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.


8 Comments on “The Guide Dogs Talking Busses Campaigne Pilot”

  1. Ro says:

    Their weight is so darned hard to control. I wouldn't stop with Kongs and such. However, take the food out of her morning portion. That's what I do. Any treat food he's gonna get that day comes out of his morning food, that way he's getting the same amount every day. If you're going to give her milk bones, then kibble has to come out of her breakfast or dinner rations as well. If she gets some milbone after a free run, take out some from her dinner. I find it's all easier to manage if I'm taking food out on the same day, rather than making up for it on the next day, if this makes sense. Look at each day as being stand alone where the food is concerned. I used to take food out of his dinner for the next day's frozen Kong and that was when I couldn't seem to control his weight.If in doubt, decrease by a handful or so. That's what I've learned. When Jay is feeling thick, I level off the cup. When he slims down, I'll make the cup heaping. It doesn't have to be terribly scientific, and you don't want to never be able to treat her. :)You are doing fine, my dear. What's it been, 8 months? You're doing awesome!

  2. Torie says:

    Ro that was a lovely comment :). You are so kind. You sounded just like my instructor. It's great to get those nice reassurances.So I don't have to decrease it that much then. Thank god then! I'll just take out a handful then. Does it have to be a big handful?I would give her treats like if it is a new experience, for example. So I can still use the kong wobbler and that then?I felt terrible when the vet said what her weight was. I would just be scared of getting shouted at or something lol. I could just take out a handful of her food if she has been for a free run then and with the kong.It's great advice to do it on the same day! She deffinetly doesn't feel fat, and my fingers can still fit between her girth strap and her belly.When my instructor saw her the other day, she didn't say anything, and people say what good condition she is in and that.It's been 9 months on Wednesday. I'm so glad I haven't done anything horrible. Maybe i could take a small handful out of her food each time I feed her. Sometimes in the mornings she won't eat all her food but I just empty it back again.Thanks for the advice and it's so good to have someone who understands! Xxx. You've really cheered me up :).

  3. Jen says:

    Your dad could be right that some of the extra weight is muscle, as she's probably grown to her maximum weight during the last few months. Sometimes weight can change at certain times, like I think OJ loses a bit during the summer and I would have to make sure he takes a bit less food during the winter.I agree that treats shouldn't be taken away, and I'm assuming the milk bones are very small.You could try giving 2 denta sticks at most during the week because they are probably more fattening, or give a carrot instead. You could also just use kibble from her food as a treat. As long as she doesn't feel overweight to you, and you can feel her ribs without having to poke, but they aren't sticking out either then don't worry.Your doing great, and like I keep telling you, don't be too hard on yourself :)Oh, and the talking bus thing sounds interesting!When are you going to Scotland?

  4. Ro says:

    This might sound crazy, but I could "feel" your mood over a Twitter conversation you had with someone. Thought I'd hope over here and see what was up. Since I don't know the unit of measure you use, was that a big jump in weight? It could be the scale was calibrated differently, or off, too. If she's feeling fine to you and no commented, you know? I was taught to decrease and increase by a quarter cup, which is a good size handful really. I would think she can definitely still have the Wobbler. Every morning, I get my treat pouch and take a good handful out of the morning food. After working, I take the remainder for his Wobbler. You could do the same with the frozen Kong or whatever. If you're concerned about her weight for sure, try taking a quarter cup, or a good handful out of the measuring cup. I would just hate for her to not have any kind of treats. If it's coming out of her food rations, she'll be fine. And yes, reassurance is so important. That's what makes the guide dog family so special!!

  5. Ro says:

    Oh yeah, what Jenn said about muscle. I agree too. I've been told the dogs fill out some after they're done with school. How old is she again? I've also heard that one milkbone has as many calories as one dinner portion of food. Yikes! Don't know how true that is.

  6. Jen says:

    Yeah Ro, I think they have a lot of calaries, which is why I suggested changing the treats rather than taking them away. I think its important for a dog to have more of its own healthy food than less just so it can have treats. Most dogs love carrots just as much.How are you anyway? Haven't been talking to you online in a while. I follow you on twitter though.

  7. Ro says:

    Same here, Jayden just gets his kibble. What's your screen name on Twitter? Am I following you? Haha!

  8. Torie says:

    Awww thanks :). I had a feel of her ribs today, and it's not squishy or anything. They just feel normal. The milk bones are aboutthe size of your finger if you held it straight. They sit in the palm of your hand but i break them in half when i'm giving them to her. If we need an incentive on a walk i will usually bring half a one, and not give her it until the end of a walk or on a particularly tricky part. I never took them out of her food before. I started this morning taking a handful out of her food. I hope that works.She is two years old. Well she was two in February.We just use an old baked bean tin lol.I was probably just too hard on myself as usual. And I suppose the vet would have said if it was a problem.I was quite worried yeah lol.I'm not so bad now that you all have been awesome. Sometimes a little reassurance is just what you need.I would say that we wouldn't be left to our own devices if we were struggling or anything. Sometimes I think we're just hanging together as a team, but then I think that we wouldn't be working so well, and we would be visited more regularly.I'm going to scotland on the 8th. Just for the day though.Take care, xxx.

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