Guide Dogs Fun Day And Stakeholder Briefing

Today was the
Guide Dogs Fun day
For Northern Ireland.

So this morning, we got the 20 past 9 train up to Belfast. I wasn’t sure until yesterday who was going to be meeting me as my dad and sister were just dropping me off. Orriginally there weren’t any volunteer drivers organised as it wasn’t our team who organised it, but thankfully there was a lovely woman called Jessica who was going to pick me up.

So at about a quarter past 10, we arrived at the station where Jessica was going to meet me. (We should have been there at 10, but our train was delayed).

When we arrived we first of all just chilled really, and I waited for my friend to turn up. We also stood and talked to the district team manager, and the instructor who now does my aftercare. She noticed a little cut on Ushi’s eye (She scratched it a little while ago and keeps on scratching it. When she scratches she doesn’t do it gently either!). The district team manager came over and told me to get her some cream (can’t remember what it’s called), from the vet and that should make the scratching stop since it will stop the irritation. They don’t really want the eye to get infected. I hope they don’t give her the “Cone of shame!”.

After about 5 minutes, we went on the
Go Walkies
Event that was taking place as well as the briefing for the stakeholders. We were walking along the Toepath along the river Lagon.

There were two routes to choose from;a short one which was a mile long altogether, or a longer one which was three miles long altogether. I decided to do this one. I went with Jessica for this.

Before we started the walk I had to take my coat off as it was scorching! It was meant to rain too! I bet if we hadn’t come prepared it would have rained.

My friend was following behind me with her dog Della, and initially the girls were very excited, but they eventually calmed down. We had to make a bit of a pit stop with Ushi as she was indicating she wanted a spend about 20 minutes into the walk, but after that we were back on track again. Ushi wanted to say hi to every dog that we passed, but I was able to keep her on track and she walked along nicely with us. (I had her harness on but wasn’t working her).

At each of the halfway points there were some of the team standing with buckets of water for the dogs. There was quite a queue of dogs waiting to take their drink. I was actually surprised that Ushi drank out of the bucket since other dogs had drunk out of it. My friend turned back at the first halfway point as she only wanted to do the shorter route.

I was enjoying talking to Jessica as we walked. We chatted about everything under the sun really. At the next halfway point, we met my first instructors I had on class. I explained Ushi’s
Little Incident
And one of my instructors said that she had done something similar when she was staying with her during her advanced training. She had apparently been snuffling around her kitchen when she swallowed some dusst. A dog barked at that moment too, and she hicupped all night. My instructor was worried too when it happened. At least she had done something similar though which wasn’t so bad. Apparently Ushi is “Just a baby” about some things lol.

I could have stayed and chatted to my instructors for agees, but unfortunately Jessica needed to go pick someone else up pritty soon after our walk, so she needed to get on.

At one point during the walk, a puppywalker came up to me and asked me what was helpful in a puppy, as in what did I look for in a pup. I thought this was quite odd, but said that it’s good that the pup is nice and gentle when playing etc. She seemed to take it on board. I thought this was good that she asked me, as I didn’t think she would care that much. I thought it was kinda nice. Her husband had a little pup called Woffle with him. Her pup Wendy had just gone back to Forfar.

When we were nearly finished the walk, we had to go up this big hill. Ushi lay down at the top of it lol. I tried to offer her water, but I think she just wanted to lie down for a while lol.

When we arrived back at the fundraising vehicle (more on that later) where we had started, we were presented with a certificate and a little bone shaped thing that clipped on to Ushi’s collar that said something like “Go walkies for guide dogs”. I have kept it on her collar, but not sure if we’re supposed to lol.

We just chilled for a while after until we were all ready to go up to where the stakeholders meeting was being held. While we were sitting there a little kid came up to us with his or her family. The mother was like “Remember to ask first before petting the dog” and the little kid was like “Can I pet your dog?”. I said yes and got “Can I pet your dog? Can I pet your dog?”. I thought it was cute, and well done for the mother to educate her children. When the kids were leaving, they were like “I kissed that dog!”.

On the walk there was a kid at one point who was like “that doggy ran away!” as we walked past lol.

I got my instructor to check Ushi’s Halty, as when I put it on, Dad said that it kind of pulled her skin up a bit. I thought it was maybe getting too small, but apparently it was just twisted!

We were then off to where the stakeholders meeting was to be held. I went with my friend and her mum.

When we got out of the car, we tried to get the two dogs to spend together, but they both just stood there! We eventually did get it taken care of though.

