RIP My Beautiful Ushi

Ushi on our matching walk in 2010

this is a post i really wasn’t thinking i’d have to write for a few more years yet but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.

Back in July, i got a message from Ushi’s puppy walker to say that she had been a bit sick and that she was going to the vets for blood tests and scans just to make sure she was alright. I wasn’t too worried as i figured that the vet was just making sure she was okay. The vet had said that Ushi was a little anaemic, but they thought it was due to her being a bit under the weather. When they went to do the scan, however, they could not find a cause for her Anaemia and sickness and her blood work had returned to normal.

Everything seemed to get back to normal with her after this, and we put it down to just a scare or a random bug. I visited her at the end of July and she was her little gentle self. She just mooched about, but that was generally Ushi. When i petted her, she felt thinner than i remembered, but i told myself that she was out running and loving life every day so was keeping the weight off. Her coat felt a little courser too, but again, i put it down to her just loving life and her age. We had a really lovely time and it was great that Vivvy got to meet Ushi and they got to have some fun together.

Ushi was grand for all of August, until i got a message on the 13th September telling me that she had been rushed in to the vets in the early hours of he morning. She was being sick and shaking and panting which was not like her at all. The vet gave her ant acids and anti-sickness medication and referred her for more tests. Her blood work was showing up again as Anaemic, but that was put down to her being sick. She was sent home and enjoyed some pasta which she kept down. She started shaking and panting again in the afternoon, so was taken back in again. The vets gave her yet more injections, and sent her home again.

On the Saturday morning, she hadn’t eaten or drank anything so we were getting worried. She needed to be carried out to the car, so i was thinking the worst. She was hooked up to fluids straight away and tested positive for Pancriatitis. The next 24 to 48 hours were critical.

Thankfully, by the Sunday, she was showing signs of improvement and was starting to eat again. She was sent home on the Monday with different tablets to take and would see the vet the following Friday. The vet wasn’t sure what was causing her Pancriatitis and said that it could just be something that older dogs got from time to time.

Ushi was up and down over the next few days, and was still being sick but the vet said that her body could just be taking a while to recover from how seriously ill she was. On her better days, she was doing well, or so we thought and even managed a trip to the beach.

Unfortunately this weekend she stopped eating again and ended up with another bout of Pancriatitis, but it wasn’t as bad this time. She was still admitted to the vets again for fluids. The vets wanted to rule out doggy Addisons disease as a last resort, so they kept her in to test her for it. The tests came back as negative, so it was time for a serious discussion as to what to do next. This time, when the vet scanned her, the area around her pancreas was calcifying, which suggested a tumour. The vet had offered to do exploratory surgery to see if they could find anything, but they wouldn’t wake her up from that. It was decided that the kindest thing to do was to put her to sleep as there was nothing more that could be done.

So yesterday evening, my beautiful Ushi went to sleep in her puppy walkers’ arms for the very last time as this was by far the best option and she was clearly suffering. R.i.p my beautiful, cheeky, stubborn, wonderful first guide dog and friend. We had many, many adventures throughout the seven and a half years that she worked for. She helped me grow in confidence, from the shy 20 year old, to the girl who was never in the house. We attended many meetings, coffee shop visits, walks for the love of walking, met up with friends, tried new things, traveled on trains and busses, won the young persons achievement award in 2013, amongst many brilliant things. She was so adaptable, and nothing phased her apart from flies. She really didn’t like flies, or flying, for that matter. She coped with everything else though and even though i struggled with her stubbornness, we made our partnership work. I really do think that it is because of Ushi, that i can adapt and change my behaviour to help Vivvy with her reassurances and suspicions . If it wasn’t for Ushi, i probably wouldn’t be the guide dog owner i hope i am today.

I would like to thank her puppy walker and family for agreeing to take her back in retirement. She really landed on her paws and had a fantastic life. I am glad she wasn’t ill until the end and glad they knew when it was time for her to go. I am glad they kept me informed and made me feel like part of the family even though i couldn’t be there for her at the end. But she was surounded by nothing but pure love when she needed it most. Thank you also to the vets for caring for her so well.

