"Born To Lead"

There was a documentary on
BBC Scotland
On Monday night about a journalist who’s guide dog had to retire, so he was waiting for a new one. He visited the Forfar training centre in Scotland, to show how some of the training was done and all. It only lasted half an hour.

I was hoping that it would be put up on
The BBC I player
But nobody knew if it would be. Today I found the link to it! It’ll probably only be up for another week at max, so here it is….
Born To Lead
I’m so glad it was put up on the I player! Enjoy!


Celebrating 6 Months Together

Today six months ago, I qualified with Ushi! I’d thought i’d do a little recap through the blog, and sort of give how I felt after each link. Wow I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly!

Firstly, I thought i’d go right back to the day I actually
Qualified
With Ushi. That day was kind of scarey lol. I never thought I would actually qualify as the day before that, I kept drifting into the “guiding road” alot. But I did qualify! It was scarey because I came across the really yappy dogs on our little block route. I had passed them loads before, but they sounded much scarier when there was no instructor! It was also scarey because I’d never been out independently with the cane.

I remember how supportive my instructor was, even texting me if I was nervous, and really encouraging me onwards!

Our first little teething problems started a few days later though. My instructor had been out a couple of days before to take me to the vet to get Ushi her first 6 month checkup and to get weighed. She was grand and healthy which was good.

Ushi had started to become a bit of a
Madam
While working. She wouldn’t sit at her kerbs at all, and at some of them she was very hesitant to go. I thought I had done something to make her stop sitting, but later found out from my instructor that it was okay to let her stand at her kerbs, as some dogs are more slower than others to sit at them. (here in the UK our dogs will normally sit to indicate kerbs). She has stood at all of her kerbs now, and even for turns we stand, and she has been grand!

Ushi had also started digging in the garden after her business. She never dug out the way, just dug downwards. She has since grown out of that mostly thankfully.

The problems didn’t stop there unfortunately. She started
Stopping
On some of our routes. This was a huge pain, and again I thought that i’d done something terrible. I was beginning to think that maybe she wasn’t that good as a guide dog, as sometimes she would stop when there weren’t even any cars or that about, but she could hear one in the distance.

After some
Encouragement
From my instructor, I too thought that the stopping would stop. It did for a couple of days, but then it started up again. It got to the point where she
Would Barely Move
(I couldn’t even get out of the house without it happening.). It wasn’t just stopping for obsticles, it was just coming to a complete dead stop. It got so bad that I wanted to give her back! I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but that was how frustrated I had gotten. Nothing I seemed to do would make her go forward, and I got less and less inclined to actually do a walk. I felt absolutely terrible, and thought that Ushi would be taken away from me since she was having so many problems. I decided that enough was enough after 4 solid days of hardly being able to move from my front door. I phoned my team on the Monday of that week, and the next day,
The District Team manager
Came down to see what the problem was. I was extremely nervous about this, since he was the manager and all that. I thought I was in trouble lol. He came down, and we discovered that Ushi was just being an arse really, and that there was nothing I did wrong! Wow that was a relief! The only bad thing she did was try and jump up on the man. I thought that was really bad but he just ignored it, and that was the only time she did it in the house when someone came in.

We were able to carry on our walks for the next couple of days. We even took her into town with dad me holding on to the lead just since I didn’t know the route. She decided to leave a
Busy
In the middle of the shopping centre though! I felt horrible! I just wanted to crawl away somewhere! I mean what guide dog takes a crap in the middle of a shopping centre? Anyway loads of people had had this problem so I wasn’t alone. I think she did it because she had held it in all day. She sometimes will do this for some strange reason which is weird. That was the only reason she ever did it in a shopping centre though which was good.

The next thing that happened was a local
Photo Opportunity

For both me and the dog in our local paper. This was because my mobility worker wanted a picture of a newly qualified and a long time guide dog owner together. She was fantastic then, and we even went for our first real stay in a coffee shop after that! That was my first introduction to the local fundraising branch, and i have been going ever since. (I can’t actually fundraise yet, but I go to know what they are doing, and plus it gets her used to different places!). In the UK we can’t fundraise for at least 6 months, as the bond is still forming between the two of you.

