The silent world of Hector Mann

Myself and a friend made a last minute decision to go to see
Duke Special
in Letterkenny yesterday. I tried getting an interview with him for my show but it didn’t work out, so I wasn’t really planning to go to the gig. Luckily it hadn’t sold out and we got tickets on the door.

Duke recently released a box set called ‘the stage, a book and the silver screen’, which contains music he wrote for a played called ‘mother courage and her children’, music for ‘huckelberry Fin’ and music for twelve films by the silent movie maker Hector Mann.
Its a very interesting concept and you can read more about it
here

Duke and his band performed the twelve songs from Hector Mann in the first half of the gig. Between songs they showed some video clips of some of the songwriters talking about the film they had written their song for. After a fifteen minute interval they played tracks from ‘mother courage’ and a couple from ‘Huckelberry Finn’, ending with ‘diggin an early grave’ from the previous album ‘I never thought this day would come’. The audience sang and clapped as Duke made his way through the rows of people, nearly tripping over my feet when he came to our row. Oops! Just as well O.J wasn’t there too.
All his songs feature a piano, and the old style piano sounded amazing in the theatre last night.

We talked to him briefly after the gig. He was nervous about how the audience would react to the songs, since this was the first gig of the Irish tour. There was no need to be though. It was a bit different from his usual gigs, and attracted a slightly older audience. He’s always an interesting performer to watch on stage,, while off stage each time I’ve met him he seems quite shy.I admire him because he is always innovative. Whether he’s writing for a musical, playing with his musician friends having fun, playing with an orchestra or just touring his latest album, his live performances never disappoint.

Quote of the night:
“Mother nature called very quick, never mind mother courage! I don’t think I’ve ever made such a swift exit off stage after a song in my life!”

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Thanks!

Thanks so much to
Torie
Ro
Nicky
Becky
and
Beth
for their brilliant guest posts during the last week. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments after each one, and I’m glad people found them useful and insightful. Thanks to the people who mentioned this on their blogs and twitter as well.

Brad Taylor from the Lighthouse for the visually impaired and blind in Port Richey, Florida contacted me to tell me about
Sylvia
their executive director, who is blogging about her journey of getting her first guide dog. Check it out!

If anyone has any ideas for a guest post they’d like to write, just email me. Otherwise its back to normal blogging service from me! 🙂

Guest post: Dora’s Retirement

Guest posted By
Beth Finke

We were on a normal walk to town when I first noticed. My harness hand. It was dipping and swerving with each step. I leaned down to feel Dora’s shoulder. She was limping.

Arthritis, the vet said. Taking his advice, I started Dora on a daily dose of buffered aspirin. The limping stopped, but the walks to town that used to invigorate Dora just plain wore her out. She started taking long naps after our excursions, and she didn’t rouse from those naps as easily as she used to. She’d need to retire soon.

Back in 1990, it took two terrifying mishaps in traffic to convince me to switch from a white cane to a guide dog. Now, after ten years of side-by-side travel with Dora, it was going to take a lot to convince me that I’d ever love my next Seeing Eye dog as much as I did her.

Blindness dictates practicality, however. For Dora’s and for my sake, I signed up to return to the Seeing Eye for a replacement dog. Dog-loving friends assumed I’d keep Dora at home when she retired. My husband Mike would have liked us to keep her, too, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to devote myself to a new Seeing Eye dog if Dora was still around.

Another option was to bring her back to the Seeing Eye. They keep a long list of volunteers interested in adopting retired dogs. I’ve never done a formal study on the pros and cons of bringing a retired dog back to the school they started from, but I’d talked to two people who had chosen that option. Our conversation took place way back in 1991, when I was training with Dora. Their stories have stuck with me all these years.

Barking in the Kennels

I talked to John and Jeri about their dogs’ retirement at the Seeing Eye during one of our rare breaks from the daily training routine. John described walking into the front hallway with Robin, his previous dog, and being met by a Seeing Eye staff member. “Say goodbye to your dog,” the staff member instructed. “I said goodbye, and then someone took her away,” John said. He heard Robin’s harness jingling as she walked away. “And that was that.

