One Year Retired

I can’t believe that Ushi is retired a year already. It really doesn’t feel that long.

Other guide dog owners would have always said that you would know when your dog needed to retire,

But i never really believed it. Ushi certainly was telling me loud and clear that she wanted to retire. So much so that every day was a battle with her and i never knew from day to day if she would work or if we would get to the top of our path before having to turn back home again. Even on the day that guide dogs came out to see her to consider retirement, we barely got two car lengths up the street before she had made her final decision. Even then, it was incredibly slow going and we were literally crawling up the street.

I did keep Ushi for a month after she retired, and i’m glad i did. It was hard though as when i took her for a walk with my cane, she was so far out on the pavement. Even when i was being guided, she walked so so far over to the left that we took up quite a lot of room on the pavement. It wouldn’t have been fair though for me to keep her longer than a month though as she really was ready to go to her new home.

People have often told me that retiring a dog must be like your dog dying but i don’t like that analogy. Yes, it was hard when she retired, but i guess it was easier because she retired when she wanted to and she had worked her full term. I might have found it harder if, say, i was on my own or if it was sudden but it wasn’t as hard as i expected it to be and deffinetly nothing like a dog passing away although i am sure for some people it probably is like this.

During the last year, i made myself keep up with using my cane. I knew it would either be a case of using my cane or ending up in a very different place mentally. I also didn’t want to forget any routes i’d learned for when i got a new dog. This really was hard as it took so much concentration. I knew i had to do it though. I also didn’t feel as fit using the cane and would just go to where i needed to go rather than going for a walk or exploring places. I continued walking parkrun too but i still knew i’d lost some of my fitness that you only get from whizzing about with your dog.

I would say this last year would have been so much harder if i didn’t get matched with Vivvy six months after Ushi retiring. I thought i’d have been waiting at least a year if not more for a new dog.

The year really has flown in and i am making tentative plans to see Ushi in July possibly so i can’t wait for that. People still ask me how Ushi is doing and some people even have thought that Vivvy was Ushi. I still get regular updates and i really do know that Ushi is well and truly settled in her new home.


Exactly One Year

It was exacctly one year ago today that Ushi, my last guide dog had what was to be her final good walk.

I wasn’t sure if i would take her with me as she hadn’t been working well in the days before, but i was so glad i did and i was so glad Ushi actually wanted to work that day. We had gotten the train to Holywood, where we joined in with a walking group and we walked along the sea front. Ushi was walking well and striding out nicely. It made me long for her to keep working, but i knew deep down that this was our last, good walk together. It was so lovely just to be striding out in front of everyone.

After a few hours, we ended up heading for lunch, before we all got the train home again. I had already made the call that every guide dog owner dreads, but needs to do, saying that Ushi really wasn’t working well, but i knew i had to make that final call to say that Ushi really was ready to retire. That again was a difficult call, but even though we’d had a good walk that day, i had to face up to the fact that our walks hadn’t been so good before that. A date was set and the instructor would be out within a few days of that call.

We finished that day with a cheque presentation for Guide dogs. I tried working her over the days that followed, but they were not to be. I really did enjoy our last walk together and we both knew that this was our last as a working team.

I’m not really sure what the point of this post was, other than i’m feeling reflective. Things are a lot more different now a year later, which i didn’t imagine having another dog so soon, but that’s a post for another day. I will write another post on her retirement anniversary but this is just to say that if anyone is going through similar, you will get through it. It will be hard, but you will manage somehow, and you will always know when the time is right for you and your dog for retirement. I never understood this but you really will know.


This Time Last Year…Food

You’ll be pleased to know that number one this is going to be a short one as i want to write another post and two this is the last in the series i’ve doing about reflecting on this last year with Ushi. I hope you enjoyed it. It was quite hard to write as i felt like i had to rather than wanting to. Plus i thought you all were getting bored.

This time last year we were in the middle of getting our kitchen redone by the housing executive. Ushi had been fine for most of it, but there was one point where she became very hesitant to eat. We had many
Frustrating days
Where she took an age to eat. She had her food with water in it since i got her but one day she just decided to not bother. I had many days of frustration until one day i felt things needed to change so had a little chat to her. She probably didn’t understand but within a couple of days she was eating okay again.