The next thing I learnt was the route into town with my instructor. We
Got Lost
Before we had even met our instructor and mum had to come get us! I had decided to do a walk before, and she had taken me ever so slightly up another path. Luckily I always carry my phone, so could jsut ring mum to put us back on track! I was so worried in case i’d miss my instructor!

We got lost once more when it was snowing, but we hardly ever get lost now, and if we do I can correct it mostly!

Next, I wondered if I was being
Too Gentle
With her toys, as when Ushi played with me she seemed to know that something was different with me. (She will still do this, and will play more and for longer if someone else plays with her!). This kind of makes me jealous, but at least she does play with me, even if it is just for a little while.

We unfortunately had started getting work done on the kitchen a few weeks later. I thought this would majorly affect Ushi, but she didn’t care at all! She didn’t even care that we had to go around the house to get to the garden as they were always in the kitchen for a good few weeks. She didn’t even notice the noise! During this time though, we started to experience some
Food Issues
I used to add a little water to her food before giving it to her. This was how she got it on class. She had taken it no bother, until one day, she just would not eat it. She did after some encouragement, so I wasn’t really worried. One day though it took at least twenty minutes for her to eat. I had even tried taking the bowl away, then putting it down again, but that didn’t work. I had a little chat with her and explained that I didn’t like it, and decided that the next day I would take the water away, and just have water beside her. That worked far better, and now she eats it no bother, and as long as she has her water beside her, she is grand!

I hated when we experienced our first snow fall. I could hardly work her at all! I was so worried that she would forget her work, but whenever we did work again, I made sure to do obedience before we would work and she would be grand. I remember one time when it was icey, and every time I slid with her, she looked right at me and wouldn’t move until I told her forward.

Ushi and I did have fun though when it did snow. She had a good old run around in it and tried to eat it!

In January, we had a regular aftercare visit skeduled. Ushi decided to
Stop Again
Before we did it, although it was only coming back from one route. I explained that it was happening, so we decided to do that route to see what was happening! Of course she decided not to do it then! I could have cursed her! After me explaining to the instructors and all what the problem was! The instructors decided that Ushi was probably just bored, and didn’t want to go home yet. We have actually got a purpose now for the route into town when i’m doing my quilting course, so she doesn’t stop at all now!

That leads us basically up to
The Dog attack
And all of the issues that when along with it, regarding my drop in confidence and that. Thankfully she is working fabulously now. I nearly had dog attack number 2 happen yesterday though which wasn’t that good. I was walking along just across the road from where the last one happened, and this dog was barking and all, and came up to us, but luckily some kids got it before it could do anything. I thought it was going to happen again, so dropped the harness and braced myself. Thankfully those kids were there to stop it happening which was fabulous! It still shook me up a bit though.

Now that the better weather has come in, I can’t wait to actually do more routes, and to do more than one walk a day! (Although it’s hard to get motivated to do two lol.).

I can’t believe the change though from when I first got Ushi to now, with regards to her routine and that. At the start, I would barely let anyone else even look at her. Over the past few months, I do let others pay attention with her and play with her, but I have made it clear that I always feed her unless I can’t for some reason, and always am the one giving her commands, and doing most of the work with her. I still feed her, and have her bed up in my room, which i’m not sure is a good or bad thing, and she does spend most of her time up here since that is where i am most of the time. When I first got her I wanted to have her bells on her whenever she was downstairs, and would always bring her lead down just in case. Now though whenever I bring her down stairs, I just let her wonder, I don’t bring the lead down, and I don’t have her bells on now. Even for spending I can now trust her to go down the garden with just her normal collar on! I let her wonder around our hall too, and will bring her down when I go down stairs (or rather when she hears the stair gate open, she will come sauntering out of the bedroom lol.).

At the start, I would even have her on lead to go up stairs, but now she just can go up on her own! Sometimes I have to direct her sort of cause she just stands there otherwise.

