That First Meeting

A yellow lab retriever stands beside me. She is called Ushi.

It was exactly 10 years ago when i first met Ushi. Little did i know, i would be matched to her and she would open up so many doors to me.

I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was asked if i would like to meet a dog before traveling up to Belfast for a meeting. It was stressed that this was not a matching visit, but it was just a walk as i had been waiting on the list for a while and did i fancy it. Of course i said “yes”. I met up with the instructors, and they had a beautiful dog called Ushi with them. I remember how strange it felt following the harness and how i could feel every wiggle. It was a brilliant walk, but i didn’t think any more about it.

A few days later, i got a call to ask if Ushi could be braught out again, so that i could try a different harness on her which might make it feel more smooth and less wiggly. Again, i didn’t really think much of it but i enjoyed another walk.

I got a final call saying that they thought that Ushi was a match and would i like to go for a matching walk. On this walk, Ushi walked at my speed, whereas the first couple of walks were slightly fast. I started training with her on the 30th August and never looked back.

i had no idea just how much we would do and see in the seven and a half years that followed. from not believing that i could leave my home town, to traveling to London, Dublin and Scotland as well as attending many meetings and events up in Belfast.

Ushi was a cracker of a dog, even though at times it felt like i was fighting an uphill battle with a dog that didn’t want to work. If Ushi didn’t want to do something, she just wouldn’t, and that was as simple as that. I knew that deep down inside her though was a dog who really did want to work. When she did work, she worked brilliantly. She just knew her own mind.

Ushi was very much a one person dog, so i knew that i could not keep her when she retired. Her nose got put out of joint easily and she would have sulked as far away from me if i petted another dog. I knew she would have to go to a very special home. Thankfully, her lovely puppywalker agreed to have her back in retirement. This couldn’t have worked out better as she knew Ushi’s quirks, and Ushi was happy seeing her.

I wondered at many points if i should get another dog, but i decided that i liked how fluid things were with a dog, so of course i applied again for Ushi’s successor. Idon’t like the word “replacement” as one dog should never replace another.


a yellow lab retriever sits beside me. She is called Vivvy.

I was incredibly lucky to get a call in October 2018 to say that guide dogs thought they had a match for me and would i like to meet her. Unfortunately, the dog they thought would be a match was too fast, but they did say they had another little girl in the car and would i like to have a walk with her. They told me that she most likely would not be a match, as she was very lively compared to Ushi and needed a lot of reassurance when working. When she was braught out of the car, she jumped straight in to my arms. You couldn’t get much livlier than that. When the harness was put on though, she slipped straight in to working mode. Her speed and tention were lovely. We agreed that we would try her in an area she knew to see what she was like, so the next week, i went up to Holywood to try her in her own area. again, her speed and tention were beautiful. She didn’t jump in to my arms this time thankfully, but wagged and wiggled beside me. I had one more walk with her, before we decided that she was a match.

Vivvy is totally different to Ushi in all aspects. She just loves life and oozes happiness. When i first trained with her, every time i said her name, i dreaded what she was up to, but now, i just feel love for her. I know what she can and can’t have toy wise, as she can be a bit of a mennice with soft toys in particular. She can still be lively when she plays, but she knows when to stop now, whereas when i first got her, she’d play all day if she could. She does need a bit of reassurance when she’s working at times, but the trick is not to worry her, and just let her know that the lorry isn’t going to get her, for example. Her route memory is amazing, and she doesn’t like getting things wrong. I don’t have to fight to get her to work, she just is so eager to please.

It was hard initially not being able to do all the things, and wait a little while and building up things gradually for her. It’s like she has just slotted in where Ushi left off.

I always said i would go over and see Ushi again after six months, but with getting Vivvy, it was this day last year when i got to see Ushi again. While Ushi did remember me, and did slide in to my left side, it was clear she knew who her people were now and was really happy. She had another dog for company and the two of them got on brilliantly. Vivvy and Ushi had a great time running after each other which was brilliant to see. Sadly, Ushi passed away in October, so i am so glad i saw her when i did and that i saw her when she was well.

I don’t know what the next 10 years will hold, but i have no doubt they will be just as enjoyable as the first 10 with a guide dog.


A Year Qualified With Vivvy

It’s hard to believe, but a couple of weeks ago, Vivvy and I were qualified a year.