Once Jeri got started telling me about her retired German Shepherd, Sarah, all she could do was cry. The only thing I understood through all the tears was that she was convinced she could hear her dog barking in the kennels at night. “I know it’s her,” she said, taking a couple big sniffs. “I can tell it’s my Sarah.” John claimed, too, that he could pick out Robin’s barking amongst all the dogs we heard each day in the nearby kennels. “I know she’ll be happy here,” John said, talking to himself now rather than to us. “They’ll take good care of her.”

Dora wouldn’t be going back to the seeing eye to retire. There was no way I could concentrate on a new dog while hearing Dora bark in the distance. The new dog wouldn’t stand a chance.

Adoption Option

Lots of people showed interest in adopting Dora. The post office worker who helped with my packages had just lost her yellow lab the year before. she told me she’d like to take Dora. The waitress at our favorite restaurant wanted Dora. One day at the library, the man behind me in line heard me talking to the librarian about Dora. He passed me his business card. “I’d take her in a second,” he said.

But I’d pretty much decided that if Dora was going to live with anyone, it’d be with Randy. Randy lived alone and dated an old friend of ours who was a single mom. When we first met Randy, he took an instant liking to Dora. After finding out that Randy did foster care for the local animal shelter, I took an instant liking to him, too. So did Dora.

Dora spent a happy trial weekend with Randy. I liked the idea that at Randy’s, Dora would get a lot of individual attention. Plus there’d be plenty of opportunities for play with children when our friend and her kids came to visit. Best of all, Randy only lived a half-mile away. This meant that when I got Dora pangs, I could easily head over there for a hug. Which I did. Many, many times. Every time I visited, I found Dora lying on the couch, happy,fluffy and…fat. “I give her treats all the time!” Randy gushed. “She is such a beautiful, beautiful dog.” He bathed her every week, too — that’s why her fur fluffed out the way it did. I could hardly recognize her by the feel of her coat!

Happy in her retirement, Dora lived to be 17 years old. These days when I think about my own retirement, I hope it’s one like Dora had: living with a man who spoils me, lets me lie on the couch, feeds me bon bons and tells me all the time how beautiful I am.

Guest post: Settled In

guest posted by
Becky

As Cricket and I walked one of our ‘usual’ routes today, I reflected on how we were enjoying the stage of being settled in as a team. She is healthy, happy, loves her job as a guide dog, we rarely have any behavioral issues, she knows my mannerisms and often can anticipate my moves — all some of the joys of a team a few years in.

Cricket is four (five in June) and has been as a working guide for three plus years. As my second guide dog, Cricket and I settled into our routine fairly quickly – although I recall about six months into our work as a team walking along and it just felt natural like we were in synch. Cricket can walk as far as I want to go, she races to the door each time she sees me get ready to leave, she settles in at my office, she is calm but still perky and full of energy.

I also realize as we are settled in that I know Cricket’s little likes and dislikes so much more. She likes to eat and then have a nice drink of CLEAN water .. the bowl needs to be rinsed out then she drinks lots in the morning. Knowing her routine of likes and dislikes and a pretty consistent routine of business duties is another joy of a mid-career dog!

At this stage we are as one … it feels like we glide and it is such a joy. I love this time as a team – I have experienced retirement and the passing of my first guide so I know those are difficult days ahead but for now I cherish and embrace each day with my Cricket Girl as she is in the prime of her career as a guide dog!

Guest post: Richie

Guest posted by
Nicky
(remember to wish him a happy birthday in the comments section!)

The one thing that I was sure of since I can remember and since I knew enough was that I wanted a Guide Dog. I was always a lover of dogs and Animals and the idea that at some point I could have a dog that would Guide me and take me places was something brilliant to think about. I remember thinking about how we would go places or where we might live. I grew up in the countryside and loved to go for walks with my mother and our pet Labrador Cleo. I imagined how if I had a Guide Dog I could do all of this on my own and have our own place and stuff like that. It seemed like the day would never come.

