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.
I’m not long back from my first ice hockey game.
A couple of weeks ago, Ushi’s puppywalker messaged me to tell me that she was coming over in a couple of weeks and would i like to meet up. Her partner was playing in an ice hockey game so that was why they were mainly coming over. Of course i said yes. She said that i was welcome to join her at the ice hockey game if i wanted as they had a free ticket going spare. I wasn’t sure about going at first because i didn’t think i would get much out of it. The last time i was offered to go to an ice hockey game was at a youth club i used to go to but i declined that time. This time though, i thought “what have i got to lose?””. The game was against the
Who were a scottish team.
Once i had decided that i would go to the game, i emailed the
To see if they offered some kind of audio description or at least an audio comentry so i could follow the game. When i emailed, they weren’t sure, but offered to look in to it for me. They soon got back to me and explained that they had no audio description, but could offer me a link to the live comentry for their web cast service which would link in to a hearing loop system. They also alerted me to the fact that the arreena used pyro tecnics at the start of the game and that they would be happy to have Ushi should i need to have her leave the arreena and bring her back in at a suitable time. I was mulling this over and decided just to play it by ear and see how she went.
So today i first of all went and did my parkrun, before eventually leaving and getting the 2 o’clock train up to Belfast. I got the bus up to Station street, where Ushi’s puppywalker and her friend met me before we all walked to the areena. We first of all went to Pizza hut to grab something to eat. Lots of pictures were taken of Ushi by her puppywalker. I had last visited Ushis’ puppywalker about 3 years ago so she was deffinetly glad to see Ushi. Ushi however was not in a posing mood. Once we were all fed and watered, we took Ushi for a busy where she decided to show off and roll around the grass a few times like a total loon. More pictures were taken which i did not mind at all.
We hung around outside until the areena opened their doors at 6 o’clock for the 7 o’clock game. The event manager of the areena met us, and told us that they had reserved disabled seats as they didn’t want Ushi getting trampled on during the game. They advised us of the pyro tecnics again and showed me how to work the hearing loop system. This was like a tiny little match box with a volume control which was also the on/off switch. I was given a spare in case the first one didn’t work and a pair of headphones. They had told me that they had never had a visually impaired person request a comentry, so weren’t sure how useful it would be. They also advised us that because the Braehead Clan were running a little bit late, the game wouldn’t start until half 7. We were left to our own devices for a while until the game started. I fed Ushi while i was waiting since i knew there was grass outside.
There was music being blasted out across the ice rink, before the ice hockey teams came on to warm up and practice a little. Details were also given about a raffle to win a signed jurzy from one of the players, and tickets were being sold called 50 50 tickets. This was where whoever baught one of these tickets was put in to a draw at the end of the game to win all of the money that was made from selling the tickets. It was split half between the areena and the person who won it. Warnings were also given about the use of pyro tecnics.
The pyro tecnics vidio came on and everything was grand until there were two huge bangs that sounded like huge fireworks. Ushi found this quite hard and started trembling so her puppywalker took her out for me. I’m not sure if the firework sounds scared her though as shortly after she was brought in again she started shaking again. We quickly discovered she was in desperate need of a loo break so were wondering if it was that and not the sounds at all. After that was taken care of, she slept for most of the game. She did appear to get a little cold at times though.
The game is split in to 3 20 minute periods. In between, the players would get a chance to stretch etc before coming back on to the ice. The ice also had to be re surfaced after each 20 minute session. I must say the audio comentry was fantastic. I was able to follow exactly what was going on at every point. The music was a bit loud when goals were scored, but i just adjusted the volume a little. The quality was very professional. I didn’t understand some parts, but got the main jist of it. I pointed out to the areena that since they use this for hearing loops anyway, they should offer it out to visually impaired people. The game needed no further describing. You certainly get carried along with the atmosphere of the game. The sport itself seems quite violent, with quite a few penalties just in the first 20 minutes. There was also a fight that broke out between the players in the last half. The crowd really enjoyed themselves too, supporting whichever team was scoring. There was also a drum that was being beaten each time the crowd chanted for a team. The players also did fun things like jumping on the ice and things once their 20 minutes were over before returning propperly to the game after each session. There was also pizzas being given to random people and random subways being given out too. They passed us by though lol.
I would like to thank Ushi’s puppywalker for inviting me to the game. I think i would attend another. I would also like to thank the SSE Areena for being so acomidating, not only with the comentry, but also with checking regularly on Ushi and making sure we were all comfortable.
It was deffinetly a good experience, and i plan to go again just for the craic :).
Oh and the score was 4 2 to the Braehead Clan which was the team that Ushi’s puppywalkers’ partner played for.
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….