Saturday, 29 January 2011

Guide Dogs, Part Four.

So the next stage of the assessment was where someone completely different came out to do a walk and have a general chat with me.

It was at this point I was starting to realise what an indepth process this whole thing is/was! I hadn't even had a mere sniff of a guide dog yet and they (the people from guide dogs) have been out to see me four times, each time was a minimum of an hour and a half. I now know that this long process is good for everyone! It reassures the people at guide dogs, and gives them lots of time to find out what sort of person I am. My work life, my private life, my family, my friends, where or what I like to do for holidays it's all found out, but not in an intrusive way. It's done in such a way that you feel like you're chatting to a mate!

All this information gives them a better idea of what sort of dog would be good for me.

It was good for me, as we really talked about why I felt I needed a guide dog, how it would effect my life, (both good and maybe not so good!), and how I would most probably have to change my whole approach to life really. Talking about all these things in an open, positive, and no holds barred way helped ,e to know that this was the right path to go down.

So next, I was invited to an over night stay in a hotel in London, to meet some guide dog puppies who were fast approaching the end of their final stages of training!!

There were three other blind/visually impaired people there, eight puppies, and what seemed like thousand of trainers!! When we first got there we were shown to our rooms and told to settle in and them come down to the conference room in half an hour. I sat on the bed and thought to myself..... 'Really..... Seriously..... What on earth am I doing here?????' I was starting to have real doubts, I've NEVER had a dog before, we were a family who grew up with cats! Most of my mates have cats! What if the dog they gave me was horrid?! What if I turned into one of these mad people who let their dog 'kiss' them???

I then gave myself a shake, and thought, tonight is like a trial run, if I don't like it, I call it all off!!

I took a deep breath and walked downstairs....

Honestly, I had nothing to worry about! My fellow blindies were lovely, and like most Guide Dog Owners I've since met, were larger than life characters, intelligent beyond belief, but also very 'normal'.

So first up we were given a dog to do some basic obedience training with. I was given Josh, a very very very laid back gingery Retriever, he did pretty much what he was told to do, but there was a definate 'I'm not too impressed that YOU, who I've just met is telling ME what to do!' vibe going on!

We were then given another dog and taught how to groom it, to say that these puppies enjoy a groom is a MASSIVE understatement! The amount of tail wagging and looks of pure bliss on those faces had to be seen to be believed!!

Then I was given Josh again and we went out on a harness walk... I don't like to say it was a failure, but when the instructor says that the dog 'is taking the mick' you get a pretty good idea that this might not be the dog for you!! :)

Back to the hotel, where we had lunch and the chance to talk to a Guide Dog Owner and hear how it was, the good, the bad and the ugly! It was really useful, because she was saying that no matter how annoyed, frustrated you might get with your dog, the pro's of them far outweigh those niggles!

Then it was another harness walk with another dog (whose name I cant remember which makes me feel terrible!!), this walk was pretty uneventful, the dog did exactly as it needed to do, but there just wasn't 'that' spark!

Back at the hotel we were told that we were now going to be given a dog to look after overnight in the hotel room and that we were going to be going out on a night walk with it. Nights, dark nights for those of you who have read all of this blog will know that they are my most stressful times, especially, crowded roads at night, with streetlights here and there and cars with headlights glaring away!

So it was with mixed emotions when I was introduced to Forrester, he was totally and utterly stunning, when he came into the room I was thinking, please be for me!!! He was tall, slim, and black, and they brought him over to me! I started gushing all over him, telling him he was beautiful, whilst at the same time wondering how the hell could I trust an animal to take me for a walk and not let anything happen to me?????

Monday, 17 January 2011

Guide Dogs, Part Three

Well..... it's been a while, and I do have my excuses.

1) I had to do some pretty intensive training with my guide dog.
2) I had to put a lot of time and effort to sorting out my work situation.
3) I started a new job!
4) It was Christmas!
5) It was New Years Eve!
6) My laptop has died a death!

Hopefully you will all understand that all the above combined made me put the blog on a bit of a back burner! I'm here now though, and fully intend to stay!

So..... Guide Dogs Part Three! From the list of excuses above, you will have probably guessed that I now have a Guide Dog! I'll try not to rush into how amazing he is just yet, and continue nicely from that post about Guide Dogs!

After the initial assessment an appointment was made for Dee to come out again for us to go out on a walk, for her to get an idea of how I walk, my pace, the sort of roads I use etc. The day came around and Dee arrived. First off we just walked down my road with her besides me chatting away to each other.

She then asked if I'd mind doing a short handle walk. This is where the assessor (Dee has a shorter version of the handle on a Guide Dogs harness, I held one end, Dee got down on her hands and knees and off we went! Naturally I'm joking, she didn't get on her hands and knees! we just carried on walking her slightly ahead of me and winding about a bit. I actually felt a bit of a plank during this bit as the road I was living on at the time was, and probably still is a busy one! But needs must, I'm pretty certain it helps to match me to a dog, and isn't just an exercise in looking a bit silly!

After about ten minutes of this and me feeling a bit smug cos Dee told me I was very good at following the harness (understandably I guess most people with some remaining sight find it hard to 'let go' of the responsibility of looking after themselves!), we then did an exercise where I stood at a cross road looking straight ahead and telling Dee when I could see the car she told me was coming. That was a real wake up call for me to be honest... It took a long time from Dee telling me, to me actually seeing it!

We then sat by the river, it was a beautiful sunny hot day and talked some more about the possibility of me getting a dog.

She told me that someone else from her office would be coming out to do another walk assessment and after that I would be invited out for an overnight stay in a hotel to meet some dogs, and to work with them.

Thats all for now folks!