I am going to tell you my story about retiring my current guide dog and the journey with my next one.
You would look to retiring a guide dog when they are around ten years old, Mindi my second guide dog will be that age in ten months’ time. Due to the number of people waiting for a guide dog in this area at this present time I was advised to make a new application for a new dog sooner rather than later because I could have up to an eighteen month wait. A guide dog instructor came out to see me and filled in some forms which included questions about my health, lifestyle, what sort of routes I took, etc. Then we went out for a short handle walk this is when the instructor holds the harness as though they were a dog and I hold the handle and we go for a walk, you feel really silly, but this is important for them to do because they assess your walking speed, how much tension you like, how good you are at following a dog guiding you around obstacles, how much you can see and how much aware you are at what is around you and your capability of giving commands and correction to a dog. A form was then sent to my GP to ask if I was medically capable of working a dog and training with one. I was then accepted and put on the list for my third dog, but while I still have a dog I am only a priority two so I will not get one for some time.
Well this week sees the start of a new stage in my life and the life of my long serving second guide dog Mindi. She will shortly be 10 years old so we made her retirement date official which will be the 31st of March. Even though it will break my heart Mindi is going to live with a lovely woman, who is a vet nurse and her little dog. Mindi is already good friends with them both. I am going to put regular posts up about my journey of Mindi retiring, how I cope when she has gone and then the process and training of getting a new dog. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way.
Big surprises this week! A couple of weeks ago I announced that my guide dog Mindi was retiring at the end of March. On Monday, this week Mindi was on a few days visit with the lady who is having her when she retires, I was feeling a little low Monday morning missing her and thinking what it was going to be like after she retires not wanting to go out of the house. Then a surprise call came from guide dogs, they wanted to bring a dog out to see me that might be a potential match. So, Wednesday I met her I was so excited and I had a little walk with her and Yes, it’s a match and I go training with her on the 6th of March. This means that Mindi will have to retire even earlier than expected but it was such a joy telling the lady who is having her. I thought I was going to be telling you all about how difficult it is getting out and about with a white stick for months but thankfully not to be. My new dog is a very tiny cute yellow lab/retriever cross called Darcy who looks as though she will be full of fun and eager to work, so watch this space for all the news.
Hi everyone I have been on a second walk with Darcy my new dog, the first matching walk was on a route that she has been training on but I was not familiar with, the second walk was on a route I was confident on but Darcy had not done. In the early stages of training with a guide dog the trainer will have a long lead on while you are working the dog until she starts listening to me. So we set off on the walk Darcy was a little bit naughty at sniffing because she was excited at doing a new route so I had to be a little firmer this time and work hard at keeping her attention. Because she was so excited at doing a new route she had a little accident she had a number two she did this in the gutter though and we cleaned it up, guide dogs are trained not to go to the toilet whilst they are working, but sometimes they just can’t help it, especially in the early stages. She was also being a little monkey at not sitting at kerbs on this occasion and not listening to the commands I was giving her. I am not worried about any of this because a lot of this will come when I start building the bond up with her when I go on training. I was still really pleased with her, I felt comfortable with her and she did some good work even when a tied-up dog was giving her some grief she did not bat an eyelid at it and as some of you know that makes a change for me because my Mindi was a little monster with dogs on the street. Darcy looks as though she is a little clever clogs, on the return route home I was giving her commands telling her to go left, right etc. and my trainer said that she had a look of ‘I already knew that!’ And she took me back to my gate even though it was the first time we had walked back to my house. I am really looking forward to training with her and getting out and about.
Oh, we are getting into doing last things with Mindi as a guide dog she has just been in her last restaurant she was a good girl no trouble at all as usual which is more than I can say for me and Alan creating chaos.
Sad times the last few days with my guide dog Mindi everyone who knows her is saying goodbye we had a little retirement party for her at my friend’s house yesterday. The photos are of Mindi and six guide dog friends that were at the party and a photo of Mindi with her tiger that was a retirement present. I have a busy few days ahead Mindi goes on Thursday so it will be here before we know it.
There’s been tears today. Mindi’s last few days with me have been very busy but she has worked well but today she hung her harness up and retired to the country. Her last walk was to the local shops, on our return journey unknown to us Alan my partner took some film footage of us walking down our street, another surprise was that Mindi’s new owner was there to see her finish many years of service. The surprises did not stop there she had kindly brought some lovely keepsake gifts, a necklace with the braille letter M on a pendant along with a framed dog poem about dogs and what they do with Mindi’s name printed above. It was hard saying goodbye there were hugs all round. I shed a few tears after she left, even though I kept myself busy pottering around the house, she has been in my thoughts all day. It’s now time Mindi for you to have fun, I am so grateful to Ray for taking her on, it is a good thing what she is doing and it makes it easier for me knowing she will be well looked after and loved.
Photo is of Mindi and Ray in our house before they left:
Been on Radio Sheffield today. Rony was doing a challenge of getting 50 things that people were doing in March. Alan thought I would not be brave enough to go on but I proved him wrong, I went on live at 1.30 p.m. my heart was beating ten to the dozen. I told Rony that I retired Mindi yesterday and I was going training with my new dog on Monday. This was the same presenter that followed Alan on his guide dog training last year. I also had a minor accident today and bruised the bottom of my foot so I am hobbling around a little, hope it gets better for training in time for all that pounding the streets with my new dog on Wednesday.
Well the time has come, I go to the hotel for two weeks to train with my new guide dog. I’m all packed and house all cleaned don’t know how long it will stay that way with my partner Alan left to his own devices. I am looking forward to having a break from cooking and cleaning and meeting Darcy again.
Poor Alan! As well as running the business on his own for two weeks he will have to look after himself I don’t think there will be much cooking done though, I think there will be plenty of take-aways.
