Today I took Alice to Academy Sports for a training outing! (Picture and video below). I needed to work on her walking past people and doing things on the floor generally, and she’s not yet comfortable enough walking next to my wheelchair so I had to walk it.
We went in the afternoon and I knew it was crowded when we had to park way far out in the parking lot. I carried her over to some grass for a potty break, then she walked across the street and into the store with zero issues.
The store is larger than I had remembered it, and it was very crowded! We had to walk past a lot of people, so we got a lot of practice at one of the big things Alice needs to work on. I think we walked past 5–10 groups of people.
I found that if the people were on my side, she was able to walk past them fairly easily. However if the people were on her side, that was more challenging. For people on her side, I had to toss treats on the ground for her to enable her to walk past them. Luckily no one minded and they all enjoyed watching her overcome her observational inertia to walk past them.
She also walked past a man on a tall ladder, but as his ladder was partially obscured by a display, she didn’t notice until we were almost all the way past him.
The only thing she refused to walk past was a pole that divided an aisle in half. The aisle without the pole was probably big enough for 1.5 wheelchairs. So with the pole in the aisle, there was just room for walking person. I know Alice struggles with narrow spaces, so I tried hanging out in front of the pole dropping treats near the way we needed to move for several minutes. But she just seemed to have the unstressed idea that it somehow wasn’t possible for her body to go through that space. So we went around it another way, and we have a good idea of something to work on at home.
I dropped my keys near her about three or four times. She did excellently with them! She would startle each time, but then recover quickly and be able to walk past the area that I dropped them without issue. I got a 5-second video of her responding to my keys being dropped. I need to safely start moving up to more varied objects, like bouncy balls and clipboards!
Near the end of the store my hips were really sore, so I stopped for a minute to rest. There was no place to sit, so I just stood off to the side of the main walkway. We worked on her stays while I rested. I just did 5-second sit-stays, and she held them beautifully while people walked past! At home we’re up to 25 seconds, but out in the real world it’s harder, so I’m aiming lower to set her up for success/reinforcement.
Exiting the store we ran into a small problem. The exit door had two ways to access it. One was squeezing past the people in line at the registers (all were being used). I knew that wouldn’t work! The other way was to squeeze between two displays to get from the entry doors to the exit door area. I tried that for a bit, but people kept rushing through the narrow gap and Alice never even got a chance to take it in and relax really. So eventually someone came in the entrance doors, and really quickly before they shut we zipped through them!
It was a longer outing than I had planned on. I like 10–15 minute outings for Alice right now and for my hips. But we were in the store about 25 minutes! My hips got really sore walking that much. It’s my fault for not remembering how giant that store is! It’s about as big as a small Target! I could have walked without Alice around the store in probably 10–15 minutes if I had been by myself, but Alice walks very slowly (at least in observation mode). I don’t think we’ll do another outing at Academy—not with us both walking, anyway!
I got a picture of Alice in the shoe department looking in another mirror and a video of her responding to my dropped keys. They are below. You can see my red shoes and blue mandala dress and see Alice who is a sable and white Japanese Chin wearing a purple harness.