Hanging Up The Harness

Today, Ushi wore her harness for the last time. In

My last post

I had written about how i had to make that final call about Ushis’ working. That was still the hardest part for me. She worked as well as she normally works when she wants to on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday was a lovely walk for her to finish her working life. I went out for a walk with a group from Holywood to Cultraw and back again. Ushi was really stepping out, but then it was a new place and there were other dogs there too. I had made the decision in my head that that would probably be her last working walk and i was right. I tried to work her on Wednesday and Thursday but it wasn’t happening. I am glad her last walk was such a good one on Tuesday.

So this morning, guide dogs came out to see Ushi working before we made a decision. I told them that i really didn’t know if she would work, but we went out and gave it a go. Unfortunately, we only got a short way up the street before she put the breaks on and decided not to work. The decision was made there and then that she would retire. As soon as we turned back towards the house, her tail went back up again and she was as happy as larry. That confirmed in my mind that she really wasn’t wanting to work any more. Of course i am disappointed, but i know that there is no point in keeping trying when she is clearly not happy. I gave back the harness and we discussed where Ushi will go for her retirement home. I decided long ago that she would go to her puppywalker as i could not keep her. Of course i would love to keep her, but i don’t think it would be fair on her to see me working with a new dog. Plus, we are still at home so we have our pet dog too so there just wouldn’t be the room to have 3 dogs. Thankfully, Ushis’ puppywalkers are more than happy to have her back which is brilliant. Ushi has already been over for a week to make sure they can manage having her plus their withdrawn dog and they loved having her. So in a way that makes it easier knowing she will be happy over in Scotland. I plan to keep Ushi as long as i can before she goes over to Scotland.

We then went out again with just my cane as i wanted to make sure that Ushi would walk with me with just my cane. She was a little unsure at first, but i think she will get used to it as she just trotted along beside me. I could immidiately feel the difference in her. I will obviously only take her for walks now and not in to any shops or anything. Whilst it is up to the individual shops as to whether they let me in or not now, i don’t want to go round every shop that i go in to asking if Ushi can come in. Plus, why would i take her in to shops when she isn’t working any more?

So it’s back to the good old cane for now. I am glad i put myself back on the list when i did, rather than waiting. It feels weird not having the harness, but in a way, it is just like when we qualified and weren’t allowed to have the harness. The only difference is now that she is older.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me texts and commented on facebook. Everyone has been so kind. I don’t feel too bad at the minute. I suppose i know it was the right decision and i know she will be happy when she does go to her puppywalkers. I just have to hope that a new dog comes along soon.

Finally, i would like to thank Ushi for these past 7 and a half years. I know she has always had her little issues and stops, but once i figured out how to manage those, she did do some brilliant work for me. When i first got her, she really wasn’t that confident at all, but she has grown in to a very confident pup. She takes everything in her stride. I have grown in confidence myself, and am doing far more than i did before i got Ushi. I am looking forward to working with a new dog and will enjoy Ushi until i feel that she needs to move on. Thank you Ushi for being such a wonderful worker, despite your little quirks. I have loved it all :).

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Making That Call

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.