I am here! I arrived at the hotel this morning Alan accompanied me to help me with my bags, as I had packed everything but the kitchen sink, well a minI fridge anyway. What a surprise I am in the same room as when I trained with Mindi, it is very comfortable. After unpacking we all met in the training room and un beknown to me I sat in the same chair that Alan was sat in for training last year with Velvet. We all then got to know each other I have drawn the short straw I am the only lady in class, the other four are men. We then had lunch, I think I will be twice the size after training with the amount of food they provided. The afternoon was learning our way around the hotel areas that we will be using. Then it was like Christmas we were issued all the equipment for our dogs, dog mat, bowls, leads, collars, harness etc. etc. After that was the boring bit we went through a long agreement that says what we as guide dog owners must agree to and what we expect from the guide dog association. Then that was it for today we had a pleasant evening meal getting to know the others but as I thought I was the odd one out when all those men talk soon turned to football. I will have to get my own back sometime with maybe shopping as a subject? News from home, Alan’s first meal he cooked for himself, his lunch! He dropped a glass bowl lid on the floor so there was glass all over the kitchen, told you, the house would not stay clean for long. The exciting bit happens tomorrow I get Darcy after lunch for keeps.
Update from Mindi she is keeping her new owner busy washing towels she is letting her hair down by finding the muddiest puddles.
Darcy Day! Did not sleep so well last night in a strange bed, but was looking forward to the day ahead. After breakfast we congregated in the training room to practice, with our trainer house obedience before getting our dogs. This involved feeling silly again! The trainer pretends that they are the dog; you have to knock on the door and get your dog to sit, open the door putting your back against it making your dog wait and then telling your dog to come through the door. This is done to come through the door safely without trapping the dog; it is also to start to get the dog listening to you.
Then the trainers went to collect the dogs from the boarders, which understandably were upset to be letting them go. A big thank you to them for looking after our dogs, whilst they were doing their advanced training. A special thanks to the two little girls who Darcy lived with and played with whilst she was not learning to be a guide dog.
Whilst the trainers were collecting the dogs we had a mobility instructor practice the route to the dog pen area where the dogs will go to the toilet. After a huge lunch again, the trainers gave us a little talk telling us how we were going to be introduced to our new dogs. Whilst this was happening the dogs were waiting in the cars, we heard a woof from the cars and apparently it was Darcy being a little impatient I think.
Then the time had arrived we were sent to our rooms and I checked around to make sure there was nothing she could pick up and waited patiently. We were told to leave our door on the latch so the trainer could come in with the dog; Darcy tried to open the door herself in the excitement instead of sitting at the door like she is trained. When she came in, my trainer let her off the lead and Darcy explored the room, she then realised that I was there and greeted me with excitement. The trainer then left and we were on our own. Darcy sat at my feet most of the time with me, I was talking to her and stroking her, she kept her eyes on the door and went to it a couple of times cried a little and gave one big bark telling the trainer off for leaving her I guess. She quickly settled down and she was laid on her back having a tummy rub, I also got a couple of nose licks. The trainer later came in to bring a bag of things from Darcy’s boarder, her eyes lit up when she saw the rubber ring then she promptly started to tug at the other side with some enthusiasm.
We all met back in the room with our dogs, keeping them under control is a tricky time when they see all the other dogs. The trainer then gave us another little talk about what to expect and do in this important time of the dogs settling with us.
To finish the day we went through the feeding routine with our trainer, whilst I was getting Darcy’s food from another room she was being impatient and barking for her tea. She is now snoozing at my feet whilst I am typing this; it’s been a big day for my little miss Darcy.
It’s the third day of training; I did not sleep so well again last night. Alan is bringing my own pillow from home later, maybe this will help. Little miss Darcy however; was very settled she was no trouble at all and she did not come for a fuss until I spoke to her. She did not bark this morning when I went for her breakfast; because I purposely did not take her food bowl with me, I just brought a pot of food to our room. We started the morning off with a groom in our room whilst some of the others went on their first walk, we shortly followed.
Our first walk was good, it was a fairly easy one to start with, but it was good to get out in some fresh air and stretch our legs. Darcy did very well for first training walk, but she did have a little number two this was because she was feeling a little bit stressed at the change of a new person, but once she had done that she relaxed into the walk. When we arrived back we had a good play with a rope to reward her, to release all that stress and it helps with the bonding.
After our lunch we then did some obedience in our room, so I got Darcy to sit, wait, come, down (lay down) and up (stand). She did all this very well except upstand; she would not do it so I checked with my trainer later to see if she had been taught a different command for this but she had not, she was just being stubborn so we will have to work a little harder on that one. We then set off for another walk the same one that we had done in the morning but extended it so she had some road crossings to do and it was a little bit busier. We did well again but half way through she lost her confidence a bit, but with a little bit of encouragement she got back into working well.
When we came back we had a group session all about checking our dogs over and giving them a groom. Darcy refused to sit up to be groomed; I think she probably thought she did not need a groom because I had already given her one. After the training finished Alan briefly visited us to bring some items. We introduced Darcy and Velvet again, they were both excited and Darcy was play barking at her. When we got into our room they had a play, things got a little bit boisterous so we settled them down. Once again she is snoozing at my feet as I am typing this, hopefully we will have a good night’s sleep ready and refreshed for the fourth day.
Slept better last night thanks to my own pillow that Alan brought. We have had an eventful morning. When we went into the corridor to take Darcy out to go to the toilet, she managed to slip her head out of her collar, she was a good girl though she did not do a runner she was just stood there looking at me as though to say what happened there then. I have tightened the collar, so hopefully that won’t happen again.
Whilst I was in the shower she was not so good, she pinched my slipper and has chewed the back off it. I took it off her and told her “No”, she was a bad girl. I put them on the shelf, but the really naughty thing was that she went and got it again and promptly started chewing it.
We were the first out on our walk this morning and Darcy’s naughty behaviour continued, she was not walking positively and not concentrating, she refused to sit at every kerb and most of the time, when I gave her a command I had to tell her about three times before she would do it. I am not worried we had a bad walk, it happens when you are training. The plus side was that she did not do a number two on the walk and she worked passed some dogs that were in a garden barking at her. We came back and I had a well needed cup of tea followed by a play with Darcy to show her we were still friends.
After lunch and a tale from one of the trainers about how the police had stopped him in the past for following blind people, we went out on our second walk. We went to a new area where Darcy had to work harder; she was in a better frame of mind this time. Still being stubborn, not sitting at kerbs, though my trainer told me to start being a little firmer with my voice when she is being naughty and not listening to me, we think that she is seeing what she can get away with. But a very good walk she even had to do an off kerb, for a wheelie bin which had blown over totally blocking our path, you do not practice off kerbs usually until the second week but she did this superb, well done little Miss Darcy. Another play when we got back to our room followed by a nice groom, I wish someone would come and do my hair, it’s a bit all over with that wind today!