The last time i wrote, i only had Vivvy for two months. That really does feel like a long time ago now. Vivvy just seems to have slotted in nicely to my lifestyle. She just loves working, and will go anywhere i ask her to, whether it’s just sticking around my home area, to travelling further afield, she just takes it all in her stride. I am incredibly pleased about this as i wasn’t sure she would manage it all, because she can be a bit sensitive at times. Her sensitivities and suspicions of things can vary, and there are times where she doesn’t react at all, and others, where she’ll slow or stop, or push hard in to me but i acknowledge it, then carry on. I don’t want to make a big deal of her suspicions as i don’t want her to *think* she needs to fear whatever it is that she isn’t sure of. This approach seems to work well, as she just carries on after it as if whatever it is hasn’t happened. I really hope this continues.

Vivvy has attended many meetings with me, and after the initial excitement, she will settle beautifully. If somebody beside me looks at her though, she will get quite excitable and waggy. She can at times look for pets, which is the one thing i still find hard to get used to as Ushi never cared too much for other people, but Vivvy is such a nosy girl who always has to know what is going on around her and is afraid of missing something. I have now accepted reluctantly, that Vivvy will always be nosy, and i just have to learn to manage it and make sure she pays attention. It would be nice if she wasn’t quite so nosy though.

Vivvy has really settled in to tennis and barely reacts to the balls now, unless a ball lands within reach of her paws. She will then pick it up and show it off proudly for whoever wants to see it. You can always tell when Vivvy has had a ball, as it is usually soaking wet with slobber. Unfortunately if she is on a free run though, she can still be quite ball obsessed. We had to leave the beach a few months ago as there was another dog owner throwing a ball and Vivvy kept only focusing on the ball, even though we moved further up the beach. She had had a good run before this though, but it was still a little disappointing. If i do bring a ball for her, she runs so hard that she is physically sick, so she doesn’t get anything to run with as she runs pretty hard anyway.

Vivvy now knows that when we go to yoga, she must lie down until i allow her to have a run around the room after the class. She loves this and picks up peoples’ blankets and shows them off to people. I of course do this with peoples’ permission and everybody loves having her and love seeing her run around the room. I still have to have her attached to a table or something though, as she will usually lie right where i am doing my poses and takes up all of the mat. So keeping her attached seems to help and she doesn’t end up torturing me, or anyone else, for that matter.

Vivvys’ route memory is amazing. I always direct her of course, but if we’re lost, for example, she will make a huge effort to get back on track. I can always tell when she has found her way again as her pace quickens, and she has a confident strut going on.

We had to work on greeting people nicely for a while, and remembering to keep all of our paws on the ground. She now greats people very gently, but occasionally puts her front paws up when she sees my dad or sister, but mostly, she just wags now which is far better.

I really do love Vivvys’ spending routine. She will usually do a poo before we leave 99 percent of the time, and will only pee when we are out, and will then go for another poo when we get home from where ever we are. This really is brilliant as i know she won’t go somewhere she isn’t meant to and even if she hasn’t gone, she doesn’t like going out on the street at all and will look for somewhere quiet to go if she has got caught short.

Vivvy has been on many forms of transport, including flying, when we went to play tennis in Glasgow. I was really worried about this as Ushi did not like flying at all, but Vivvy just stretched out and made herself comfortable.

I really do think we will make a good team. For a while, i was waiting for the other shoe to drop as our partnership just seemed to good to be true, but thankfully, we haven’t really had any problems apart from her slight suspicions and sensitivities, but these are totally manageable for now. She has had a few minor health problems, and we have had to visit the vet more than i would like, but i think Vivvy will just be that type of dog. Sometimes, i have been able to manage her health at home, like when she tore the top layer off her paw pads, or when she got

Rudder tail

From playing too hard in water, i knew she just needed to wag it out over a few days, but she has had to go to the vets to get her anal glands emptied occasionally, as well as a mild ear infection. Other than that though, she is a very healthy dog, who has remained roughly at the same weight since i got her which is brilliant. Weight doesn’t get a chance to even say hello to her though as she does everything at full speed, especially playing. She works hard, but plays even harder 🙂

I can’t wait to see what the next year of our partnership will bring, and i’m sure we will continue to go from strength to strength. Thank you again to guide dogs for getting another match just right, although i didn’t think so at the start. Also thanks to Vivvy for wanting to work with me and becoming such a confident little dog compared with when i first got her. A guide dog owner once said to me that guide dogs match the dog to whatever stage you are at in life, and i really do believe this to be true. I couldn’t have managed such a lively bundle for my first dog, but at the same time, i did have to put a lot of work in to making Ushi the dog i knew she could be, despite her extreme stubbornness. I knew there was a desire to work in there somewhere though.

