Tales of puppy love

The main focus of my blog is guide dogs, so I obviously write about my own dog a lot. Now I want to hear your own stories about your canine companions. Every dog has a story, whether it is a guide/assistance dog, family pet, a mutt you know or neighbourhood stray. Write their bio, tell me about them: Name, breed, characteristics, bad habits, funny stories, whatever you want.

OJ wasn’t the first dog to come to live in our house in Donegal. There were many dogs before him, but as you will read, none were as clever.
My dad brought home a puppy he found when I was about three or four, thinking I’d be delighted because I loved animals. This dog was crazy and I was terrified! I cried and begged him to take him away. The people who owned him came looking for him, but knew me and my family and said I could keep him. My dad, being a big Elvis fan insisted we called him Shep, and I learned to love him. I remember he used to open everybody’s laces and jump up on people. I don’t remember what he looked/felt like at all. He got poisoned and had to be put down and I cried for ages!

Blackie (how original) was a stray that turned up at our door. I don’t remember anything about him but there’s a photo somewhere of me and my dad feeding him bread. I think he was a staffy, and not the friendliest, so he didn’t stay around long and got turfed off to the pound or somewhere.

For my sixth birthday I got an 8 week old golden Labrador who we named Foofur (don’t ask!) My mum wanted a small dog, but this one had huge paws and grew to be a gentle giant. He was lively, playful, crazy and wolfed down food in seconds. He jumped in and out of windows, ate doors and ran upstairs and hid when there was fireworks. He detested most other dogs, especially Patch, who lived down the road. I would walk him around our garden on his lead, and he would be as good as gold until he heard Patch. He would run, pulling me to the ground and dragging me with him until the lead broke or I let go. I used to set up jumps and obstacle courses in an attempt to train him, (Cruel i know, but I was only small!) My cousin had a horse and I used to go horseriding and really wanted one too. This was the next best thing! Foofur sometimes ran away for three or four days, and would come back thin, dirty and exhausted. He had scars on his eyes from where he got stitches after fighting. He would swim after seagulls in the sea, and my parents swore each time he wouldn’t make it back to shore, but he always did. My nephew would lie on his tummy and fall asleep while drinking his bottle. My family, friends and visitors to our house adored him.
We had Foofur for thirteen and a half years and making the decision to have him put down was very difficult. He was legendary in our town and people still talk about him today. The book ‘Marley and Me’ by
John Grogan
Could have been written about Foofur.

I bought Sasha with my confirmation money when I was in sixth class. She was a lhasa apso, with a silky coat and crooked buck teeth. I constantly groomed her, bathed her, played with her and walked her. She could jump very high for such a small dog. She had a wonky leg, so she skipped rather than walked. She would eat anything. Before we got a proper post-box the post woman would just throw the post in the back door. Sasha only chewed it once, and inside was my tickets to a REM gig. Luckily my sister found her, and she had only chewed the corners, so the tickets were fine.
Foofur just about tolerated Sasha. They would play together and he would pull her around with her head in his mouth, always careful enough not to hurt her. When she was a tiny pup he accidentally stood on her, cracking her ribs and puncturing her lung. Oops!! They would try to steel each other’s food and growl at one another, but they loved playing together.
We only had Sasha for four years because she was knocked down right outside our house.

Just after my 21st birthday I bought our bichon fries Dougal. He’s the cutest, most playful, affectionate, rogue I’ve ever met. He doesn’t bark, he screeches! He was very difficult to housetrain and growls when we brush anywhere near his rear end. He won’t go into the sea to swim at all, and is excellent at hiding from me when he’s got something he shouldn’t have in his mouth. He knows when its bedtime and loves his bed. He hides from his lead when my mum wants to walk him, then lies on the ground and refuses to move. He barks two minutes before my alarm goes off nearly every morning.

OJ is a saint compared to all the dogs that came before him. He’s trustworthy, intelligent and does what he’s told (most of the time anyway!) He enjoys his guide dog work but equally loves his free time. He learns quickly and loves going to new places. He has a black shiny coat and gets lots of complements on it. He knows when people are talking about him and loves posing for photographs.
I have learned a lot about keeping dogs since I trained with OJ at the guide dog centre in Cork two years ago. I just wish i had all that knowledge before we got any
of our previous dogs!

on the bus

I get the bus to work, usually the 8 in the morning and 6 home, unless some nice person offers to drive me, because you know I’m not the safest driver in the world.
I don’t really want to start writing about bus stories, because I could write a book, but a lovely conversation I had with a stranger on the bus today reminded me of one of the best ones.

One winter morning last year, an old man sat beside me on the bus. OJ was sleeping quietly under the seat, completely out of sight. The man asked me a few questions about where I lived and worked, and then started talking about the old days. He kept pointing to buildings as the bus drove, and telling me what they used to be and how he used to work there when that was such and such a place. He kept saying “and do you see that building there?” “do you see over there” and I just smiled and pretended to look in the direction I guessed he was pointing. I knew from talking to him that he would feel sorry for me and ask a million questions if he knew I was blind, so I thought it best to agree.

We were about five minutes from the bus stop when OJ started moving under the seat. The man stopped mid sentence and said “do you hear that? There’s something under there. OH my God what is it?”
He looked down at OJ’s black head and paws sticking out from under my legs.
“Jesus christ its a dog!”
Me: “yep its my guide dog”
Him: “Oh. Oh I didn’t know. I didn’t realise. I didn’t see it. I didn’t realise you were… you know…”
Its very difficult for some people to say the word “blind”, particularly the older they are. I got his sympathy vote for the rest of the journey.