We finished the day off with a group obedience session in the lounge, getting our dog to sit and down in the centre of the room, then walking away from them telling them to wait this could have been difficult because of the other dogs in the room being a distraction, but Darcy did well, she did everything she was supposed to. I have been more organised today and I have managed to do this blog through the day, so Darcy and I can put our feet up and enjoy the evening for the first time.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
Last night Darcy had made up for the day’s events, she gave me a cuddle when I came back from the evening meal. I sat on the floor and she curled up on my lap with her head on my tummy, so all was forgiven.
I was the second one for a walk this morning so Darcy had a groom, followed by some obedience in our room, she did all this very well we had to work at the upstand and the wait but we are getting there. After a little play we went out on our first walk of the day, I drew the short straw it was raining a bit when I went out. The route was the same as last time, except today it was bin day, so lots of bins on the pavement and lots of rubbish scattered about. We set off on our walk with the trainer walking close behind and it was quite a way down the road when I realised she did not have the long lead attached anymore, we were free! Darcy had to work a lot harder today and she worked almost perfectly, she was walking nicely, guiding me around the bins, she did not show any interest in the scattered rubbish, she was responding to my left, right and forward commands, she was still being a little stubborn at sitting at kerbs, so if she sat without being asked then I gave her a treat, she did about 4 sits without being prompted. Sometimes Darcy anticipates which direction we are going before I tell her, I have to correct her when she does this to show her that I am in charge and sometimes we make her go a different way to where she thinks we are going. We then came back had another little play before going in the lounge for lunch.
It was the first time for the dogs to go into lunch with us, only two were aloud today and Darcy was one of them. One of the trainers was putting some chips on my plate; he dropped one accidently on purpose I think. Darcy went to dive for it but the trainer was faster and kicked it out of the way. It was left there for quite a while, we had lunch Darcy did not attempt to go for it again, but she was looking at it from the corner of her eye, she looked a bit crest fallen when it was picked up.
The second walk of the afternoon was around the perimeter of a football ground, it was a busier route for Darcy, lots of things for her to think about, bins again, busier traffic and road crossings. And lots more people and smells for her to get distracted. Hurray! She sat at nearly every kerb without being prompted on this walk. Darcy was a little star almost a perfect walk.
The day was finished off by one of the trainers giving a talk all about how dogs have been bred for their temperament and all about pack hierarchy and behaviour. We have just finished the evening off with another cuddle.
Half way through the training now. Darcy had a tasty bone to chew on this morning, which is tastier than my slippers, I hope! We had a groom to start with, to make her look smart for the day ahead. We then set off around the perimeter of the football ground that we did yesterday. Nothing much to report really because Darcy was so good. She was walking proud as punch and she sat at every kerb without being prompted, she was a cheeky monkey because she took me to a kerb where she shouldn’t have, just to get an extra treat, so we did have to stop giving her so many treats, we gave her one every couple of crossings, much to Darcy’s disgust. A tissue came out to clean up the drool around her mouth, not very attractive Darcy! A few times again, because Darcy knew where she was going, she was setting off before I gave her a command, so I was having to make her wait, but all in all a perfect walk.
We then came back and had a play in our room. Darcy had a snooze whilst I went to lunch, it was not her turn to come into lunch today. The second walk today was around a busy shopping area on a Saturday no less, so lots of people and busy road crossings. Again Darcy worked well it seems the more she has to do the better she gets. Weaving in and out of people, dogs and street furniture nothing phased her. Except she did a little hop, skip and a jump and I asked my trainer what she was doing, the little monkey did not want to get her feet wet in a puddle, she did not have any choice further along though when there was someone washing some steps down so all the pavement was wet, Darcy felt so funny through the harness as she walked through the wet patch up on her tip toes. Another amusing time on this walk was when we walked past certain shops that the trainer had been in with her, she was trying to take me in, I said “not today, straight on”, she was very disappointed that we weren’t going in any shops and I had to be a little firmer with her because she wanted to turn back to go to the shops, my trainer said she loves going into shops. A girl after my own heart doesn’t like getting her hair wet and loves shopping.
Also on this route, we had a few busy crossings and I misjudged a car when I gave the forward command, Darcy stopped when she saw the car, I gave the driver a heart attack though. Clever little Miss Darcy we don’t usually practice traffic until later-on in the second week.
Back to the room for another play and a little obedience session, we then practice the route up to the restaurant with the dogs because from Sunday evening we will take it in turns to take the dogs up to the restaurant.
The day was finished off by one of the trainers giving a little talk about the straight-line principle. This is how the dogs are trained to walk in a straight line, until the environment inhibits them or until the handler changes direction and how important it is to stick to this rule. Alan, my partner then came to visit with his guide dog Velvet, Darcy and Velvet had a good time playing in our room and that is why this post is late due to our visitor’s yesterday evening.
Today has not been a good day. The whole group were going out at the same time this morning. As I was getting ready to go out I had an argument with a lamp shade on the bedside cabinet, unfortunately my left eye came out badly.
The first little walk was in a supermarket, so off we went, I with a very sore and watery eye. The supermarket had steps up to it. This gave us practice going up and down steps and walking around a supermarket, because I was really suffering with my eye Darcy picked up that there was something wrong, we did not do so well, she was unsure and her tail was not wagging as it usually is, she was looking at the trainer for reassurance. Due to me suffering so much and Darcy being affected by the condition I was in, my trainer and I decided that I should not do the next walk so we sat and rested in the car. I was disappointed to miss out on a walk, but it was the best thing, rather than having a bad walk. We came back just before lunch, just enough time to have a little play with Darcy.
After lunch, my trainer said I could go on the second walk of the afternoon to give my eye chance to recover. Unfortunately I did not rest much though, the house keeping had not left me any toilet rolls so I had to chase some up. Another play with Darcy, then decided to sit down to finish my blog from yesterday, this was not to be the Wi-Fi code had run out, so I had to go to reception to get a new one. When I came back down my key card to my room decided not to work, so off I went back to reception with all my technology and my stick in my hands to get a new card. I came back down with a new key car, it still did not work! Darcy in the room must have been wondering what I was playing at. Back up to reception I go again, silly me I had told them the wrong room number, no wonder I could not get into the room the second time.
