Zero To Hero:Guide Dog Awards Pictures

Zero to hero
Post was a hard one. It was all about writing what was on your mind when you were writing a post or writing a post you’ve been holding back. I’ve been holding this one back for a while so thought i’d post. I emailed the posts so i’m not too sure if they all posted. I can’t seem to add alt text so i’m hoping you’ll still know what they are. Unfortunately they have the photographers contact details on them. If you can’t see them or don’t know what they are i’ll try and post them individually.

Tractor Driving Experience

I’m back again. I seem to blog one day then the motivation is gone for the next time i want to write. I’d have thought with the ipad i’d have more to write, but i don’t. So i hope someone at least reads this thing.

On Wednesday we headed down to the branch organisers brothers farm. A few months ago, we all were going to be able to drive a rally car up in Poradown which is a fair trek away from Ballymena. Unfortunately that fell threw, but our branch organiser suggested that she would ask her brother if me and another guide dog owner from the branch could drive a tractor. It was nothing to do with guide dogs at all, it would be just a little fun thing to do. The organisers brother said yes so we all headed up there on Wednesday.

We got to drive two tractors. One was a tiney vintage tractor which he collects and the other was a high tech one which did everything for you as long as it was programed into the computer. It was brilliant and the cab was all air conditioned and all. I prefered the second tractor. It was a really great experience and i would like to thank everyone involved. I’d never been behind the wheel of something so thought i’d give it a go.

I have some pictures of the day but unfortunately i don’t know what they are of apart from that they are from the drive. So i appologise for not putting up descriptions of them. Hopefully you will know what they are if you can see them though.

Sorry this post is so rushed, but i think the pictures will show more of what it was like. Enjoy.














“Making A Splash”

Here is the article from the
I did last week. After alot of asking on twitter, I finally got hold of an email address to contact. I must say that within a couple of hours of contacting them this morning, I did get a very quick response. I would like to thank Jamie Mcdowell for the nice interview, and the quick email. I didn’t say exactly what is rritten here, but even still, it was a good spread to promote guide dogs, and
Long line surf school
I’ll post the pictures at the bottom. I even got some that weren’t in the article as only two were. Thanks again Long line and the telegraph! I don’t know what the headline was though for the article. I think the title is “making a splash”. The pictures are at the start of the article. I’ll post the two that weren’t in it at the bottom then. It’s copied from a PDF so there might be some mistakes. I’ve tried to correct them. Enjoy!

Making a splash

She cannot see but Torie is still on the crest of a wave.

Making a splash:
Tori with guides
Dan Lavery (left)
and his brother
Gareth. Below,
Tori with Dan and
her guide dog Ushi
Me on the surf board with the two instructors behind me.  We are in the water.
Me and the two instructors on the sand.  Ushi is licking my face.  I can't remember what we were doing but i think we were on our knees.

As Guide Dogs Week
continues, Ballymena
girl Tori Tennant tells
Jamie McDowell how
she defied blindness
to become a surfer

Jumping into the Atlantic ocean at
this time of the year might seem a
daunting prospect, but for the die hard surfers that live along our post card perfect shores, it’s a way of life.
For those unfamiliar with our booming surf
culture, Northern Ireland is quickly becoming the place for surf tourists worldwide to
check off their list.
For people like Tori Tennant, from Ballymena, however, the sport has opened up
a whole new world of opportunities. Unlike many of the surfers you’ll see trying to
catch a wave along the north coast at the
weekend, Tori has been blind from birth.
She’s also the youngest owner of a guide
dog in the country at 22.
“I was born prematurely and that’s how
I lost my vision,” says Tori, who frequently hits the waves with the Long Line Surf
school at Benone beach near Limavady.
“I was 18 when I applied to get my guide
dog. Normally it takes six to 12 months for
the people who train them to find one
that suits you, but in my case it actually
took 15 months.
“My dog Ushi is three years old
and I finally got to meet her on my
20th birthday, so she was a lovely
birthday present.
“She’s really changed my life. I
can go to the shops and go for a walk
when I want. I always talk to her
while I’m walking along — I’m sure
passers-by wonder about me.”
Though having a guide dog has
helped Tori in her everyday life, Ushi
isn’t too keen on Tori’s new hobby. She
explains: “Ushi doesn’t like to get her
paws wet. She’s a bit of a madam. Even
when it rains it takes twice as long to go
anywhere because she doesn’t like it. So
when I go surfing she prefers to stay on
the beach.”
Being an outdoors person by nature, it
wasn’t long until Tori came across surfing.
“One of the community development
officers that works with blind people put
me in touch with a guy called Brian McDonagh, from Derry, who’s also blind,”
she explains.
“He came up with the idea of going to
Long Line Surf School which has surf boards that are specially adapted for disabled and autistic people.
“I decided to give it a go and I’m really
glad I did.
“It’s kind of scary at the start, especially when the waves go over your head because it’s easy to get disorientated, but
Dan Lavery and the other instructors are
with us at all times and they’re lifeguards
as well.”
She adds: “It’s a great feeling when I’m
on a wave and I’m zooming along.
“The boards are good because I have
two handles at the front to hold on to and
there’s room at the back for the instructor
to hold on as well.
“There’s a good group of blind people
who’re trying surfing now, and even the instructors have tried surfing blindfolded to
see what it’s like for us.
“I think things like surfing for disabled
people really opens peoples’ attitudes to the
possibilities there are. I mean why not?”

