This has taken me a few days to write. It has been a somewhat hard post.
I always wondered how you would know when a dog was ready to retire. I think i now know.
Back in December, i was put on the waiting list for my next dog while Ushi was still working. Back then, Ushi was slow, but i was confident that she would keep working until a new match was found. Since then though, i have noticed little signs that are suggesting to me that she might retire sooner than i would like. I have noticed over the past month or so especially that when Ushi is working, she is looking around a lot more. It is getting harder to focus her after she looks around. She is also a lot more sniffy on our walks. She has always got a bit stuck when it comes to our regular places we go in to such as Costa and Wise Buys, for example but normally, after a bit of reasoning, and a few “not todays”, she will eventually move on. She may not be happy, especially if it is Pets at Home, but she will eventually move on after pleading with me to go in. Now, however when she gets stuck at a shop because she wants to go in, she really gets stuck to the point where she won’t move at all and no amount of cajoling can get her to carry on. Usually in that situation, i have to ask someone to guide me past whereever it is to get her to carry on.
Sometimes, we don’t even get as far as town, or even just for a walk. She will ask to work, but when we get out of our house, she just crawls along until we turn back for home and then she will go there no problem. If she is not lagging behind until we turn back to go home, she will push against me if we go left to go out of our estate until we turn back home. A couple of years ago, i had a problem with her when i went to go right out of our estate. This was solved with cheese and a lot of perseverance from me with help from Guide dogs. Because of her age though, i don’t want to fight with her. If it had of been a couple of years ago, i would have faught with her and overcome the stickiness, but because it is both ways out of our estate now, i really don’t want to push her if she doesn’t want to work. Usually when this happens, i bring her back home and carry on to whereever i am going with my cane.. If it is just a walk for the sake of a walk, then i will just go home with her, but if i have somewhere to be, then i carry on without her.
Sometimes, when we are working and i ask her to do something, she just stops and stares. It is almost like she has forgotten what i have asked her to do. The most recent instance of this was when i was staying in a hotel last weekend. We had been in this hotel many times before. We had come out of the restaurant after breakfast on the Saturday morning. When we came out of the restaurant, we were heading back to our room which is a straight forward route. Ushi started to lag and when i tried to keep going forward, she wanted to turn back towards the restaurant. I only know this because i got her to “show me” what she wanted. She sped up to head back in to the restaurant. Now, this is unusual as Ushi has never had any human food in there nor attempted to get anything. I kept trying to go back to our room, but it wasn’t happening and the lagging would start again. So i got her to find a sofa while we sat and gathered our thoughts. I eventually got her to go to our room by a bit of bribery of a treat and lots of praise when we got to our room. A few other times this has happened have been when i have asked her to find a ramp through a train station or to find a crossing, for example. It litterally is like she doesn’t know what i am asking her to do. I call these her crisis of confidence.
At no point is Ushi putting me in danger though. She is still stopping at all her kerbs, finding crossing boxes and using public transport well. If she was putting me in danger, i would have called Guide dogs straight away.
On the days that she does work, she is her usual self apart from her slowness etc. Last week, for instance, was a very frustrating week for me as she didn’t want to work at all. I know it has been quite hot, but this was when it was a bit cooler. She didn’t even want to go to yoga which she usually loves. Today was the first she had worked in a week.
In all this, if i was to say that we were going for a free run, she would be like a rocket. There would be absolutely no issue with her working then.
Ushi has been to the vet and has a slight stiffness in her right back leg. The vet says it isn’t anything to worry about at the minute and he will just keep an eye on it. She is not on any medications. She has a few fatty lumps and needed a skin tag removed at the end of April on her eye lid, but other than that, it is just the stiffness in her right leg. As i’ve said, the vet isn’t overly worried and doesn’t think it needs any attention yet.