After finally getting back into my room it was time to leave for my walk, at least my eye was feeling a little easier. The walk this afternoon involved a mixture of quiet back streets with road crossings and wheelie bins along with a stretch on a busy street full of shops and pedestrians. Darcy did nearly everything perfect, a pretty good walk except the tissues had to come out again for the drool, no it was not for me, was it Darcy?! Even though my trainer got a text to say that the hotel was going to do us a roast dinner. As it was Sunday, we had an early finish. Darcy and I had a couple of my friends visit after class. They love Darcy who I’m sure will get along with their dogs great but they did not meet today whilst Darcy is training, we did not want to overwhelm her. Darcy came up to the restaurant for the first time tonight she was as good as gold. I enjoyed my roast dinner, it was good comfort food after the day’s events, it’s never an uneventful day on training. I hope my eye is recovered and that we have a better day tomorrow.
Into the second week of training now. Darcy went up to breakfast in the restaurant, she was very good, the only time she got up is when other people talked to her, who should know better. My eye is a little better today, but I am still suffering, especially in the sun light, but I can’t complain about that, we have been very lucky on training with the weather so far. We started off this morning by one of the trainers giving a talk about traffic. Dealing with Traffic is one of the hardest things to do for the dogs. It is the only time they can disobey you, so when you give the forward command to your dog, if there is a car coming the dog is to stay firmly without moving. So, we went off to practice, I was first up, on class this is done in a very safe, controlled way, except the trainer that would be driving the car did wish me luck as a joke. Our trainer stood at the side of us with the long lead on Darcy, as the other trainer drove their car in front of us whilst we were at the Kerb on a junction, then you give the forward command, if the dog stays still then you praise the dog, if they move you tell them to wait. You will be pleased to know I was not in any danger with our trainers and Darcy, because she did very well and did not move. In between junctions Darcy had some guiding work around bins, the bins seem to be constantly out around here.
We then had a well-earned play in our room, followed by a groom. I had a nice surprise for lunch the chef had made me some wheat-free pizza, garlic bread, Caesar salad and chips, very nice too, beats sandwiches with the stale bread I brought.
We then laughed at one of the trainers, as he had some trials getting back the Wi-Fi, at least he did not get locked out of the room in the process. We then had a talk about free running, about the do’s and don’ts. How to blow the whistle like we do before they have their food, so when they are having fun running when you blow the whistle they think food and come running back. My trainer kindly run me home for my sunglasses, with only living five minutes away to give my sore eye a bit of relief.
We then took them for a free run and Darcy ran with one of the other dogs they had a great time and Darcy kept coming back after I called her fairly quickly, so I was happy with that, the tissues had to come out, whenever treats are involved, Darcy just drools, going to need to buy tissues by the ton I think.
The day was finished off with a vet talk, telling us about the vet books and what visits and treatments we should have from the vets. Along with a bit of first aid for our dogs and a list of common everyday items that are poisons to dogs, such as chocolate. Another groom for Darcy to get any muck out of her coat from the run, then she can put her paws up for the night, it is the turn of some of the other dogs to come to the restaurant. We have just finished the day with our nightly cuddle. A good day today let’s hope tomorrow will be as good.
Missing Alan, Velvet and home now. Started the day with a continuation of yesterday’s traffic, how we are supposed to reinforce the traffic training when we are back home, to keep it fresh in the dog’s mind so that if an incident occurs the dog will give the correct response. It was time to go and practice again, but it is a bit worrying when the two trainers are tossing a coin for who is going to be first up to drive a car at the blind person. We were last up today so we had a play and an obedience session in our room. When it was our turn Darcy did very well again, I think she only got up once. At one point, she was staring at the trainer who was driving the car as though to say “what are you doing?” I was tested a little today, I had to tell my trainer, from the sound of the engine, whether it was near traffic or far traffic, to see how aware we were of traffic. Top marks for me today I got them all right.
Good guiding work again from Darcy on the streets between the junctions, bins out again! Another play in our room to relieve all that stress, then it was time for lunch. Lunch was nearly the same as yesterday but made by a different chef, not as good. One of the trainers has been calling Darcy Dobby today, I think because she is little and has big ears for her size. The same trainer is very good at telling funny stories, I better be careful what I say he will get a big head as he has been reading my blog, anyway he was telling us about visiting a client with a guide dog and the person said he would be 15 minutes late and told the trainer to go in and help himself to a cup of tea and cake, which he did, to cut a long story short he was in the clients neighbours house. He also had us all in stitches about visiting another client who had a dog poo on the ceiling and how he discovered how it got there.
We then had a talk all about the different crossings that there are, and how they work. The last walk today was all about off kerb obstacles. One of the trainers went out and placed several different obstacles on a route, totally blocking the pavement. Sorry to any other pedestrians in the area. When the pavement is totally blocked, the dog is supposed to take you to the kerb by the obstacle and then when I give the forward command we are to keep the dog close to the pavement and encourage them to get back on the pavement as soon as possible. The first few obstacles today Darcy forgot what she was supposed to do. But after the first few she became more positive and did the rest of them very well, got me around them safely, she even showed signs that she was thinking ahead. She was not amused this afternoon though because I forgot her treats. We had an early finish today so we had another play and groom.
Darcy’s turn up to the restaurant tonight, she was very good and only moved once and that was because I was laughing so much, she had not heard me laugh like that before. One of the guide dog owners tells pretty bad jokes but this time for some reason, got us all laughing so much we were crying.
A few of us were feeling a little low today so it was good to have a laugh. I am very pleased with my little Miss Darcy she is a clever little dog and very cheeky. We are bonding well and I am looking forward to the years ahead with her.
Busy day today. Took Darcy to the restaurant for breakfast, she was a good girl, very settled. We had a groom and obedience session first thing, as we were on the second run for a walk. The walk this morning was in the city centre lots of work for Darcy to do, except the little monkey had been stubborn at spending in the pen this morning so her mind was not on working. She was sniffing lots, not concentrating, this usually means that she needs to spend and yes, she did, she did a number two. We thought that she would work better with that off her mind, but it was not to be, Darcy still was not concentrating she overshot a kerb and we made her re-approach it, time and time again until she got it, about 7 times I think! Further down the road she did a big wee, so she still had something on her mind, that’s why you are supposed to go in the pen Darcy! She did do some better work after that, crossed a lot of crossings, which she gets a treat for finding me the box.