When I first made my application for a dog, all eligible applicants had to be eighteen years old. I was a bit older than that when I applied as I realised that I needed to know where exactly my life was going and what plans in the short term I had that may impact on the dog should I be matched up with one. I was still living in the family home and commuting from Carlow to Dublin to work every day. This was roughly a two hour trip morning and evening so that would also more than likely require a dog with patience.

My assessment visit went well. When you are assessed you are measured for walking speed and asked some questions about your life in general and what sort of things you might expose the dog too and what my daly routine was. This was to ensure that the dog I would get could cope with all of this and that we wouldn’t in so far as possible have problems.

It was near enough to a year later before I got the call that I had a possible match with a Labrador called Richie. I remember meeting Richie in Cork for the first time and the meeting went very well. We had a good matching walk together with the instructor and she was pleased with how we got along together. It was decided that I would start on class with him in three weeks from then.

The class had its ups and downs in terms of our walks or how we were getting on together in terms of working as a unit or a partnership. Off harness Richie was a pet. He was very loveable but cheeky. He could also be bold and grab things like socks or shoes and run round and round a room with them and would refuse point blank to give them back. On our walks there was a good deal of pulling when I had him on harness and we tried to just put this down to him being excited or eager but unfortunately he became a hard dog to control.
Coming home was no bother to him. He settled in well and wasn’t a very sensitive dog so he took it all in his stride.

Straight after my home training and the class training had finished, I started to get gradually back into my lifestyle. Richie was becoming very dominant with other dogs and at the time I didn’t really know what was happening but I learned a lot about dog behaviour with Richie and from the instructions given to me by the centre. He was also a scavenger and at times if he saw food or some interesting bit of rubbish on the road that he wanted to have more of a look at he would pull me straight to it not realising that it mightn’t be safe to do so. It got to the stage where I needed two hands to control him having the lead in my right hand and his harness handle in my left. If we saw another dog this became a nightmare as he would growl and bark and go on the attack as if he was telling the dog off and wanted to let them know that he was the boss and that they had to do as he wanted. In one incident shortly after we had come home and were back at work he walked me into a motorbike and we knocked it over. I was so embarrassed that I just kept walking and I knew that he did that because he just simply was not concentrating on what he was supposed to be doing.

We lasted two and a half years together. In recounting my experiences I am conscious that I do not want to scare people and I have left some details out as to other little problems I encountered with him as I don’t feel it would be appropriate to go into total detail. I knew at that stage the game was up. He never ever let anything happen to me and whether that was a fluke or not I just don’t know. I always felt safe with him but his behaviour was not in keeping with the behaviour of a dog that is supposed to be working. He was being so distracted by dogs that he might see while working or noises he heard, that he would bark continuously at them or cower at suspicious objects which was only one time as harmless as a Christmas tree, but to him it was something he just couldn’t get to like and it startled him.

I retired him and felt very sad. I knew the game was up and was given great support by a man no longer working with Guide Dogs here in Ireland but a man that I very much still respect. Simon Higgs had a great way with the dogs and the clients and he certainly took the time to talk to me and help me realise that none of this was my fault. This was important and there were times when I felt that maybe I didn’t do enough to make the partnership work better but I know now that Richie just wasn’t happy being a working Guide Dog. He just wasn’t cut out for this sort of thing where he had to work to a routine every day. He was most happiest when he could get out and run and play around and be his cheeky self. He is now still alive and well living with a family in Co. Meath and I know that he made such a difference to their lives and has brought them great happiness.

Richie retired in the Autumn and by the summer of the following year I had successfully trained with my current dog Ralph. I still work with Ralph nearly six years later and we have a fantastic working relationship. I learned so much from having Richie about how I might cope with situations should they ever happen again but thankfully they didn’t. I am so glad that I didn’t give up like I was tempted to at the time and not go for a successor dog. Ralph fits into my life now and having him is not like having an attachment you have to think about its just like being part of a good team. He is there for me and is my eyes when we are working and I am there to look after him and take care of him, and we work well like that with each other.