I phoned guide dogs during the week and they are going to ring me to fix up a date for when Ushi will retire. Obviously i don’t want her to retire yet but i don’t want her to keep working if her heart just isn’t in it any more. I guess i’ve been clinging to the days when she does work, but the truth is, i can’t fully depend on her now and i don’t know if she will wok from one day to the next. I am taking comfort though that she has worked for 7 and a half years with me. We have had our ups and downs, and she does have her very stubborn tendencies, but i really have loved working her. At the start, i didn’t know that i could leave Ballymena, but now, the world really has been my oister. I also know that hopefully she will be going back to her puppywalkers when she does retire as i just can’t keep her as much as i would love to. Ushi has already been for a weeks’ holiday at the start of April and it was like she was never away. The puppywalkers seemed happy too and it has put my mind at ease knowing that she will hopefully go back there. She will have a friend too as they kept their next pup who didn’t want to be a guide dog.
So it has been a very difficult week, but i can’t put it off forever unfortunately. I don’t want all the little signs to become bigger and i don’t want her to start putting us in danger. So i will just take each day as it comes and await Ushi’s retirement date.
Last time i wrote, i was in
<a href="https://thebigt1.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/Please-not-yet"a serious muddle
About Ushi. She had sat down twice during her work and i could not get her moving. I seriously thought she had decided not to work.
On Monday i think it was, I took Ushi out and she worked. There was no hint of a sit down. I was so thrilled. Fair enough, it was only a walk, but i don’t mind just a walk with no destination. I didn’t work her yesterday and today i didn’t work her until later because we were in the middle of Storm Frank, so it was windy city all round. Again today there was no hint of a sit own at all. I am so thrilled. I was prepared to have to make that dreaded phone call to guide dogs and was planning my routes factoring in using the cane.
I kind of feel like i was being a little paranoid in my last post. Sorry for the drama but it really did put the willies up me. I can cope with Ushi being stubborn, but the sitting down really threw me.
Obviously, i will keep an eye on things and if it happens again then i’ll deal with it, but i’m hoping it was some sort of a blip.
As an aside, Ushi is still wanting to play with Angel our pet dog. She is actually initiating the play, whereas before, she just about tollerated Angel. I wouldn’t say she’s best buds with her, but it’s a deffinet improvement on how standoffish she used to get.
I’m so glad she is working well though-i don’t need another scare like that for a while.
I don’t even want to write this post. Especially with it being christmas and all, but something happened the other day that has got me in a bit of a tizzy. A rather worried and panicked tizzy, come to that.
A bit of background first. On Sunday, me, my dad and my sister went up to my uncles house. We are in the middle of selling the house, so we had to go up to see when the boiler was last serviced for our celisitors. My dad and sister don’t travel well, so we walked up to the house and back to the trainstation. We also walked from my dads to the train station in Ballymena and back and then uphome. So Ushi had worked pretty hard. We took our time though and wren’t in any major rush. That was grand. I gave Ushi the day off on Monday as i had nowhere to be and Ushi had worked pretty damn hard the previous day.
On Tuesday, i was going to meet a friend and we were going to go round Ballymena as Belfast would have been mad as a place to meet up. I left to go down to the train station where i was meeting my friend, and we got a couple of car lengths away from my house when something odd happened. Ushi whipped round,as if something had got her tail. She then sat down. When i tried to get her to move forward, she stiffened up. When i felt her tail, she went in to a sit aain. I could not get her moving. It wasn’t like her normal stoppages either as she’s never sat dwn. She did sit once before randomly a few months ago, but i just carried on and thought nothing of it. My only solution was to go back home to which she happily trotted off to. She then went upstairsand on to her bed. Now, she will sometimes do this like when it was really hot over the summer, but i was able to keep her going and persevere with her so she didn’t get what she wanted which was to go home. Again though, she had never sat down though. That threw me so i ended up canceling mfriend coming as i was so muddled with what Ushi had just done.
Yesterday being Wednesday, i took her out for a free run with my dad and sister. We were walking along grand and i was working her to the free run area as i find her easier to manage on her harness. She sat down randomly again only this time we were on a road. My sister noticed and we got her going again quickly. That time worried me more. She didn’t whip round this time, but just sat. When i let her off for her free run, she had a complete ball and ran around like a loon. She worked fine for me going back home. I didn’t work her today.