We popped into the blind society, as we went past to see a couple of friends. Darcy loved all the admiring glances, not sure why though with all that drool, which the tissues came out for yet again. Back to the room for a quick play before lunch, lovely smoked salmon salad, more funny stories from one of the trainers, he should write a book. Followed by a chat with the guide dog owner representative that had come to talk to the group.
This afternoon was another busy walk to a café. As Darcy and I will be doing a tandem walk quite regular, as Alan my partner has a guide dog, it was decided to follow one of the other guide dog owners with his trainer. My trainer had some issues with her parking today, but I better keep that one quiet, she may make me suffer tomorrow. I will make an excuse for her though, she is not well with a cold. Darcy worked well but she showed no interest in following the other dog. I think this will be different when I do it with Alan, because Darcy and Velvet will be good friends by then.
We can tell that we are coming to the end of training, one of the trainers is getting a little cheeky, he tickled me as he went passed us, Darcy says” No distracting the human please!” Darcy did well on the busy street and we both judged all the busy road junctions well. Darcy wanted to go in the supermarket again as we passed It, but she was happy when she could go into the café. She was good in the café, well she did not pinch any food anyway. Whilst the trainers did the same route with another two people, we sat and had a drink or should I say a bucket of tea that my trainer brought me, I think my trainer wanted the owner to do a puddle so Darcy did not feel bad. When the trainers came back, we set off and caught the bus back, Darcy was good on the bus and when we were getting off Darcy was met at the doors by someone getting on with their dog that started having a go at her right in her face, the owner thought that this was funny, stupid, irresponsible owner!!! Very pleased with Darcy though, she just ignored it and got off the bus very proud of her, well done Darcy.
We then sat in the car whilst the trainers brought the other two back from the café. Oh dear, should not have had that bucket of tea. I was bursting by the time we got back to the hotel. Got back to the room and housekeeping had not done my room they were knocking on the door before I had even gone for a wee, even though I had been out of the room most of the day. They have not been very good over the two weeks, glad I’m not paying I would be seriously complaining, however the guide dog staff are going to have a word.
When we were allowed back in our room, Darcy and I had a well-earned play. Lots of laughs at the dinner table again tonight, I must admit being on class with four men have not been as hard as I was expecting. They have all been pleasant to be around and I would like to say a big thanks to one of them for being a real gent and accompanying me to the dog pen last thing at night. Only one more Day at the hotel, Friday get to take little Miss Darcy home, can’t wait.
Last day of residential training. We took the dogs up this morning to breakfast, it was a little stressful, the service was not as good as it has been and there was some alteration work happening during breakfast, which upset the dogs a little. First thing, when we all met in the lounge the manager of the hotel came to see us so we could tell her about some of our complaints. We saw an improvement in the service straight away. We had some more funny stories from one of the trainers to cheer us up, after the stressful morning we all had and an overview of some of the future plans of the guide dog association.
Four of us then went out in the cars, two in each car, the trainers parked one at each end of the route. Then took us in turn to the opposite car, this worked well, apart from my trainer did not know where the other trainer had parked, so my trainer came alongside the car with her guide dog owner and his dog, which I heard but they carried on straight past the car I wondered where they had gone, it was another ten minutes before they had arrived at the car. I’ve always said these sighted people walk around with their eyes closed, how did she miss a big blue guide dog car? My turn next, Darcy had things on her mind again, I was a little worried because the trainers were going to leave us to do a lot of it to ourselves. It was in a busy area and Darcy was not fully concentrating. However, she did a mixture of good and bad work, my trainer did make me jump at one point, she was closer behind us than I had realised she stopped me tripping over a sign that was laid on the pavement, Darcy had missed it, due to her just taking me around something else. On three of the road crossings today we also needed to ask for sighted assistance across the road. I always dread this one, not because I have a problem asking for help but you never know what sort of assistance you are going to receive. At the first crossing I was stood ages I said excuse me to two people and they carried on walking and the rest of the people that walked past were so quiet that I did not notice them and I thought that they weren’t suitable, such as the man who I could hear had a suitcase and was talking on his phone. Eventually my trainer was my sighted assistance for this time. The next two crossings I did manage to stop people, and they quite happily guided me across the road.
We came back for lunch and I had a special wheat free lunch again, along with two desserts specially made for me on the last day. We then had a little talk about play for our dogs and the different sorts of toys they might like. One of the trainers showed us a buster cube and it was decided to get the dogs in the lounge, one at a time to see who would figure out how to get the treats out of it. This was great fun watching the dogs play, having fun. My trainers two dogs got the idea more than the other three dogs that belonged to the other trainer, so my trainer was pleased with that, although I think Darcy’s technique was to throw and shake it as much as possible destroying anything in its path, she won the most energetic technique, not sure I’m going to have any furniture left next week. We then had a going home talk, all about not packing until the last minute so not to upset the dog, oh dear, I started packing last night. We are told to introduce the dog to the house in a calm and controlled way and have a good rest without going out to give the dog time to settle in, before the trainer arrives to start the next stage of training Monday. I am slightly breaking the rules tomorrow as I have a reporter coming to the house to interview me live on radio Sheffield between two and three. They are doing a good News day and as I am coming home with Darcy, I have been asked to feature. One of the trainers then read my last two nights’ blog out to the rest of the group, which gave them all a chuckle with a few inserts from the trainer, he thought he would make it a little funnier, cheeky thing!
Our last trip was to a pet shop, Darcy thoroughly enjoyed this and she was really excited to see the Guinea pigs, we came away with a few treats for her. The farewell meal unfortunately was cut short because three of us are feeling very poorly and couldn’t eat. Then, I have just had a shock, I have only had one small glass of white wine and it cost £8, glad I’ve not had anything to drink the rest of the time I have been here. The next time I write my blog I will be at home.
Not a good end to my residential training. Sorry to those who have been following our story, it was not intentional to have a break in my blog. Thursday night after posting my blog I became very ill with sickness and diarrhoea, as did the rest of the class except one person, including the two trainers. I was that ill that I passed out in the bathroom, poor Darcy wondered what was wrong with me. After coming to, I called my partner who came to the hotel at two o’clock in the morning to look after me, good job we did not live far away. The next morning, Alan had to pack all my things because I had to be out of the room for ten o’clock and I was struggling to get out of bed. Thanks to my trainer who got me home as soon as possible, even though she was not well herself, after me she also had another class member and his dog to take home.
