Slowly getting better

O.J has been home one week now, and is healing well every day.

My aunt and sister drove to Belfast with me to collect O.J last Saturday afternoon. I was expecting him to be tired, in pain and not very lively, but he was the complete opposite- full of energy and very happy to see me. The vet was very helpful. He gave me his tablets, filled in the pet insurance form and vet reports for Cork and my local vet, and talked about the effects of the medication. The staff said that O.J was very easy to look after. They showed me how to put on the cone collar before I left, but he has hardly touched his wound and hasn’t needed it since.

O.J had to have two anti-biotics twice a day in his food. He ate no problem at the beginning with the tablets crushed up, but then refused to eat his food. I had to hide the tablets in chicken or meat, and got them into him with difficulty. He will eat Dougal’s food no problem. Its royal canin for small dogs, so not a million miles away from his own food. I’m happy enough for him to eat this while he’s taking medication, and I’ll just only feed him his own food when it finishes, so he’ll have no choice and eventually eat it.

I brought O.J to the vet for a check-up on tuesday, where he was given a liquid painkiller because the wound was still red. It has to be added to his food using a syringe once a day, so its a bit awkward that I can’t do it myself. He went for another check-up yesterday and the vet is happy enough not to give him anymore medication. That’s a sign he’s definitely getting better. She said that the wound was the neatest she’s ever seen, so the vet in Belfast really did a great job. I’m sure his appetite will return to normal soon and he’ll be back working in a week or so. He’s been going for short walks on his lead, but I know that if he was allowed, he’d be back working today.

People have been constantly asking me how I’m managing without being able to work my guide dog. I honestly haven’t noticed it too much because I’ve been so busy recently. I was out all last weekend at the Buncrana music festival (which was amazing and deserves a post of its own), had some radio work to do during the week, and had a wedding on Thursday. Its frustrating not being able to go somewhere when I want, and there are times when I’d just love to go for a long relaxing walk on my own. My parents are away now for a few weeks, so I’m depending on lifts more often, but people are very helpful. I’m back to work on Tuesday so that should be interesting. Wonder where my cane is?

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Update on O.J

As most regular readers already know, O.J went to Belfast to have his anal glands removed on Monday. I got the bus up with my PA and got a taxi to the vet in East Belfast. The taxi driver was friendly and waited until we were finished without charging us any extra. We didn’t spend long in there, and O.J left with the assistant, wagging his tail and not looking back. There’s a lot to be said for getting your dog familiar with other people and not always spending time with you. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. The fact that O.J went away happy meant I was relaxed leaving him too. He was referred to a specialist vet in Belfast so I knew he was in safe hands.

The plan was that he’d stay until Wednesday to give him time to recover encase anything went wrong. I rang that evening to see how things were. The vet said that O.J had just woke up and was looking around him. The left gland which was giving him the most problems was difficult to remove so they were afraid of infection. He said he was glad that I left him in, and said that deciding to have them removed was a very good decision in O.J’s case, as he would have had more serious problems sooner or later.

I rang back the following evening to hear less positive news. The wound were the left gland was removed had bled and needed to be stiched again, so O.J was put under anisthetic again on Monday night. On Wednesday morning the vet advised me to leave him at least another day, as his wound was annoying him so he was constantly trying to itch it. He was afraid that if I took him home he would take out his stiches, and then we’d have trouble.

When I rang this morning (phone calls at the same time each day must drive the receptionist crazy by now) there was a slight improvement, but the vet still wasn’t ready to take any chances. O.J is eating and seems relaxed and not so uncomfortable. The wound looks like its healing well. . There’s a chance he could get home tomorrow, or definitely Saturday.

Its horrible not having him around the house, and of course we miss him, but I know he’s better staying there until he’s ready to come home. He won’t be working for a while anyway, and the more rest he gets without Dougal pestering him to play, the better!

The divine comedy gig

I’m a bit late with this since the gig was last Wednesday, but didn’t seem to have the time or energy to write until now.

Neil Hannon was brilliant at An Grianan Theatre. It was a lovely relaxed gig with a great audience. The venue seemed to be very full, which is a good sign for his first performance there. He performed a great mixture of old and new songs, including ‘songs of love’ (the theme tune to Father Ted encase anyone doesn’t know) which was class! It was interesting to hear acoustic versions of songs I am used to hearing with orchestration and a full band. Neil isn’t an amazing guitarist, but he admits that himself. His piano playing is very impressive though, and his voice is amazing and can definitely hold a note! He is very witty and charming, and had the audience laughing almost every time he spoke. At one point he proceeded to show us the contents of his bag (a towel, a boarding pass, twix and some other random stuff) just for no reason! I deliberately didn’t look at reviews or set lists of previous gigs, so got a great surprise when he performed his fantastic version of ‘time to pretend’ by MGMT. You could hear the words clearly in his version and it brought a whole new meaning to the song.

