The Guide Dogs Talking Busses Campaigne Pilot

Today I was invited to take part in a pilot project for the
Talking Busses
Campaigne that guide dogs are running. This is a campaigne to make busses have audio and visual information onboard to announce upcoming stops. I think it is operational in London and Notingham in England I think.

My rehab worker picked me up at about 9 o’clock. We headed up to Belfast, but on the way we had to pick up another guide dog owner. She had a guide dog called Willo. (Willo was 10 and a half and was still working! The normal age for retirement is usually about 8 or 9 years, but Willo is still wanting to work and is showing no signs that she needs to stop. Pritty cool!).

We arrived at a church hall. This was where we would find out what was happening throughout the morning, then how the pilot would work. There were a number of other organisations there including The RNIB, Guide Dogs, Translink, and the Department For Regional Development. (Not sure what they do).

We were then split into two groups. One group was going to go out for a short ride on a bus that Translink had braught for us to try out to see what the announcements were like. The other group were going to look at the
React Systim
Which is being installed at three local bus stops in Belfast. These will coincide with the route the bus is going to be taking.

I went out to the bus with the first group as we needed to leave early. The bus was like a town service bus. It was a Metro bus I think they are called. I was expecting the bus to have alot of room, and whilst the isles had room in between the seats were really cramped.

I kept Ushi’s harness on as I wasn’t sure how long we were going on the route, but then took it off again once I discovered that we would be on for about 15 to 20 minutes. Ushi kept trying to get out from in between the seat to see the other dogs that got on. Eventually my rehab worker got on too and sat beside me. Ushi just lay down then and was nose to nose with another guide dog called Ivie.

As we drove along, we were told what stop we were coming to. It only told you once though, and didn’t tell you where it would eventually end up. When it did tell you the stops it said just before the stop. I thought it would be helpful if on a long journey for it to say it more, but I suppose once you heard the name of your stop, you could just ring the bell or something.

The voice that was used was one of the Realspeak voices that come with JAWS.

For it being a pre pilot, it was quite good. It could do with improvements which i’ve already mentioned, but apart from that it’s great! Unfortunately if after the pilot translink run out of money, then it will stop. They can’t garuntee that it will be made available on other routes too.

After we finished on the bus, we headed back to the hall again so that the second group could have their turn on the bus.

While the other group were on the bus, we looked at the React systim that was going to be installed on three of the local bus stops. First of all, the guide dogs campaigning officer showed us the speaker that would go on a pole or something. It is like a small games console. You have a little keyring that has two buttons on it. Whenever you get into range of one of the poles with the system on it, it will speak to you. You can press the buttons on the keyring to hear more information like the time of the bus etc. It was also a good systim, but has been out for quite a while.

We left after that. My rehab worker had to do some work up at the guide dogs office, so we went up there for a while.

It was a good day I thought.

Side Note.

In other news, I had Ushi off to the vets for her front line treatment and to get her eye checked out as she had been scratching it quite a bit. It wasn’t affecting her work or anything, so I wasn’t too worried, I just didn’t want it to get infected.

When we were sitting in the waiting room, Ushi saw a couple of other dogs and wanted to play lol. She kept doing little whining noises every so often lol. The vet looked at her eye and said that because it was healing up, that there was nothing he needed to do. He even went and got a light to shine in her eye and made sure that the actual eye wasn’t irritated. He said it should just heal naturally.

I decided to get her front line and worming tablet while there. Our vets like the dogs to get weighed before each front line, so I popped her on the scales.

Ushi’s working weight is 27 Kilograms. Her Optimum weight is meant to be 29 Kilograms but she has been over that. At her last weigh in three months ago, she was 33 Kilograms. I put this down to me slacking and not walking her enough. I said that I would exercise her twice a day instead of once a day. Each walk was a 20 minute or so walk, and that wasn’t even into town. Town was probably a 30 minute walk.