All that is left is to say happy christmas, and a happy new year to you all.

yello lab retriever cross Vivvy and I sit in front of the Guide dogs Northern Ireland christmas tree.


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


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.


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.


Guide Dog Training At Home

I qualified with Vivvy on Wednesday 🙂

Last weekend was spent just familiarising Vivvy at home and making sure she had done all her busies in the right place. Thankfully she settled pretty quickly and has discovered all the toys in the toy box. Unfortunately, it seems like soft toys are a deffinete no no as she slobbers on them so much that they open very easily. She seems to like tug toys and harder toys like kongs and things.

On Monday, we worked on doing a big block route that takes about 20 minutes each way. i found it quite hard to trust her and stay up beside her so we got brushed by a couple of things. She worked really nicely up to her kerbs and it was a pretty good couple of walks for being at home.

Since she had done so well, we went in to town on Tuesday for some coffee and then back home again. Again, she worked well, but she kept speeding up and speeding up so i had to slow her down quite a lot. i wasn’t sure about slowing her as i didn’t want to worry her but she was just getting a bit too carried away with herself. she settled nicely in the coffee shop while we enjoyed some coffee and cake. On the way back, there was a funeral taking place at one of the churches near me so there were lots of cars parked quite awkwardly just before we got home. Unfortunately when there is a funeral, the estates surrounding the church can become quite jammed up. We only did the one walk that day as it was quite a big walk with lots going on.

On Wednesday, we did the block route again but in reverse this time. she did some really nice work but was a bit distracted by a cat on the way. She was very easy to get re-focused again though. It was also bin day so she had a lot to deal with. Sometimes, she lacks to the confidence to push right if an obsticle is on her left and she is taking me around it. I do think this will come in time though.

When we got back home, i was asked how i would feel if we qualified. Of course i was over the moon, but i was quite surprised at it being so soon. When i qualified with Ushi, you had to know 3 routes, but they were satisfied on my one route for now. We will do more routes as time goes on. After paying my 50 P, the contract was read out to me before i signed on the dotted line.

I went out to yoga that night and Vivvy was grand to be left with my sister for an hour or so until i came back.

Yesterday, we had quite a chilled morning, before heading out to do our two walks. I did the walk both ways and she was a little star. She had started to speed up a little the more confident she got, but i was able to slow her just a little. i thought that she had spent on our second walk as she walked under a hedge that was sticking out and she sat down under it. I have come to the conclusion though that she only sat because the hedge brushed me. She is quite good at going at home so hopefully this won’t become a problem.

The instructor was back out today and we worked on the route in to town. I had a few things to get anyway so decided that i would kill two birds with one stone, as it were. I decided that i wouldn’t do the route through the shopping centre as there is a christmas market with lots of stalls and things so i figured it could be quite busy so i decided to go the shorter route just until christmas is over. I don’t want to overwhelm her at this early stage. Today was the best walk we’ve ever done. I am starting to feel as if we will work out. I was able to control her speed nicely through the town and i was able to get what i needed done. I think the more i have her out, the more i will start to trust her and it won’t feel so disjointed.

We finished off the day with a lovely free run. Of course there were no dogs about as i wanted to see if she would be such a terror with other dogs and their balls to see what i could do to stop it. Her recall was pretty good, but then there weren’t any dogs about. I came armed with a squeaky toy in case we needed to use it but she didn’t need it. She did meet a golden retriever on the walk but she carried on after having a little play. I did have to use the gentle leader on our way back through the park after the free run though as she was quite interested in the ducks in the duck pond.

All in all, it has been a good week at home. I am sure in time everything will start to click but i have to remember that she is a new dog and i had a good 7 years with Ushi. I am looking forward to the next few weeks with her and seeing how we go. I really do think we will make a good team.


Guide Dog Training Days 6 To 12

I’ve been at home with Vivvy for the past two days, so i will try and recap the past week as best i can.

