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 »


Making That Call

This has taken me a few days to write. It has been a somewhat hard post.

I always wondered how you would know when a dog was ready to retire. I think i now know.

Back in December, i was put on the waiting list for my next dog while Ushi was still working. Back then, Ushi was slow, but i was confident that she would keep working until a new match was found. Since then though, i have noticed little signs that are suggesting to me that she might retire sooner than i would like. I have noticed over the past month or so especially that when Ushi is working, she is looking around a lot more. It is getting harder to focus her after she looks around. She is also a lot more sniffy on our walks. She has always got a bit stuck when it comes to our regular places we go in to such as Costa and Wise Buys, for example but normally, after a bit of reasoning, and a few “not todays”, she will eventually move on. She may not be happy, especially if it is Pets at Home, but she will eventually move on after pleading with me to go in. Now, however when she gets stuck at a shop because she wants to go in, she really gets stuck to the point where she won’t move at all and no amount of cajoling can get her to carry on. Usually in that situation, i have to ask someone to guide me past whereever it is to get her to carry on.

Sometimes, we don’t even get as far as town, or even just for a walk. She will ask to work, but when we get out of our house, she just crawls along until we turn back for home and then she will go there no problem. If she is not lagging behind until we turn back to go home, she will push against me if we go left to go out of our estate until we turn back home. A couple of years ago, i had a problem with her when i went to go right out of our estate. This was solved with cheese and a lot of perseverance from me with help from Guide dogs. Because of her age though, i don’t want to fight with her. If it had of been a couple of years ago, i would have faught with her and overcome the stickiness, but because it is both ways out of our estate now, i really don’t want to push her if she doesn’t want to work. Usually when this happens, i bring her back home and carry on to whereever i am going with my cane.. If it is just a walk for the sake of a walk, then i will just go home with her, but if i have somewhere to be, then i carry on without her.

Sometimes, when we are working and i ask her to do something, she just stops and stares. It is almost like she has forgotten what i have asked her to do. The most recent instance of this was when i was staying in a hotel last weekend. We had been in this hotel many times before. We had come out of the restaurant after breakfast on the Saturday morning. When we came out of the restaurant, we were heading back to our room which is a straight forward route. Ushi started to lag and when i tried to keep going forward, she wanted to turn back towards the restaurant. I only know this because i got her to “show me” what she wanted. She sped up to head back in to the restaurant. Now, this is unusual as Ushi has never had any human food in there nor attempted to get anything. I kept trying to go back to our room, but it wasn’t happening and the lagging would start again. So i got her to find a sofa while we sat and gathered our thoughts. I eventually got her to go to our room by a bit of bribery of a treat and lots of praise when we got to our room. A few other times this has happened have been when i have asked her to find a ramp through a train station or to find a crossing, for example. It litterally is like she doesn’t know what i am asking her to do. I call these her crisis of confidence.

At no point is Ushi putting me in danger though. She is still stopping at all her kerbs, finding crossing boxes and using public transport well. If she was putting me in danger, i would have called Guide dogs straight away.

On the days that she does work, she is her usual self apart from her slowness etc. Last week, for instance, was a very frustrating week for me as she didn’t want to work at all. I know it has been quite hot, but this was when it was a bit cooler. She didn’t even want to go to yoga which she usually loves. Today was the first she had worked in a week.

In all this, if i was to say that we were going for a free run, she would be like a rocket. There would be absolutely no issue with her working then.

Ushi has been to the vet and has a slight stiffness in her right back leg. The vet says it isn’t anything to worry about at the minute and he will just keep an eye on it. She is not on any medications. She has a few fatty lumps and needed a skin tag removed at the end of April on her eye lid, but other than that, it is just the stiffness in her right leg. As i’ve said, the vet isn’t overly worried and doesn’t think it needs any attention yet.

