Two Great Talks

Today I took part in two talks for guide dogs. The first was at the Ballymena Baptist Church and the other was in Colleraine.

The Ballymena Baptist Church

I knew about this talk for quite a while but to be honest i was quite nervous about it. It was for the over 50s and i was expecting lots of
Fat comments
But thankfully all the comments were nice. I was so relieved.

So the branch organiser picked me up at about half 10. I let Ushi walk out to the car without her lead because the car was parked on my driveway.

We arrived at the church shortly after and were met by a lovely woman who showed us where the main meeting room was. From what i could gather it seemed like a big church. The woman explained that the club didn’t know what would happen each week so that they couldn’t pick and choose what they went to. They didn’t even know what hymn they would sing until the words came up on a projector. I think they wanted us to stand when we talked but the branch organiser said that we would prefer to sit as it would be easier than trying to find my way over leads and stuff.

The members started to arrive soon after we got settled. There sounded to be quite alot of people coming in so i was feeling a little nervous. There was nothing we could do about it though.

We were first introduced once everyone had arrived, then they all sang a him. The pastor then came and said a few words before the branch organiser talked.

She talked about all the facts and figures then handed it over to me.

I started to talk but alot of them couldn’t hear me so they said i would have to use the Microphone. I wasn’t too keen on that but just talked anyway. I just talked about my experiences of being a guide dog owner. I talked abou the training and how it is me that tells the dog when to cross the road etc.

The branch organiser talked for another little bit then we answered some questions.

The pastor then got up to read a few passages from the bible and then explained the meaning of it. He then said that Ushi kept looking at him and it panicked him a bit lol. I said that the most he would get would be a lick but he said he didn’t believe me. He appologised but i told him it was grand. He then sang another hymn before finishing with a prayer.

The lady who had invited us then handed me and the branch organiser a little gift bag each as well as a cheque for £35 for guide dogs. I thought it was a lovely gesture. (Any talks we do are just talks and we don’t expect any donations or gifts).

Ushi got really excited as there was a bone in the gift bag for her. I got chocolates and a card.

As soon as we got home and i opened the plastic she ran around before collapsing with it and whining. She wouldn’t come down when my rehab worker showed up lol because she wanted her bone. She treats it like a bone i think because it is shaped like a bone so isn’t so strange to her.

It was a great morning! I’m glad i had no bad comments!

The Macular Disease Society

My rehab worker phoned me yesterday afternoon to ask if i would like to come to the Macular disease society in Colleraine for a talk. He wanted to get an older person but there weren’t any guide dog owners available. So he asked if i wanted to do it so i said yes.

He picked me up at about half 12. Ushi didn’t want to come down because she wanted to play with her bone she got from the earlier talk.

There was a woman in the car who is the “community engagement officer” for guide dogs in Northern Ireland. She will be taking over the talks to potential applicants and will be involved more in the community. She wanted to observe how a talk would be done.

When we got to Colleraine we got some lunch first before heading into the RNIB building where the talk was being held. Unfortunately when we got out of the car i hadn’t got her harness on as we were in the middle of the road just by the way the car was parked. Ushi pulled a little but whatever way she pulled she must have pulled a muscle in my arm. So i put her harness on as soon as we were off the road and she was okay then. I used to put her halty on getting out of the car but i just carry it now as i don’t think i need it.

There were about 10 people we were talking too altogether. We talked about
The myths of guide dog ownership
Which is usually the way these talks go with my rehab worker to potential applicants for guide dogs.

We were presented with a box of chocolates each and Ushi got a packet of what seems like dried chicken. I think this should be okay as she won’t get it too often and it doesn’t have any bones since it is dried. I think because it is for dogs she shouldn’t think it is human food. I hope anyway! I also heard that they were going to make a donation to us!

I would like to thank both groups for their kindness and i hope they found it useful having us there.

Our last stop of the day was for the engagement officer to visit one of the social care trusts to mee the rehab workers there and just to say hello since some of the referrals come from social services to guide dogs.

So it was a busy but enjoyable day. Than you again to the two groups.

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First Solo Talk

Yesterday i did another talk to a primary school in Portrush. It was my first solo talk and the first since
The speakers training day
I had at the start of December.

Unfortunately after the talk things did not go well so i think we’ll write the negative first and end on a positive.

Fat

After the school talk my volunteer driver decided to drop in a christmas card to her 95 year old aunt. She asked if i would like to come in too so me and Ushi joined her. The house seemed quite small but apparently it is just the way the house is layed out. I introduced myself to the woman and we sat down. The aunt then said “your dog is quite fat”. I said that she wasn’t and that she was on a specialised diet with no human food. She then said “It’s not good to have a dog that is so fat”. Again i explained, then it was “That collar is too tight”. (Luckily the volunteer driver stepped in and explained that the half check collar moves with ushi and that when i correct and release it doesn’t hurt her and it just lets her know to pay attention). The lady then said that ushi was fat again. I was starting to get pritty pissed off so said that you get different sized labradors. Thankfully that got her off the subject but then it was all about how Ushi was a strong dog and she didn’t know how i could hold her etc. I was very glad to get out of that house to be honest.

