides come over and sniff her, sometimes several dogs at a time. She gives good body language to the dogs, then refocuses right on me as they continue to investigate. I am SO proud of her. She is really proving that psychiatric service dogs are just as good as guide dogs!
It’s not just the dogs that like Hestia. The humans have been taking me up on my offer to feel Hestia’s funny face! You know how with sighted humans, when I am holding Hestia and people pet her, then inevitably touch my boobs. I have been pleasantly surprised that pretty much all the blind and low vision people here have not pet my boobs as they touch Hestia’s face. It has been a nice change!
Anyway, after the exhibition hall, we went to dinner, and then to the Aira party! We were interviewed by our friend Jenine for her podcast, and then we met a lot of really cool people and had some great conversations. It was a lot of fun!
I cannot wait for tomorrow! We present tomorrow, and there are also a lot of cool sessions to attend. I hope it isn’t as busy as today was, but for some reason I doubt that will be true! Here is a link to all the pictures Brad took, and below that are my favorites!