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.


My First Tennis Tournament

I’m not long back from attending my first official tennis tournament down in Dublin.

Back in May 2016, i took part in visually impaired tennis at May fest and loved it. I happened to mention that it would be cool if it came to Northern Ireland, but thought nothing more about it. Eventually though, through

<a href=”http://www.dsni.co.uk”>Disability Sports NI</a>

And

<a href=”http://www.winsortennis.co.uk”>The Winsor tennis club</a>

Becoming involved, it became a reality. Basically, it is played like normal tennis, only the ball is bigger than normal and spongy. Inside the ball, is a smaller ball with ball bearings in it so that we can hear where the ball bounces. If you are a B1 which is no sight up to light perception i think, you play on half a normal courte and you are allowed up to 3 bounces to hit the ball after it has been served to you. If you are a B2 or B3, you play on a 3 quarter length courte and are allowed up to two bounces before hitting the ball after it is served to you. Otherwise the rules are exactly the same for normal play.

I have been playing the tennis now since about May time and i love it. I don’t always return the ball after a serve, and sometimes i forget to move for the ball, but otherwise i really do love it. It is the type of sport you would never get bored of as once you start playing, you just get in to the zone and it flies in.

On Sunday past, about 12 of us all headed down to Dublin to play the Dublin Visually impaired tennis team in a friendly tournament. We headed down to the <a href=”http://www.shankilltennisclub.com”>Shankill tennis club</a>

In Dublin. We arrived around half 12 or so and were greeted by the coaches and volunteers. We were provided with some tea and sandwiches which was a lovely welcome.

We then headed off to where the actual courtes were. We would be playing on an indoor courte which was a new experience for us as there are only two indoor tennis courtes here so we played on an outside courte. Apparently, Shankill have about 7 indoor courtes and 3 outdorr courtes plus a club house, so it is massive. Before we went on to the outdoor courte, we had to change our shoes as stones and things can scratch the surface of the courte. Once that was taken care of, we headed on to the courte. The courte felt like very hard tarmac but it was super clean and had a springy feel to it. It felt very nice under foot. Because a few of the Dublin team were unavailable through injury and illness, there were 5 chairs sitting along the side of the courte so that two people could play a game at a time and then we swaped over to play someone else.

We started by doing our warm up which consisted of jogging on the spot, running with our knees high and running as fast as we could whilst still running on the spot. We then had to put our hands behind us and try to hit our hands with our heels before running and rotating our shoulders back and forward. After thaat, we all gathered round to introduce ourselves and explain what catigory we were in and when we started playing tennis. It was then on to the excitement of playing a match.

We played 4 games altogether and were delighted to find out that we had won the tournament against Dublin. At the end of each game, each player had to shake hands with their fello player and say “well played”.

The time absolutely flew in and i could have kept playing. It was then back to the club house for some well deserved refreshments and to thank the Shankill club and players for hosting us. I really did have a ball and the bus back was full of craic about how we did.

Our next tournament will be in January back in Dublin. I am looking forward to it already!

I would like to thank the coaches at Winsor for coaching us so far and am looking forward to resumming play after Christmas.