Meet Vivvy

a tiny yellow lab/retriever sits beside me looking at me.

Towards the end of October, i had a call about a potential match with a guide dog and was asked if i would like to go for a walk. i really wasn’t expecting this call yet and prepared myself for the fact that it could be up to a year before i could get that call so needless to say, I was more than a little surprised to be hearing something so soon.

an instructor came out to see me the next morning with a potential dog for me. She was a little black lab. This girl was nice and had a good temprament, but she was ever so slightly on her toes in that she was nearly moving before you’d even thought of the “forward” command. It wasn’t a huge difference with her tention, but i think over time i’d have noticed her speed and may have struggled with the tention. The instructor happened to have another little girlie in the car but she really didn’t think they would be good for me as she can take a little while to get confident. I said i would give her a try anyway and i’m glad I did.

As soon as she was braught out of the car to meet me, she went nuts. She started bouncing around me and running in between my legs wagging away to herself. I was beginning to wonder if this would be such a good idea given how lively she was. Once we put the harness on her though, she calmed right down which was a good sign. I decided to do a 20 minute block walk to see what her speed and tention in the harness was like. Immidiatly i knew through the harness that this was a much nicer tention. She was very responsive to my commands and given that we’d never done this route with her, she was pretty good at it.

Once we’d finished the walk, we decided that it would be a good idea to walk her on a route that she knew, so i got the train up to Holywood roughly a week later to walk with her again. This time was a lot calmer when she greeted me which was good to see. She was still very wiggly out of harness, but she wasn’t bouncing or running in between my legs which was a relief. Again, once the harness went on, she was very calm and focused. There wasn’t much difference in her speed which was good and she was stepping out nicely. We went for a coffee after the walk so that i could see what her social behaviour was like and again, she didn’t disappoint. She lay quietly under the table and fell asleep for a while which was brilliant as i like a dog to know that even though they are not working, i still expect them to lie quietly and not be disruptive.

I did another couple of walks last week and at the start of this week with her and she was brilliant. She can take a while to get her confidence up, but the instructors have told me that this will come in time and not to pile too much on her for a while. She is very confident in busy conditions and gets a lot of her confidence from whoever is working her. She is very mature when she is working and doesn’t like to get things wrong. This was totally different with Ushi who really dug her heels in and needed me to be quite firm at times. Sometimes, the walks did feel a little disjointed or something, but i had worked Ushi for 7 and a half years, so this is starting from scratch.

Now that the IS have been dotted and the Ts crossed, i will start training on the 26th November with Vivvy. I realy can’t wait and at least this time i will know what to expect in a way. I will be training at the La Mon again for two weeks before starting my home routes. I really do think she will be another great match and in time we will be out flying again. It still hasn’t really sunken in yet though as i honestly thought i’d be waiting at least a year before another dog that could cope with my expanding work load was found but it is quicker than i thought. Here are two more photos to finish. She is looking at me in all of them. Here’s to the next chapter of guide dog ownership 🙂

a yellow lab/retriever sits looking up at me.


Prochive Collapsible Silicone Lightweight Coffee Cup, Reusable Folding Mug Travel Cup Leak Proof Water Bottle for Outdoor Camping Hiking & Office Home Use “Snorkle Blue”

A few months ago, our local

Parkrun

Had announced that they would gradually be doing away with their plastic cups. I didn’t even know collapsable cups were a thing, but a quick search on Amazon braught up the Prochive cup. This is a tiny cup that folds up to the size of a tub of moisturiser so perfect to fit in a pocket or bag.

The cup is very simply packaged. The cup itself is wrapped in what feels like a thick cloth, which is then wrapped in what feels like tissue paper or thin plastic. The cup will be folded when you unwrap it. If you turn it upside down, a holder to slide the cup in to will be sticking out. This needs to be removed before expanding the cup. When you turn the cup the right way up again, there is a sooth bit of silocone which if you push it slightly with one hand and lifting the lid with the other, it is easier to take off. The cup will then expand when you push the inside of it. It expands to the size of a standard take away cup that you’d find in most coffee shops. The cup holder then goes on with the wider part of the holder pointing to the top of the cup and the bottom of the cup going through the narrow part of the holder. The lid fits securely and has a cover for the whole that you drink out of.

There is a slight smell from the cup when you first use it, but if you rince it out a few times it should be fine. The cup isn’t hot to hold so it probably wouldn’t keep the heat for too long but drinks are still hot if you drink them as soon as you have poured them. The cup can sometimes leak if the holder is put on the wrong way as it squeezes the cup slightly.