I really am heart broken and was hoping it wouldn’t have been for a long time yet. I am so glad she had such a brilliant life though and nobody really knows when that awful time will come. R.i.p my sweet, sweet girl. Until we meet again 😦 xxx


Behind The Half Marathon Finishing Line

two volunteers wearing bright yellow race jackets

On Sunday, a friend and i decided to volunteer at the Belfast half marathon.

A few months ago, I saw a tweet looking for volunteers for the Belfast half marathon. I thought it would be brilliant to do so approached my friend to see if she fancied doing it. Originally, I had thought we could volunteer at a water station, but that was already being taken care of by the 5 charities who had been selected for the marathon. The other volunteer job that needed doing was marshalling, but we weren’t too sure about that either. Eventually, we settled on being situated somewhere near the finish line, handing out medals and goody bags or whatever they wanted us to do.

After we sorted out what role we would be doing, we attended a short, informal session on what our roles would Intale and what time we needed to be there at. We also received our bright yellow jackets and t shirts that we would wear on the day. The only thing we needed to do now was to wait and see what the day had in store.

On Saturday, i attended my local parkrun first, before jumping on the train as i was co-delivering some training for Guide dogs so needed to be up in Belfast early.

We had decided to stay overnight at a Premier inn as we were expected to be at Ormeau park where the half marathon would start and finish for 7 o’clock the next morning. There are no trains on a Sunday that early so i was glad we were staying over.

After the training had finished at Guide dogs, we headed off to the hotel to get checked in, before heading out for something to eat and to get some water and stuff for the morning.

We were up with the lark on Sunday morning. The breakfast service in the hotel didn’t start until 7, so i brought some porridge pots with me and they did just the job until we got down to Ormeau park.

When we arrived, we made ourselves known to the volunteer co-ordinator whilst they decided what role we actually would have for the day. We were eventually assigned the orange station. We were going to be split up, but we explained that it would probably be better if we stayed together and they were grand with that. We weren’t needed until about 10 o’clock, so it was off to chat and mingle with people, before settling down with a nice cup of tea.

unfortunately, just as the runners all took off, the heavens opened with torrential rain for about an hour. Thankfully, we were able to take shelter under the bag drop markee until it calmed down to just a light drizzle. One of the organisers went and got us ponchoes too in case the rain continued which was lovely.

Finally, the first runner was on his way, so we went out to our station. We literally had big storage boxes full of pre-sliced oranges. The time really did fly by once we got in to the swing of things, but the oranges weren’t shifting easily. I found it hard to know when people were coming up to me or if they had taken an orange, so i just asked people constantly if they wanted an orange. I am sure they were sick hearing it. It was suggested to me by others who had done this sort of thing who were visually impaired that i might want to have something identifying me as a visually impaired volunteer, but i decided against this. I am not sure if i would want to wear something, but i suppose it would have its’ advantages as people would know that they would have to speak to me for example, before taking an orange.

Before we knew it, it was 12 o’clock and most of the runners had finished. There were still a few coming in, but not too many. We still had boxes of oranges left over but apparently they were going to be given to a homeless organisation or something. I was glad about that as i would have hated them all to go to waste. It was back to the hotel for us so that we could pick up our bags, before a sandwich and a bun for our lunch, before getting the train back home.

I had a great time and it was good to be on the other side of the finish line as it were, and to be able to really congratulate the runners as they came through. I would like to thank the marathon organisers for allowing me to volunteer and to my friend for being my guide and for agreeing to do it in the first place.

a huge well done to all the runners whether you were able to complete it or not. at least you tried and that’s all that matters. I am sure it wasn’t easy running 13.1 miles but you all did it and you should be very proud of that. I may possibly see you all again next year 🙂


Seeing Ushi Again

Today i met Ushi again after her being retired a year.

I was in Glasgow for a tennis tournament, so tentatively asked her puppywalker if she fancied meeting up so that i could see Ushi. Thankfully, they agreed, and i met Ushi after the tournament had finished.

