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.


A Month On

It has already been a month since Ushi wore her harness for the last time and retired.

On Sunday, i braught Ushi over to her puppywalkers to stay. I had tried taking her out over the past month, but she was wanting to go out with me when i was going places i couldn’t take her and when i did take her out for walks, i was aware of just how much room we took up on the pavement as Ushi wanted to walk as far out as she possibly could. Whenever i would be out for the day, Ushi would just have lay about apart from busying. She wouldn’t walk for anybody else and stopped asking for her food when my sister was looking after her. So i made the decision that it would be better for Ushi to go over to Scotland and propperly start her retirement. I took Ushi up to the vets for her final check up which was fine thankfully. I then signed the contract saying that she was going to her puppywalkers. The puppywalker was then sent some paperwork to complete and everything was all set. The ferry was booked and everything was looking good.

So on Sunday, we traveled over on the ferry to Scotland. I was a little worried about Ushi being allowed onboard with me as since she wasn’t working, she didn’t have to be on with me. Thankfully, she was allowed on which was a massive relief as i don’t think she would have coped being in a kennel, as nice as they probably are. Staff on the ferry were as helpful as always and everything went smoothly.

Ushi of course went mad when she saw her puppywalker and was like an uncoiled spring. This confirmed to me that i had indeed made the right decision. After Ushi had said her hellos, we headed off for a spot of lunch. After lunch, we drove to Port Patrick and we found a lovely little dog friendly coffee shop for some cake. Ushi got presented with some gravy bones which didn’t touch the sides at all. The cafe was lovely and like an old house that had been converted.

We walked along the harbour front for a while, but it turned quite drizzly so we headed back to the ferry terminal and waited for my ferry back. Check-in opened soon enough and it was time for good byes. Ushi, of course wasn’t the slightest bit bothered that i was leaving and trotted off happily with the puppywalker and her dad. In a way, i am glad that she wasn’t bothered and it was as quick as that as it meant we weren’t lingering and prolonging things.

It is now 3 days later and i am being kept updated as to Ushi’s progress. She has fitted in perfectly and she sounds like she is having an absolute ball. I don’t feel too bad at the minute. I do miss having a dog, but i can see photos of her on faccebook and i can text any time about her which is good. I am trying not to text too much though. I think it really helped that she did go over for a week in April as i know she is in safe hands and i know they can manage her. If i can, i would like to let any of my future dogs go for a trial period with whoever is re-homing them before they retire if i can. If i hadn’t done that, then i deffinetly think it would have been much harder to let her go.

I would like to thank everyone who has texted and messaged to make sure i am okay. Everyone has been so so kind. I really do appreciate every message. I hope Ushi has a long, happy, healthy retirement with her puppywalker and i can’t wait to visit her after a few months once she has settled in. Now, i just have to wait for a new partner to arrive and hope that it won’t be too long to wait. Thank you again Ushi for the last 7 and a half years 🙂


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 :).

Read the rest of this entry »


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.


Ushi Update

Last time i wrote, i was in
<a href="https://thebigt1.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/Please-not-yet"a serious muddle
About Ushi. She had sat down twice during her work and i could not get her moving. I seriously thought she had decided not to work.

On Monday i think it was, I took Ushi out and she worked. There was no hint of a sit down. I was so thrilled. Fair enough, it was only a walk, but i don’t mind just a walk with no destination. I didn’t work her yesterday and today i didn’t work her until later because we were in the middle of Storm Frank, so it was windy city all round. Again today there was no hint of a sit own at all. I am so thrilled. I was prepared to have to make that dreaded phone call to guide dogs and was planning my routes factoring in using the cane.

I kind of feel like i was being a little paranoid in my last post. Sorry for the drama but it really did put the willies up me. I can cope with Ushi being stubborn, but the sitting down really threw me.

Obviously, i will keep an eye on things and if it happens again then i’ll deal with it, but i’m hoping it was some sort of a blip.

As an aside, Ushi is still wanting to play with Angel our pet dog. She is actually initiating the play, whereas before, she just about tollerated Angel. I wouldn’t say she’s best buds with her, but it’s a deffinet improvement on how standoffish she used to get.

I’m so glad she is working well though-i don’t need another scare like that for a while.


Please, Not Yet

I don’t even want to write this post. Especially with it being christmas and all, but something happened the other day that has got me in a bit of a tizzy. A rather worried and panicked tizzy, come to that.

A bit of background first. On Sunday, me, my dad and my sister went up to my uncles house. We are in the middle of selling the house, so we had to go up to see when the boiler was last serviced for our celisitors. My dad and sister don’t travel well, so we walked up to the house and back to the trainstation. We also walked from my dads to the train station in Ballymena and back and then uphome. So Ushi had worked pretty hard. We took our time though and wren’t in any major rush. That was grand. I gave Ushi the day off on Monday as i had nowhere to be and Ushi had worked pretty damn hard the previous day.