Other than that, i really do love this little cup. It fits neatly in a pocket and many coffee shops offer discounts if you use it instead of a normal take away cup.

The link to buy the cup is

Here


A Mindful Yoga Morning With Cloud Nine NI

On Saturday morning, i attended a mindful yoga morning ran by my yoga teacher at Cloud Nine NI.

I first started attending the yoga classes by Cloud Nine NI about two years or so now. I did used to attend another yoga class

Up in Belfast but decided that i wanted something a little closer to home as it was quite a trek up and down. Initially, i didn’t mind, but it got to be that i wasn’t home until about half 11 at night. Thankfully, this class is only a 20 minute walk away from my house which is far better. I had always been interested in attending the monthly yoga mornings, but things never quite worked out for me to attend until recently.

I was picked up by another person who was attending the morning at about a quarter past 8. We arrived in

<a href=”http://www.laraghlodge.co.uk”>Laragh Lodge</a>

Which was our base for the morning by about a quarter to 9 which was just enough time to get set up and ready for a lovely yoga class to start the morning. As usual, the class didn’t disappoint, and we were nicely chilled and relaxed for the rest of the days’ activities.

We all then headed to the restaurant next door where we had some beautiful home made shortbread with tea and coffee.

After a lot of chatting, we headed off in to the forest for our walk. I was a little apprehensive about this as it had been a while since i’d done that walk and i couldn’t remember what it was like. Thankfully, it wasn’t too challenging. The walk we did took us on a path where 3 waterfalls joined each other. It was a bit hilly with quite a lot of steps to go up to get to the top where it loops back round to the start. The steps were built on the hill so they were quite irregular. Thankfully they were well maintained and there was a fence to hold on to as you went up.

We stopped along the way at different points such as to hear the rush of the waterfalls tumbling over the rocks, to the little well where people would have thrown money in to it and made a wish. People used to tie strips of cloth and when the cloth fell in to the water, it was believed that peoples’ ailments and illnesses disappeared with it. Unfortunately though, people had hung a lot of plastic there instead which ruined the look of it and the legend a bit too.

After this brief stop, we climbed up again yet more steps. I think there is about 150 steps until you get to the top but with breaks in between.

Our next stop was where we discovered 7 little metal rings screwed in to the cliff side that made up the wall of the waterfalls. As you passed each one, you had to ring it to let the people of the forest know you were coming so that you would be given entry in to the little garden at the top.

Eventually, we got to the bit that was like a garden right at the top of the walk.

We paused for a minute just to take in the sights, smells and stillness of the place. Some of the group had picked blackberies and had to chew them and think about their texture and taste. We then practiced a yoga pose called “tree pose” where you stand like a tree to ground us.

We then walked a bit further to see if we could see any red squirrels. Unfortunately, none were out, but we learnt all about why the red squirrels are being protected and about how the grey ones can kill the red ones because they are bigger and carry a disease which kills the red squirrels. We were then given a hazel nut and got to crack open the shell with a stone. We took the shells home though as they could cause contamination for the squirrels. We then had to burry our hazel nuts in a tree as apparently they really do like the nuts.

We started to head back to where we’d started from after that as it was nearly lunch time. Unfortunately the stillness was broken on our way back by a group of people showing off their Lamborghini cars in the car park which somewhat ruined the peacefulness.

We arrived back at the Laragh lodge for some lunch after that. I had a steak sandwich with chips, followed by tea and coffee and some delicious little brownie bites which again were home made. It was about 2 o’clock by the time we were all heading home.

I would like to thank everyone for their hospitality and willingness to guide me. It was a lovely way to spend a morning, and i am so glad i got the opportunity to attend. If you would like to find out more information about the morning itself,

<a href=”https://discovernorthernireland.com/Glens-of-Antrim-Yoga-Tour-Glenariffe-Ballymena-P72120/

“>you can click here</a>

And to find out about Cloud Nine NI, you can

<a href=”http://www.cloudnineni.co.uk”>click here</a>


Rip Little Angel

Today unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to our pet dog Angel.

Over the past few weeks, we had noticed that Angels’ tummy seemed to be slightly swollen. We had noticed a while ago that she wasn’t eating as much as she normally would but we just put that down to the heat. Plus the fact that she would have grazed at her food rather than eating it all in one go. We thought she had eaten something to make her tummy swell, but ruled out the obvious things like Bloat. Over the past few days she wasn’t eating much at all and she was becoming really lathargic. She had started to bleed this morning so mum took her up to the vet. The vet did exploratory surgery and performed scanns and such but unfortunately she passed away on the operating table. The vet said that she had ovarian cancer which had spread to her liver. Unfortunately there was nothing really they could do for her. She would have been 5 in February.