I really hope that my account of my experiences with Richie and how everything didn’t quite go to plan, and how I did eventually become very lucky to get a dog like Ralph gives people encouragement to keep going even if they have a bad experience. Never ever should people blame themselves if it doesn’t work out. Its all a learning curve. At some point I will have to face the time when Ralph will not be able to work for me any more and I will have to go through another stage of learning to get use to the personality of another dog all over again.

I have never before written anything about my experiences with Richie and would like to thank Jen for letting me contribute my story and hopefully it will benefit people to know the negative experiences along with the positive ones.

Guest Post: the training

Guest posted by
Ro

When I went blind in April of 2008, I was put in touch with the friend of a friend who is blind. I remember her telling me all about her guide dog and how I just had to get one. Mind you, I had only been blind maybe a month when she was telling me all about going to San Rafael, CA for a month. Are you kidding me??? Get on a plane and go stay at a school for a month? Yeah, how bout no. At the time, I didn’t even have a white cane. The thought of leaving my boyfriend and my friends was way too scary.

Well, after a rough period of adjustment, I started learning “blind skills” like orientation and mobility with the white cane. I had learned how to use a screen reader. I went to the blind center often. Life was getting back to some sense of normalcy. One day I decided to look up guide dogs. I ended up spending an entire day reading all about Guide Dogs for the Blind, or GDB. It was the school that lady told me I just had to attend. I was hooked. I applied. I told my friend about it and it was then that my blog was born. I had joked about writing a
Doggy Diaries to document the journey and she told me I should and told me about Blogger. I’m so grateful I did, because now I can just click certain labels and remember the whole journey.

After I applied, I had a home visit. A man from the school came to look at my home area and assess my travel skills. The visit went really well. I also had to submit a ton of medical paperwork which was pretty easy; I just asked my doctors to send in the required info. I had to get a tetanus shot and a TB test. Once all that was in, I waited. I got my acceptance email on December 29, 2009, after having applied in September. I would be going to school on February 15! The classes have changed now and are only three weeks, much to my relief. I had joined an email list of other GDB grads and began signing my emails with my name and “insert doggy here”. Soon we all referred to my unknown dog as “Insert” haha!
I have an
Insert” label
on my blog so I can go remember the waiting and the anticipation.
Already, Insert had changed my life. Because of the blog and the email list, I had made so many amazing friends. I sometimes wonder how I made it before I met all my Blogger pals.

Finally it was time to go. I boarded a plane to California, about to begin
the biggest adventure of my life.
At the campus, I had my own dorm room. The first few days we worked with the instructors on learning the guide dog commands. We learned how to harness “Wheeler” the fake dog on wheels. We did Juno work, Juno being a rolled up piece of carpet. We learned obedience commands and even got to practice with a few dogs who were still in their formal training. February 17, 2010 was dog day. We’d be getting our dogs that day. The instructors had painstakingly matched each of us to a dog, based on information gathered from our home interviews and discussions with the instructors. All I knew was that I needed a chill dog because of my auto immune disease. That was really my only requirement. I was convinced I’d be getting a black lab female. Don’t ask me why. The morning of dog day, they went around the room and told us our dog’s names and details. My heart pounded as I waited for them to get to me. Finally they did. “You will be receiving Jayden, a yellow lab male.” I sat there, whispering his name to myself. They took us back to our rooms and we had to wait for them to come take us to meet our dogs. Finally they came and got me. I finally had my dog! After all the waiting and the anticipation, I had him. He was awesome. He was chill. I got him back to my room and crouched down beside him and he put his head on my shoulder. I instantly knew he was the perfect dog. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.