She now eats her food dry with water beside her. She used to be very lazy and there were times where i would have to shake the food in front of her before she would get off her bed to eat it. She is sometimes like that still or sometimes she will sit at my bed and whine for it. While this is a good sign, she will sometimes do it almost an hour before i need to feed her! I just send her back to bed.

I noticed something strange when she eats her dinner. Very ocasionally after she has eaten and spent she will be sick. The first time this happened i thought she had eaten something. It has happened a couple more times though. I haven’t done anything strange and have it practically drummed into everyone here that Ushi must not be played with for at least an hour after her food. I even check the time when she starts eating and work out an hour from then. (We are told not to work them for at least an hour after feeding, and not to feed until two hours after a free run). Ushi herself usually lies and chews her bone.

I think i may have worked out what was causing it. I usually leave her for at least an hour each day. When i come back it is around half 5. I usually fed her about 10 minutes after, but have decided to leave it maybe 20 minutes. While Ushi doesn’t really bound, she will still be a little excited to see me back again. She is such a chilled dog though that after she has slid herself along the wall opposite our room, she will lie on her back then come in and sit beside me until the food is prepared. Since i have started to wait longer before feeding she hasn’t been sick in about three weeks. So maybe it was just that i needed to wait a little before feeding. I carry a bag with me though in my pocket in case after she comes in i need to use it but thankfully i haven’t. So god knows what the craic was.

I do know that one thing i have learnt though over the past year is that Ushi doesn’t like working for her food. I baught her a
Kong wobbler
A few months ago and although she did get excited when i put food in it, she just wouldn’t use it. Instead she would whine at it and paw it for a few times before lying or sitting whining at it until you opened it. So I gave it to my friend who thankfully is making some use of it.

It is even a push to get her to use a regular kong but she will eventually. I have a weird dog i think.

I will probably write more later, but i’m going to leave this now. I hope you don’t find it boring.


This Time Last Year…Toys

I’m thinking of wrapping up this series. I only really have one more post, and to be honest i’m sure they are getting boring. Today i thought i’d talk about her toys.

This time last year, I worried i was being
Too gentle

With Ushi. Ushi didn’t seem to be that interested in me tugging her tug toy. She now will tug a little longer and seems to enjoy when i do it now. I still do it as gently as before though. Sometimes my brothers will want to tug with her but i am very careful in case she lets go or pulls too hard.

I was thinking what to get Ushi for christmas this year. I don’t have to get her anything, but i won’t resist the chance to spoil her. I just don’t have a clue though what to get her. She has already got:
A
Kong Tales

Which is a kong with nylon strips coming out of it. There is a squeaker encased in the nylon and a loop which you can hold onto. You can tug, shake and throw it, but Ushi prefers me to throw it.

Next, is a toy called
Hide a squirrel
This is a cuddly tree trunk with three wholes inside it. The dog then has to get three squeaky squirrels out. It took ages for Ushi to figure out what to do with it, but now she loves it. I would like to get her something similar as the toys where you hide food don’t interest her at all. It’s a stretch to get her to get food out of her normal kong, never mind something like a

Kong Wobbler
Which i had got her but she would paw it for a few minutes before getting bored and just deciding to either lie with it between her paws, or whine insessently until someone decided to get the thing open for her. She didn’t like working for her food at all. I had to give it away where it has found a loving home with my friends dog Della who uses it no bother.

Finally, her latest toy is a
Max black goughnut
Which she loves. I didn’t think it would be so big though and on second thoughts could have been a bit too big but Ushi still has great fun with it. I thinnk it is more of an outside toy though since it has quite a bounce.

So any suggestions as to what to get ushi would be helpful. I sometimes think she isn’t really a lab since she doesn’t like working for food. She will eat food if it is offered to her though. Maybe i just have a weird dog.


This Time Last Year…Getting Lost

Today seems to be dragging in a little. I do have another post to write but i’ll do it later.

This time last year,
I got lost
I had decided to work Ushi before my instructor had come to teach me a new route. I think it had been raining the day before so Ushi wanted to go exploring. We ended up a path that i didn’t even know existed! I phoned my mum and said that there was a tree behind me and grass on my left lol.