I was worried at taking Darcy back to her new home in the state I was in, but after a chat with Alan and my trainer it was decided that it would be less disruptive for her to come home with me with Alans support. Alan had made a large pan of spicy vegetable soup the day before he even knew I was ill. Thanks to Alan for looking after Darcy and me, I do love you very much. I was sad not to have had the chance to wish my fellow class mates farewell, under the circumstances. Thanks to you all, including the two trainers for making the training an enjoyable experience and I look forward to catching up with you all soon. Hope you are all settling in with your new dogs and that you are now feeling better, as am I. Hugs and kisses to you all.
Darcy arrived at her new home, she had a little look around herself, even though I was meant to take her around on the lead, she quickly discovered the horde of dog toys. As I drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa, Darcy had great fun taking one toy at a time out of the toy store and testing them for durability, needless to say some of them did not pass the test and ended up in the bin, and the lounge looked like a bomb had hit it. After an unconventional introduction to her new home Darcy is settling in fine. I spent Saturday unpacking, Darcy has been very nosey, sticking her nose in every draw and cupboard that has been opened. We never had a dog run upstairs to wake us up in the morning, until we had Velvet, we were just getting her into not coming up until we had woken up. This morning there was two cheeky monkeys at six thirty bombing up the stairs, don’t think I’ll be having much of a lay in for a while.
Today I did some cleaning and two weeks’ worth of washing. Darcy followed me whilst cleaning, she is the first dog we have had that is not bothered by the vacuum cleaner, and she thought it was great fun poking her nose in my face when I was getting down on my hands and knees to clean. She soon got tired of her antics and spent the rest of today curled up in her new luxurious dog bed, which has a bone shaped pillow, which she seems to love. She has made great friends with Alan and Velvet with no squabbles, she is a lovely new addition to our little family. My trainer comes tomorrow afternoon to start the next bit of training, introducing Darcy to the routes I do on a regular basis. I am looking forward to getting her out and about on home territory.
Forgot to put on my post last night, that I was sorry that my radio Sheffield interview on Friday had to be cancelled due to me being ill. Some good and bad to report today. This morning Darcy was a little monster she is starting to test the boundaries to see what she can get away with. She picked up my slippers, destroyed some more dog toys, raided a waste paper bin and jumped up to pinch one of my cuddly toys off my bedroom draws. Let’s brush all that aside though she worked lovely this afternoon. We went out with our trainer, Darcy did her first practical work I showed her the route to the local shop, where we bought some milk. My trainer took a little step back today and left me in charge of directing Darcy, as I know the route very well. She listened to me, did everything she was supposed to do, including sitting at kerbs plus she walked past five dogs with no bother.
After a cup of tea, we did a second route to the hair dressers, where I made an appointment. Darcy also did this route very well, it was a more difficult route with over hanging branches, parked cars on pavements and temporary signs, she coped well for the first time I don’t think my trainer or Darcy was impressed at the steep hill we had to climb to come back home. Let’s hope tomorrow morning will go as well but without the naughty bits.
Tuesday 21 March 2017
Was awakened at six this morning. Darcy and Velvet were jumping on each other, running around downstairs like lunatics, she has been fairly good in the house the rest of today. Tuesday is usually a business admin day, so the dogs must be good on this day and no jumping on visitors, Darcy was pretty good she has been settled in her bed.
This morning we went out with our trainer again, we did the local shop and hairdressers in one circular route. Darcy worked well and remembered where she needed to go, however she was forgetting to sit at kerbs again, but she did some good guiding work and got me around a sign that had blown over on the pavement. On this route, a well-meaning member of the public said to me “there is a drop there,” as Darcy and I was stood at a kerb, I thanked him but as I stepped off the kerb it flashed across my mind, “has there been some road works, is there a six-foot hole here?” No there was not, it was just a normal kerb that I have crossed hundreds of times, not even a deep one. Alan and I have heard and seen many things over the years by well-meaning people but they do make life more difficult at times.
I was impressed when we came home from the hair dressers because we have to walk down the road that has no land marks, stop half way down at a specific place to cross over the road to be in line with our house, and Darcy took me to the right place. We had a tea break, then went back out, we showed Darcy the route to the bus stop. When we came out of the gate it was sunny and I said how lucky I had been because the weather forecast this afternoon was bad, I spoke too soon, half-way down the road we had a hail storm shower come from nowhere. The route to the bus stop went pretty smoothly except she did not concentrate on the return journey, she was a little sniffy but this seems like the norm from her when she does a new route. The cats that live near us created quite a distraction for her today, she walked past four that were sun-bathing that she kept a close eye on, another run in front of her, which excited her but she managed to keep herself under control.
I am feeling very tired today, I think the past two and a half weeks is starting to catch up with me. I am looking forward to qualifying and being allowed to keep Darcy’s harness and go out on our own.
Wednesday 22 March 2017
Needed a guide duck today. Very wet day for training, but I shouldn’t complain it is only the first day I have had to get the waterproofs out.
Little bit of naughtiness this morning, we are also being a little stubborn at spending in the correct area, aren’t we Darcy? We did the route to the retail park that is near me, some of the route she did yesterday, some was new. The part of the route she did yesterday she did very well, she was a little sniffy again on the new part. She was funny trying to avoid all the big puddles, but it did get her into trouble a couple of times, because it meant she was in the wrong place, so we had a couple of little bumps. We were very cruel, well Darcy thought so because we worked her past the pet shop that we went in last week, she was not amused. We took her into a few other shops, which she thoroughly enjoyed, then went into a café for a hot drink and a bit of a dry. Darcy was very good in here and laid nice and quiet, whilst my trainer and I talked.
The route home she worked lovely, she kept a beady eye out for the cats in the place she saw them yesterday, they weren’t out today, only silly humans and their guide dog were daft enough to be out in that today.
Thursday 23 March 2017
One stressed guide dog owner today, needed a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit when I got in. My trainer came this morning and we had planned that she would leave the harness at the front door, so Darcy did not know she was here, she would follow us at a distance so it would feel as though we were on our own for the first time. I knew that we were going to be in some trouble because Darcy was still being stubborn about spending at home and she had held on to both for fifteen hours, how does she do it? I wish I could hold on to it for that long.
