A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Autumn told me to take a hike!
31 May
2014
By 2020
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By Randy Pierce

A very common question in my world is, “When is Autumn going to hike?” The answer is far clearer after a tremendous experience with the mighty Mt. Agamenticus! We have been steadily developing our teamwork and understanding of each other in the conventional Dog Guide work. I’m well aware of some of the challenging parts of work for her as well as the strengths; conversely, I haven’t been entirely convinced of her awareness of my limitations and challenges. That all changed on Tuesday, May 20.

Randy and Autumn hike up a rocky trail.

Randy and Autumn start out on the rocky trail.

I arrived bristling with eager anticipation at the trailhead for Mt. Agamenticus with Laura Mountain and Autumn. We would be returning to hike with students from nearby Marshwood Middle School in the afternoon and it was time to understand what worked and what didn’t work for us as a team. Placing the harness on Autumn immediately begins the transformation to a higher focus; she’s still an energetic and occasionally distracted young pup with excellent confidence. As we started upon the Ring Trail we stepped up to our first rocky step challenge and she strode a bit more boldly than I might prefer. While I could manage it, I decided to stop her and rework her. I thought it would be worthwhile to emphasize her need to pay attention fully to the tricky aspects of my finding my step.

Autumn and Randy hike down the trail.

Autumn and Randy pick up the pace.

Her confidence extended to my ability to stride as well apparently. Stepping back and asking her go forward led to an excellent “approach, slow, and pause” for the footing while I tapped out my awareness of it with my foot. We resumed and I noticed a shift in her stride in the harness. Moments later she angled and paused beautifully for more challenging steps and also kept the confidence to work through it with me after my acknowledgement of her alert. This repeated many times as the challenges became more significant.

My smile grew and Laura and I began to talk about the intensity of her watching the trail, my steps and the best angle of approach. She made choice after choice that simply demonstrated she understood the challenge for me in getting my feet around a tricky trail. She was independent enough to ignore the route Laura sometimes took, and each time for the right seeming reasons. My smile burst forth and yet showcased only  the barest hint of the jubilation I felt inside. Autumn understood my needs on a trail, and far faster than I might have ever anticipated or even hoped. Cautiously adjusting her body to clear me of each obstacle, slowing and holding her balance to manage the angled descents, she was ever aware of when we could stride confidently and when we must step cautiously. It was as if she had reached an epiphany with my need for her and not just a system of rules we were trying to follow. It was simply beautiful!

Success for Randy and Autumn!

Success for Randy and Autumn!

Laura and I began to celebrate the experience together and she captured many photos and videos of the invigorating process. Laura’s sight and description helped ensure I fully understood the great work from Autumn. My confidence blossomed and Autumn’s enjoyment and confidence never wavered. We hiked up and down the mountain with and without students that day. Better still, Autumn has taken this confidence and new awareness to the rest of our work together. I certainly believe the many lessons learned over miles and years with Quinn helped me to understand my role better as well. I have high confidence that as we increase the hiking opportunities slowly yet steadily, Autumn will continue to learn and respond with the eager enthusiasm which was the hallmark of our first hike. It’s ironic to me that for all the presentations I provide with an emphasis on “Believing in Possibility,” I had somehow allowed a bit more doubt than is usual or appropriate. It’s a wonderful reminder to me that Autumn has many lessons to share with me in the miles and years ahead!

5 responses to “Autumn told me to take a hike!”

  1. Cheryl White says:

    What music this is to the ears/eyes of us OUT HERE, wanting so much to know that AWESOME AUTUMN will guide you well through whatever lies ahead of you. Most of us, I would guess, have NO IDEA what you go through each day to do the simple things we all take for granted, so to see these photos of you and Autumn, is just wonderful and uplifting. I now imagine seeing you on a Mt top in the WHITES one day! Joy for all those adventures ahead.

  2. Teresa says:

    That’s beautiful news! You and Miss Autumn literally made great strides together that day. So excited to hear she has the makings of a good trail guide.

  3. Kathy Rich says:

    Thank you for this joyful post, Randy. It’s interesting to me that you are so often questioned about when Autumn will hike. It wouldn’t occur to me to assume that she would be a hiker simply because of the awesome feats in hiking that you and the Mighty Quinn accomplished. She is a completely different dog with her own personality, strengths, etc. But it’s wonderful that she caught on to what she needed to do and the two of you were so in-sync. The intelligence of these dogs amazes me. As does their hearts and desire to please. Wishing the two of you continued growth as a team, and many excellent adventures.

  4. Randy says:

    It was indeed a joyous day not only for success and enjoyment hiking together but for that epiphany she seemingly reached regarding her doing all those “pesky Dog Guide Rules” for a purpose rather than just as arbitrary rules.

    As for folks asking I think it’s because they understood my enjoyment of the experience and hoped for my sake I could continue to have that as an option in my world. That’s a nice kindness though as you also correctly observe, autumn is her own pup and comes with a unique blend of interests and abilities. One of the very great strengths of the Guiding Eyes programs is a thorough evaluation of Person and Pup to make a match which will have the best chances of success in all ways. Certainly the everyday independent living aspects are the primary goals and yet they still find the means to blend the rest of the aspects so very well. autumn’s confident, curious and energetic aspects made the potential for this initial result more likely. I know that my role in the team will ensure Ialwyas attend and tend her best interest along the path we journey together. … but ok, I’m esxcited hiking looks likely 🙂

  5. Paula Ravaioli says:

    Randy – happy tears reading this recap of the day the beautiful Autumn came to realize her hiking responsibilities. something tells me the mighty quinn was alongside you both that day. wonderful news.

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