Dan Lavery (22) and his brother Gareth
run Long Line Surf School which was set
up only a year ago, and since then they’ve
pioneered surfing for the disabled.
Dan explains: “I was working at a surf
school in Cornwall when I came up with
the concept.
“I live in Benone myself and I knew
that we wanted to open a surf school but
we didn’t want to leave anyone out — we
didn’t want to have to turn anyone away because of a disability.”
He adds: “I have a friend in Cornwall
who makes surfboards, so I got these big
9ft 6in boards made that have three straps
along each side and room at the back for
the instructor. This means that if a person
with a disability is on the board, we can
paddle them into the wave and it takes
away a lot of the intimidation that people
might feel.”
Dan’s take on surfing for disabled people has proved a huge success, but it’s only
recently that he’s realised that blind people can take part in the surfing, too.
He explains: “So far we’ve mostly been
going surfing with people with autism or
wheelchair users, but after bumping into
someone from the Guide Dogs NI, we decided to let some blind people give it a try.
“It’s amazing the response we get from
people who’re trying surfing for the first
time. It really hits home when you’re out
there, the level of trust they’re putting in
“My brother Gareth even decided to try
surfing blindfolded and after falling off his
board he became really disorientated.
“We’ve now made some blacked out
goggles so that all of the instructors can try
it so they understand how scary it can
He adds: “We’ve also introduced a blind
surfing section to our surfing competitions so competitive surfers can get an
idea of what it’s like as well.”
For more information on the Long Line Surf
School visit http://www.longlinesurf.con

It costs Guide Dogs around £50,000 to
support a guide dog from birth to retirement

It takes around 20 months of specialised
training to transform a newborn puppy
into a confident guide dog

A Walk My Way event will be taking
place in Belfast in the grounds of City Hall
today from 10:30am until 4pm, where
members of the public can come and experience how visually impaired people get
out and about

You can have a go at a blindfolded walk
around an obstacle course using a long
cane or with a guide dog in harness, and
experience being guided by a volunteer

For more information on Guide Dogs,
visit or on Face-
book at

An instructor holds the surfboard upright on the sand.  Me and Ushi are beside it.  Ushi is lying down
Me and the instructor catching a wave

Surfing For The Belfast Telegraph

On Wednesday i got a call from guide dogs saying that the
Belfast Telegraph
Wanted to do a piece about the surfing
I took part in in July. So i said i would go down but that i would need a driver. (I wish i didn’t have to ask them but they are there to help us i suppose). I had texted our branch organiser saying i wasn’t sure whither to bring Ushi but that i would love to. I then got a text from my volunteer driver saying she’d love to take Ushi a walk as i surfed. So that was sorted! Ushi was coming after all.

So at about a quarter to 10 we hit the road. We had arrived early so we took Ushi for a quick run on the beach before we were to get suited up in our wetsuits. She loved it. I braught her Goughnut too and she played with it for a while before getting bored. She sniffed some seaweed before a wave came up behind her and quickly made her drop it lol. We headed up to the boardwalk again after that to get our wetsuits.

I am pleased to say there are now new changing rooms for people, which are much bigger than the last ones when i was first down there. The wetsuit was still its huge awkward self but we eventually got it on. I would have thought Ushi might find the suit a bit strange but she could have cared less about it. She did however lick my foot as i was putting on my wetsuit boots lol.

We were then ready to head back down to the beach. We tried to get Ushi to stand on a board on the sand, but she was having none of it, prefering to jump over it. She then had a great roll around the sand and started kicking it up. She even kicked me out of the way at one point lol as if to say this is my photo.

I would have expected her to come out and rescue me when i went in to surf, but the volunteer driver who was going to take her for a walk just let her run about, and she apparently sat watching me for a while, before lying down. She apparently had a really disgusting look on her face as if to say “what are you doing in that wet? Come here and be with me on dry land”.