Saturday was a pretty horrid day weather wise. We did a walk in the morning, before tackling off kerb obsticles in the afternoon. Off kerb obsticles are where the pavement is completely blocked. Your dog will take you to the kerb and you step off the kerb and get back on the pavement as quickly and safely as possible. The obsticles that were used were artificial, but it was to mimmic real life obsticles such as cars parked on the pavement. It was back to the hotel after this for a quiz on dog behaviour and how to understand your dog. By the time all that was done, it was time for dinner for both dogs and humans. Unfortunately Viv was a bit sick after eating her dinner. She seemed fine in herself so i think it was just a case of eating too quickly.

Sunday was free run day. All the dogs were badly in need of this chance to be a dog. The dogs ran and ran and ran and still seemed to have energy to burn. We discovered that Vivvy is very very ball obsessed as she kept trying to take other dogs balls. So i will be doing a bit of work i think on that as when i’m playing tennis, i don’t want her to decide to take our balls. Her recall could also do with some work so i think i’ll be working on that too. By the time we were ready to go, the dogs were suitably wet and muddy. They had had a good time though so that was all that mattered.

When

We got back to the hotel, it was time to dry the dogs off and let them have a nice sleep while we all enjoyed a lovely carvery lunch. The rest of the day was our own, so my friend came up and we just chilled out really. Everyone else had their family members up with them as well. I think we all needed that chilled out afternoon to gather ourselves for the week ahead.

Monday was moving in to more busier conditions, putting in to practice what we’d learnt over the last week.

Tuesday we learnt how to get on and off busses with the dogs, followed by a trip to a coffee shop for a cuppa and to work on the dogs lying together not annoying each other. I must say that Vivvy is a bit of an instigator in trying to get the other dogs to play with her. She’ll lie down but move her face towards whoever is beside her. She is incredibly crafty like that. Thankfully she didn’t get the dogs to play this time though which was good.

we then did some group obedience in the afternoon. We had to walk each dog around the others while the others were sitting. There were then toys placed around and the dogs had to leave them alone. I needed my gentle leader for this one as she was very very interested in the toys.

On Wednesday, we went in to Conswater shopping centre for some indoor work. Viv worked lovely as always being very responsive to my commands. It was back to the hotel after this for a health and welfare talk from the dog care and welfare advisor. This is the person who we contact if our dogs need non routine treatment or if there is an emergency.

We did some traffic work in the afternoon. We learnt that there is near traffic, where traffic is on the right and we are on the kerb and far traffic, where you are crossing a road and a car comes from nowhere. The near traffic we can practice ourselves because we always stay on the kerb whilst telling the dog to go forward when the car is in front of us. When the dog doesn’t go, they get praised. If they do go, we don’t let them step off the kerb. This is called intelligent disobedience which is a good thing to have in a guide dog.

We headed out bowling after our dinner as the class night out. It was going to be a meal out, but we decided that we wanted to do bowling instead. It was a good night and was a good way to just chill out and forget about dogs for a short while at least. The dogs chilled out in the hotel with the tv for company.

We did some more traffic work on Thursday before heading out to the pet shop to get toys beds and bowls if we needed them. There was quite a lot of toys to choose from. I baught Viv a cuddly phasant, and a squeaky brussle sprout which unfortunately was destroyed within minutes. It seems like Vivvy can’t really have soft toys and needs harder, tougher toys as she slabbers a lot on them and then tries to rip the softer ones apart.

We did an evening walk afterwards as the media person from Guide dogs stayed for some lunch and we were all chatting and that before she took some pictures of everyone and their dogs for facebook. We did another busier walk, and eventually ended up at the Co-Opp to buy some chocolate. It was dark when we did the walk so it was a new experience for the dogs. Again, they coped brilliantly.

Friday was our last day unfortunately. The whole class absolutely flew in.

I had told myself that i was going to enjoy this class, and not be hanging on every word like i was with Ushi. But then again, Ushi was my first dog so that was nearly to be expected. I was nowhere near as nervous as i was with Ushi either. There wasn’t much to do apart from get all our things together and say goodbye to everyone before we headed for a last walk before heading home.

These past couple of days have been spent just settling in to home life again after the hotel. Vivvy is certainly lively off harness, but i do think this will work. Hopefully once we start working our routes, that will burn off some of the energy she has. I need to also remember that she is still young and that i had Ushi for nearly 8 years, so there is some difference between the two dogs. I am looking forward to the home training and hopefully, it won’t be long until i’m qualified.


Guide Dog Training Day One:orientation

It’s the end of the first day at the hotel and i’m sitting watching “I’m a Celebrity get me out of here”. Normally i wouldn’t watch any of this, but i mainly have it on for background noise while i write up the entry for today. I had planned to record each day using the voice memos app, but i couldn’t find a way to copy it over to the blog post, so if anyone has any ideas as to how to do this, please do let me know.