Currently listening to: Mic Christopher – ‘a curious notion’. He would have celebrated his fortieth birthday today. I bet he’s having a great party with Elvis now.
If you haven’t heard of him, go legally download or buy a copy of ‘skylarkin’. Its in my top three favourite albums of all time. The music and the story behind it is beautiful.


The Irish guide dogs 2010 calendars were launched in Dublin last week. You can buy them and guide dogs Christmas cards from their website:

I’m disappointed with myself. You might have noticed my five most recent
twitter updates
On the blog. I know I said I wouldn’t join it, but I did, and I really like it!
I decided to join mostly so that I could follow certain people’s tweets, find out what they are up to and keep up to date with certain things, particularly radio stations and blogs. Twitter is great for that, and it can be a great business tool. Of course
Darragh Doyle
Has been saying this for ages. He knows all about online communication, so I should listen to him more.

If you have two minutes to spare, take a look at these projects, and vote for which one you would like to see happen in Northern Ireland.
artists taking the lead
They are all very interesting and creative ideas, but I have to give the poetry project a special mention. I work in the VAC but probably won’t be involved with the project.
Thanks a lot to Susan from
stoney river farm
For passing this on.

OJ goes to Galway

OJ had his first proper trip to Galway on Thursday. We went with my aunt to stay with a friend of hers, and we couldn’t have been looked after better!

On Friday morning we went into the city. The weather was really hot, unlike the last time I was there, when it rained constantly. We went to some shops and lots of people stopped us to ask about OJ. But that was only the beginning of his celebrity status!
I bought the new David Gray album and we went to the pet shop because Mary wanted to buy OJ a toy. We met a couple of lovely dogs and OJ got his photo taken with them. There were lots of buskers and street entertainers, and after a while OJ thought his job was to bring me up to every one he saw. My aunt embarrassed me by asking one if he could play the frames. He was Australian, but had seen them play in Australia before. He played a bit of ‘falling slowly’, until he got to the high notes and couldn’t do anymore. Fair play though, he was good fun. I gave him money and OJ tried to pick it up again. He was fascinated by the man playing the didgeridoo and had a good sniff at it! A random Chinese woman asked if she could take a picture of me with OJ. Very strange!

When we got to the carpark on the way home I asked OJ to find the car. I didn’t really think he would because we’d only been in it twice. He walked past about 15 cars, sniffing them until he found ours. Then he brought me around to the door we got in. Everybody was very impressed.

After lunch we came home for a while and went to Lady’s Well, which is really nice. My aunt took me up to feel the statue of the soldier and OJ followed me. On the way down she noticed a sign saying that you weren’t allowed to stand on the grass. Oops! Hope nobody saw. If they did, I’m blind so tough!

On Saturday after breakfast we went to the markets. They were very busy but OJ did great work. We met another friend for lunch and went to feed the swans. OJ stared at them but seemed relaxed. I was more frightened than he was. We watched a bit of canoe polo before driving home past the sea.

We went to mass on Sunday morning, which was very interesting. One of the priests took us to the front of the chapel so that OJ had space to lie down and we didn’t have to get up for communion. He was very well behaved and only stood up during the ‘our father’ in Irish. The priest welcomed everybody at the beginning of mass, including people who had travelled from different places, and the “Doherty’s from Donegal.” After communion one of them came down to ask me the dog’s name, and then he said he wanted to especially welcome OJ the guide dog from Donegal. He said he’d never seen a guide dog in the chapel before. Another priest who did the final blessing mentioned OJ too. The chapel was on a monastery and they had a black lab there called Lucy, and he hoped Lucy wouldn’t mind OJ being on her territory.
Lots of children came up to pet OJ afterwards, and a one-year-old girl just didn’t want to leave.

We had a lovely dinner with Mary’s family before we went home. They are all so friendly and I wished we could have stayed longer. Sam the lab/collie cross came for dinner but didn’t like OJ so she had to stay outside.
We were so well looked after in Galway, even though the family had enough to keep them busy without fussing over us. Oj acted as a bit of a therapy dog while we were there. I don’t want to say too much about that here, but it was very interesting.
OJ is very tired today.

Music Therapy

I thought I’d post this non guide dog related link here encase some people are interested.

During February, March and April of last year I was busy trying to make my first radio documentary. It was an assignment for the radio journalism course I was doing. I chose the subject of music therapy, as I had done a lot of research on it for college, and its something I’m very interested in. Scoil Iosagain, where I was a
past pupil
has a lot of children with special needs, and music therapy is just one of many brilliant parts of their corriculum.

My documentary was first broadcast on ICR in April, on the same day that OJ and I were filmed for
The finished product isn’t one of my proudest audio moments! One of the interviews has lots of unnecessary background music that couldn’t be edited out, and there’s some dodgey editing and audio distortion in there too. You learn from your mistakes apparently, and I have learned a lot since I made this last year.

One of the stars in this documentary is
Who I have mentioned here before. All the children are amazing, so if you listen, you can forgive my mistakes and at least be entertained and inspired by how music therapy helps them.

You can download the documentary

I haven’t tried it properly yet so hope it works.


OJ and I got our first award today! Yay!
It was given to us by
And the gang at

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and we’re not just licking up to them (pardon the pun) because they gave us an award, but it’s an amazing blog, and easily one of the best blogs out there.
For some reason my comments aren’t posting there recently so I didn’t get to wish the not so little man a happy eleventh birthday! Read the post about his 11 reasons to celebrate, because its very inspirational, and just brilliant!

I want to pass this award on to
Becky and Cricket
Because they are also great. Thanks for the regular comments and a great blog.

Has just finished training with her first guide dog. Visit her blog at
and see how she is getting on.

Currently listening to:
David Geraghty: ‘the victory dance’