I contacted Neil Hannon’s PR people to see if I could interview him for my show. They told me that it should be no problem but that they’d get back to me closer to the time. I’ve heard this before from other PR people so didn’t get my hopes up. Just as well, because even though I reminded them about it I got no reply. I wish people would just say something’s not possible instead of saying it might be and then not contacting you again. I would have completely understood if they’d contacted to say it couldn’t happen. That would have been better than nothing. I did bring my plextalk recorder and mic just encase!

It was strange going to a gig with no humans and only O.J, and if it was a noisy gig that I couldn’t bring him too, I definitely wouldn’t have gone on my own. Having him there made me feel completely relaxed, even though he slept through the entire thing. He moved his head on top of my foot during the third song ‘everybody knows…) but didn’t move an inch apart from that. He didn’t even flinch during the loooong note at the end of ‘can you stand upon one leg’ (have a listen to the song and you’ll know what I mean!) Lots of people saw him and came up to chat, which is always helpful when I don’t know anyone. I did meet two friends who I didn’t know were going, and we had a drink in the theatre with their friends after, since the gig was over earlier than the film my parents went to see in the cinema. One of the bar staff came over to pet O.J (his harness was off John :)) and my friends kept an eye out for Neil, but we had no luck. The cover of the new Divine Comedy album shows him in a bath with a dog who apparently looks like O.J. Maybe its just as well they didn’t meet up. That might have been very strange!

Apart from the gig, we had a quiet week. The tragic road accident between Buncrana and Clonmany last Sunday night is still hard to believe and make sense of, and people in our town have had a tough week. Regardless of whether you knew the men or not, it has been on everybody’s mind since. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the families who are left behind.

My granny stayed with us for five days so we had a busy house. The dogs loved sitting beside her to get petted and they were great company for each other. Its amazing how gentle they were around her, while getting excited and playful around everyone else.
I will hopefully have a nice walk and some playtime with O.J tomorrow, before he takes sick leave for a few weeks on Monday. I am off work until 3rd August because they want someone to work up hours and I have to work extra for them in September. It works out perfect while O.J is recovering, because I’ll be able to look after him until the stiches come out.

Things we’ve been up to

Last week was another busy one for us. Our visitors went home at the beginning of the week and the house returned to some kind of normality.
On Wednesday eight of us from work went to Dublin for the protest against cuts towards people with disabilities that inclusion Ireland had organised. It was a long day, and we were only in Dublin for less than four hours, but since I work with the biggest service provider for people with disabilities in Donegal, I couldn’t really say no.
Everyone knows that the Irish government are a joke, and don’t give a crap about protests like this going on outside the Mansion house. They see them regularly so I don’t think they pay much attention. They have said that they are not going to make any more financial cuts, but the ones they have already made are rediculous. One of the Donegal TDS did come out to talk to us, but the boys who make the big decisions stayed inside and pretended to do important work.

Our group was at the back of the protest so it was relaxed. We met lots of people who were very supportive. One woman just heard it on the news and came to lend her support. Another woman gave sweets to people in the crowd. We heard Maureen, the mother of Orla being interviewed on the radio on the way down to Dublin. She wrote a letter to the minister for health, on behalf of her severely disabled daughter, and she happened to pass us and came over for a chat. If you haven’t read her letter, its heartbreaking but worth a read if you can find it online.
I was interviewed for a radio station and my supervisor managed to get herself on the 6:1 news that evening. O.\J and our t-shirts (which showed that we were from Donegal) attracted a lot of attention.

I went to a kids play place on Friday. I went in first with my nephew Danny, who quickly told the receptionist that “O.J is a guide dog so he’s a special dog, so He’s allowed in here.” He was warning her in advance, just encase she tried to stop him. Very cute! The children in there loved O.J, but we escaped after an hour to go to Derry and get the money for his operation on the 19th. The girl in the bank didn’t expect me to be able to put in my PIN number myself at first and asked if I had “any sort of ID like a passport or driving licence” with me. Hang on a minute til I get out my driver’s licence! I’m a great driver you know!