So most days we’ve been doing a walk twice a day. She has a free run once a week, and gets a milk bone broken up every time she comes back to me on a free run. (We do this so the dogs come back, and we are allowed the milk bones). She would very ocasionally get a treat on a walk if she needs an incentive, like if she is doing a new route, for example. She would get a frozen kong filled with about 5 pieces of her food and 5 bits of broken up milk bone. I then would have taken 10 bits of food out of her breakfast the next day to make up for that. She would have gotten a dental stick maybe two or three times a week.

She is on 150 grams twice a day for both her feeds. (She was on 200 Grams in the mornings when I got her, but that was cut in November to 150).

Today when I weighed her……….she was 36.1 Kilograms. This was a huge shock. I asked the vet if that was okay and the vet said that was normal, but guide dogs probably won’t like her at that weight. Apparently, a guide dog is classed as obese if it is 15 % over its optimum weight. I have worked out that Ushi is 5.415 % over but not sure If I did that right.

Anyway whatever way I worked that out, it’s not good. I am extremely disappointed. She doesn’t feel fat, and she doesn’t look fat, but I need to get on top of this as soon as possible. I was told that you cut the dogs food by 50 grams. So I am thinking of bringing her food down to 100 grams in the morning and keeping her at the 150 in the evening which is what she is getting twice a day.

I guess there will only be treats for coming back from a free run! That means no kongs or anything like that.

Should I be doing this? I am extremely worried. I can still fit my fingers in between her belly and the girth strap of her harness. Dad said that it could be muscle rather than fat.

Oh and by the way, do any of you know how to get a dog to step down off a down kerb? She won’t do it unless I move the lead forward. (She used to do it until the day that it rained really bad and the cars sprayed all over the road). I give a nice strong hand signal and tell her forward, and I do it a couple of times, but if it’s not working I will use the lead. Could I have been using the lead too much?

Thanks for any suggestions, and sorry for the long post! I started it on Wednesday lol. I went to the vets today though (Friday) but thought i’d add that in. The kerb thing isn’t that much of an issue though. I really hope I can get the weight off! Thanks again for your help.

How Did Ya Get Here?

I thought i’d try this out since I know alot of other blogs post random search queries they get from their trackers they use to see how many people visit their blogs etc. So every couple months if i get anything interesting i’ll post it in this kind of post.

This is from the 28th April this year. I’ll post a little comment after each one. Here goes!

Last 5000 Searchengine Queries Unique Visitors

28 Apr, Thu, 18:42:19 Google: “MacNeil MCN300 “Talking” Alarm Clock”. Another clock one lol.

29 Apr, Fri, 23:26:42 Google: “ligue braille and belgium police force”. That’s been three in a row!

29 Apr, Fri, 23:27:01 Google: “ligue braille and belgium police force”. Is there a league of the police force in Belgum practicing braille? Wow.

29 Apr, Fri, 23:27:44 Google: “ligue braille and belgium police force”. Lol what’s with this one?

02 May, Mon, 21:43:05 Google: “MacNeil MCN300 “Talking” Alarm Clock”. Another clock one lol.

03 May, Tue, 19:57:28 Google: “green apple talking alarm clock settings”. Another clock one.

08 May, Sun, 23:26:41 Google: “instructions MacNeil MCN300 Apple Talking Alarm Clock”. Alot of people must have baught this clock.

23 May, Mon, 06:50:18 Google: “guide dog ushi”. This is a good one. Makes more sense too.

23 May, Mon, 15:46:00 Google: “blogger gcse exams”. Lol didn’t know Blogger did exams lol.

26 May, Thu, 11:33:08 Google: “guide dogs limavady”. Another possibly for the fundraising branch up there?

26 May, Thu, 19:12:06 Google: “jollyes blog”. Didn’t know they had a blog lol. I know their website is totally inaccessible though.

28 May, Sat, 18:16:11 Google: “average blog by the average blogger”. Lol someone must have wanted to find me so just typed in what they knew the blog was called.

03 Jun, Fri, 21:34:28 Google: “average blogs”. Who would just want “average blogs?

06 Jun, Mon, 21:18:22 Google: “blogger ushi”. Lol another Ushi one.

07 Jun, Tue, 08:28:16 Google: “blog ushi”. Lol that’s different.

07 Jun, Tue, 19:04:51 Google: “online tips on overcoming negative thinking”. Good point although i’ve only written one article on this and it was taken from another blog.