The training began immediately. We spent some time together and then I took him to lunch. We didn’t work the dogs in the building yet, so I heeled him next to me. That afternoon was our first workout together. I harnessed him up and we went for a walk in downtown San Rafael. There are many experiences I’ve read about the first walk. For me it was nerve wracking haha! There was so much to remember, so many commands, when to take out the leash, when to tell him to hop up, when to probe out when he stopped, finding curbs, listening for traffic. It was intense. I was still fairly new to traveling blind and here I was trusting a dog to guide me. I won’t lie. The training was hard. It was grueling. There was a very set feeding and relieving schedule. My day went something like this: Wake up at 5:45. Get dressed, make instant coffee. Feed Jayden at 6:20. Relieve Jayden at 6:30. Breakfast at 7:15. Meet in day room at 8:15. Relieve Jayden at 8:30. Board bus. Arrive at downtown lounge, go on a work out. Arrive back at campus at 11:30 and water and relieve. Lunch at 12:30. Relieve at 1:30. Board bus. Do another workout. Arrive back at campus. Feed and relieve at 4:30. Dinner at 6. Water at 7, sometimes have a night lecture. Relieve at 8:30. Pass out. It was hard to find time to shower or do laundry. I limited phone calls to my boyfriend and family only after quickly realizing that phone time was too stressful. All I wanted to do was bond with Jayden. In the dorm room we would play or cuddle. He was with me all the time. He went with me to meals in the dining hall. I’ll never forget when I finally could work him in the building. I told him to take me to dinner and he took me right to the dining hall, and then right to our table. We flew through the halls!

I learned so much in those three weeks and I thought that was it. But no. The training really begins upon arriving home. Jayden knew that campus and San Rafael from his formal training days, but he didn’t know my home. The first few weeks were all about showing him routes. I patterned him by heeling him and using the cane to walk routes. I used food reward to mark places we’d go on a regular basis and always had a party when we reached my door, so he’d do anything to get me to those places. We got lost a few times, right in my apartment complex haha! Luckily there were always neighbors around, but once I had to call the office and get rescued. I quickly learned never to leave the house without my phone and a poop bag, oh and kibble of course! The last time we got lost, a storm had blown in out of nowhere. I couldn’t hear to get my orientation. I didn’t have my cane. I had no idea where we were. Finally I said, “Jayden, find home.” And he took us right to my door…that was the day it all began to click. That was the day I finally turned my life over to my guide dog. I fully trusted him then, and we haven’t gotten lost since.

Jayden fitted in well right from the start. He quickly earned house freedom and was only on tie down at home for about two weeks. I started giving him small amounts of freedom and he never once tried to eat anything or kill a cat haha! The training continues and will for awhile. I do obedience with him regularly and even have made it a game of hide and seek. He knows I’m boss, but also knows I love him more than anything. I’m the keeper of the food. 🙂 Having Jayden has changed my life. Those grueling three weeks of training at school were so worth it. Jayden is my guide, my companion, my best friend. He picks me up when I’m down either by throwing his head into my lap when we’re on the couch, or dropping onto his back in front of me for a belly rub and a romp. I love my guide dog!

Guest Post: the guide dog application

My journey so far
Guest posted by
Torie

I was really happy that my good friend Jenifer asked me to write this article. I hope you all enjoy.

Applying for a guidedog is quite a hard decision to make. You have to know that you’re ready, and not jump into it without asking questions, and finding out what owning a guidedog is actually like.

I hadn’t really thought about a guidedog much. When I was younger I would say “In x years I will be eligible for a guidedog!!!” I thought it sounded great. I kept asking during the next couple of years what would happen when I applied, but I still thought that it would be cool, and hadn’t realised what was involved.

It was on a regular mobility visit that my rehab worker had asked if I would like to apply for a guidedog. He wasn’t going to force me into it or anything, but he thought that it might be good for me to think about it at least. I had loooooooooads of questions during his visit and afterwords. Things like “How would I be able to control the dog? Would it make me more independent? Would it not be hard to walk with the harness?” etc. After getting all those questions answered, I made the first step and applied a couple of days later. This involved ringing up our local district team and saying that I would like to apply. The woman I spoke to asked me a couple of questions like why I wanted a guidedog, and what format I would like information in.

A couple of days later, I got sent a letter and an enquiry leaflet telling me a bit about what everyone’s role was in the district team, and that I would be getting an “enquiry visit”, which would give me a chance to ask any more questions I had, and to start filling in the paperwork. This visit took place almost a week later. My rehab worker carried out this visit, where we discussed the different stages, and I could ask any questions I had. I think some of the paperwork was started by this point, or else it was in the next stage.
About a month later, I had to fill in a medical form which was posted out to me.