When they arrived at the hotel, i went outside to see Ushi first whilst the puppywalker held Vivvy. Ushi was her lovely gentle self. I had to remind myself of just how gentle she is compared to Vivvy and that she will just amble about. Her coat felt really thick. Thicker than i remembered it being but then again, it has been a year since i had seen her. She automatically put herself on my left side bless her and gently wagged to herself.

We headed off to a dog park afterwards to give the dogs a free run. It only lasted about 20 minutes, but it was enough to get them all running and enjoying themselves. It was then off to dinner before going back to my hotel. When we were going to leave, Ushi started plodding in to the hotel. She obviously hadn’t forgotten her work. She didn’t mind Vivvy and wasn’t put out at all which was good. In fact they just stood beside each other and wagged at each other.

It was really nice seeing Ushi again and it is clear that she is firmly attached to her puppywalker. She is loving life andis having the best retirement a girl could ask for. I would like to thank her puppywalker for letting me see her and keeping her in such good condition. I hope she has a good few years left ahead of her yet. She is such a happy, contented dog.


10 Years With A phone

I’ve just listened to a documentary on how Voice Over was 10 years old on the iPhone and it got me thinking of my journey using a phone in general.

I must have been about 17 or so when i realised that you could get phones that could talk however no-one seemed to know where i could get a phone with the Talks software on it. We called in to the RNIB shop in Belfast and they recommended that i go to the Vodafone shop as they knew exactly what the Talks software was and they knew who to send it to to get it put on to a phone. I finally got my first phone when i was 18.

My first phone was a lovely little Nokia E51. I loved that phone and literally used it until it no longer functioned. Even sending a text was so cool. The fact that i could have a phone that talked to me was just amazing. I went from the E51 to an E65 to a C6 phone which had a touch screen and a qwerty keyboard and not the T9 keyboard that was on previous phones.

I had heard about the iPhone by this stage as the people who were making Talks weren’t making it as much any more and the operating system wasn’t supporting Talks. People were suggesting that i should get an iPhone as it had Voice over built in to the phone, but the thought of this scared me a little. After seeing my friends’ iPad, which also had voice over and a blue tooth keyboard, i began to wonder if an iPhone could be compatible with a blue tooth keyboard. It was after buying my first iPad that i decided to go for the phone but i was still reluctant to get one.

I got my first iPhone in 2013 and even something as simple as making a phone call was a real challenge for me. When i found out that you could get a blue tooth keyboard for the phone, that was me hooked and i haven’t looked back since. Whilst i can use the touch screen, it is very slow and cumbersome for me at least.

I am still using an iPhone today and i can’t believe how back in the early days of Voice over that it was considered merely as an afterthought. Now though, voice over and accessibility in general is very much integrated in to the iPhone and other Apple products as standard. In fact most phones now come with accessibility features installed. Sometimes it can feel as if voice over isn’t that important, particularly when an app isn’t accessible, but overall, the fact that you can just buy an iPhone and it will speak to you is brilliant. I hope accessibility is just as important in another 10 years’ time as it is now.

The documentary which made me want to write this entry can be found

Here.


Being More Connected

Yesterday i attended an information day ran by the

Campaign to end loneliness

Organisation.

There were a number of things happening throughout the day such as an information morning in City hall, a thing called “chatty busses” which were designed to stimulate conversations, a documentary and a disco. Everything was designed to get people to become more connected with each other. I was asked to attend the information morning to help promote the

My guide service

From Guide dogs to people and see if they would be happy to volunteer for it. I have recently become involved with training volunteers to deliver this service myself. There were a number of other stalls there too such as the Red Cross, Age NI, the police, as well as many other organisations. There was also a pop up choir. All of this was designed to get people more connected with each other.

After a spot of lunch, the people from the campaign organised a mini bus to take us over to attend a free screening of a documentary called

Older Than Ireland

Which was about 30 people who had lived to be 100 years old and their lives. I had never seen it before so decided to go along to see what it was about. It was held in the Queens’ film theatre in Belfast. When we arrived, we were given a cup of tea before watching the documentary, followed by a question and answer session with a panel of speakers. It was a very funny documentary and my first thoughts were when watching it is that loneliness can happen to any one of us, and it doesn’t have to be something that only happens to older people. This could be through something as simple as moving to a new area or starting a new job. I got thinking that we all have to make an effort to do something to stop us becoming lonely if we can such as starting a conversation on a bus or just saying hello to someone.

