(photo taken by our Spanish student Javier!)

I have a problem. Or should I say O J has the problem, but since he can’t solve it for himself I have to make a decision for him.

OJ’s anal glands have been filling up really quickly recently. He’s only needed them emptied once in two years, but a few times in the last few months. Its very gross, and very very painful. The vets doing it, i’m feeling sick and O J lies down on the floor in pain. Obviously I need to do something about it soon, as its not helping the fear of going to the vet that he already has anyway.

The kennel supervisor in Cork said that this can be caused by a lack of fibre in their diet, and to try a couple of things first: giving him a carrot daily, or putting a handful of bran in his food. This will make his poo firmer and prevent the glands from filling up.
If these didn’t work she suggested changing his food or having his glands removed completely. I don’t know much about the latter, but apparently its not a big deal. I was hoping that the food wouldn’t be what’s causing this, as I think his food works well for him. The hastle of getting him used to a different type, and making sure he’s not sick or going to the toilet when he’s not meant too etc sounds like a pain. If the food is causing the problem then I’m obviously happy to change it.

My aunt is a yoga teacher and kenesiologist, among many things. She does food tests for people to see what they are alergic too, and believes in herbal remedies and alternative medecin for treatment. She often tested their cats, dogs and horses and treated them this way, and has offered to test OJ sometime.
I mentioned the anal glands to her the other day, and she wants to test him in a few weeks when she gets back from a course. It can’t do him any harm, and will be interesting to see what comes out of it. She can see if his food agrees with him, and maybe it just needs something simple like a herb added.
She was surprised at the bran suggestion, and completely against having his glands removed, but she avoids doctors like the plague anyway, so that’s not surprising. I thought this could be the best option, if its not a big job and won’t affect his work too much. If its a lifelong problem that I can do something about then I want to help.

So now I don’t know what to do. I’m going to have him tested anyway just out of interest. I wonder in general, should more natural products be used to treat animals when possible? Sometimes when you go to the vet with a problem, the dog is injected with something or other straight away, and I sometimes wonder if there’s a more natural way of treating this? Does anyone have any suggestions as to waht I could do?

On a completely different note, I walked to town to leave our Spanish student to his friends house earlier. He took Dougal and I took OJ, or should that be OJ took me! Anyway I was meeting my mum in my aunts, so when Javier went to his friends I had to walk with both dogs up the town and down to her house. I got stopped so many times, as I’d imagine both dogs attracted a bit more attention. It was freezing, so I wasn’t really in the mood to stop and chat. I’ll have to leave taking Dougal into town for sunny days, if there are such things in Ireland.

Currently reading: Keane: the autobiography
Currently listening to: REM live at the Olympia, thanks to an unline friend who sent me two limited addition REM cds in the post. I was only expecting one so was delighted. The Olympia one is brilliant, especially if you like your old REM tunes. If your expecting ‘everybody hurts’ and ‘losing my religion’ and all the hits you’ll be disappointed.


We got this award today from the lovely family and golden doodle who blog at
Irish assistance dog
Thank you so much. I’ll follow the instructions; pass it on to five bloggers, who will hopefully pass it on to five more blogs and so on. Mine aren’t all doggy related, but just five of many I’m enjoying reading at the moment.

Selina and Calvin
have almost finished two weeks of guide dog training together. I hope its all going well and there’ll be lots more fun to come.

is great fun, has lots of determination and a great blog. I’m glad I found it.

green tea
from New Zealand is new to blogging, but is keeping me entertained and is doing a good job so far. Keep it up!

Digital Darragh
deserves an award for his recent microwave post. I don’t have awards for good ideas, so this one will have to do you. Come to think of it, maybe Freddie deserves it more! You can fight over it.

Our Jacob
is written by the father of Jacob, a little boy with downs syndrome. If everybody viewed disability in such a positive way life would be a lot easier.

Happy thanksgiving to anybody from America who reads this blog. Enjoy the celebrations.

looking good!

When you train with a guide dog, you soon learn the importance of grooming. No matter what breed you are matched with, grooming is necessary to keep your dog healthy and clean. As these dogs have access to all public places, their appearance is very important. As well as combing and brushing, grooming can include bathing, checking for any signs of health problems, cleaning ears and teeth, and even clipping toenails. It is also a good bonding process between you and your dog. Unfortunately all pet dogs don’t get groomed as regularly as guide dogs, even though they would benefit from it just as much.