We set off to the bus stop, first mistake was when we crossed the road and there was a van parked in the line of the path we should take, so I went down the wrong path, I soon realised and we turned around and got back on track. We then got to the end of the road and Darcy was telling me she needed to go to the toilet, what a surprise! All the way down the hill she was pulling me in the gutter and her bum was going down, but I did not let her, the goal was to get her to a designated spot where she is allowed to spend, at the bottom of the hill. I managed to keep her going and we made it, not sure how. Now, a much-relieved dog we went to find the bin to dispose of our little parcel, finding the bin was made more complicated by a well-meaning lady with a dog, giving me confusing directions to the bin. That all sorted I was expecting some good work from Darcy.
We went around the corner, she stopped at the kerbs and then found me the crossing box all lovely, I was feeling a little bit more confident again, crossed the road and was on the final stretch to the bus stop, where our trainer would meet up with us. Darcy, it seems was still not concentrating because she chose the narrow way past a lamp post and so I got a little bump, re-approached it with her, the second time she got it right. We made it to the bus stop, what a relief! The plus side is that Darcy was not looking for our trainer, which they usually do at this stage, she wasn’t bothered that we were on our own.
My trainer and I then caught a bus to our local vets to show Darcy the route and get her registered there. Not too much trouble from the bus to the vets, just a short walk that Darcy managed without getting into trouble. She was a little giddy in the vets with lots of new people to say hello to and other dogs there. We also saw Mindi’s new owner who works there, which I had not seen since the sad day she took Mindi, which was really nice. After a little check from the vet, we left with a clean bill of health. We caught the bus back, she was really good on the bus. Then we showed Darcy another new route from the bus stop to home. Darcy did this route well but when we got to the top of the hill near home, there was a lot of discarded food that Darcy decided to help herself to a piece, I realised what she had done and quickly got it back out of her mouth before she swallowed it, this is done because she needs to know that scavenging is not allowed, it could make her ill and if she gets away with it, she will not concentrate on working.
I arrived home a little frazzled but in one piece. I am not worried this is all part of settling down in a new home, learning new routes and getting used to a new owner. Spent twice as long writing this blog, keep jumping up to take toys off Darcy that she is destroying and giving her the bone to chew, she is definitely giving me a hard time today, I still love her though, hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. Now where’s that glass of wine!
Friday 24 March 2017
Happy days. Darcy has been good, the sun has been out and it’s Friday, what more does a girl want. We started the day off by Darcy still being stubborn at going to the toilet, she finally had a wee at nine fifteen this morning so nearly 24 hours since her last one.
Had a good morning with her, she has been playing with Velvet, no naughtiness, however the slippers are hidden and so are the vulnerable dog toys. She had a groom in the sun she is very good at standing still for a groom. Our trainer left the harness at the door at lunch time, we did the circular route to the local shop and the hairdressers again. She made it to her designated spot to spend, she then worked lovely sitting at kerbs as well. We got to the local shop with no real problems, whilst she was in the shop she was very well behaved, followed the assistant around calmly and negotiated the aisles without any bumps. The next stretch was down the road to the hairdressers. Whoops, she had another number two on this stretch but working not too badly, good job because on this road I was walking directly into the sun and I could not see a thing.
I popped my head in to say hello in the hair dressers and he kindly disposed of my doggy parcel. Back up the hill to home was next, but coming out of the hairdressers Darcy spotted our trainer even though she was doing her best to keep out of sight, she was getting some strange looks today from people as she was furtively hiding, keeping an eye on me. The next stretch home was a little difficult as it always is when the dog has seen the trainer because they are always turning their head around to try and see them again. Despite it feeling a little messy she got me home safely and did everything she was supposed to do and crossed the road at the right spot to our house.
After our trainer had gone we had the back door open and Darcy went and had another wee without too much encouragement. Darcy is also getting good with the house rules of being in her bed whilst we are eating and no dogs in the kitchen whilst we are cooking, she has been stood at the door having a cooking lesson though. Good day Darcy, let’s hope we continue in the same manner.
She is laid with her head on my feet as I am writing this looking very cute. Still not allowed to go out this weekend so will spend it catching up on household chores and getting little Miss Darcy into a spending routine. So, my next post will not be until Monday. Unless something interesting happens.
Monday 27 March 2017
Another good day to report, almost a perfect walk. It’s been quiet over the weekend, been catching up on house work and gardening. Darcy has enjoyed having the conservatory door open so she has been running in and out with Velvet. She has been spending pretty well this weekend and we made sure she did her two poos this morning before going out with our trainer.
Our trainer left the harness at the door again and we did the route down to the local retail park. Because Darcy had her two poos she was able to concentrate, she worked lovely and I think she even surprised our trainer. Darcy was confident and positive, she did not look for the trainer, I was very pleased with the walk, it was almost faultless.
We had a drink at the café, which she was very well behaved again and my trainer said how well she had done on the walk down. Then we did the route back home, however this was not as good because she was looking behind at the trainer, but it was OK apart from picking something off the floor that I had to retrieve off her. So, we said that we have just got to sack the trainer now and she works better.
We got home to find some evidence that Darcy had been naughty before we went out, I had vacuumed up this morning, but came back to a chewed-up piece of coal on my cream lounge carpet that she must have pinched from the side of the log-burner, little monkey!
I am looking forward to qualifying now, I am finding it a bit hard not getting out, apart from when my trainer comes. It will be good to introduce her to friends and family, unfortunately for various reasons not many have been able to visit us to meet Darcy, however my Dad saw her for the first time this afternoon as he popped in, but unfortunately my mum couldn’t come with him because she was unwell. My Dad thought she looked very cute and didn’t believe she could be as naughty as I have been reporting, butter wouldn’t melt would it Darcy!
Tuesday 28 March 2017
Top marks for Darcy today, not much to report because Darcy has been a little Angel. She did her two poos this morning and was good with our regular Tuesday business visitor.
When the trainer left the harness at the door we practiced the route to the vets again, hardly a paw wrong, she worked lovely, very confident and I was relaxed with her. The route involved a bus journey, there and back, which she was good on.
Darcy seems to like the vets at the moment, because she was eager to take me to the door, very good in here as well, even though they had a full waiting room of assorted animals.
