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