The First Assistance Dog Blog Carnival:First Times….

Well here is the post about the assistance dog blog carnival. I hope you like it.

“firsts” has so many options to write about. I thought I would write about the first time I saw a guide dog (I didn’t like it though), right up to getting Ushi, my first, and current guide dog. Alot of you will have read this about Ushi, but here it is for new readers. I’m sure there is something that you haven’t read before lol.

I think I was about 4 years old at the time. Our local army baricks held an open day for families to come down, and it was just fun and stuff. It was the only open day that was held. Guide dogs were invited to have a stand there. My friend, let’s call her J, was helping out at the stand. (she is a guide dog owner). I am just going on what my mum has told me for the next part by the way.

We were having a fabulous time. Mum and dad must have gone to the guide dogs stand. J had asked if I wanted to feel the dogs fur and ears. I hated the thought of that, as I didn’t like things that were furry. (thankfully I have outgrown that one). I prefered to have something that was hard rather than furry. I don’t know if it was just that it was too soft or what, but I hated fur!!!!

I was still at the stage where I “wished I could see”. Shortly after this encounter with J and the dog, my socialworker started teaching me how to use a cane. It wasn’t propperly with a long cane, rather a simble cane, which had bells attached to make it more fun. I loved that cane. That was just to teach me basic basic orientation skills, and I didn’t really use it outside that much. I called it Annabell (the bells, and she was my classroom assistant at nursery). I wonder often if my socialworker still has that cane. She is probably berried in a box somewhere lol.

I gradually started to like furry things (thank god). I heard somewhere that you could apply for a guide dog at the age of 16 (that’s now unlimitted), so I would often say “such and such more years until I am eligible for a guide dog”. I had no idea of what it entailed, though.

Mum one day joked that she had seen a “guide eel”. I thought this would be class, and wanted one! Unfortunately, I was later to find out that they didn’t really exist.

One day shortly before christmas in 2002, I was told that a “man or woman would be coming out to see me to teach me some mobility”, or words to that affect. I was so excited. I had no idea of what it was, and wanted to know more. I was about 12 at the time. So on the 16th December 2002, I met a lovely man who is currently my rehab worker. I remember that first meeting quite clearly. We had just baught a Playstation 2, and I was looking at it while my rehab worker talked. He told me all about the different types of canes that you could get (Simble cane which you hold diagonally across your body to indicate to passers by that you are visually impaired. You do not put it on the ground. Guide cane, which I think you hold out in front of you to help you find steps and stuff. I think it is used if you have some vision. And finally you have our friend the long cane, which you use by sweeping the ground, or diagonally across your body if you are indoors.).

Over the next few weeks, we went out to where he worked, and started to explore the building, or rather one corridor, first just by “trailing” the walls, which is where you make your hand into like a loose fist, and then you trail it along the wall. It helps you know where you are going, and to find doors and stuff. You don’t need to use it that much, but it is good to know.

We gradually increased our routes, and started doing more and more outside work. And here we are nearly 8 years later!

My rehab worker was the one who initially asked me if I wanted to apply for a guide dog. He came out one Wednesday night in 2008. The amount of questions I had for him that night. He tried to answer them the best he could, but he just said that he wouldn’t push for me getting the dog. I’m so glad he did!!!! Who would have thought that nearly two and a half years later I would have a guide dog!

Those first few months were full of lots of excitement. First of all, I had what was called an “enquiry visit”. This took place within the first couple of weeks of my application. This was where my faithful rehab worker came out to fill in paperwork and such, and was a chance for me to ask loads of questions. Next, my mobility was assessed in the “mobility assessment” stage of the game.

A couple of months later, a person called a “guide dog mobility instructor”, or GDMI, came out to test my walking speed and that. This was called the “guide dog assessment”. This was where I held on to a thing called the “short handle”, which is basically a harness, only instead of having a dog at one end, you have the instructor. Next, it was what is called a “further guide dog assessment”, which again is done by the GDMI. I needed this, as they wanted to see how I would be with a dog and that, as I wasn’t very confident using my voice then. I was then put on the guide dogs waiting list, which is a list of all applicants and replacements. It is from 6 months to a year but it can be shorter or longer. I waited approximately 15 months.

On the 28 July this year, I was heading up for a meeting in Belfast. My rehab worker was going to take me anyway. On that Monday, he emailed me telling me that a guide dog mobility instructor just happened to be in the area, and wondered if I would like a dog walk. Of course I jumped at the chance! That was the day I met my beautiful Ushi. I hadn’t been matched with her yet, but we were just having a good dog walk and filling in some details that day.

By the Friday of that week, I got a call from the instructor saying that they would come out the following Monday, as they wanted to try me with the wider harness handle. (there are two types:a “top fitting” handle, or a “A type”, or a “side fitting/B type”.). The “top fitting” one was the one I used on that Wednesday. I found I couldn’t really feel the tention in that handle. The wider handle is like something that would go on a horse and cart, and the dog fits in between the two sides of the handle. The handle rests just on her rump. I was beginning to wonder “Is this a good thing” when they phoned.

Well the Monday went well, and I found out that more dogs were coming over in September (as they told me that Ushi was still in training).

On Tuesday afternoon, I got a call saying that Ushi was a “potential” match, and that they were coming out on the Wednesday to do a “matching visit”. I was scared to get excited in case it wasn’t a match! I found out that it was, and that I would be going on class on the 30th August!! This is my birthday, so I was chuffed that this was my birthday present! What an awesome one at that!

I went on two weeks training up at a hotel in Belfast. After this I did a couple of weeks training at home, and then qualified on the 29th September!

So now I am just finding my feet in my new partnership, and just trying to work things out. My team are always there at the end of a phone, and wwill be coming out regularly for a while, before they leave me for approximately 6 weeks, then every three months, and then every 6 months, and then once a year! They are always there if i need a new route taught to me or something.

We are having our fair share of little teething troubles, but I am hoping that these will sort themselves out.

I hope you have enjoyed finding out about my “first times” in regards to me getting my first guide dog, and hopefully it wasn’t boring for you!

I will post the carnival when it is released, and look forward to reading all your latest posts on the subject. Remember the deadline for submissions is Tuesday the 19th of October. Read my last entry to see the rules for posting.

Oh, and forgot to say, if you want to follow the rest of my journey with Ushi, then my blog URL is: