Volunteer Day In Derry

I’m quite tired so can’t be bothered putting the “This time last year” post in a separate post. This should be the last one for a bit.

This time last year
Was the first day
After qualification. I was extremely nervous as this was the start of my journey. I worried so much back then if i would be able to go out on my own, and now look at me!

My mum even worried and wanted someone to meet me at a spiciffic part of our walk. Thankfully that didn’t happen though.

On to today

Today me and another guide dog owner were invited to an event hosted by
Volunteer now
Which is an organisation all across northern ireland that promotes volunteering. My rehab worker was going down so thought it would be good for us to come along as well. The derry branch of guide dogs were holding a volunteer information stall and a street collection too.

So at about 8 o’clock, we were picked up. We then headed off to collect that other local guide dog owner before heading off to Limavady to pick up the branch organiser for the Limavady branch.

We then headed off to the Playhouse in Derry where there was a free cup of tea, and a chance to check out Volunteer now’s
One good reason action day
Which is an event to encourage the over 50s to volunteer. It was taking place in 8 or 9 towns and cities across the country. The aim of the day was to get useful skills for being partnered with an organisation of your choice.

Unfortunately the volunteers who would have been coming to see us weren’t able to make it so two women from Volunteer now agreed to come to our event. My rehab worker was going to show them how to do basic sighted guiding.

So after lots of pictures at the Playhouse, we headed off to a hotel which i can’t remember the name of lol. I think it might have been the London derry arms or something like that.

Of course as we were heading over, it started to pour down. So my rehab worker went and got his car and we all headed over to the hotel.

The street collection was just across the street from the hotel, so before we went in, we went over to say hi. One of the guide dog owners up in Derry has a german sheperd called Inis. At another event we were at, Inis gave a bit of a bark towards Ushi and a bit of a growl. It really scared me so i was a little nervous of meeting him again. His owner is extremely nice. Well we had no growls at all from Inis, and in fact Ushi spent most of the time sniffing his bum! They even lay down beside each other later that day too. So I don’t know what was up that first day but i felt much better about him since they were so friendly. I even said to the guide dog owner later on.

We had the exhibition vehicle that was sent over from England too. Ushi kept trying to go up the steps of it lol.

After saying hi to everyone, we went over to the hotel where we would do the sighted guiding thing and where the people we would be teaching were.

We first of all started with basically why we were here, followed by a short talk about our experiences as guide dog owners, some very basic ways of how to guide someone to a seat and the in correct and correct way of going in and out of a door. We also showed the correct grip for someone holding your arm. We then did a quiz on some of the common myths about guide dogs and were they true or false. We then watched a DVD about guiding a blind and partially sighted person across the road and that.

After that, we were going to get the volunteers to practice guiding us. So we left the dogs with the woman from Limavady (she bords guide dogs so i knew nothing would happen). We let them off their leads as it was a small room that we had been in the woman wasn’t going anywhere. They had a ball just snorting and running around.

We just walked over to where we would be helping with the street collection later. My volunteer didn’t really say much apart from informing me about kerbs and such so it was a bit awkward. The other volunteer has signed up as a volunteer driver!
We ate lunch and chilled in the exhibition vehicle for a while after. As well as the collection, there was a volunteer information event in the vehicle so i decided to do that while the others did the street collection. I’m still not comfy doing that at the moment. Plus i thought that it would be better having a guide dog owner at the vehicle so that people would have more time to pet and such.

We left at about three o’clock. We got 6 new potential volunteers as well as a man wanting to apply for a guide dog!

Ushi was surprisingly well behaved. We didn’t have nearly as much excitement as usual, and she was just a great girl. We had one little issue where she had a protest against the halty and just stopped but i took it off and she was grand. We also had a bit of trouble with her getting wet paws and slowing way down. But apart from that I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m thinking of maybe cutting back on the halty just to see if she would still pull. I’ll still have it with me but i’m thinking the stops are most likely her being stubborn or she could be telling me in her own way that she doesn’t need it as much. When i take it off again she is like a little lamb.