She also had her first experience as a working dog being refused entry into a shop that we had popped into for some milk with my trainer, a place that I have never been in before. A member of staff said that we could not bring the dog in, my trainer told him that she was allowed because she was a guide dog, we went for my milk and luckily they did not challenge us again.
My trainer was pleased with us today and said that it had been a pleasure to watch us working together.
Wednesday 29 March 2017
Something more challenging for Darcy today, a tandem walk to the bus stop with Alan and Velvet, then a shopping trip into the city centre, she coped very well.
We started the day off with Darcy not wanting to do a poo at all this morning, because it was raining. The trainer left the harness at the front door again. The dogs are not fooled though, they both go running to the door when she leaves it.
Alan and I set off, Darcy and Velvet worked well together, she was happy to be out with Velvet but she still listened to me and waited for my command which was very good, unfortunately she did spend before she got to her designated area, but I knew that this would happen because she had not been at home. I complained at Alan for not walking fast enough because he has been used to slowing down for me when I had Mindi. I lost my concentration a little when I was walking down the road where the bus stop is, Alan and Velvet stopped at the bus stop, but Darcy and I went sailing past, I think she thought she was walking to town! I soon realised and turned back around.
The trainer met us there and Alan went home. We caught the bus into town and showed Darcy a regular route I do with some visits to regular shops I go in. She coped with this very well, it was a lot busier than she has had to do recently. Darcy seemed to be second guessing which shops we were going into, some that I do use, but she did try taking me into the Methodist centre that I have never been in, she must have thought I needed a word with God today.
We went into a jewellers to get my watch strap repaired that had snapped whilst I have been on training, Darcy liked it in here because she got a lot of attention from the shop assistant. We then went to another shop to buy me some replacement slippers. Darcy did not get her bone money out to pay for them though, I think it was the least she could have done after she had chewed the last ones! We showed her a couple more shops then stopped at a café for a hot drink.
We then set off to catch the bus back home, she worked very well and found me the crossing box to a very busy road. We caught the bus safely, it was raining when we got off, she wasn’t fully focused walking back home, this was because she needed another poo, she did not quite make it home. What is that all about, doesn’t want to spend in the rain at home but they will do it out and about if it is raining. I wasn’t worried about her spending the second time because she has done this before when she has had to learn a new route at least she stayed clean whilst she was in town.
Another good day Darcy very pleased with you, let’s keep it up.
Thursday 30 March 2017
Hurray, hurray, qualified today. It must have been the most challenging qualification walk that anyone has done in history! It means now I can keep Darcy’s harness and we are safe to go out on our own. I am so proud of my little miss Darcy. Lovely sunny morning, I decided to do my walk without a coat. The harness was left at the front door as usual, the trainer had come early I wasn’t ready, so then I rushed around. We then did the circular route to the local shop plus the hairdressers. I knew it was going to be a little challenging today because the bin men had only just left, but nothing could have prepared me for the route ahead.
I walked down our road, I thought it was quite clear of bins, went over on my ankle a little when we got too close to the kerb, not a good start I thought. Little did I know when I was told later there was bins all over the place that Darcy had guided me around that’s why we had got a little too close. Darcy then spent at her designated spot, we then worked quite well up to the shop, even though I was feeling a little nervous because I knew that this was my qualifying walk. At the shop, we bought my trainer some flowers as a thank you for training us. Came out, walked down the road to the hairdressers. Oh no! It started to rain, chucking it down! No coat on and I had just washed my hair. Darcy was not impressed either, she was not fully concentrating now. Came up to some more bins blocking the pavement before I could say anything I had been grabbed by a lady and dragged around them. Arrived at the hairdressers Darcy wanted to go in, out of the rain, but no time now. We then sailed around the corner, woops I made a mistake, I was not concentrating myself now, I should have made Darcy go to the kerb and tell her to turn right. Darcy then bumped me into a bin that she had misjudged, so we re-approached it which she then did fine.
I was now soaking wet, water running into my eyes, hair plastered to my face and I was at the end of my tether. Got to the end of the road, Darcy was now fed-up too, I had to nag her to sit at the kerb, I told her to turn right here, but she wouldn’t, then I saw why, there was something across the pavement, put my hand out it was a large barrier. Puzzled, I was then thinking about what my next plan of action was going to be, when a workman approached me and said, “you can’t walk up there, you need to walk on the other side, it has just been resurfaced and it will burn the dog’s paws”. Oh, my goodness, I had never walked up the hill on the other side before, strange territory for us both, could this walk get any worse. We made it safely to the top of the mountain! Well that’s what it felt like. We did a text book left turn at the top, now we were on the last road home, but it was still not over halfway down here the pavement was totally blocked by bins next to a parked car, so we had to do a big off kerb around the car into the road, Darcy did it lovely, we had not done such a difficult off kerb when we practiced off kerbs on training.
We finally arrived home in one piece, if not a little frazzled. Whilst I was drying myself and Darcy, in walked two wet trainers. Another trainer that has had nothing to do with our training needed to observe us do a walk before they can qualify us. So, I had two following me today, ducking behind cars, hiding to not be seen by Darcy. It was lovely to see this other trainer, as I have not seen her in a long while, it was the same trainer who trained me with Mindi eight years ago. She said that we had qualified, that it was a brilliant qualifying walk because I had everything thrown at us and that I coped with it.
We all had a celebratory cup of tea and some of my home-made flapjack. I was then told what was in my qualifying pack. I signed my agreement and paid my fifty pence for Darcy. Our first walk independently was to the hairdressers where I had an appointment this afternoon, so I was qualified just in time. This was my first thing that I had planned that I needed her to get me there. She did very well, it was a bit easier than this morning’s walk, and it was good to be out on our own even though I felt a little nervous. We have just got to build our confidence together now which will take a little time. The plan is for my trainer to see me a few times next week to go over some routes in the city centre, then that will be it for now, unless I have any difficulties.
I would like to thank everyone for all their hard work in getting Darcy to this stage the puppy walker, the boarder and lastly a special thanks to my trainer for matching me with such a lovely dog, it has been a pleasure to work with you. I love Darcy very much and hope we grow into a good working partnership and that we have many adventures in the years to come. This will be my last official blog but I will let you know about anything of significant interest in the future.