We were all in a big hall where the meeting was. Some people just turned up for the meeting. There were apparently about 20 guide dogs altogether including puppies. We were all sitting at tables. Ushi decided that she was just gonna stretch out kind of in the middle of the walkway lol. She eventually lay down at the side of my chair.

First of all, our district team manager introduced everyone. There was a woman from the trustees who was from Northern Ireland, the community fundraising director, and a couple other people but I couldn’t remember what their titles were.

First of all, they all talked about what the organisation had achieved over the last 80 years. There are over 4,000 guide dog owners in the UK. I can’t remember what else was talked about in that part, but They want more people experiencing the freedom a guide dog can bring, so they have built a brand new breeding centre in Leamington which has just opened. The new dogs have moved in too and they like it better as there is apparently much less noise throughout the centre. They are planning to produce 1500 pups every year.

They then talked about the next 80 years, and talked about new services they were introducing such as the Sighted guiding service. Northern Ireland is the first place that has actually done it for the last 18 months, and there are apparently 19 sighted guides up and running, with 8 clients waiting to be matched to a guide. Everywhere else in the UK hasn’t introduced them yet.

They are planning to introduce what are called “Mobility Action Teams” or something around the UK. I don’t really understand what they were, but I think it was going to be more rehab workers or something.

What they said next kind of annoyed me. They said that Northern Ireland’s aim for this year was to have 17 new partnerships formed. I don’t think there should be certain “targets” for partnerships. You could create a partnership and it could not work or something. Apparently it’s so that they can see what the demand will be for the year. Something like that anyway.

They are starting a trial where 25 % of guide dogs will be trained here, including the formal training, but the other 75 % will be trained in Forfar like it is now. This is to reduce the stress on the dog and that.

Northern Ireland has got the loan of a big bus type thingie for fundraising. If we can put it to good use, we will get to keep it. It came over from England on Friday apparently. It is basically like a big bus with a sofa and all, and pictures of what guide dogs do and that as well as leaflets and that. I think it is for the dogs to have a break too if you’re away all day somewhere.

It was question time after that. I asked if our aftercare would be affected as guide dog owners if all a Guide dog mobility instructors time would be taken up by working with dogs. Our district team manager said that there would actually be a dog trainer who would probably be employed, so the instructors would only do the 10 weeks of advanced training like normal. So our aftercare wouldn’t be affected.

There is talk of guide dog owners meeting up with puppywalkers regularly to sort of let them know what would be good to have in a pup. I think this is a great idea. Also the pups are going to stay with their puppywalkers for a bit longer than the year in some cases. It would probably be up until the pup was 14 months or something.

We finished the day basically after that. It was a good day and the stakeholder thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! I thought that the trustees and that wouldn’t really listen to the guide dog owners, but they seemed to have which was good. Hopefully anyway!

I found out that there will be a pilot of the Talking busses scheme in Northern Ireland in August. This is where they are installing audio and visual announcements on busses.

We went home after that.

I felt very confident with Ushi today. I thought I was going to need the Halty alot more, but only used it getting out of cars as she still pulls quite a bit. At the start of the walk she did pull a bit but nothing I couldn’t manage. I don’t think I would have felt so confident even a few months ago. I was able to control her, and I thought she was very well behaved. Even some of the dogs on the walk she just ignored!

I am so glad she was really well behaved. I was expecting her to be a real terror! I had to keep reminding myself not to be too hard on myself if she didn’t behave, but she was a wee star! I think the fact I was able to control her says alot in how far i’ve come with her! I’ve probably just jinxed it, but who cares!

I was a very happy owner indeed!

Unfortunately last night Ushi had another little episode. We had gone downstairs at about 11 o’clock to make something to eat. Ushi was just lying in the kitchen and then she must have heard the snakes tail (one of the snakes lives in the kitchen and i don’t think she had seen it move before in it’s tank). Anyway the snake was very alert too, as well as Ushi. Ushi ran under the table and trembled. I took her upstairs and thankfully she wasn’t half as bad as what she had been. She was still panty, but she was drinking. I tried ignoring her to see if that worked, but it didn’t seem to, so I got down on the floor beside her on her bed, and she then just sprawled out and went to sleep. I wouldn’t want to give her too much attention when she is having one of these incidents as that could make it worse, but i’m not sure what else to do.

Thankfully she is much better today and the panicking didn’t last as long.

I think Ushi is still tired lol as she is zonked beside me! I can’t wait fo another day like it again.