At around June time, my rehab worker came out again to do the “mobility assessment” of my application. This involved me doing a route that I knew with the cane, and filling in some more paperwork, such as how I got around, and what sort of things I used to help me when out and about, such as finding landmarks.

IT was waiting for a couple of months after this, until around October time, when I had the “Guidedog assessment”. This was with a Guidedog mobility instructor. This involved me asking yet more questions, then we went out for a walk. I used the cane a bit, then was introduced to what is called the “Short handle harness”. This is basically to simulate the dogs movements, and is a harness that the instructor holds, while you hold the other end with the handle on it. This is so that you get used to commanding the dog, and feeling what it would be like using the harness. You also have to learn “Foot positions” which are basically positions for certain commands. Like for example, if you wanted the dog to go forward, you would have one foot slid back a bit rather than your feet being together. You would have both your feet together, but then you would slide your right foot back as if you were about to step off with that foot. There are also jestures you use too as well as your voice and feet.

So on this assessment the instructor taught me some of the foot positions, then got me to command the dog. I felt a bit embarrassed talking to an empty harness, to be honest. I had to get really good with my “Good girls”!!!! which was quite hard, as I thought everyone would hear me lol. I hardly said “Boo to a goose” that day lol. I think it was cause it was a new person who I wasn’t used to, and I think because I had never used the harness before either.

After our walk, the instructor needed to fill in stuff about my height and lifestyle and that. She recommended that I have a further walk with an actual dog, which is called the “Guidedog Further assessment”. This is where you walk with the dog, to see how it would walk and such. This further assessment wouldn’t be necessary for everybody though. It just depends on what the instructor who assesses you thinks.

The “guidedog further assessment” happened about 2 months after the “guidedog assessment”. This was where I got taken up to the main office of our team, with the same instructor from the previous assessment. I basically did some short handle work, then worked with a dog that wasn’t yet matched, practicing correcting the dog when on lead, and in harness. That walk with the dog was quite scary!!!!!! He was really quick, and I thought that he wouldn’t stop at kerbs and that. Again, I think it was just me being nervous, since it was only the second time with the instructor.

After that, it’s the waiting list. This is where you are put on a list of people that wait for a dog. You are on it from approximately 6 months to a year, but this could be longer or shorter. It just depends when a dog comes up that may be suitable for you. Sometimes you might not go on the list immediately after your “guidedog or guidedog further assessment”, which happened in my case. This wasn’t particularly bad, and I was on the list a couple of weeks, but because I was doing my exams, they didn’t know how long the list would be and didn’t want to interrupt my studying. So I was put back on after about 3 months.

I’ve now been on for a year now. The waiting is probably the hardest part of the whole process. I’ve been doing lots to keep me busy though, from learning new routes in preparation for the dog, to doing some more short handle practice.

After you wait, you will finally get a phone call telling you that they may have a potential match for you. They come out and do a “matching visit” where they see if the dog is suited to your speed and that, then you wait for a couple of weeks before going off to a hotel to do a two week residential training course with the dog. This is where you learn how to work with the dog. After that, an instructor spends about 2 weeks with you at home learning routes with you and your dog. Well you know the routes but you work them with the dog. After that, you qualify.

I really can’t wait to get matched!

Dining and dog grooming

The RNIB in Derry work closely with staff at the Northwest regional college learning support service, to ensure that courses and services are accessible for blind and visually impaired people who decide to study there. Yesterday evening they held an awareness event for the staff and students of the cookery department. Dining in the dark is an opportunity for sighted people to eat a meal blindfolded, to get an idea of what its like having a visual impairment.

Yesterday’s event was very well organised. Before we were seated, I worked with an RNIB employee to teach the students who would be waitressing sighted guide. When everyone was blindfolded, the students led them to their tables in the restaurant. Each table had around eight staff members, as well as a person with a visual impairment. There was a braille menu on each table. . The food was beautiful and the students did a great job at explaining where things were and helping people if they needed it. After the meal, blindfolds were removed, and we had a short discussion pannel to hear what everyone thought of the experience. Myself and three other people who are visually impaired answered questions.