On Tuesday, i was going to meet a friend and we were going to go round Ballymena as Belfast would have been mad as a place to meet up. I left to go down to the train station where i was meeting my friend, and we got a couple of car lengths away from my house when something odd happened. Ushi whipped round,as if something had got her tail. She then sat down. When i tried to get her to move forward, she stiffened up. When i felt her tail, she went in to a sit aain. I could not get her moving. It wasn’t like her normal stoppages either as she’s never sat dwn. She did sit once before randomly a few months ago, but i just carried on and thought nothing of it. My only solution was to go back home to which she happily trotted off to. She then went upstairsand on to her bed. Now, she will sometimes do this like when it was really hot over the summer, but i was able to keep her going and persevere with her so she didn’t get what she wanted which was to go home. Again though, she had never sat down though. That threw me so i ended up canceling mfriend coming as i was so muddled with what Ushi had just done.

Yesterday being Wednesday, i took her out for a free run with my dad and sister. We were walking along grand and i was working her to the free run area as i find her easier to manage on her harness. She sat down randomly again only this time we were on a road. My sister noticed and we got her going again quickly. That time worried me more. She didn’t whip round this time, but just sat. When i let her off for her free run, she had a complete ball and ran around like a loon. She worked fine for me going back home. I didn’t work her today.

Now, i don’t know what to think about this new behaviour. Ushi has shown no signs of wanting to stop working. Okay she can be a bit slow to start, but that’s been normal. Especially if i have got her off her bed or she wants to go a particular way but i can persevere and get her going. I can’t even say she’s slowed down the past while as she has always had her slow moments where she just plods along like we have all the time in the world. Usually when i need to be somewhere and need to get a wiggle on, she’ll do this. Other than that though, i can’t think of anything else new that she has done to change things.

She will be 7 in February and has had no health conditions. She has two tiny little fatty lumps, but other than that, she is grand. The only other thing she has is what i called clickity hips in that when she stands, her hips click. The vet has checked her and there is nothing he is worried about. Her fatty lumps that have been checked out are still wiggly and free so i’m not particularly worried about them. She is due her worming tablet and flea treatment in January, so when the surgery opens after the new year, i think i shall book a health check. I want to make sure nothing medical is up before i make that call to guide dogs.

I really do hope it is not retirement for Ushi. I know it has to happen eventually, but not now. Especially as it’s so sudden. Obviously if she does not want to work, i will not force her, but i was loving working her. I hope she was enjoying it as much as me. Now i’m thinking “do i work her too much?”. We have no car so we do a lot of walking. Plus i do so love working her. I know every guide dog owner says that, but i really do love it. Yes i know Ushi has her challenging moments, but i’ve learnt to work with her. It feels too soon for her to be wanting to retire. I was only saying recently how she probably won’t tell me when she wants to stop working and that it will be me who will have to make that decition.

So obviously i’m in a bit of a muddle about things. I’m hoping it is something that can be sorted, but i have a suspicion that it’s something more. I’ll see how she is over the next few days, and the vets will be my first port of call before i get guide dogs to come out and have a look. I’m really hoping things improve and that Ushi does want to continue working.

Sorry for such a serious post on christmas.

Have a happy christmas and hopefully when i next write, i’ll have news about Ushi.


Guest Posting And Some Other Blogs

I was asked a couple of weeks ago if i would like to write an article for
Jennifers’
blog. I jumped at the chance. Maybe a little too enthusiastically though lol. I thought it would be a great idea to promote my blog, as well as sharing how things were done in our team compared to other parts of the UK and around the world.

I decided to write about the journey so far, from applying, and what it was like to what would probably happen at the matching visit and such. I didn’t include
The Hotel training
That i did, as this was only a new thing, so maybe wouldn’t happen for every person. It was just a summary really. So that’s why i didn’t post it here.

I would really like to thank Jennifer for this opportunity. It is such a great idea.

Anyway Got a little side tracked there. Jennifer posted my post this week, along with some other entries. I hope it’s okay for me to post the other blogs. Anyone who was guest posting and doesn’t want to be mentioned, write a comment and i’ll delete.

So it was me starting off the week with the application process of the guidedog and other such things like what each stage entailed. Tuesdays turn was
Ro,
Who blogged about training with her first guidedog. I’ve mentioned her before, and how awesome she is. Well she still is awesome.

Wednesday was
Nickys’
Journey. He wrote about how sometimes a guidedog isn’t all roses. It is something that nobody wants to think about, but it’s good to know that everything sometimes doesn’t work out. It’s not designed to deliberately scare you, but it’s to make you aware of what could happen, I think.

On Thursday,
Becky
Stepped up to the helm. She was talking about how much she is settled now with her guidedog Cricket. She is another great blogger, and i love reading all her adventures.

Finally, it was an author of
A Wonderful book
About guidedogs for children, called “Hanny and Beth:Safe And Sound”. I wanna get a copy!!!! It sounds really interesting!!! Her blog is
Right Over here
She wrote a post about retiring her guidedog and what it was like.

This was a great idea to do. It was great to discover some new blogs along the way, and I think
Jennifer
Got some new readers. I hope you enjoy reading these other entries, and sorry i didn’t link directly to each person’s guest post. You will find them all on Jennifers’ blog, but if you really want to read my summary of what it’s like in the application process,
Read it here
I have written much more detailed entries on the stages throughout this journal though.

Thanks again Jennifer.