What’s been happening…

I finally made a start on my radio documentary on guide dogs last Friday. I interviewed Laurence from Fahan about his dog Isaac. He talks so passionately about guide dogs and he did a great interview. He gave me guide dog Christmas cards, a calendar and a bag of chews for OJ. The documentary will take really long to make, as its just voluntary work in my spare time, and its very difficult to find suitable times to interview people.

On Friday afternoon I got an email from Claire Leadbitter, the manager of the Frames. She’s putting me on the guest list for the Swell Season gig in Letterkenny next Sunday. I’m really happy! I’m going to see them in Belfast on Saturday with Tash, Mags and Fiona, and Laura’s coming with me on Sunday. I’d like to take OJ and maybe get a photo with him and the band afterwards for the blog. I’ll see how loud the music is on Saturday night (the set will be quieter than usual because the swell season are more chilled out than a frames gig.) I checked with the theatre, and our seats are in the back row. They said they would keep two at the end of the row for us encase we take OJ. I’ve never missed Glen Hansard in Letterkenny, and there’s something amazing about his gigs there. It’s a tradition to go, so cheers Claire! I really appreciate it.

I contacted Emma who works for BBC Ouch, to ask her about her experience of making an audio magazine. It’s something I’d like to do, but not sure if it will happen. She was so helpful and friendly. She moved to London to take a part-time job as researcher for the BBC’s disability site three years ago, and works there full-time now. Just before she hung up the phone she said there’s a possibility that I could visit BBC Ouch in London to see how it all works. It would be a great experience. It’s an unofficial invitation at the moment but I can only hope I get to go sometime.

I went to Sarah’s pub on Friday night. I should have taken OJ because it was nice and quiet. He didn’t go out on Saturday because it was so wet, and mammy took him for a play on Sunday morning. We haven’t heard too many fireworks yet, and luckily OJ isn’t too bothered by them.

When I was walking home from work on Tuesday I met a group of teenagers on the walls. One girl asked if she could pet OJ. I was cold and wet, but I was early for the bus and she did have the decency to ask so I said yes.
She began asking lots of questions: Is he a helper dog? Like a dog for blind people? So you’re blind then? Completely blind? Aw God love you. Has he had pups yet?… and finally…
Is he a crotch sniffer?
Kids these days!

Currently reading: Marley and Me: by John Grogan.

Training your own guide dog

Have you ever thought about training your own guide dog? It sounds like hard work, but lots of people do it. The website Blind cool tech has a number of podcasts about guide dogs, and a few about people who have trained their own dogs. I was particularly interested in Jerry Gilbert’s podcast as he is from the UK. Curiosity got the better of me, and I had to contact him to find out more information.

Jerry Gilbert lives near Cambridge, and has had no vision since the age of five. He works as an assistive technology trainer for a charity for visually impaired people. He trained with two guide dogs from GDBA in the UK, and they both worked successfully for many years. After a third match with a dog didn’t work out he decided to train his own. He had a vague recollection of someone in the UK training their own dog, but little information about this. He decided to give it a go anyway.
Charlie is a Labrador poodle cross, also known as a labradoodle. The breed was chosen after a lot of research. Jerry told me that Charlie is excellent at the guiding part of guide dog work, but still extremely lively, and not so good at sitting quietly and relaxing. He is very intelligent, and can open doors and cupboards, even with locks on them! He has lots of toys, and likes to be kept very active all day. Jerry feels he could have focused more on obedience work when Charlie was younger. Still, this is a braver step than most guide dog owners, and I’m sure Jerry can be very proud of the results!

Check out Jerry’s podcast on blind cool tech by looking for the podcast entitled ‘owner trained dog’

Currently listening to: Ray D’arsey on today fm
Currently reading: just finished ‘the horse whisperer’ by Nicholas Evans. It was so good I read the 8 braille volumes in about 10 days.

My first post

I’ve seen other dogs posting on blogs, so I thought I would have a go when my owner isn’t here. She is always on her computer, so it must be good fun, and I hate to miss out on fun.

My name is O J. I am a gorgeous black Labrador retriever, and I am very special because I am a guide dog. I have a very important job; to lead my blind owner around safely.
I live with my owner and her parents and my little brother Dougal. He is small, white, and fluffy and barks a lot! We have good fun playing with our toys. I have my own bedroom, with a nice big bed, some toys and a special box for all my food. There is a bathroom too, but my owner doesn’t let me go in, only when I have to have a shower (I hate showers!) When I moved there first I drank out of the toilet one day. I don’t know why because it didn’t taste nice, but I’m not allowed in there anymore.
I am allowed into the kitchen mostly when my owner is there. It is nice and warm, and always smells of food. Yum! I am not allowed to beg for food, but I try sometimes and then I make my owner cross.
I am never allowed upstairs because my hairs go all over the house. It’s not my fault though.
When I am working I wear a special harness, so members of the public know that I am a guide dog. I don’t like getting my harness on because it feels funny. I love working though, even though people aren’t allowed to pet me. I am allowed into shops, restaurants and all kinds of exciting places that ordinary dogs can’t go.
We get the bus to work very early in the morning. Sometimes the bus isn’t very comfortable and there is no room for me to stretch out properly on the floor. Sometimes people stand on my paws too. I wish they would look where they are going!
When we get to work I can sleep in my bed most of the day. Sometimes I get a chew to eat if I have been a “good boy.” I am always well behaved in the office, because I don’t think the boss really likes dogs. How can somebody not like dogs! I never get to go into his office when my owner has meetings. I have to stay in my bed and be good. I wonder what is in that office.
We go to lots of cafes, but I don’t like them because the food smells lovely and I’m not allowed to eat any. If I eat human’s food I might get sick and I hate going to the vet. I really love going to the radio station and the primary school because lots of big people and children pet me. People always ask questions about me but I love all the attention. Sometimes people take pictures of me too and I love getting my photo taken.
I am usually very well behaved in harness, but sometimes my owner gets cross when I sniff at things. I like to sniff though. I try to sneak a quick sniff sometimes but I always get caught. My owner says I am nosey, but I think I am just inquisitive. I get excited when I see other dogs, and sometimes I forget that I am not allowed to play with them when my harness is on. When the trainer comes up from Cork I always have to be on my best behaviour or I’m in big trouble!
My favourite thing in the whole world is free running on the beach. I love when people throw sticks in the water for me to fetch. I am a very good swimmer, not like Dougal who is afraid of the water and only gets his toes wet. What a baby! I always come back when my owner calls me or blows a whistle. Dougal never comes back when he’s told.
I have to go now. My paws are sore from typing.
Woof Woof, OJ xx