I talked to someone recently who said they didn’t think disability simulation was a good idea, since it isn’t a true representation of what its like to have that disability. I can see where they are coming from, but surely doing it in a fun event like this can’t do any harm. If it makes people stop and think for a while, and makes them more aware of issues that blind people might encounter then it has achieved something. It’s something I’d like to do again, maybe as a fundraiser or just with family or friends for fun. I know
Gavin’s family
from the US ran a very successful ‘night without sight’ fundraising event recently.
During dinner people said that they became more aware of background noise when they were talking to each other. They took their time eating and took much smaller spoonfuls, sometimes empty spoonfuls! My two favorite points during dinner was when someone drank the wrong coffee by mistake, and when the waiter asked the man beside me if he was finished, and he replied, “I don’t know, am I?”

After I did the radio interview with Mark Patterson at radio Foyle last month, a dog groomer rang in to offer O.J a free groom. I brought him to
groomin marvelous
this afternoon and Michael did a great job. It was a very kind offer and I really appreciated it, and will take both dogs back there in the future.

I’ll have a series of guest posts on the blog next week for the first time. They are very interesting so check them out.

Guest post: paws for thought invades 2uibestow

This week paws for thought invades
2uibestow!

Peter Nagle’s music blog
2uibestow
is one of my favourite places to find information on Irish music. He has an obvious passion for it, and his reviews of gigs, new bands and new music are great.
He recently asked me to be a guest blogger on the site, and you can read my posts every day this week.
Thanks Peter for giving me the opportunity to try guest blogging for the first time.

adjusting to life with a guide dog

Owning a guide dog and living with your family can sometimes be a challenge. I thought it might be worth bringing up this topic for future guide dog owners, and it would be good to here other people’s experiences. Although it can take a bit of work at the beginning, there’s no reason why a guide dog can’t fit into a busy household.

Luckily I get on well with my family and we are all dog-lovers, so having an extra hound in the house wasn’t a problem. I had to teach them right from the beginning that O.J is a working dog first, and then a pet. For this reason, feeding him at the table or outside his regular feeds wasn’t allowed. Our previous pet dogs were often fed from the table, so I started discouraging this when we got Dougal six months before O.J came. It worked well and although they might be tempted, family members don’t feed him.
For the first few months I wanted to make sure that I did almost everything with O.J. I fed him, groomed him, walked him and played with him, and made sure that my nephew and other people only played with him for short periods of time. This showed O.J that I was the boss and the person who looks after him, and that other people won’t play with him whenever he wants.

When you come home from training, you have so much to remember and everything is so new. Suppose its like having a new baby and you are worried encase you do anything wrong. It is important that the people you live with give you space and time to work things out with the dog and that they don’t interfere. Of course it can be difficult to explain this to family members who just want to fuss over the new dog. They have to remember that you are the person who was professionally trained to handle the dog, so you know what your doing. If its something you think you’ll have a problem with, it might be worth asking your trainer to have a chat with your family members on your behalf. Advice is sometimes more easily accepted when it comes from a professional or a complete stranger.

Some family members might find it hard to accept your independence when you get a dog. If they’ve been used to seeing you being guided by other people or using a cane, then trusting a dog can seem strange. People might try to discourage you from taking the dog to a particular place, because you could manage without it before, but the dog is your new means of independence, so it should be up to you to choose where and when you bring it with you.

Guide dogs can fit into any type of family, with children and other animals easily, but there is no doubt that it can take a bit of extra work. The sooner you do this, and tell people what is accepted and what’s not, the better it will be for everybody. Dog trainers will tell you that one of the most important things when training a dog is consistency. A dog doesn’t understand that he’s allowed to do something one day but not the next, so if you don’t want them jumping on furniture, don’t let them do it from the very beginning. If the people you live with respect this then you’ll be fine.
I’ve found that trying to explain the reasons for doing things works better than getting angry when people let the dog do something you aren’t happy with. You never know when you might need to go away without the dog, and will need someone to babysit!