Have just returned from an overnight stay with friends in Birmingham which was great fun. because i’ve had very little training with jasmine on train stations, I booked assistance and was fully prepared not to work Jasmine on the stations. this worked well until we returned to Nottingham where, once again, no one bothered to show up to meet us from the train. After waiting a few minutes I realised that no one was going to turn up, so I decided to work Jasmine, directly against advice given to me on training. She did well, I didn’t brush or walk into anyone or anything, and when I prompted her, she found the steps very positively. However, I didn’t feel at all confident as I really don’t know how much work she has done on stations what with the general belief that we all have sighted assistance readily available to us. Jasmine’s tension was very high and I really felt that she lacked experience in this type of work.
I have this evening written an Email to our District Team manager at guide Dogs, outlining the incident and asking him why the decision appears to have been made in recent years to do very little work with Guide dogs and their owners on train stations. I remember working up and down platforms with my first dog and even turning her straight towards the rails and asking her to go forward and feeling that tremendous confidence in her when she refused. How I wish the dogs had this level of training still. I have no doubt that Jasmine will gain a lot of experience and do well on stations, but today she felt very green indeed.
I’d love to know why station staff, particularly at Nottingham, feel that its OK to leave blind people to fend for themselves when they have requested assistance. Had I been a less experienced handler, or had jasmine had a lesser level of initiative, today could have been extremely detrimental to our training as a partnership. In the past when I’ve spoken to managers at Nottingham, they just say they are too busy at times to meet us. Pity the staff huddled around the heater this evening playing little hitlers with the ticket barriers couldn’t have gone out and done some real customer facing work.
The invisibility of blind people in this respect also went in my favour this weekend though. The ticket collectors on the trains systematically ignored me so it wasn’t my fault that I went to Birmingham and back for free!