09 Jun, Thu, 03:37:35 Google: “mcn-300”. Another clock one.

13 Jun, Mon, 11:51:23 Google: “MacNeil MCN300 Green Apple”. Most of the queries are about that apple clock I got at christmas time.

13 Jun, Mon, 22:27:51 Google: “volunteering in limavady”. That’s interesting. Maybe someone interested in volunteering with the Limavady fundraising branch for guide dogs?

17 Jun, Fri, 12:09:15 Google: “ blog water “. Okay? I get the bit, but what is the craic with the water?

So how do people find your blog? It’s mad some of the things people can search for!

Guide Dogs Fun Day And Stakeholder Briefing

Today was the
Guide Dogs Fun day
For Northern Ireland.

So this morning, we got the 20 past 9 train up to Belfast. I wasn’t sure until yesterday who was going to be meeting me as my dad and sister were just dropping me off. Orriginally there weren’t any volunteer drivers organised as it wasn’t our team who organised it, but thankfully there was a lovely woman called Jessica who was going to pick me up.

So at about a quarter past 10, we arrived at the station where Jessica was going to meet me. (We should have been there at 10, but our train was delayed).

When we arrived we first of all just chilled really, and I waited for my friend to turn up. We also stood and talked to the district team manager, and the instructor who now does my aftercare. She noticed a little cut on Ushi’s eye (She scratched it a little while ago and keeps on scratching it. When she scratches she doesn’t do it gently either!). The district team manager came over and told me to get her some cream (can’t remember what it’s called), from the vet and that should make the scratching stop since it will stop the irritation. They don’t really want the eye to get infected. I hope they don’t give her the “Cone of shame!”.

After about 5 minutes, we went on the
Go Walkies
Event that was taking place as well as the briefing for the stakeholders. We were walking along the Toepath along the river Lagon.

There were two routes to choose from;a short one which was a mile long altogether, or a longer one which was three miles long altogether. I decided to do this one. I went with Jessica for this.

Before we started the walk I had to take my coat off as it was scorching! It was meant to rain too! I bet if we hadn’t come prepared it would have rained.

My friend was following behind me with her dog Della, and initially the girls were very excited, but they eventually calmed down. We had to make a bit of a pit stop with Ushi as she was indicating she wanted a spend about 20 minutes into the walk, but after that we were back on track again. Ushi wanted to say hi to every dog that we passed, but I was able to keep her on track and she walked along nicely with us. (I had her harness on but wasn’t working her).

At each of the halfway points there were some of the team standing with buckets of water for the dogs. There was quite a queue of dogs waiting to take their drink. I was actually surprised that Ushi drank out of the bucket since other dogs had drunk out of it. My friend turned back at the first halfway point as she only wanted to do the shorter route.

I was enjoying talking to Jessica as we walked. We chatted about everything under the sun really. At the next halfway point, we met my first instructors I had on class. I explained Ushi’s
Little Incident
And one of my instructors said that she had done something similar when she was staying with her during her advanced training. She had apparently been snuffling around her kitchen when she swallowed some dusst. A dog barked at that moment too, and she hicupped all night. My instructor was worried too when it happened. At least she had done something similar though which wasn’t so bad. Apparently Ushi is “Just a baby” about some things lol.

I could have stayed and chatted to my instructors for agees, but unfortunately Jessica needed to go pick someone else up pritty soon after our walk, so she needed to get on.

At one point during the walk, a puppywalker came up to me and asked me what was helpful in a puppy, as in what did I look for in a pup. I thought this was quite odd, but said that it’s good that the pup is nice and gentle when playing etc. She seemed to take it on board. I thought this was good that she asked me, as I didn’t think she would care that much. I thought it was kinda nice. Her husband had a little pup called Woffle with him. Her pup Wendy had just gone back to Forfar.

When we were nearly finished the walk, we had to go up this big hill. Ushi lay down at the top of it lol. I tried to offer her water, but I think she just wanted to lie down for a while lol.