RIP little Angel girlie. Even though you and Ushi just tollerated each other, i will miss your little personality and how you and Ushi would fight for the space outside the wall outside my bedroom. I’ll miss how you would run up the stairs, only for Ushi to push you back down again before running down after you. I’ll miss your waggely tail whenever someone would come to the door, or how you would paw at anyone until they paid you attention. You were so very full of life and you really did love every minute of every day. You were so bouncy right up until the end. I hope you will have fun over rainbo bridge. Don’t party too hard. Read the rest of this entry »


A Month On

It has already been a month since Ushi wore her harness for the last time and retired.

On Sunday, i braught Ushi over to her puppywalkers to stay. I had tried taking her out over the past month, but she was wanting to go out with me when i was going places i couldn’t take her and when i did take her out for walks, i was aware of just how much room we took up on the pavement as Ushi wanted to walk as far out as she possibly could. Whenever i would be out for the day, Ushi would just have lay about apart from busying. She wouldn’t walk for anybody else and stopped asking for her food when my sister was looking after her. So i made the decision that it would be better for Ushi to go over to Scotland and propperly start her retirement. I took Ushi up to the vets for her final check up which was fine thankfully. I then signed the contract saying that she was going to her puppywalkers. The puppywalker was then sent some paperwork to complete and everything was all set. The ferry was booked and everything was looking good.

So on Sunday, we traveled over on the ferry to Scotland. I was a little worried about Ushi being allowed onboard with me as since she wasn’t working, she didn’t have to be on with me. Thankfully, she was allowed on which was a massive relief as i don’t think she would have coped being in a kennel, as nice as they probably are. Staff on the ferry were as helpful as always and everything went smoothly.

Ushi of course went mad when she saw her puppywalker and was like an uncoiled spring. This confirmed to me that i had indeed made the right decision. After Ushi had said her hellos, we headed off for a spot of lunch. After lunch, we drove to Port Patrick and we found a lovely little dog friendly coffee shop for some cake. Ushi got presented with some gravy bones which didn’t touch the sides at all. The cafe was lovely and like an old house that had been converted.

We walked along the harbour front for a while, but it turned quite drizzly so we headed back to the ferry terminal and waited for my ferry back. Check-in opened soon enough and it was time for good byes. Ushi, of course wasn’t the slightest bit bothered that i was leaving and trotted off happily with the puppywalker and her dad. In a way, i am glad that she wasn’t bothered and it was as quick as that as it meant we weren’t lingering and prolonging things.

It is now 3 days later and i am being kept updated as to Ushi’s progress. She has fitted in perfectly and she sounds like she is having an absolute ball. I don’t feel too bad at the minute. I do miss having a dog, but i can see photos of her on faccebook and i can text any time about her which is good. I am trying not to text too much though. I think it really helped that she did go over for a week in April as i know she is in safe hands and i know they can manage her. If i can, i would like to let any of my future dogs go for a trial period with whoever is re-homing them before they retire if i can. If i hadn’t done that, then i deffinetly think it would have been much harder to let her go.

I would like to thank everyone who has texted and messaged to make sure i am okay. Everyone has been so so kind. I really do appreciate every message. I hope Ushi has a long, happy, healthy retirement with her puppywalker and i can’t wait to visit her after a few months once she has settled in. Now, i just have to wait for a new partner to arrive and hope that it won’t be too long to wait. Thank you again Ushi for the last 7 and a half years 🙂


National Lottery Good Causes Award For Blind Tennis

As many of you know, i took up blind, or VI tennis approximatly 2 years ago after i was introduced to it at May fest in 2016. Since then, a pilot was set up in Belfast initially for 6 weeks, but it is now full time at

Windsor tennis

From not knowing how to play tennis, we have learnt how to play it propperly as well as taking part in our first tennis tournament in Dublin as well as playing local matches against each other. 5 of the players took part in the world blind tennis championships at the end of April in Dublin and loved every minute. Our coach has gained a qualification in teaching blind tennis and we all have been provided with our own rackets. The tennis wouldn’t be possible without

Disability sport NI

Who fund the tennis as well as Sport Ireland and the national lottery. Disability sport also had those initial conversations with Windsor to try and get a club up and running. The tennis would not happen without Windsor itself and the fabulous coaches and volunteers who really make the tennis what it is. Not only do they provide encouragement, but we are treated like normal tennis players who just happen to have a visual impairment.