I phoned guide dogs during the week and they are going to ring me to fix up a date for when Ushi will retire. Obviously i don’t want her to retire yet but i don’t want her to keep working if her heart just isn’t in it any more. I guess i’ve been clinging to the days when she does work, but the truth is, i can’t fully depend on her now and i don’t know if she will wok from one day to the next. I am taking comfort though that she has worked for 7 and a half years with me. We have had our ups and downs, and she does have her very stubborn tendencies, but i really have loved working her. At the start, i didn’t know that i could leave Ballymena, but now, the world really has been my oister. I also know that hopefully she will be going back to her puppywalkers when she does retire as i just can’t keep her as much as i would love to. Ushi has already been for a weeks’ holiday at the start of April and it was like she was never away. The puppywalkers seemed happy too and it has put my mind at ease knowing that she will hopefully go back there. She will have a friend too as they kept their next pup who didn’t want to be a guide dog.

So it has been a very difficult week, but i can’t put it off forever unfortunately. I don’t want all the little signs to become bigger and i don’t want her to start putting us in danger. So i will just take each day as it comes and await Ushi’s retirement date.


Training With Disabled Go

Today, i took part in a training day with a company called

Disabled go

Which is an accessibility checker so that disabled people can look up particular venues to see how accessible they are. Disabled go works with counscels who pay to be a part of Disabled go. There are 4 counscels who are signed up here in Northern Ireland, but they want to get it rolled out to more counscel areas in the future. The counscels which have it already are Ards and North Down, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavan and Belfast city counscel. Once the counscel has signed up to the scheme, they will request for places to be surveyed.

There are two types of access guide that Disabled go provide. One is called a “detailed access guide” or a DAG for short. This would be a venue such as a restaurant or hotel where you are likely to spend a considderable ammount of time in. The other type of guide is called a “key access review” or a KAR for short. This would be a venue like a bank, where you aren’t likely to spend as much time in but still need to know if it is accessible or not. Unlike other companies, Disabled go does not make recommendations for venues to be accessible, rather they will provide guideance if it is a detailed access guide, for example, but it is mainly so that disabled people can make their own choices as to whether they will use a particular venue or not. For example if there is a step in to the venue, the website will list the fact that there is a step to get in to the building, but on’t recommend for it to be changed.

The day started with a visit to City hall, where we met the rest of the participants and the facilatators from disabled go. First of all, they presented a presentation all about the history of Disabled go and why it was developed. It was developed in 2000, after a wheelchair user found himself unable to access many venues after becoming disabled. The presentation then went on to explain what the difference between a detailed access guide and a key access review was. Not only had the presentation been emailed to me beforehand, but there were also brialle copies and print copies available. The questions we would ask venues were also available in braille. I was very impressed with this.

The information that is collected is very thorough. It goes in to details such as what the outside access is like, are there steps, how many steps, is there a ramp, is it portable, the angle of the ramp etc. It even asks what type of door there is and how wide it is. Once inside, it goes in to yet more detail such as did the staff receive disability equality training, is there an accessible toilet, is there a hearing loop, are there seats available and many more questions besides. Whilst on the subject of accessible toilets, someone in the group pointed out that if you’re visually impaired, you aren’t necessarily going to want to feel around to find everything in the accessible toilet and that things aren’t where you would think in every one. I pointed out a device called a

Room mate

Which is a device that some places accross the water can install with bespoke audio instructions as to where everything is in an accessible toilet. That hasn’t come over here yet, but i am interested when it does, as it would solve so many problems in locating things in the toilet. I also asked the question about

Changing places toilets

And if they would be included in the detailed access guides, which they are as for some people, they cannot use the standard accessible toilet.

The presentation also focused on why you may not be allowed to go in to a venue and ask about what they had available, such as seating, and this was because a shop may be busy or may be worried about people coming in and asking questions about their venue. This is a rare occurance apparently though which is always good to hear.

Once the presentation was finished, we were told about what else would be happening throughout the day and asked to fill in a feedback form on the day so far.

After lunch, it was time to hit the streets armed with the information we needed to create a key access review for some shops in Victoria square. We were split up in to two groups and each facilatator led a group. We visited 5 shopes in total. They kept it very short to accommadate peoples’ needs, and didn’t want people to get too tired doing it. Everywhere we went were very happy for us to ask questions about the venue. The only place which had a hearing loop was the Apple store, whilst Claires Accessories and a place called Boo avenue had racks that could be wheeled out of the way if a wheelchair user for example couldn’t get down an aisle and Boo avenue even had an accessible fitting room. Photos were also taken of the steps etc if a shop had any and how wide the aisles were.

