O.J the celebraty

O.J has become a bit of a celebraty since coming to Buncrana. Lots of people know his name, and he attracted lots of attention at the charity shop we organised for Guide dogs (which raised over 4,500 euro!)
We got our photo taken this morning for the Inish Times, and then we went to ICR for a radio interview. O.J loved all the attention from the staff, and I’m sure he won’t mind a trip back there in the future. He lay quietly in the studio as well.
It must be tough getting so much attention when you’re a dog, so I thought I’d take him for his first free run on the beach this evening. He ran in the water and played with seaweed and seemed to have fun.
Its back to work on the bus to Derry tomorrow.

training at home

We left Cork on tuesday morning (14 aug.) It was strange saying bye to everyone and taking O.J. home. He did great during the 8 hour journey, and just lay relaxing in the boot. We stopped to let him pee in Galway, as it was the only county in Ireland i hadn’t been too. There were baloons on the run and posters welcoming him and congratulating me it was lovely. He seemed to like his new room and settled in well.
I relaxed for a couple of days, before starting training on Friday. We walked the route from our house to the town by the beach before and after lunch. Lots of people kept stopping to talk, and it was difficult to keep walking without getting distracted. We walked the road way to town on saturday, but its too dangerous to do at the minute. I was exhausted on sat night and just wanted to be finished training so i could sleep.
We learned the route from the bus depot to my work on sunday and monday. It’s simple enough, except for the crossing with no tactile, but hopefully O.J.will pick it up soon. He has learned his way to the office and cafe quick enough so i’ll have no problems there.
Dougal and O.J get on fine, except Dougal really needed the snip! He wouldn’t leave O.J’s bits alone, and poor O.J wouldn’t complain at all. Dougal got the op on tuesday, so he has to go around with a bucket/lamp shade thing on his head. Poor pup!
We learned some more town routes on tuesday and wednesday, and O.J. seemed a lot more relaxed. Thursday morning was my last da of official training, and it went very well. O.J made a guest appearance in the guide dog charity shop we organised, and got lots of attention from almost everyone who passed. The shop made 680 euro in one day, so maybe it helped.
I’m going to Damien Rice on saturday, so O.J will have a well deserved rest. The first week and a half at home has been great, and hopefully itl stay that way!

Week 2

No bank holiday for us… We were up early as usual on Monday to walk our doggies. We went on the class bus to the train station. I won’t be using trains much but it was still interesting to see how its done with a dog. The gap between the train and platform is wider than usual in Cork so it was a bit scarey! We tested O.J.’s response to lifts, and apart from not being too sure where the voice was coming from, he was very good!
Then I practiced going up and down steps, before taking him for a wander round the supermarket.
After lunch we did some country walking, then I was left to do my first ever walk on my own with the dog, on a short straight pavement somewhere in the middle of Cork! It was all good!
I decided to be brave and go to the pub with the boys on Tuesday evening after dinner. We were like 3 blind mice, trying to find the taxi and door to the pub with our canes. Everyone was very helpful though, especially the taxi driver on the way home. After realising that it was too time-consuming to lead us one at a time to the door, we decided to go in a big wagon trail, (a severe case of the blind leading the blind), which apparently was hillarius to watch from inside the centre.
We had a lovely free meal in Juries on Wednesday evening, and the dogs were on their best behaviour. We did a walking tour of cork city without the dogs on Thursday. Inbetween, we went shopping in Mahan’s Point, had a vet talk where we learned some disgusting but apparently necessary info, and did some traffic training.
Friday was a busy day for everyone. We walked on Patrick’s Street, to get used to crowds of people and obstacles. The client services manager came to see how we were all getting on, before returning to the centre to officially qualify us with our new dogs. Apart from taking me into a random shop and trying to get on a bus, O.J did brilliant! And apparently we look good together! We did our first real walk in the rain to learn more about traffic, and I chilled for the evening while the boys went to the pub.
I did more obstacle avoidance work on Saturday morning, and in the afternoon O.J. and Matty went for a free run in the park and a swim in the river. After some lovely shepherds pie, the class, dogs and trainers went to Tracy’s pub for a drink or 2 or 3…
My cousins came from Limerick on Sunday, and O.J. loved all the attention. Danny Bob and I just sat chatting all evening, as it was our last night together. They were so funny – I’ll definitely miss the craic.
Monday was our last day together in Cork. We did a block walk on our own, and everyone either got lost or made some kinda mess of it! It was good craic though, and a good learning experience. We went to college road for our last walk after lunch, and that wasn’t exactly everyone’s favourite walk either. Danny and I were the last ones to leave on Tuesday morning, so we went to Tracy’s again with mum and dad.
The 2 weeks in Cork were brilliant and I had so much craic with the boys. We just laughed all the time at the stupidest things. I can’t wait to get O.J home, but I’ll miss cork too.

Backtracking-week 1 in Cork

The journey to the guide dog centre in Ballin Collig was a long one, because we stayed in Laois on Friday, Limerick on Saturday and drove to Kerry and Kilarney on the way to Cork. I’m training with 4 men, and I’m the youngest. Most of them didn’t come til Monday, so we spent the first day settling in and getting to know everyone. The staff are very friendly, and we’re very well looked after! The rooms have their own bathroom, radio and tv and a huge dog bed! You can hear dogs barking in the kennels all the time but you get used to it.
On Tuesday morning after breakfast, my trainer took O.J. To my room. I played with him and did some obedience work before lunch. We went for a short walk after, and also practiced getting on and off the class bus with the dogs. Our 5 dogs are all male lab-retrievers, and they are all lovely!
I wasn’t expecting the dog to be staying in my room the first night, so I didn’t get much sleep. He through up in the middle of the night and woke me up at 6. I don’t know how he can be so lively at that time of the morning!
Every day we go for a walk at 9 in the morning and one after lunch at 2. We go to housing estates and streets to learn different ways of working the dog in different situations. We had to learn to play with the dogs properly, as well as grooming with the kennel staff. Theres a lot to learn, but I’m really enjoying it, and the trainer makes it interesting and fun. I have a trainer all to myself, so it helps to learn things quick enough.
We didn’t do much in the evenings for the first week. I didn’t mind though cos everyones great craic and I enjoy just chatting to them all. I got a lovely massage on Saturday afternoon, which I felt I needed by then.
Sunday was very quiet cos some people went home, but Shaun Ciara and Sarah came to visit me (didn’t know Sarah was coming so it was a nice surprise). We went to a nice wood/park after a lovely dinner, and then to a pub called Tracy’s before they left me home. I love the guide dog centre but it was good to get a wee break.
If the rest of the time here is as good as the first week then I won’t mind staying here at all!