I hope and think she has deffinetly settled in, and i’d say if she wasn’t happy, she would have shown it!

I have noticed too that I have to really get on to her less and less. Normally a “Pay attention” along with a quick chuck on the harness will do the trick, but I rarely have to really shout/be firm with her!

The next 6 months begin with a fundraising workshop next week which i’m still not sure about, cause it sounds a bit boring, but then again, i wouldn’t be doing anything else, and she has her 6 monthly health check along with vaxinations to get next month too! No doubt she’ll not be too happy about that. She also starts her worming and flea treatments.

I hope you have enjoyed this entry, and sorry it’s a bit long!

Happy 6 month anniversary Ushi pups, and let’s hope the next 6 months have very little issues, and are relaxing and fun!

I still can’t believe the time has flown so fast! Soon it’ll be the big year one! Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed the recap!


A Couple Of New Starts

I’ve just came across a couple of blogs that you might find interesting. The first one was introduced to me by
Becky
And the other one is being done on our
Facebook Page

Firstly,
Debra
Is training with her first guide dog I think. She is called “flow”. I think she is training in america somewhere.

The other blog is by a girl called Vicky who is starting training with her first guide dog Ivy tomorrow. She is training with our team. She is writing a blog like I did on class.

So if any of you have facebook, pay a visit to our facebook page and wish Vicky luck.

I hope training goes well for both Debra and Flow, and Vicky and Ivy!


A Quick Picture

I’m just writing a quick update. I couldn’t resist getting mum to take this picture! The poor girl didn’t even attempt to get it off!


The 3rd Assistance Dog Blog Carnival:Reactions To The Halty

I wasn’t going to participate in this carnival this month, but then I thought of a good post. This time, the carnival is being hosted by
The Trouble Is
I’ve never read her blog, but thought i’d contribute anyway. The topic for this month is “reactions”. This is quite a hard topic, and I thought about putting up the reaction to
Ushi being attacked,
But then thought that I would write about something else. So here goes.

Oh, by the way,
Here is the link
For the post about the carnival.

I use a
Halty
Sometimes with Ushi. This sort of looks like the head part of a horses bridle. It has a clip that you clip onto the collar, and the lead can clip on to it. It also straps around the back of her head. She hates having it on, but I use it for taking her to the vets as she would pull you along to get out of there, when i’m meeting other guide dogs as she wants to play and becomes very hard to handle, or when doing a free run. This is basically where the dog gets to be a dog for an hour or two, and she can run around and sniff until her little heart is content. If she knows that she is near a park or field where she knows that she can run around, she would pull uncontrolably. The Halty calms her down and she walks just calmly whilst i am being guided. (She hardly moves when working with it on).

The halty doesn’t hurt Ushi at all, and it is not a muzzle. She can still open her mouth and that.

The first time I had any bother with the halty was at one of the fundraising meetings I would attend. One of the people there were like “what is that thing around her nose?”. (I had it on because there were other guide dogs, but i take it off as soon as she gets into a “down”.). I explained that it was a Halty, and stops her pulling. That seemed to satisfy the person. At the last meeting I went to, alot of the other volunteers commented. “do you not like having your muzzle thing on?” was one comment. This really annoyed me. The Halty is not a muzzle and will never be. Plus why the hell would I need to muzzle my guide dog? I felt as if I was being cruel to Ushi then. The other comments I got were along the lines of “do you not like getting your “head harness thing” on?”. Those comments didn’t annoy me too much, but the “muzzle” one really irked me!

Maybe I was over reacting, but I just felt terrible after that. I have now got to the point where I even explain to the receptionists at the vets what the Halty is and that it is to stop her pulling!

Have any of you other Halty users ever had these problems?

This has been my submission for the third assistance dog blog carnival. I hope you have enjoyed it. I think the deadline for posts is the 25th April? But i’m not too sure. Hopefully someone can correct me on when it is.

Happy writing!