Once we had finished, we had a chat about the day and were given a £10 gift voucher for our time. I would like to thank Disabled go for inviting us along and i really enjoyed the day. It is amazing how many things you notice when you have your accessibility head on. I hope more counscels sign up to the scheme and i look foward to hopefully doing more with them in the future.


It’s Starting To Feel Real

So today i had an after care visit from Guide dogs and walked with a few dogs to see what speed i am at now, since Ushi has slowed down a little.

Back in June, i had an aftercare visit and it had been noted that Ushi had slowed down quite a bit since the last time i had aftercare. I had always had an excuse for her slowness, such as the streets were busy/we had recently had road works/it was hot/wet/there were a lot of obsticles etc. However when it was mentioned to me, i was starting to think that maybe she was slowing down. I did find it hard to believe though since we had been down to Dublin only a few weeks earlier and she loved it. Since then though, i have noticed that she is slowing. She still is excited when we go somewhere new, but otherwise, she is indicating more seats and coffee shops to me than she did before. It is getting harder and harder to move her along too. I’ve notice too the past month or so, that she won’t lie as long in a cafe and seems to get more restless after a while. It is just subtle things really, but when you add them altogether, it is all making sense unfortunately.

Not long after that aftercare visit, the decision was made that i should probably put myself back on the list while Ushi was still working. Ideally, i would love it if Ushi could work right up until a new dog was found for me. I have to face it that she has been working for me for the last 7 years and that she will be 9 in February. When she had her last vet appointment, the vet noticed that she had some stiffness in one of her back legs. We are monitoring it carefully, but the vet isn’t too worried as she isn’t limping and doesn’t seem to be in pain. She has always been a bit funny though when i pick up her back paws though. Apart from that, she has been mainly healthy throughout her working life apart from a couple of little fatty lumps that she has picked up along the way.

So today, guide dogs came out to fill in the paperwork for me to be put back on the list. This was things like what i would want in a new dog etc.

First of all, i took Ushi out for a quick walk around the block so they could gage what speed she is at now. They are going to start coming out every six months now to keep a closer eye on her. They said that normally they would do this when the dog was about 10, but they think it would be better to do it now with Ushi rather than waiting. Obviously, i will be sad to see Ushi go when her time comes, but she has done some fantastic working for me over these past 7 years. She deffinetly wasn’t the easiest to work with in terms of her stubbornness and her random stops, but when she puts her mind to it, she really is a brilliant little worker. She is a nice, all round type of dog who isn’t bothered by much at all which is great. Initially, when i first got her, i wasn’t as busy as i am now, but now that i have found that confidence to explore more than just my home town, the world really is my oistor.

After my walk with Ushi, it was back inside to fill in the paperwork bit of the visit. This consisted of a series of questions to determine what i would like in a dog, including things like temperament and workload. We also discussed what my main routes would be and how long they would take roughly. This was much easier this time as i know what routes i am doing now, where as when i first did the assessment all those years ago, i didn’t know what routes i would like to use.

Eventually, after all the paperwork was taken care of, we went outside to meet some dogs. This was just so that they could see what speed and tention i need in a dog as they can’t tell from Ushi what i would need as she was always very light with her tention. The first dog who was brought out of the car was a little black boy. He was a bit fast to start with, but eventually slowed down to my speed. He had a very good tention as well. It wasn’t too light, and wasn’t too strong either. Next, it was a little black girlie. Again, her tention was strong, but i felt comfortable with her. Lastly, it was a golden girl. She was slower than the black girlie but because she had such a strong tention, it felt like she was flying ahead. I admit i did have to speed up a little and lengthen my stride just to keep up with her.

It was a good day and on one hand, i hope it is not too long before i am matched with a new dog, but on the other, i don’t want it to be too quick either 😦 i do know that Ushi unfortunately can’t keep working forever, no matter how much i want her to.