The whole blind tennis programme in general have been nominated for a national lottery good causes award which is the main crux of this post really. Voting opened yesterday and hopefully, we will go further if all of you kind people please vote for us. Here is a bit about the nomination and the voting process below from Disability sport.

“We are very excited to share the news that the Blind Tennis Programme at Windsor has been shortlisted for the National Lottery Good Causes Awards. The National Lottery Awards are an annual search to find the UK’s favourite National Lottery-funded projects. They celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding. The project started at Windsor and has developed over the last 2 years, so much so that we have a second Blind Tennis Club up and running at CIYMS Belfast, more people playing the sport, opportunities for children to get involved as well as adults and many opportunities for competition. We are the only project in Northern Ireland to be shortlisted to be a finalist from around 700 entries, and we are absolutely delighted. The winning project receives a cash price and a night at the BBC Studios in England. Therefore, we need your help to encourage people to vote for us!!

Please share the link below with as many of your contacts as possible to encourage them to both vote and also to share it with their own networks.

http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/project/blind-tennis-windsor-tennis

Telephone

People can vote using this number

08448369705

Calls cost 5p and connection charges may be applied by some networks, so please check with your provider.

Only one vote per email address, social media account or telephone number counts so please vote from all three platforms if you can. Online, Twitter and Telephone.

Information on the project can be found on the webpage that the voting is linked to.

This campaign will run for one month from today.”

So could i please ask everybody to vote? You can share it on facebook and Twitter using the hashtag

#NLABlindTennis. Thank you so much for voting and fingers crossed for a positive result 🙂


Hanging Up The Harness

Today, Ushi wore her harness for the last time. In

My last post

I had written about how i had to make that final call about Ushis’ working. That was still the hardest part for me. She worked as well as she normally works when she wants to on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday was a lovely walk for her to finish her working life. I went out for a walk with a group from Holywood to Cultraw and back again. Ushi was really stepping out, but then it was a new place and there were other dogs there too. I had made the decision in my head that that would probably be her last working walk and i was right. I tried to work her on Wednesday and Thursday but it wasn’t happening. I am glad her last walk was such a good one on Tuesday.

So this morning, guide dogs came out to see Ushi working before we made a decision. I told them that i really didn’t know if she would work, but we went out and gave it a go. Unfortunately, we only got a short way up the street before she put the breaks on and decided not to work. The decision was made there and then that she would retire. As soon as we turned back towards the house, her tail went back up again and she was as happy as larry. That confirmed in my mind that she really wasn’t wanting to work any more. Of course i am disappointed, but i know that there is no point in keeping trying when she is clearly not happy. I gave back the harness and we discussed where Ushi will go for her retirement home. I decided long ago that she would go to her puppywalker as i could not keep her. Of course i would love to keep her, but i don’t think it would be fair on her to see me working with a new dog. Plus, we are still at home so we have our pet dog too so there just wouldn’t be the room to have 3 dogs. Thankfully, Ushis’ puppywalkers are more than happy to have her back which is brilliant. Ushi has already been over for a week to make sure they can manage having her plus their withdrawn dog and they loved having her. So in a way that makes it easier knowing she will be happy over in Scotland. I plan to keep Ushi as long as i can before she goes over to Scotland.

We then went out again with just my cane as i wanted to make sure that Ushi would walk with me with just my cane. She was a little unsure at first, but i think she will get used to it as she just trotted along beside me. I could immidiately feel the difference in her. I will obviously only take her for walks now and not in to any shops or anything. Whilst it is up to the individual shops as to whether they let me in or not now, i don’t want to go round every shop that i go in to asking if Ushi can come in. Plus, why would i take her in to shops when she isn’t working any more?

So it’s back to the good old cane for now. I am glad i put myself back on the list when i did, rather than waiting. It feels weird not having the harness, but in a way, it is just like when we qualified and weren’t allowed to have the harness. The only difference is now that she is older.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me texts and commented on facebook. Everyone has been so kind. I don’t feel too bad at the minute. I suppose i know it was the right decision and i know she will be happy when she does go to her puppywalkers. I just have to hope that a new dog comes along soon.

Finally, i would like to thank Ushi for these past 7 and a half years. I know she has always had her little issues and stops, but once i figured out how to manage those, she did do some brilliant work for me. When i first got her, she really wasn’t that confident at all, but she has grown in to a very confident pup. She takes everything in her stride. I have grown in confidence myself, and am doing far more than i did before i got Ushi. I am looking forward to working with a new dog and will enjoy Ushi until i feel that she needs to move on. Thank you Ushi for being such a wonderful worker, despite your little quirks. I have loved it all :).

Read the rest of this entry »