It was home time after this but there was also a disco later on that night which i didn’t go to.

It was a great day and i think there should be more days held like this to bring everybody together. It was such a simple concept too, but one that people seem to have trouble with as we’re always in a rush to get somewhere or be somewhere. I don’t think there will ever be no loneliness, but i do think we can all do something to help.


One Year Retired

I can’t believe that Ushi is retired a year already. It really doesn’t feel that long.

Other guide dog owners would have always said that you would know when your dog needed to retire,

But i never really believed it. Ushi certainly was telling me loud and clear that she wanted to retire. So much so that every day was a battle with her and i never knew from day to day if she would work or if we would get to the top of our path before having to turn back home again. Even on the day that guide dogs came out to see her to consider retirement, we barely got two car lengths up the street before she had made her final decision. Even then, it was incredibly slow going and we were literally crawling up the street.

I did keep Ushi for a month after she retired, and i’m glad i did. It was hard though as when i took her for a walk with my cane, she was so far out on the pavement. Even when i was being guided, she walked so so far over to the left that we took up quite a lot of room on the pavement. It wouldn’t have been fair though for me to keep her longer than a month though as she really was ready to go to her new home.

People have often told me that retiring a dog must be like your dog dying but i don’t like that analogy. Yes, it was hard when she retired, but i guess it was easier because she retired when she wanted to and she had worked her full term. I might have found it harder if, say, i was on my own or if it was sudden but it wasn’t as hard as i expected it to be and deffinetly nothing like a dog passing away although i am sure for some people it probably is like this.

During the last year, i made myself keep up with using my cane. I knew it would either be a case of using my cane or ending up in a very different place mentally. I also didn’t want to forget any routes i’d learned for when i got a new dog. This really was hard as it took so much concentration. I knew i had to do it though. I also didn’t feel as fit using the cane and would just go to where i needed to go rather than going for a walk or exploring places. I continued walking parkrun too but i still knew i’d lost some of my fitness that you only get from whizzing about with your dog.

I would say this last year would have been so much harder if i didn’t get matched with Vivvy six months after Ushi retiring. I thought i’d have been waiting at least a year if not more for a new dog.

The year really has flown in and i am making tentative plans to see Ushi in July possibly so i can’t wait for that. People still ask me how Ushi is doing and some people even have thought that Vivvy was Ushi. I still get regular updates and i really do know that Ushi is well and truly settled in her new home.


Exactly One Year

It was exacctly one year ago today that Ushi, my last guide dog had what was to be her final good walk.

I wasn’t sure if i would take her with me as she hadn’t been working well in the days before, but i was so glad i did and i was so glad Ushi actually wanted to work that day. We had gotten the train to Holywood, where we joined in with a walking group and we walked along the sea front. Ushi was walking well and striding out nicely. It made me long for her to keep working, but i knew deep down that this was our last, good walk together. It was so lovely just to be striding out in front of everyone.

After a few hours, we ended up heading for lunch, before we all got the train home again. I had already made the call that every guide dog owner dreads, but needs to do, saying that Ushi really wasn’t working well, but i knew i had to make that final call to say that Ushi really was ready to retire. That again was a difficult call, but even though we’d had a good walk that day, i had to face up to the fact that our walks hadn’t been so good before that. A date was set and the instructor would be out within a few days of that call.

We finished that day with a cheque presentation for Guide dogs. I tried working her over the days that followed, but they were not to be. I really did enjoy our last walk together and we both knew that this was our last as a working team.

I’m not really sure what the point of this post was, other than i’m feeling reflective. Things are a lot more different now a year later, which i didn’t imagine having another dog so soon, but that’s a post for another day. I will write another post on her retirement anniversary but this is just to say that if anyone is going through similar, you will get through it. It will be hard, but you will manage somehow, and you will always know when the time is right for you and your dog for retirement. I never understood this but you really will know.