So today started around 9 o’clock. I got the train at 10 o’clock, and was met in Belfast by my rehab worker and another client where we were taken to the hotel and introduced to the other clients and the instructors taking the class. After everyone had arrived, we were taken to our rooms to leave off our bags and start to get ourselves orientated.

The hotel has kindly converted one of the bedrooms in to a lounge area with sofas and things so that we can meet and have talks or just chill out. We met up again there to discuss how class works, before we all headed down for lunch.

After lunch, it was more orientation, before

We did some work with an instructor and a lead without a dog. This was looking at going through doors and walking down the corridor. We then headed out to do some work on an empty harness, practicing our foot positions and turns. We then headed back inside, before heading down to the lounge area to have some cake to celebrate one of the rehab workers birthdays.

We headed down to dinner for about half 6, and now we are all chilling out in our rooms ready for tomorrows’ activities.

We are getting our dogs tomorrow so the hard work begins.

I will try to write each day, but i might not manage to do so. I will still record though and then transcribe them in to writing later if i need to. I am looking forward to getting Vivvy tomorrow and i hope you will enjoy my entries over the next couple of weeks.


Hanging Up The Harness

Today, Ushi wore her harness for the last time. In

My last post

I had written about how i had to make that final call about Ushis’ working. That was still the hardest part for me. She worked as well as she normally works when she wants to on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday was a lovely walk for her to finish her working life. I went out for a walk with a group from Holywood to Cultraw and back again. Ushi was really stepping out, but then it was a new place and there were other dogs there too. I had made the decision in my head that that would probably be her last working walk and i was right. I tried to work her on Wednesday and Thursday but it wasn’t happening. I am glad her last walk was such a good one on Tuesday.

So this morning, guide dogs came out to see Ushi working before we made a decision. I told them that i really didn’t know if she would work, but we went out and gave it a go. Unfortunately, we only got a short way up the street before she put the breaks on and decided not to work. The decision was made there and then that she would retire. As soon as we turned back towards the house, her tail went back up again and she was as happy as larry. That confirmed in my mind that she really wasn’t wanting to work any more. Of course i am disappointed, but i know that there is no point in keeping trying when she is clearly not happy. I gave back the harness and we discussed where Ushi will go for her retirement home. I decided long ago that she would go to her puppywalker as i could not keep her. Of course i would love to keep her, but i don’t think it would be fair on her to see me working with a new dog. Plus, we are still at home so we have our pet dog too so there just wouldn’t be the room to have 3 dogs. Thankfully, Ushis’ puppywalkers are more than happy to have her back which is brilliant. Ushi has already been over for a week to make sure they can manage having her plus their withdrawn dog and they loved having her. So in a way that makes it easier knowing she will be happy over in Scotland. I plan to keep Ushi as long as i can before she goes over to Scotland.

We then went out again with just my cane as i wanted to make sure that Ushi would walk with me with just my cane. She was a little unsure at first, but i think she will get used to it as she just trotted along beside me. I could immidiately feel the difference in her. I will obviously only take her for walks now and not in to any shops or anything. Whilst it is up to the individual shops as to whether they let me in or not now, i don’t want to go round every shop that i go in to asking if Ushi can come in. Plus, why would i take her in to shops when she isn’t working any more?

So it’s back to the good old cane for now. I am glad i put myself back on the list when i did, rather than waiting. It feels weird not having the harness, but in a way, it is just like when we qualified and weren’t allowed to have the harness. The only difference is now that she is older.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me texts and commented on facebook. Everyone has been so kind. I don’t feel too bad at the minute. I suppose i know it was the right decision and i know she will be happy when she does go to her puppywalkers. I just have to hope that a new dog comes along soon.

Finally, i would like to thank Ushi for these past 7 and a half years. I know she has always had her little issues and stops, but once i figured out how to manage those, she did do some brilliant work for me. When i first got her, she really wasn’t that confident at all, but she has grown in to a very confident pup. She takes everything in her stride. I have grown in confidence myself, and am doing far more than i did before i got Ushi. I am looking forward to working with a new dog and will enjoy Ushi until i feel that she needs to move on. Thank you Ushi for being such a wonderful worker, despite your little quirks. I have loved it all :).

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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.