The Guide Dogs Talking Busses Campaigne Pilot

Today I was invited to take part in a pilot project for the
Talking Busses
Campaigne that guide dogs are running. This is a campaigne to make busses have audio and visual information onboard to announce upcoming stops. I think it is operational in London and Notingham in England I think.

My rehab worker picked me up at about 9 o’clock. We headed up to Belfast, but on the way we had to pick up another guide dog owner. She had a guide dog called Willo. (Willo was 10 and a half and was still working! The normal age for retirement is usually about 8 or 9 years, but Willo is still wanting to work and is showing no signs that she needs to stop. Pritty cool!).

We arrived at a church hall. This was where we would find out what was happening throughout the morning, then how the pilot would work. There were a number of other organisations there including The RNIB, Guide Dogs, Translink, and the Department For Regional Development. (Not sure what they do).

We were then split into two groups. One group was going to go out for a short ride on a bus that Translink had braught for us to try out to see what the announcements were like. The other group were going to look at the
React Systim
Which is being installed at three local bus stops in Belfast. These will coincide with the route the bus is going to be taking.

I went out to the bus with the first group as we needed to leave early. The bus was like a town service bus. It was a Metro bus I think they are called. I was expecting the bus to have alot of room, and whilst the isles had room in between the seats were really cramped.

I kept Ushi’s harness on as I wasn’t sure how long we were going on the route, but then took it off again once I discovered that we would be on for about 15 to 20 minutes. Ushi kept trying to get out from in between the seat to see the other dogs that got on. Eventually my rehab worker got on too and sat beside me. Ushi just lay down then and was nose to nose with another guide dog called Ivie.

As we drove along, we were told what stop we were coming to. It only told you once though, and didn’t tell you where it would eventually end up. When it did tell you the stops it said just before the stop. I thought it would be helpful if on a long journey for it to say it more, but I suppose once you heard the name of your stop, you could just ring the bell or something.

The voice that was used was one of the Realspeak voices that come with JAWS.

For it being a pre pilot, it was quite good. It could do with improvements which i’ve already mentioned, but apart from that it’s great! Unfortunately if after the pilot translink run out of money, then it will stop. They can’t garuntee that it will be made available on other routes too.

After we finished on the bus, we headed back to the hall again so that the second group could have their turn on the bus.

While the other group were on the bus, we looked at the React systim that was going to be installed on three of the local bus stops. First of all, the guide dogs campaigning officer showed us the speaker that would go on a pole or something. It is like a small games console. You have a little keyring that has two buttons on it. Whenever you get into range of one of the poles with the system on it, it will speak to you. You can press the buttons on the keyring to hear more information like the time of the bus etc. It was also a good systim, but has been out for quite a while.

We left after that. My rehab worker had to do some work up at the guide dogs office, so we went up there for a while.

It was a good day I thought.

Side Note.

In other news, I had Ushi off to the vets for her front line treatment and to get her eye checked out as she had been scratching it quite a bit. It wasn’t affecting her work or anything, so I wasn’t too worried, I just didn’t want it to get infected.

When we were sitting in the waiting room, Ushi saw a couple of other dogs and wanted to play lol. She kept doing little whining noises every so often lol. The vet looked at her eye and said that because it was healing up, that there was nothing he needed to do. He even went and got a light to shine in her eye and made sure that the actual eye wasn’t irritated. He said it should just heal naturally.

I decided to get her front line and worming tablet while there. Our vets like the dogs to get weighed before each front line, so I popped her on the scales.

Ushi’s working weight is 27 Kilograms. Her Optimum weight is meant to be 29 Kilograms but she has been over that. At her last weigh in three months ago, she was 33 Kilograms. I put this down to me slacking and not walking her enough. I said that I would exercise her twice a day instead of once a day. Each walk was a 20 minute or so walk, and that wasn’t even into town. Town was probably a 30 minute walk.

So most days we’ve been doing a walk twice a day. She has a free run once a week, and gets a milk bone broken up every time she comes back to me on a free run. (We do this so the dogs come back, and we are allowed the milk bones). She would very ocasionally get a treat on a walk if she needs an incentive, like if she is doing a new route, for example. She would get a frozen kong filled with about 5 pieces of her food and 5 bits of broken up milk bone. I then would have taken 10 bits of food out of her breakfast the next day to make up for that. She would have gotten a dental stick maybe two or three times a week.

She is on 150 grams twice a day for both her feeds. (She was on 200 Grams in the mornings when I got her, but that was cut in November to 150).

Today when I weighed her……….she was 36.1 Kilograms. This was a huge shock. I asked the vet if that was okay and the vet said that was normal, but guide dogs probably won’t like her at that weight. Apparently, a guide dog is classed as obese if it is 15 % over its optimum weight. I have worked out that Ushi is 5.415 % over but not sure If I did that right.

Anyway whatever way I worked that out, it’s not good. I am extremely disappointed. She doesn’t feel fat, and she doesn’t look fat, but I need to get on top of this as soon as possible. I was told that you cut the dogs food by 50 grams. So I am thinking of bringing her food down to 100 grams in the morning and keeping her at the 150 in the evening which is what she is getting twice a day.

I guess there will only be treats for coming back from a free run! That means no kongs or anything like that.

Should I be doing this? I am extremely worried. I can still fit my fingers in between her belly and the girth strap of her harness. Dad said that it could be muscle rather than fat.

Oh and by the way, do any of you know how to get a dog to step down off a down kerb? She won’t do it unless I move the lead forward. (She used to do it until the day that it rained really bad and the cars sprayed all over the road). I give a nice strong hand signal and tell her forward, and I do it a couple of times, but if it’s not working I will use the lead. Could I have been using the lead too much?

Thanks for any suggestions, and sorry for the long post! I started it on Wednesday lol. I went to the vets today though (Friday) but thought i’d add that in. The kerb thing isn’t that much of an issue though. I really hope I can get the weight off! Thanks again for your help.