The surf was great, and i found myself not being as nervous as i was before. I’m glad to say the waves weren’t as big as the last time so they didn’t go over my head. I don’t like the feeling when that happens.

There was one point where the photographer wanted all three of us on the board (two instructors and me). I thought it was alright for him to say that when he is on the shore, he wasn’t out on the board! We managed to get squeezed in though, but when we were out the lens on his camera stopped working!

When we arrived back at the beach, Ushi didn’t even come to greet us, rather we had to greet her! We had to get a photo of us in about ankle deep water which Ushi wasn’t a fan of. One photo of me with my arm resting on the board, i had to hold my arm round Ushi as she wanted to lie down but the photographer wanted her to sit.

It was then up to get changed.

We had a spot of lunch before we left, and then headed for home.

On the way, we called into the volunteer drivers house as she wanted to let me and Ushi meet her Elk hound. He was away for a walk, so we got to meet Pippa the jack russle instead. Ushi didn’t know what to make of her. I think she thought she was a wind up toy! She then wanted to go into the volunteers house lol.

I would like to thank the volunteer driver, and the folks at Long line surf school for today. Remember to look out for the Belfast telegraph over the next couple of days.

Puppy Pictures!

A few days ago Ushi’s puppywalker emailed me some photos of her as a pup. I’m not even sure if I should be putting these up, but I thought you would all like to see them. I’m sure this will be okay me putting these up.

There are quite alot of them, so sorry. Thanks again


For the descriptions. I promise these will be the last you’ll have to do for a while! Anyway here are the pictures….


Solona Rave

In a previous entry, I mentioned
New service called “Rave”.

Well I sent them off an email shortly after writing that entry, and had no response. I sent them off a polite email asking what the craic was. I then just on the off chance, decided to look in my “Junk” folder, and guess what was there! Oops. So another email later explaining that I had, in fact got my question answered. Oops. I was all ready to get all bitchy here too lol.

So what do I think of Solona Rave? It’s quite a good service, the only drawback being that you can only submit an image at a time. It can take from a few minutes to a couple of days before you get your question answered, but always check the junk folder first before anything if you haven’t received the answer to your first question.

So let’s hope it continues to be a good service! At least you don’t need to get someone to ask what the image is any more! Although sometimes sighted people can describe things better lol.

I just thought you all might like to learn about this service!

Calendar Girl!

Our guide dog team, like many others, are selling calendars for christmas this year. I was asked a few days ago if I would like a CD with Ushi’s pictures from the calendar. Not being one to knock up such an opportunity, I said yes!

The CD arrived today. There are only three pictures though. I’m not sure what month Ushi is in as I haven’t got the calendar yet. Here are the photos hopefully. Thanks
For the descriptions!

I hope you like those photos. Thanks again Terry for the descriptions.

In other news, we have just these past couple of days had really bad conditions. It started snowing yesterday for a bit. It was more sleet though. This morning it has been rather slippy underfoot. I thought it was going to be so bad that I couldn’t work Ushi. I was in fact able to work her, even if it was just the short route. I don’t want to be just using the short route though-otherwise we could be doing that all winter long!

Tonight it was so icey that I had to litterally go one step at a time down to the garden for Ushi’s spending! Must have taken us about 10 minutes to get down there. Well maybe not that long, but far longer than it should have. I took a step, then got Ushi to “steady” all the way down. The last thing we would need would be to fall on our arses going down! Mum said that Ushi kept watching the ground lol. She was probably wondering why we were going so slow!

Remember ages ago I told you about how we were getting our kitchen re done by our housing organisation? Well it was meant to be in January, but it has been moved forward to just over a week from now! I am dreading it to be honest. It’s going to be total chaos. Basically, they are knocking down one of our kitchen walls. Our kitchen is being made bigger, so will be all open plan with the dining room. It’ll be nothing but noise and hell! Maybe that’s an exageration, but they will have to re do the heating and all too.

Luckily enough there is another way to get out to the garden for Ushi’s sake, rather than having to take her through the kitchen where god kknows what state it’ll be in!

In response to
My last entry
In which I talked about how I thought Ushi was too gentle with me and her coming back, I tried a few things. I basically go as far back as I can, throw one of her toys, and have started telling her to “come”. She lies a few feet away with it, then I get it off her. I could always use a treat or someting to get her to come right up? What do you reckon? I’ll see what happens. Thanks for the comments on that by the way.

I just thought i’d just keep you all up to date, and my main reason for posting was of course the pictures! I hope you all enjoy them, and I know the descriptions prob don’t do it justice, but hopefully they will be okay for totally blind guys!

I hope also that the ice doesn’t last too long here! Want to do more of my routes!