I didn’t want to say too much since she was the volunteer drivers aunt, but I had to say something. I explained that i was rather annoyed at the woman and i thought her comments were quite hurtful. She agreed but said that that was just the way she was. The woman had a dog but she kept it in an outside pen. Fair enough it was a big pen, but the only interaction the dog got was for feeding. The woman wouldn’t let the dog in because it was so boysterous. (The driver even said that she didn’t know why the woman had the dog).

I was still quite mad when i got home. I know the woman was old, but i’ve had two or three elderly women who have said that ushi is fat within the last two or three months. I take great care with my dogs weight. Ushi is quite a big dog, but i feed her Royal Canin Maxisensible and she doesn’t get any human food. She does sometimes get a milk bone, but nothing else. She is walked twice a day and if i can’t walk her twice a day i cut her food by a handful. I know i’ve blogged about her weight before, but i am not going to have some randomer saying she is fat when she clearly isn’t. She is 34.5 kilos. While she should be sitting about 30, my instructors are happy at guide dogs and the vets aren’t worried either and say she is in great condition. I felt like saying that at least my dog got some human attention! So unless you are a vet or someone from guide dogs, I don’t want to know what you think of my dog. I take great care with ushi and would never let her get fat. In fact i’m sure i’ve posted some pictures of her up here. I don’t even know why it is annoying me so much but she had never saw ushi before.

Even writing about it still makes me mad. I’m going to change the subject to happier things before i start repeating myself. It was just so nasty!

The actual talk

I wasn’t sure if i was going to be going as the roads were quite icey and we had a bit of snow. So i texted the driver to say that if the roads were bad would there be much point in going. She agreed but tested the roads to see what they were like and thankfully it was only the road out of our estate which was bad. So me and Ushi were collected at about half 9.

When we got to Portrush the sun was shining and there was no snow at all to be seen. I hadn’t braught the big speaker pack that we got on the training day because i need to get it brailled first. So i was just going off the top of my head on what i already knew.

When we entered the school we had just hit the time when the kids were coming in from their break. So there was a whole crowd of kids on the stairs going “look at the dog!” and other such comments. The woman who was showing us up to the class got all the kids off the stairs and into their respective classes so we could go up the stairs.

As i was getting ushi settled a few kids went to get another primary 4 class which was the class we were talking to. The kids thought it was cute when ushi was drinking her water.

I first of all introduced myself, then said to them about ushi’s harness and what it did. I then got them to tell me the breeds of guide dog to see if they knew them. They got them all apart from the labradoodle. I then said why each dog was used, for example the labradoodle doesn’t shed so they are good if someone has aspma or other dog allergies.

I then said about how ushi guides me.

I got them to see how much it costs for a guide dog. I explained that ushi got all her food and vet costs paid for.

I told them about not feeding a guide dog as they would then be interested in food on the street which could be dangerous.

I told them all about how it is good to ask permission before petting a dog and usually if they asked the owner would drop the handle and they could pet away until their hearts content.

I said that at this time of year there would be alot of temptations around for a dog such as chocolate. I explained that that could make a dog very sick if they got chocolate.

I asked them how much they thought i would have to pay for getting Ushi. They thought it was cool that you could spend 50 P and get a dog!

I sort of ran out of steam then so got all the kids to ask questions.

Before the questions the teacher asked who paid for the dog and the kids thought the vets did!

I got really random ones like “how can you brush her teeth if you can’t see”? (I said that i could hear her licking her lips lol). “How did you become blind”? “How did you get up the stairs”? (The classroom was upstairs). “What happens if you want to go downstairs when ushi is sleeping”? “Would Ushi bite if someone else brushed her teeth”? “Could she have babies”? (That one kind of stomped me so i just said that there was nothing there so she couldn’t). “Does she ver whimper?” “How does she know when it is time for a walk?” (I said that ushi was quite lazy and would sleep all day so i need to decide when to walk her). “Does she bark at other dogs?” “do you use a dog whistle?” “What time does she go to bed?” And “How does she know when it is food time?”.

It was then petting time before they all went off to another class as the teacher who had invited us wanted us to have a cup of tea before going home. I left badges and bookmarks for them all.

I got given a box of chocolates as a thank you which i appreciated. I think the teacher was quite keen to give us a donation as she kept asking how much it was for us to do the talk. (We don’t even expect a donation).

I think the talk could have gone better if i wasn’t so nervous. But i’m glad i had the questions to fall back on. I suppose that would be one good thing for having the big case with you-if you were stuck you could just look at it. I don’t think i would use the case with kids and just have it for adults. Unless the kids were older or something.

So the day was good apart from the “fat” comment! It was nice to get a present too which i wasn’t expecting!

The only thing was i felt like i was just going over the same thing. As in i think each talk would be me going over the same thing. Maybe not though.

I think my next talk is in February sometime.

I love how honest the kids are!


Opposite Ends

Today was quite a busy day.

We first of all headed off to another fold to sell christmas cards. I was a bit nervous since at the last fold a little old lady came up to me and was like “She is awful fat, dear” while talking to Ushi. She never even said hello to me. I just said that Ushi was kept on a strict diet and was exercised regularly.