Now, i don’t know what to think about this new behaviour. Ushi has shown no signs of wanting to stop working. Okay she can be a bit slow to start, but that’s been normal. Especially if i have got her off her bed or she wants to go a particular way but i can persevere and get her going. I can’t even say she’s slowed down the past while as she has always had her slow moments where she just plods along like we have all the time in the world. Usually when i need to be somewhere and need to get a wiggle on, she’ll do this. Other than that though, i can’t think of anything else new that she has done to change things.
She will be 7 in February and has had no health conditions. She has two tiny little fatty lumps, but other than that, she is grand. The only other thing she has is what i called clickity hips in that when she stands, her hips click. The vet has checked her and there is nothing he is worried about. Her fatty lumps that have been checked out are still wiggly and free so i’m not particularly worried about them. She is due her worming tablet and flea treatment in January, so when the surgery opens after the new year, i think i shall book a health check. I want to make sure nothing medical is up before i make that call to guide dogs.
I really do hope it is not retirement for Ushi. I know it has to happen eventually, but not now. Especially as it’s so sudden. Obviously if she does not want to work, i will not force her, but i was loving working her. I hope she was enjoying it as much as me. Now i’m thinking “do i work her too much?”. We have no car so we do a lot of walking. Plus i do so love working her. I know every guide dog owner says that, but i really do love it. Yes i know Ushi has her challenging moments, but i’ve learnt to work with her. It feels too soon for her to be wanting to retire. I was only saying recently how she probably won’t tell me when she wants to stop working and that it will be me who will have to make that decition.
So obviously i’m in a bit of a muddle about things. I’m hoping it is something that can be sorted, but i have a suspicion that it’s something more. I’ll see how she is over the next few days, and the vets will be my first port of call before i get guide dogs to come out and have a look. I’m really hoping things improve and that Ushi does want to continue working.
Sorry for such a serious post on christmas.
Have a happy christmas and hopefully when i next write, i’ll have news about Ushi.
Today was my regular aftercare. This is where the trainers/instructors come out to see us and make sure we are working well.
I was rather nervous since i’ve mentioned here that Ushi is 35 kilos. She should really be about 30, but i haven’t been able to get it off her, even though i’m working her twice a day, and cutting food down if she has got a free run. Thank god it was the instructor who was coming who trained with me and Ushi, and not the instructor that is for our area.
So the instructor rang me at about 20 to three. I decided to go for coffee and then we could discuss any issues i was having and also look at Ushi’s health book. We had some stops but there was no reason why she was stopping. She was just playing up a bit.
The instructor had a long chat with me about everything and anything, before discussing Ushi. She said how proud she was with me and Ushi, and that we seemed like a really well gelled partnership. I said about how she sticks at one of her kerbs and won’t cross, but the instructor said it was just Ushi being Ushi. She noticed that sometimes the harness slides forward, but just to pull back on the handle, and if she crosses my boddy, i can move the handle to the side. I didn’t know the handle could move to the side.
One of the times Ushi stopped, a man helped me. I thought it was our district team manager and was panicking, but thankfully it wasn’t.
The instructor said she was very slightly concerned about Ushi’s weight. I explained what food she was on and how if we have a free run she gets half a milk bone when she comes back. I explained how last year i didn’t cut them out of her food and she went up to 36 kilos. I now take a few handfuls out of her dinner if she has had a free run. That has braught her down to 34 or 35 kilos. My instructor thought i had said 45 kilos which nearly gave me a heart attack! She said that i’m doing all the right things, but maybe if i actually get her to run rather than just sniffing which she is doing on her free runs. She says that this just means she is more settled, and she isn’t getting bored, she is just more settled and contented just to sniff. She says if another dog runs with her it might make her run, and if i bring something to throw it might make her run a bit more. She says that she doesn’t want to change Ushi’s food unless she really has to. I’m to keep her up to date with her weight and then they will decide what food she should be changed to. We don’t want to mess with that if we don’t have to.
I’m so relieved that her weight isn’t as much of a problem as i thought. But i still need to keep an eye on it. The instructor also said that there is no other person who could work with Ushi. So that made me feel like i was the bees knees!