When we arrived back at the fundraising vehicle (more on that later) where we had started, we were presented with a certificate and a little bone shaped thing that clipped on to Ushi’s collar that said something like “Go walkies for guide dogs”. I have kept it on her collar, but not sure if we’re supposed to lol.

We just chilled for a while after until we were all ready to go up to where the stakeholders meeting was being held. While we were sitting there a little kid came up to us with his or her family. The mother was like “Remember to ask first before petting the dog” and the little kid was like “Can I pet your dog?”. I said yes and got “Can I pet your dog? Can I pet your dog?”. I thought it was cute, and well done for the mother to educate her children. When the kids were leaving, they were like “I kissed that dog!”.

On the walk there was a kid at one point who was like “that doggy ran away!” as we walked past lol.

I got my instructor to check Ushi’s Halty, as when I put it on, Dad said that it kind of pulled her skin up a bit. I thought it was maybe getting too small, but apparently it was just twisted!

We were then off to where the stakeholders meeting was to be held. I went with my friend and her mum.

When we got out of the car, we tried to get the two dogs to spend together, but they both just stood there! We eventually did get it taken care of though.

We were all in a big hall where the meeting was. Some people just turned up for the meeting. There were apparently about 20 guide dogs altogether including puppies. We were all sitting at tables. Ushi decided that she was just gonna stretch out kind of in the middle of the walkway lol. She eventually lay down at the side of my chair.

First of all, our district team manager introduced everyone. There was a woman from the trustees who was from Northern Ireland, the community fundraising director, and a couple other people but I couldn’t remember what their titles were.

First of all, they all talked about what the organisation had achieved over the last 80 years. There are over 4,000 guide dog owners in the UK. I can’t remember what else was talked about in that part, but They want more people experiencing the freedom a guide dog can bring, so they have built a brand new breeding centre in Leamington which has just opened. The new dogs have moved in too and they like it better as there is apparently much less noise throughout the centre. They are planning to produce 1500 pups every year.

They then talked about the next 80 years, and talked about new services they were introducing such as the Sighted guiding service. Northern Ireland is the first place that has actually done it for the last 18 months, and there are apparently 19 sighted guides up and running, with 8 clients waiting to be matched to a guide. Everywhere else in the UK hasn’t introduced them yet.

They are planning to introduce what are called “Mobility Action Teams” or something around the UK. I don’t really understand what they were, but I think it was going to be more rehab workers or something.

What they said next kind of annoyed me. They said that Northern Ireland’s aim for this year was to have 17 new partnerships formed. I don’t think there should be certain “targets” for partnerships. You could create a partnership and it could not work or something. Apparently it’s so that they can see what the demand will be for the year. Something like that anyway.

They are starting a trial where 25 % of guide dogs will be trained here, including the formal training, but the other 75 % will be trained in Forfar like it is now. This is to reduce the stress on the dog and that.

Northern Ireland has got the loan of a big bus type thingie for fundraising. If we can put it to good use, we will get to keep it. It came over from England on Friday apparently. It is basically like a big bus with a sofa and all, and pictures of what guide dogs do and that as well as leaflets and that. I think it is for the dogs to have a break too if you’re away all day somewhere.

It was question time after that. I asked if our aftercare would be affected as guide dog owners if all a Guide dog mobility instructors time would be taken up by working with dogs. Our district team manager said that there would actually be a dog trainer who would probably be employed, so the instructors would only do the 10 weeks of advanced training like normal. So our aftercare wouldn’t be affected.

There is talk of guide dog owners meeting up with puppywalkers regularly to sort of let them know what would be good to have in a pup. I think this is a great idea. Also the pups are going to stay with their puppywalkers for a bit longer than the year in some cases. It would probably be up until the pup was 14 months or something.

We finished the day basically after that. It was a good day and the stakeholder thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! I thought that the trustees and that wouldn’t really listen to the guide dog owners, but they seemed to have which was good. Hopefully anyway!

I found out that there will be a pilot of the Talking busses scheme in Northern Ireland in August. This is where they are installing audio and visual announcements on busses.