Everybody approaches grooming differently. I spoke to a guide dog owner who happened to mention that they recently spent almost two hours drying their lab with a hair dryer after bathing it with shampoo, combing it and then putting on conditioner. Now that’s dedication!
I could lie and tell you that I groom O J every day. It’s more like every second or third, but I always do it if we’re going somewhere special or to someone’s house. No matter when I do it, lots of hair comes off! I don’t clean his teeth. The chews he eats take care of that, and the vet checks them often. I have never needed to clip his toenails yet, but think I would let Dougal’s groomer do it, rather than risk nearly cutting a blood vessel, which is apparently very very painful.
I try to wash him as little as possible, as too much washing can remove the natural oils from their coat. I’m not really into all this doggy perfume and stuff, but all the brushing ensures that he doesn’t smell. People constantly tell me how shiny his coat is (not sure if this is a black lab thing, or just my luck.) O J loves being groomed, but other
Don’t make it so easy!

I have thought of getting O J groomed professionally sometime, to see how he would react and to see if he can get any shinier! Maybe that could be his Christmas present. All groomers charge different rates, and some apparently reduce their rate for assistance dogs. I know a guide dog owner who’s local groomer will collect his dog at work, groom it free of charge and return it to him when its done. Talk about good service!

So what does your dog’s grooming routine involve?

new furry addition to the family!

My oldest nephew was eleven yesterday. He played a football match with his friends on Sunday, and they had food, sweets and chased OJ around the house afterwards. We had dinner and birthday cake in his house yesterday.

I wanted to give him something special, as he is my Godson too. He’s naturally a very helpful child, and very good to me. I was twelve when he was born, he lived with us for a couple of years, and we’re very close.
He loves animals and is very good at looking after our dogs. He can’t have his own, as they are out most of the day and their house is surrounded by sheep and farms. They had a dog for a while, but the wrong choice of breed, lack of exercise and the area they lived in then meant that it wasn’t suitable, which wasn’t fair on the dog or its owners.
I have always been lucky enough to have pets, and think caring for them is a great responsibility for children, so with some convincing, I allowed his parents to let me buy him a hamster.

I went to the pet shop last Thursday and bought
a cage,
Food, bedding, wood shavings, a ball and a chew. OJ wasn’t too impressed when I touched lots of cages on the ground. He gets very jealous if I touch something that isn’t him. Yesterday I left work an hour early and went with my dad to get the hamster. I chose a Russian hamster, as the others are very quick and don’t like being handled, or they bite.

I think it was the first time I’ve seen Jack speechless! He was very excited and had lots of questions, one of which was how long do they live? They have a life span of two to three years, which could be a problem for his two year old brother. I think keeping animals is a good way for children to learn about life and death, because unfortunately they will have to deal with it at some stage.
The hamster took a while to venture upstairs in his cage. He hadn’t discovered his wheel by the time I left home, but Jack rang me a couple of hours later to tell me he’d started running in it. He’s one happy boy this week.

O J, you’ll be back to number one pet next week, I promise!

Dublin and the GDO network

Friday 13th started off as a disaster but it worked out ok by the time we got to Dublin. We got the bus from Derry and there was another guide dog owner on it, who was staying in the same hotel as us and going to the meeting too. It was pouring rain when we got to Dublin. I was glad my mum came with me because we had so much stuff and didn’t know where we were going.

We met a friend for dinner in a Thai restaurant on Abbey Street. I hadn’t seen her in ages so it was good to catch up. She’s my mum’s friend’s daughter so they get on very well. The food was gorgeous and the staff were very friendly, and very good to OJ. A little baby came over to pet him and didn’t want to go home! He was so cute. He had been sick for a while, and his dad said that seeing OJ really cheered him up. We got the Luas back to the hotel. When it stopped, the door beside us didn’t open so we had to run to the next one. We got out just in time, and as we walked towards the hotel, the luas driver got out and apologised. He said he didn’t see us in the camera and he was very sorry, even though it wasn’t his fault.

We stayed in the
Ashling hotel
which was really nice, and again the staff were very helpful. We had a couple of drinks with the other GDO before bed. OJ was very considerate and let me have 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. At 7 o clock he couldn’t resist waking me up, but I made him go back to sleep again.

The gdo network meeting was well organised and I found it interesting. There were about 25 guide dogs there, and I was surprised at how relaxed OJ was, since he’d only seen one of them before. About 10 people sent apologies, but there was a serious lack of communication on Cork’s part, as all the gdos in Ireland were supposed to be invited, and they obviously weren’t. People just spoke about different issues they had, how things could be improved and how the network can move forward to ensure that these changes actually take place.
It was great to meet people from the email list, and that’s the main reason that I went. I met some really nice dogs too, including the famous Chad, who is
brother. He is one big dog!! There was lots of water provided for all the dogs, and OJ had to drink out of every bowl encase they were different. Some sighted people helped to guide people and dogs if they needed help.

