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.


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 🙂


My First Ice Hockey Game

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
Belfast Giants
And the
Braehead Clan
Who were a scottish team.

Once i had decided that i would go to the game, i emailed the
SSE Areena
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.


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.


Why Did I Let You Stop

It’s the Assistance dog blog carnival again, and i think i will get this in just in time as the deadline is later on today. The topic for this round is
Regrets
I hmmed and hawed about posting as i really don’t know what i would regret, but i suppose this would be the closest thing to a regret as i think of. My only regret with Ushi apart from applying for a dog earlier is…her stopping.

When i got Ushi, everything was grand until about a week after we qualified. She first of all started standing at her kerbs instead of sitting, and then the stopping started. We’d just be walking down the street, and bamb, she wouldn’t move. There were no obsticles, no reason for her to stop. I even called my dad to come look at her paws which were grand. I did not want to go to the guide dog instructors, as i thought i had caused Ushi’s stopages but eventually i had to. The instructor said i should be a bit more positive, which worked for a few days, then she stopped again. They said i needed to be more firmer with her this time, so that worked for a few days and then she stopped again. Each time she stopped, we were getting closer and closer to the house. My dad said to just walk on and she would eventually have to come with me, but i couldn’t physically do that as i didn’t want to choke her.

The district team manager came out when i called again, which put the willies up me. He was the head instructor if you will. I really thought i was in major trouble. During this time of stopping, i wanted, or had thought of giving her back. I never told anyone this until long after Ushi was sorted as i thought they would come and take her away immediately.

When the head instructor came out, i was very nervous. I would have kept Ushi on the lead when i knew people were coming. Now, when he came, Ushi jumped up all 4 paws on his chest. I really thought i was scuppered, but he just ignored her. Now, she probably wouldn’t have done this if i hadn’t kept her on the lead. This was the first and last time she ever did this.

As for the stopping, he told me that Ushi was just being a madam and i just had to tell her to get on with it and make her go forward. I was so so relieved.

During all this stopping, i only worked Ushi once a day. I think that if i had kept working her twice a day if i could, she wouldn’t have put on weight which i couldn’t get off, which would have meant she wouldn’t have had to change foods. On the other hand, she had started to eventually refuse her food she came with, and she seems to enjoy her Burnes food that she is on now. For my next dog, i plan to have her on Burnes because it is a really good food. It is not just a food saying it’s more natural but it isn’t really, it really is a decent food. The food she was on before was very greasy and smelly. It also had lots of things i did not understand when i looked up what was in it. Thankfully the Burnes, while having some additives, these are mainly vitamins and minerals. Plus it feels nicer.

Anyway, we still have the issue of stopages, but i know how to manage them now. I do find myself over annalising them though since she is 6. I really do hope she will let me know when she doesn’t want to work any more.

My secondary regret would be that i am not so nervous with my next dog since i know the ropes, but i just wanted to get everything right.

This has been my entry for the 17th ADBC. I’ll post the submissions when they are compiled.

Thanks to Brook from
Ruled by paws
for the topic idea.