Tomorrow is the guide dogs 80th birthday party! I’ll probably have an extremely tired dog lol. I’ll write how it goes tomorrow.


This Time Last Year…Qualification!

I’ve been qualified
For Exactly one year!
I can’t really believe it to be honest.

I remember being asked if i had “somewhere to hang my harness” when i went to give it back to the instructors as we aren’t allowed to keep our harnesses until we qualify. I didn’t know what they were talking about though until they told me that i had qualified. I didn’t believe it all and panicked later that day because i put my harness on Ushi as I wanted to show my little brother what the harness did. I thought it would cause lots of problems because i didn’t work her but when i texted my instructor she just said that the only difference was that i had a “harness in my house” and that nothing was different than before.

I also remember how scared i was doing my little block route as there were these little yappy dogs and i thought they were coming towards me. I wouldn’t do that walk for ages because i was so worried, but my instructor always told me that “confidence breathed confidence” in that if you were confident the dog would be too.

I don’t mind those dogs now but the dog in the next house really gets ushi’s interest so i have to really shout at her to get her going.

Today consisted with a walk first, then I gave her her kong which she had a good wine at, but did eventually get the bits of food out. We then went with my rehab worker for a talk about guide dogs. It was another talk to a group of elderly people who had recently lost their sight. Ushi got a little winey but i’m guessing it was because there were people in a small room and she wanted attention. At the end of the talk, I asked if anyone wanted to pet Ushi and that was when she got all her attention. I ended up tying her lead to my chair throughout so that she could stretch out.

We then went off to a little coffee shop and Ushi went to grab something off the floor and i corrected her. One of the staff was like “oh…can she not have anything? I was going to make her a sausage!”. I just said that that would encourage her to look on the streets for food.

We went home shortly after that.

I’ve got a busy day tomorrow and saturday too. I promise that Saturday should be the last of the recaps for a while. I’ll probably do the Derry post separately from the recap for tomorrow. But i think Ushi enjoyed her day!


This Time Last Year…Throwing Grass

It was another lovely day today! A bit too warm though.

Last year, I was beginning to wonder
If I would ever qualify
On our first walk, I had an idiot who didn’t understand that Ushi was meant to stop at her kerbs, and that I would tell her to cross the road. I still get people who do this, or ones who try and direct the dog, or people who think the dog is like a robot and won’t play with any dogs, won’t get distracted, and who knows the way to anywhere. This is not the case!

In the afternoon, I went into the “guiding road” yet again, and my rehab worker had been watching me too! I really did wonder if i would ever qualify because of this. Little did i know I would qualify the next day!

Also in the afternoon Ushi decided to go mad with the grass in our garden and started to throw it around and stuff. She seems to start digging again when mum puts fresh soil down, but we managed to get her to stop by putting a plank of wood over the whole where she had dug. She hasn’t done it now for a couple of months. Thankfully she digs down rather than out.

Today i was a bit of a bad handler though. I thought at one point on our walk that she was just sniffing, but she was guiding me around an obsticle. Oops.

I have a bit planned for her qualification. I bought her a
Max goughnut
Which i think was a big too big for her, but she still has a ball with it. (I confess to giving her it a bit early). For anyone who doesn’t know, a Goughnut is a big ring which you can throw and stuff. I’ll walk her in the morning, followed by going with my rehab worker to a talk for guide dogs, then a frozen kong in the afternoon followed by lots of praise and just awesomeness.

I’ll let you know what we do tomorrow!


This Time Last Year…The Mysterious Kerb

This time last year, I discovered
A misterious kerb
On one of our routes. One of our routes has a bit that sort of curves round like a C shape. There is another kerb though there but we never go up onto it apart from that one day!

I also went across the guiding road again which wasn’t good. I’m so glad that i rarely do that now.

Last year we also went through what is called the “guide dog owner report” which is basically something that you have to fill in every month for your first 6 months after qualification. It is basically to keep track of the dog and make sure that you have no problems.

Today it was really nice weather when i was out. I thought I could ask Ushi to find “Diamonds” (our corner shop) just to see what would happen, but she just walked on. When i told her to find the shop though she got it grand.