The "Guide Dogs Gals" Pub Quizz

Just before our last fund raising meeting, my rehab worker forwarded all te branch members an email from one of our admin team who is running the
Belfast City Marathon
At the start of May. To help them raise the money needed, our team are holding a pub quizz up in Belfast. My rehab worker says that I could probably go, as it would be just sitting around really. Here is the info from our teams
Facebook Page

Time: 07 April from 19:30 to 22:30
Location: Kings Head, Belfast

Description
We are holding a pub quiz at the Kings Head (opposite Kings Hall in Belfast) on 7th April 2011 to raise money for the Guide Dogs Gals marathon team effort in May. Entry will be £20 per team and teams can have up to a max of 6 people each. To enter a team please contact me (Ally) at alison.bennett@guidedogs.org.uk with your details and the total people in your team so we have an idea of numbers! Or phone the office on 0845 3727 402 for more information. Thanks :0)

I am still deciding whether to take Ushi or not. I’m thinking I might though as it will get her used to new experiences and that. Plus that would be leaving her for like 5 hours if i didn’t take her! I think she would enjoy going, and it means then that she will be used to that kind of environment. We will be in a room of our own, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m just a little worried about her spending. I mean usually she is spent at about 9:30, but if she isn’t spent for an hour later will she be alright? Obviously I will give her an opportunity before I go, when we get there, probably during it if we have a break, before we go home, and once again when we get home. Should I give her more opportunities to go? Should I even take her at all? Decisions decisions. I was even thinking I could even get her to lie down in the car?

Is there anything I should bring with me? I’m bringing her water bowl but should I bring anything else?

Normally she is alright when she has to lie down somewhere, although after about an hour she will get bored and stand up a bit, but I can usually get her back into a down again.

So any thoughts? Thanks! I’m sure it will go alright though!


Assisting In The "Sighted Guiding Mobility Service"

I was asked on Wednesday at our local fundraising meeting if I would come along on Friday morning to help my mobility worker assess two volunteers for the “Sighted Guiding Mobility Service” which is being piloted I think in Northern Ireland. This is basically a service offered by Guide Dogs to help people regain their confidence and get out and about before they progress with long cane training or become guide dog applicants. A volunteer would take a client out as much as they needed, and it would last for about 3 months. This could be taking them to the cinema or shopping. They work one to one with the person. This
Article
Probably explains it better.

So this morning I got picked up at about 9 o’clock to head into town where we would meet two volunteers who were being assessed by my mobility worker. They were from the local fundraising branch, so we kind of knew each other beforehand.

Before we got started, we waited for the first volunteer to come. While we were waiting, my mobility worker explained a little more about what the service was. He said that everyone who was on the fundraising branch knew basic sighted guiding techniques, but that this was basically going into more detail, like how to go through doors and such with a blind or partially sighted person.

Shortly after, the first volunteer came up and introduced herself to me like she would a client. We walked out of the shop we met at, and just walked around one of our shopping centres, then back again. The woman was a bit nervous at the start, but once we got going, she was grand!

When we got back to where we’d started, we headed up to the restaurant part and had a coffee while we waited for the other lady to arrive. My mobility worker then filled in some paperwork once the second woman had arrived.

After about half an hour, I did a route to the second shopping centre that we have with the second woman. She seemed really confident from the start. The only problem that they both had was with going through doors. The correct way to do this is to always have the visually impaired person on the hinge side of the door, so that they could control it. (That used to drive me mad in school). But they both got this after they were refreshed on how to do it.

I thought it was really good for both the volunteers. They were both confident, but the second woman seemed not to be as nervous. They will hopefully be matched some time in the future with a blind or partially sighted person.

All the guiding techniques can be adapted to suit each person, which is good. I thought it was a very informative morning.

When I came home I was expecting Ushi to be all hyper since I hadn’t taken her with me, but she didn’t even notice me! She went straight to sleep, and was asleep when I got home! It’s a good thing that she isn’t bothered by not going with me, but it makes you feel unloved! She did come over for a few scratches, but she is back in bed now.

I suppose I’d better go get motivated to take her out for our walk. It’s meant to snow later, so want to do it now if I can. It’s just hard to find the motivation!