After the meeting I went for food with Nicky and
Digital Darragh
who i’ve wanted to meet for ages. They are mad! and great fun. Their dogs Ralph and Freddie are saints! They did a great job of getting me and OJ on to a packed luas and into the restaurant (I sware Darragh isn’t blind at all!) My mum met us there and asked the boys a million questions during lunch. Sorry about that! It was the first time i’ve ever got a braille menu in a restaurant in Ireland, which was nice. I also got a chance to see Darragh’s K sonar, and even though I thought I’d never admit it, I can see how it could be useful if you got used to it. Check out his site and blog if you want to know exactly what it is.

We got the bus home from Parnell Square, and dublin was busy because of the Ireland V France match. The bus was far too hot, but twitter and some music kept me sane. It was definitely worth going, and I hope to go to more meetings there next year.

ps. trust digital!

guide dog network

I have been signed up to the Irish guide dogs mailing list for over a year now. People there have often talked about setting up a meeting, where guide dog owners can discuss issues and make suggestions about how services can be improved. As a result, the
guide dog network
was born. Its first meeting takes place on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to it.

I have some friends in Dublin, but they are either not around, alergic to dogs or don’t have space/grass anywhere near where they live. My mums going Christmas shopping while I’m at the meeting, which is great because I didn’t want to stay in a hotel on my own! OJ has obviously helped me to become much more independent, but I still like to have an idea of where I’m going if I’m going somewhere on my own. I know lots of blind people are confident to just find their way around and ask for help when they need it. Maybe its because I don’t live in a city and am not really used to navigating really busy places on my own. Maybe its because I spend most of my time with people, so can ask for help when I need it. Maybe I’ll gradually become braver, or maybe I’m just an eternal wimp!

I meant to mention
Trust Tommy’s project
ages ago. He has set up the
Irish student blog site.
If you know anyone who has a blog that isn’t listed there, let them know about it please.

Sometimes when I post long posts about music, I think people might be bored, but its nice to see that
is listening to something I have recommended, and even better, he is enjoying it!

Right, coffee, then back to scarey serious writing!

Not hungry, just a lab

Anyone who has owned a Labrador knows just how greedy they are, and how much they love their food. They would eat all day if you let them! But just because they sniff at food, and give you those big puppydog eyes when you’re eating to make you feel guilty, doesn’t mean that they are starving and never get fed.

If you see how much food I give OJ, (a cup full twice a day) you’d probably think he’s being starved. Have you ever seen him? Have you even seen a picture? Does he look like a starved dog? I don’t think so! The food is royal canin
Which has all the nutrition this type of dog needs. He gets doggy treats too, but no human food at all and no extra half cup fulls for good behaviour!

Guide dogs have to be kept on a strict diet for many reasons:
-Just like humans, becoming overweight can make them feel lazy and tired, and leads to health problems.
-Feeding them titbits encourages them to beg for food, which they are not allowed to do. If I’m in a restaurant and OJ is drooling all over me and sniffing tables looking for food, it’s not going to look good, is it?
-If dogs take food from the ground or from strangers, they become distracted from their work and this could be dangerous for their handler.
-Guide dogs can have very sensitive stomachs because they only eat certain foods, so human food and dog food that they are not used to can make them throw up. Sick guide dog = stays at home = owner having to find their own way around without the dog = a complete nightmare!
-Unfamiliar food can result in an irregularity from the other end, which isn’t good when your dog is trained to go regularly (like clockwork as soon as its fed if you’re lucky) and you’ve to clean up after it in unexpected places.

Why do members of the public not believe us when we tell them this? Why do they believe that our dogs are constantly hungry and that they should be allowed to accept food from strangers? Would you tell a mother how to feed her child if you didn’t know her? Probably not. Our dogs obviously aren’t children, and I think its unrealistic to compare them to children, but they are our responsibility.
Why do people think that the best way to show your pet dog that you love it is to feed it and feed it and feed it some more? Try taking it for a walk and spending time with it instead.

99% of the time, people I explain this too are very understanding, but there’s always the awkward ones!

a link and a story…

Remember when I mentioned that guide dogs UK had dropped their age limit for application in
this post
If you want to know how successful it has been so far, read about four of the guide dog owners

On our way to work yesterday, not long after we left the town, the bus stopped to pick people up. A small dog ran on too and came up to OJ to have a sniff. We were sitting in the middle and he was under the seat, so its not like he could have seen him straight away. They wagged tails, the dog ran off again and the bus drove on. Strange! He didn’t come on today.

I’m recording my first Christmas radio show on thursday. Its soo early!