I also worked out a way of getting out of our local co opp! When you come out of the co opp, you go down some steps but then it’s kind of hard to find your kerb going out as it is layed out like a car park. My dad suggested going right as soon as i came down the steps instead of doing a forward. That was much easier and i found my kerb, then went left until i found the zebra crossing to take me back home! So that was good.

I hope tomorrow will be a nice day. Much better than the snow we’re supposed to get later this month. Can we say noooo?


The Fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival:Achieving Independence

I thought i’d write my post for the
5th Assistance dog blog carnival
The theme is “achievements”. I thought i’d write about how i have achieved independence with Ushi. I hope this fits into the theme.

I was about 5 when i was introduced to the cane. It wasn’t propper cane work. My socialworker had given me a little symbol cane which she had attached bells to. I called it Annabell after a favourite classroom assistant in Nursery school. Annabell was mainly used for around the house to improve my orientation i think. Even then i hated using the cane. Unfortunately it is not recommended that kids use the cane so young now, even if it wasn’t actually a proper cane.

I propperly was introduced to the long cane when i was about 12. My rehab worker used to work for our local social services before he became a full time rehab worker for guide dogs. I was a bit of a slacker when it came to using the cane though, and would only use it when i had mobility and when i was going around college. I just found it really awkward and used to dread it as it seemed to take so long going anywhere.

I had often thought about a guide dog, but never really thought long and hard until my rehab worker suggested it back in 2008. I thought he was mad and must have spent a good few hours asking him all the questions i could think of. I applied a couple of days later.

There were a number of assessments i had to go through before i was even put on the waiting list. These were things like medical forms, what my lifestyle would be like, walking with an instructor and a harness to assess my speed and how i could control a dog, and sometimes they get you to walk with a dog just to see how you would be with a dog. They don’t do that all the time though.

The waiting list is normally from 6 to 12 months, but it can be longer or shorter. I waited 15 months in total before i got Ushi.

Now that I have got Ushi, I go out at least twice a day. I am now doing a quilting course every monday morning at a local coffee shop. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but i don’t think that would have been possible without a guide dog. Sure i could have done it with a cane, but i wouldn’t have enjoyed it. The rest of my week is just walks mainly, and I ocasionally go into town to meet up with people. I know just “walking” isn’t much, but i can relax and just go for a strole. I’m not really into shopping so i don’t really go to town that much. I sometimes wonder if i should be working her more, but i’ve lost my motivation to studdy or find work. I hope next year i find it again!

I can now walk at a normal speed, and I find that more people will say hello whereas with the cane nobody hardly spoke.

I hope you have enjoyed my submission for the 5th assistance dog blog carnival. The deadline is the 23rd October! (Sorry for my other readers reading some of this before).


This Time Last Year…Leaving The Harness

I figured i’d write this post now before I go to bed.

This time last year,
The harness
Was left at my front door. This was to give me a bit of confidence both in myself and in her, and also so she couldn’t see the instructors. They rang before each walk to let me know that the harness was there, and then disappeared out of sight. Sometimes they even followed me in their car just to make sure that Ushi couldn’t see them. (If i needed them i could just drop the handle and phone them). They still do this for our aftercare unless i am learning a new route with their help or something.

Ushi also took ages to find our house, and my mum purposefully baught wind chimes to help me orientate myself, but of course little Ushi has found “home” ever since, so mum never got to use the chimes. I still tell Ushi to “find home” though.

I’m off to bed now. I can’t believe that in 6 days i’ll have been qualified a year!


This Time Last Year…In The "Guiding road"

This time last year
Was another good day
Apart from when i happened to drift into the “Guiding road” at one point. (The “guiding road” is the traffic that flows along beside you. It is only on the left or right. If you drift into the road, you then end up going basically diagonally across the road which is just not safe.

I did that for a few days, and thought i’d never qualify because of it.

Ushi got really distracted at one point too when she saw the instructors on the walk.

Today thankfully we didn’t have any cars that scared her so thankfully it was just a one off which was good.

I promise i’ve only got a few days left of my recaps then they won’t be as regular.

In tomorrows entry, they leave the harness at my door!