We went home after that.

I felt very confident with Ushi today. I thought I was going to need the Halty alot more, but only used it getting out of cars as she still pulls quite a bit. At the start of the walk she did pull a bit but nothing I couldn’t manage. I don’t think I would have felt so confident even a few months ago. I was able to control her, and I thought she was very well behaved. Even some of the dogs on the walk she just ignored!

I am so glad she was really well behaved. I was expecting her to be a real terror! I had to keep reminding myself not to be too hard on myself if she didn’t behave, but she was a wee star! I think the fact I was able to control her says alot in how far i’ve come with her! I’ve probably just jinxed it, but who cares!

I was a very happy owner indeed!

Unfortunately last night Ushi had another little episode. We had gone downstairs at about 11 o’clock to make something to eat. Ushi was just lying in the kitchen and then she must have heard the snakes tail (one of the snakes lives in the kitchen and i don’t think she had seen it move before in it’s tank). Anyway the snake was very alert too, as well as Ushi. Ushi ran under the table and trembled. I took her upstairs and thankfully she wasn’t half as bad as what she had been. She was still panty, but she was drinking. I tried ignoring her to see if that worked, but it didn’t seem to, so I got down on the floor beside her on her bed, and she then just sprawled out and went to sleep. I wouldn’t want to give her too much attention when she is having one of these incidents as that could make it worse, but i’m not sure what else to do.

Thankfully she is much better today and the panicking didn’t last as long.

I think Ushi is still tired lol as she is zonked beside me! I can’t wait fo another day like it again.

A Scarey Evening

This evening was quite a scarey one to be honest.

About an hour after Ushi had eaten her food, she saw a blue bottle buzzing around. She got very very excited and started bounding about. Shortly afterwards, she started to pant like crazy and her tail wasn’t wagging. I thought that maybe she needed to go out, so took her a short walk around the estate to see if that calmed her down.

She couldn’t wait to get away! The panting did calm down a bit.

When we got home again however, she was panting away. She came upstairs, and went into the bathroom. My sister closed the door to our room while she killed the bluebottle, and Ushi started to really whine and look frantically around her. She then just sat outside the bathroom door for ages and ages. She then lay down but was still panting very hard. I tried to offer her water but she wouldn’t take any at all. I got my sister to make sure she hadn’t got stung or anything but there was no stings or anything on her and no swelling.

I phoned my dad to see what he thought. He said she would be grand and not to worry too much. About 10 minutes later, mum came up as she could hear Ushi panting above the TV downstairs. She advised me to call the vet.

Mum went to get the house phone as my mobile kept disconnecting, and Ushi went downstairs. Before that she wouldn’t move at all from the bathroom door.

While I was waiting for the vet to ring me back as the receptionist was calling him, Ushi did take a massive drink of water. I was so glad. As I was talking to the vet, the panting became quieter and quieter. Before she sounded like a train! (Usually you have to strain to hear her pant).

Once I explained to the vet what had happened, he said that because she was getting better it wasn’t really worrying him. The fact that she wanted to walk and wasn’t retching or anything and was steady on her feet was also good. He said if it was anything serious she wouldn’t be calming down. He said that she could have just got too excited and panicked a little. I was extremely relieved about that. He said just to keep an eye on her, but that what I was describing wasn’t worrying.

I thought that maybe Ushi had got a blockage because she had picked up a bit of a crisp about half an hour before the bluebottle. I also thought it was something called Rudder tail where the tail gets sprained but she was able to wag it a bit.

After I had finished talking to the vet, it was a very quiet pant. She still was looking around quite alot, but she did move about more and she even took a little dog biscuit. Mum says that if it was a blockage she would be retching and the water and that wouldn’t stay down.

She is grand now, but hasn’t come upstairs yet. She is just content to lie on the floor now downstairs.

I’ve decided that she’ll come upstairs when she’s ready, but for now she seems comfortable and much more like her wee self.

She is quite quiet in nature but earlier she seemed more subdued than usual.