So let’s hope that her weight can go down by a couple more kilos. The instructor said that as long as she is around 33 kilos that would be acceptable. I was so so worried about her weight. I knew i could still feel her ribs, but i was still worried!
So hopefully everything will go on as well as they have for the next year! I hope that she doesn’t have to be switched to another food!
I’m so glad it went well!
I seem to have lost my blogging mojo, but thought i’d better write something about mine and ushi’s two year qualification. I always like to celebrate it. Plus it’s always good to compare. So i hope you won’t find it boring.
So on Saturday i celebrated two years with Ushi. Over the last year i’ve noticed some big changes. Ushi was always quite confident with her work, but over the last year she has become more confident.
She no longer hesitates so much with her obbsticles, and is usually more confident with tight spaces, although she does like to wait and make totally sure i will fit through the gap.
When we are crossing roads now, if it is a quiet road, Ushi has to wait until she is sure there is no car coming towards me. This kind of does get a little annoying, but at least she is being cautious. She does eventually go forward though.
There are two kerbs that she absolutely refuses to budge on. I have to physically step off the kerb and use the lead to get her going. (It is a quiet road, but you can hear traffic in the distance as there are four roads leading off it). I’ve tried bribing her with treats but no joy. It’s only on two kerbs too!
I’ve discovered how well Ushi works in busy conditions. I love working her in new environments if someone is directing me.
She has also started whining for her food in the mornings! She never used to do this, but i think me forgetting to feed her until 12 o’clock one day might have had something to do with it. Most of the time it’s a gentle whine, but there was one day she actually barked and scared herself lol. I used to feed her at half 5 for her dinner, but i’m now doing it at 7 o’clock since she was waking me up ridiculously early the next morning.
One of the biggest changes would have to be how she now will swim. Fair enough it is only in a still river, but it’s a start! I’d love to take her down to the sea to see what she was like with it since the last time we took her she didN@t like it at all. she was in her harness though so that might have had something to do with it. So i’d love to see her just off her lead.
The biggest thing i’ve noticed is how she has wormed her way into my uncles heart. He has never really liked dogs, but a few months ago he saw the article i did in the paper about me and Ushi, and wanted to meet her. So we met in town. I thought he would just put on that he liked Ushi for my sake, but he invited us up to his house one time when my sister was going up. From that day he has been hooked. He has Bipolar disorder so having Ushi really helps his moods. and his skin has got much better after Ushi licks him. I know it isn’t healthy but there is no way of stopping her really. she is so firm and he has said it looks much healthier after she is done. He doesn’t have to put his creams on as much either when she is there. She treats him like one of the family now.
He even got her bowls so i wouldn’t have to bring mine up all the time. Unfortunately the first food bowl was far too small and Ushi couldn’t move her food around in it, so she wouldn’t eat. I actually had to empty it onto the floor! So my uncle went out and baught her a new one.
She even has two pillows and a blanket for her bed.
she also has spare food up there and carrots that are Ushi’s. She even has her own jug of water!
My uncle now looks forward to Ushi being up, and actively calls her over to him. He loves the way she comes out to the kitchen when he is cooking, and has conversations with her.
Ushi has really benifited him as he is getting out more, and he enjoys having to focus on directing me when i am working her. I was worried in case he wouldn’t like me working her and would want to guide but he loves seeing the two sides of her.
I sometimes feel though i don’t work her as much as i should, or that i don’t deserve her. I know i do though and even if i am just doing a walk which is most of my routes, she is still getting her exercise and i am getting to meet so many people on my travels. i do wish i felt able to travel more independently but i know that sometimes it’s too awkward to do it if it is at night for example. I know the volunteer drivers don’t mind though but i feel that sometimes i am just making excuses.
So happy qualification Ushi. I’m so glad i’ve got you and i hope you don’t get bored of me. I really enjoy walking along and not having to worry where my next step will be. I hope you are with me for a good while anyway, and contenue working well. I do sometimes get bored of the routene but i don’t think i could go back to the cane.
I can’t wait to see what the next year of our partnership brings!
I’ve decided to change the ammount ushi gets in the morning and evening.