Before i was about to go, i had ushi’s harness and lead in my hand. My three year old brother was standing beside me. (He had a bit of a limp when he came home from hospital but now you wouldn’t know he had broke his leg). He asked me what i was holding. I said it was Ushi’s harness. He said he wanted to wear it so i gave it to him. He then put it around his neck, buckled the girth strap and was like “it is like a seatbelt.”. Then he told me to take the handle and guided me up the stairs. It was really funny because he was so gentle going up. I think it confused little Ushi as she came running up as if to say “That’s mine!”. He also wanted to have the lead on but i said i had to go.

Well the fold was really nice and it was all bungalos and flats with a main common room. All the activities were optional for the residents that were held in the main common room. Apparently it is run by the housing executive and you need a certain number of points to get in. I know it’s probably wrong, but they seem like really good places to live. You are basically independent but if you need anything then you have a buzzer you can press. I asked out of interest what age you would have to be and they said that there was no age limmit. I just thought they would be a good idea, but i think i’ll be a home bird for a bit longer lol.

All the residents were lovely and one lady even came over and sniffed Ushi and commented on how nice she smelt and how she smelt like perfume and not like a dog lol. She got a couple of her friends to do it too lol. I don’t use perfume, I just hate a doggy smell. Right enough though i do spray my perfume over in the corner where her bed is so unless some of it got on her fur. I spray it on me though lol. I took it as a compliment lol.

My rehab worker was taking me to a school in Ballymoney to do a talk so he came and collected me from the fold. We had to pick up
The person who bords guide dogs sometimes
As she was the one i would be doing the talk with and she is a qualified speaker for guide dogs. It was a class of about 6 or 7 year olds i think. Maybe they were a bit older but not that much.

As we were walking in i heard alot of the kids talking about Ushi lol. It was things like “Look at the dog” and “come here boy”.

We were first taken into the staff room for a biscuit and a cup of tea as it was the kids lunch time. The class were all sitting quietly when we came into the classroom.

The guide dog border first of all talked about the main breeds of dogs used for guide dogs. She then showed them some pictures, then said about German sheperds and why sometimes they can be frightening. She said that sometimes they are trained like that for example they might sound a bit nasty for a police dog, for example. I then said that some owners weren’t very nice people and that they maybe made a dog frightening.

We then talked about what a puppy walker did, where the puppies were born, then about the puppies learning how to guide. We explained that it was like the kids going to primary school first (the puppy walker), then they would go to “big school” where they would learn how to guide and such.

We then explained that if Ushi walked me into something, I would tell her to “Watch” and that Ushi wouldn’t really like that because i would be being cross with her. I explained that when she was walking me around all the obsticles if i was telling her what a good girl she was she would do it again since she was happy that she was a good dog.

We then got the kids to tell us what kinds of obsticles they would see every day.

We said about how it is always best to ask a guide dog owner when they are working if they can pet their dog. I then lifted my harness and explained that once the harness handle was lifted the dog was working, but if someone wanted to pet Ushi i would just drop my handle. I said that the dog only guides when the handle is up.

We then got into the costs of guide dogs. We asked the kids how much they thought it would cost throughout the lifetime of a guide dog. estimates ranged from £300 to nothing to…£5,000,000 lol. Those would be very expensive vet bills!

We then asked the kids how much they thought a guide dog owner pays for their dog. They were quite shocked when i said it was 50 P! I explained about the health book and that her vet bills were payed for and all.

It was then question time. Each pupil had written down a question each and it was on a white board where they read it out. They asked things like “how does the dog get trained?” which we had already answered so got them to remember. “How does the dog cross the road?” to which i explained that i told ushi when to go forward when the traffic was clear. I said that Ushi will just walk straight across the road and then i would tell her what direction i wanted to go in. “How does the guide dog know where to go?” to which i explained that i told Ushi where to go and that i told her what direction i wanted to go in”. “What happens when the dog dies?” sort of took me back! I said that i would be very sad and that i would hope it didn’t happen for a few years yet, but if i needed another dog i would probably apply again. “What happens when the guide dog owner dies?” (A good question, i thought.). I said that if i was hit by a bus that Ushi could probably work for sombody else, or else she would just become a pet. “How does the dog know where its’ food is?” (I was glad we were on a happier topic! I explained how i measure her food using an old baked bean tin, that i get her to sit, and that i toot three times on a whistle.

After all the questions, it was petting time. I just said “does anyone want to pet the dog?”. At one point i had about three kids around me. I had said that she would give them her paw, but of course she wouldn’t do it! One little kid was like “oh if you put your face down she’ll lick it!”.

I think the petting was the best part for them to be honest. They seemed to take it all in, and we gave them booklets on fireworks and pets.

At one point we were talking about why you might need a dog. We said about glasses and i had visions of every kid going home and announcing “I need a guide dog since i can’t see too well” lol so i added that sometimes glasses don’t actually work to help some people. Either that or they would ask for 50 P to buy a guide dog!

I think ushi could have stayed all day there. She was so gentle with the kids.

I look forward to the next talk!