I’m hoping she will come back up to the bedroom as that was where the bluebottle first was. I’m sure she’ll come up eventually.

I’m so glad that the panting has stopped. I guess i’ll never know what happened her to make her panick like that. Any of you ever experienced such a thing?

Thanks alot for any help!

Another Guide Dog Talk

On Monday, my rehab worker asked me if I would like to attend
Another Talk About Guide dogs
Of course I said yes since I wasn’t doing anything anyway. So today we went off to visit one of the local folds.

We were talking to another group run by the RNIB. From what i’ve seen of these last two groups, They seem like a great idea, as they get people who are newly diagnosed as blind or partially sighted out and about, and they also seem quite relaxed and informal. This talk was no different. I debated if I should have something prepared, but thought i’d just go with the flow.

My rehab worker again started about the myths of owning a guide dog. I then told a bit about myself, then my rehab worker talked about more of the myths, and then the other services that guide dogs offer such as the
Sighted guiding service
I mentioned in a previous post. (This service isn’t yet fully operational yet).

My rehab worker also mentioned the
Buddy dogs
Service which places a dog with maybe a family of a child thinking of applying for a dog in the future. These dogs don’t guide, but have been rejected as guide dogs. They are mainly companion dogs, and teach children how to care for a dog, for example.

About an hour into the talk, Ushi started to whine a bit. This is not like her at all, so I don’t know what was up with her. She did settle in again, and after we had done our bit, questions were asked, and then my rehab worker asked me if i allowed people to pet Ushi, and if he wanted me to take her round everyone. It was like a big living room we were in so I said it was okay. She loved that part lol. We had no more whines after that so that was good.

I enjoyed this talk better than the last one as I felt I could just chat away where as the last one felt more awkward for some reason.

On Saturday i am attending one of the
Guide dogs fun days
Which are being held across the country. I am mainly going because there is a breefing about the changes to the organisation and think as a guide dog owner they might affect us. There will be a Go Walkies sponsored walk too as well as lots of other fun stuff.

I’m kind of dreading it as it’s gonna be distractions galore! Ushi won’t be working as I don’t know where to go though. She’ll still have her harness on though. I’ll keep you up to date on how it all goes.

Out of interest, i’m wondering do you find all this guide dog stuff boring? It’s just i’ve got very little comments recently :(. Maybe it’s a blogger issue though.

I’ll let you know how Saturday goes!

This Time Last Year…A Whole Lotta Worrying

I’ve decided to do the
This Time Last year
Thing, where I was going to recap basically the last year with Ushi. I’ve decided to do from before I met Ushi. It might be boring, but i think it would be good to reflect, and it’ll save people having to go way down the blog to read my experiences.

I’ve decided to start with
This post
Where I worried about things that now seem rediculous. I thought that, for example, it would be really hard to bond with the dog, and that you would have to do something to make yourself bond. It was kind of weird, but that was how worried I was. I panicked because I didn’t know how to stop my parents from feeding the dog as they fed our pet dog. Little did I know how easy it was!

I worried that I would make loads of mistakes and what if the dog didn’t work. I think I can safely say that the dog has worked, and I did make mistakes, but they weren’t that bad, and I wasn’t shouted at, which I thought would happen.

It really is amazing how worked up you can get over the simplist of things.

I’m glad all those worries straightened themselves out over time. I would say to anyone who is on the waitinng list at the minute for a guide dog, that yes, waiting is hard, and you do find quite alot to worry about sometimes, but just have faith that everything will work out. I know it’s hard to do though!

I hope you all enjoy my reflections over the coming weeks. The next reflection will be meeting Ushi for the first time. Stay tuned!

This Time Last Year….An Introduction

I was inspired to do this when
Was recapping her first year with
(Ro I hope you don’t mind).

I was thinking of doing something similar. I was thinking of putting the link to last years posts, then how I felt about it and how i’m feeling now. I was thinking of starting this pritty soon, as it’s nearly been a year since I met Ushi for the first time. (I can’t believe it).

Would you all be interested? I know you’ve probably all read my blog when I got Ushi, but it might be interesting for new readers.