I used to have her on 100 grams in the morning and 150 in the evening. Over the past couple of days she has been sick after her meal in the evening. This is over an hour after her food, and i make sure she doesn’t do much or get excited after she has eaten. It is only when she comes upstairs. She likes to lie downstairs after she eats her evening meal. It is only a little bit as when i go to pick it up it is gone. So I presume she eats the little bit she has sicked up. This has only happened the past couple of evenings and nothing has changed.
I decided to phone my branch organiser for some advice just to see what the craic was. She used to be a vet receptionist so figured she might know. She said that the fact that it was only happening occasionally meant it probably wasn’t anything serious. If it was she would be sick in the morning, which she isn’t. She comes straight upstairs in the mornings to go to her bed after eating.
The branch organiser has suggested that i change her meals and give her a 150 grams in the morning, and 100 in the evening to see if that helps. She says i should take her to the vet if she doesn’t improve.
I tried the change last night and she wasn’t sick. She didn’t seem to wake me up as early for her breakfast this morning either. So i’m wondering should i keep her on the bigger portion in the mornings? Or should i change her back again?
I’ll just have to make sure that i do work her twice a day still to make sure that she doesn’t put on any weight.
I met up with
Jeniffer And OJ
Well I mentioned that on the way back we had a little bit of an incident where poor little Ushi nearly fell down between the train and the platform? Well i’ve been doing some work when me and my dad and sis have gone up to Belfast. (I know that sounds dramatic but that was what happened).
Anyway we started going up to Belfast a couple of months ago and I decided to meet up with a friend while we were there. The first time we tackled the trains again with Ushi she rushed a little getting on and off. Once she was on she lay down straight away. So i would have given her a treat each time she lay down and loads of praise both on and off. I wanted her to know that although she had a nasty experience, trains weren’t big scarey evil things.
It seemed to work, with her tail wagging as the train pulled in and rushing less and less. I thought we had cracked it and was going to post today after a couple of good days so as not to jinx it, but unfortunately it didn’t go the way i had planned.
This morning we had one of the more newer trains. (I think because of the ollympics, there are more moddern versions of the new trains that have been in place for the last couple of years). The only difference between these trains is the announcements are done in a different voice and they are slightly faster. (I think the very old trains which we came across last year are done away with now).
I decided not to give Ushi any treats today and just praise her again for calmly getting on and off. She was grand. The ramp to help wheelchair users on and off was put on when we got to Belfast. I decided to use this since it was still up. I have an awful awful habbit of taking a huge step both getting on and off the train which no doubt affects Ushi. I tend to overcompensate with it. Anyway i used the ramp and for some reason didn’t know if it would go all the way to the platform. It did and i didn’t have to worry about anything! Ushi got down off it grand too. So that was totally awesome.
So we had a good day and when we were coming back, again it was the newist trains. There was about a two or three centimetre gap more than usual for the new trains. It was enough to panick Ushi a little and her tail was down and she made no advancement towards the step. It wouldn’t have been enough for her to fall down but it still made her a little wary. So my dad lifted her on and my sister held the lead until i got on. So we praised quite a bit once she lay down which she did immediatly. The conductor then came up to me and asked if i needed any assistance. I thanked him and said i was grand because my dad was there. We explained about getting on and asked if there was a slightly bigger gap. He said that these trains were slightly different and the platforms had been modified for the trains a couple of years ago. He said though that the best thing i could do was to get her confidence up by using them, and that he understands that the dogs are trained but getting her confidence back up would be the best. I was so glad he understood! We were grand getting off again.
I normally wouldn’t have used the ramp at all, feeling that i didn’t need it. I might have to rethink that one! I think that i should be entitled to use it if i need to.
For now though i am going to only use it if the gap is a bit wide. When i do the trains on my own, i would probably use the ramp for my own security but not sure yet.
So we kind of took a little step back, but most of our trips in the last couple of months have been positive getting on and off so i think that is good.
So let’s hope that she is confident the next time. I must try not to overcompensate stepping on and off though! I would appreciate any hints for that.
I’m sure we’ll get there though and it’ll just take time.