I’m pleased to say that i have only gotten lost about 4 times since i got Ushi. Once was in the snow where ushi just couldn’t find a kerb, and another time was because they were sandblasting a house so it was really confusing. I have found though that there is never anyone around whenever you do get lost. It’s always that there are loads of people when you don’t need anyone. I always carry my phone with me just in case.

I do sometimes get a bit disorientated, but i can usually get back on track. The slightest thing can distract us from a leaf that catches Ushi’s attention, to us just not being on the ball.

We also learnt a route into town. I now use this route for my quilting course which i do every monday morning.

I think every partnership needs to get lost at least once. Yes it can be scarey, but if it happens, you’ll know why it happened the next time and it teaches you how to problem solve. I just wish more people were available when you needed them! Usually the common response is “i’m not from here” or “English isn’t my first language”. I remember one time coming out of our local Co opp, and i got a bit confused. A polish man came up to me and his daughter who could speak english directed me while she translated back to her dad what she was telling me!

Last night i got a call from a very distressed branch organiser. She was supposed to go to a fold with another guide dog owner, but the guide dog owner forgot, so I said i would do it. It was a good visit, and we were selling christmas cards and stuff. The branch organiser had said that she would take some of the stock that the Derry branch were unable to sell. All that stock is sold, but thankfully we only have one more event before the end of the year. We won’t start up again until January. January is when we get our next budget for the year too. So i think the branch organiser is hoping that one of the other branches have some more stock.

I nearly decapitated poor Ushi on the way out of the fold though. I was getting into the car and we had the car open. There was a car just beside us and i didn’t notice that ushi was standing behind the open car door. She then tried to put her head under the door and get in that way! I then had to step back so she could get out again.

I decided to work Ushi as soon as i got home because i hadn’t worked her before going to the fold. Ushi was rather confused and walked very slowly on our short walk. She’s been sleeping ever since really apart from eating and spending. I’ve never known such a lazy dog!


This Time Last Year…Photo

This time last year,
Was mine and Ushi’s
First photo opportunity. It was with our local papers. My rehab worker wanted to show a newly qualified team with a more experienced team (and there is only one other guide dog owner in Ballymena since my friend hadn’t been matched yet).

I was a bit nervous about having Ushi’s photo taken since we can’t officially fundraise until we are at least 6 months qualified. This is so that you can get used to each other as a team. I got so many compliments that day though about her coat and such. I always just smile and say thanks.

I never actually got the photo as it was a scanned picture.

I also spent my first time in a coffee shop with ushi and she was grand.

I had came to the fundraising meetings after that but my first fundraising event wasn’t until March I think. I can’t remember what it was though. I’ve just had a quick look, and my first fundraiser was in April, and it was a
Jollyes Collection
I was a bit nervous then, but now i’ve done plenty of events. The only event i won’t do is street collections as i feel that they can be a bit too much, and i would rather be sitting rather than standing. Plus i feel that if you are doing a street collection, people don’t get the same opportunity to ask you questions i feel and it is constantly busy. Maybe someday i will collect though.

Today was a great working day. We had a little spring in our steps!

I’ve got aftercare on Monday so i’ll let you know how that goes. I’m not having any issues so i’m just going to do a regular route. (I’m not going to learn any new routes though because i don’t think there would be much point to start a new route for us not to be able to do it because of the weather. So i’m just going to leave it until the spring and just stick to our regular boring routes. I’ll let you know how Monday goes.


This Time Last Year…A Solution!

I’m finally catching up on all those blog posts i was writing over the past couple of days.

We had a visit from the
District team manager
Last year. I was so nervous since he was the manager and thought i had done someting to make her stop.

Ushi jumped up on the manager when he came to the house which i was mortified about! Thankfully he was okay with it and she hasn’t really done it since.

He discovered her little whines she used to do but doesn’t do any more while working.

We didn’t go straight up to the kerb outside our house and sometimes we don’t do that since she will stop if we do go up to the kerb and turn right sometimes.

Thankfully the stopping did stop and when she does it now i know how to deal with it and just tell her to get on with it. I sometimes sound like i want to kill her!

In the next post in this series, Ushi decides to leave a little something behind when we go shopping. I was mortified that day!