O.J and I walked 5 K yesterday for a local primary school. We walked with my aunt and it was good fun. I just walked O.J on his lead so he wouldn’t have to do any work and he seemed to enjoy that.
My cousin came out this morning to ask me if I’d be her son’s Godmother. I wasn’t expecting it at all and am very happy. I am my oldest nephew Jack’s Godmother, but he’s almost twelve, so it will be nice to start buying special baby and small boy presents every year again. He’s six weeks older than my nephew Harry so I’ll be able to take them places together when they are older (I’m not good with small babies!)

I’m listening to the brilliant coverage of Oxygen on 2fm now. I really wish I was there!
Because of Oxygen, I didn’t go to the pub to watch the world cup final with my parents. I want Spain to win, just because it will make Javier so happy 🙂

Opinion?

I’ve mentioned this briefly before, and its a topic that’s come up on the guide dog mailing list, but I’m curious to know what guide dog owner’s opinions are here?
If theatres and concert venues offered a service to mind your guide dog while you watched a performance, would you think its a good idea?

Many guide dog owners enjoy theatre, music and different types of performances. Venues nowadays usually have excellent facilities for people with disabilities, and will provide a seat in a suitable area if somebody is attending with a guide dog. Sometimes people might not want to bring their dog into a performance for various reasons:
It might be too loud or busy inside and the dog might get frightened.
Standing gigs aren’t suitable for guide dogs.
Somebody may need their dog to get to a particular venue.
Some owners would never dream of leaving their dog alone and may not have somebody to watch it when they are away.

Would it be useful if venues provided trained staff to keep an eye on a guide dog while its owner is in an auditorium? Staff would need to be professionally trained in the basic rules around guide dogs, by a guide dogs organisation. Maybe a certificate or something to prove they have undergone training would be useful. The owner would have to be confident that their dog would stay relaxed while they are away, and not cause any problems. A well behaved dog would just lie with a chew or favourite toy, without requiring constant attention.

Many venues in the UK offer this service, and some even mention it on their websites. Out of curiosity, I contacted a number of venues in Ireland to see how they would react to the suggestion. Out of the ten that I contacted, only three replied. One venue said that they would not do it for insurance reasons. Another said that they hadn’t done it before, but with the right training they don’t see why it would be a problem. The third was a stadium, who wanted me to call them to discuss the issue further. Tony couldn’t have been more helpful. He had concerns, but was aware that they need to do as much as possible to assist people with disabilities. He invited me to come and look at their current facilities, (which I haven’t done yet) and said the venue would be willing to do something about this in the future.
It would obviously be the guide dog centre’s job to encourage venues to provide this service, and since they have so many other things to do, I doubt they’ll consider it any time soon. Its not a necessity, but just an added extra that some people might like to avail of.

When this topic came up on the guide dog mailing list, views were mixed. Some people had positive experiences of using services like this in the UK, while others weren’t so sure. Someone said that it should be a guide dog owner’s responsibility to look after their own dog, and why should we expect staff to do it? Another person pointed out that you wouldn’t leave your child with a stranger, so why would you even consider leaving your dog?

Have you left your dog with a staff member at the theatre before? How was the experience?
If you would never dream of doing this, why not?

I’ll keep my own opinion quiet for a while, while you post yours in the comments section 🙂

Proper Tourists!

My brother and his future mother in law convinced me to ask for Tuesday off work (at 5 pm on Monday evening) to go to Dublin with them. I would usually never think about asking off at such short notice, but my coleagues reminded me that when my brother leaves at the weekend, I don’t know when I’ll see him again.

We got the bus to Dublin on Tuesday morning. Its a journey that O.J is very familiar with by now. We had a lovely lunch in the Thai Orchid restaurant before checking into our hotel. It was one O.J and I stayed in about six months ago, so he was familiar with the layout and learned where our room was quickly. It is located close to the
Guinness storehouse
so we decided to do the tour. I don’t like guinness but it was very interesting to learn how it is made. We only had to pay for two tickets, because apparently “my carer” can go free. Strange logic. Why not just give the person with the disability the free entry? Anyway, when you reach the top floor, you get a free pint in the gravity bar, which has great views of Dublin city, well so I’m told anyway. O.J even tried to have a taste of the black stuff.

After the guinness tour we got on an open-air Dublin tour bus and did part of the tour around the city. I’ve only ever done this in London, and wouldn’t have even thought about it if we didn’t have a tourist from Thailand with us. We made it back to our hotel to watch the second half of a world cup match, I think it was Spain V Portugal. The hotel room was so uncomfortably warm! The windows had been opened and a fan blowing cold air was on all day, but they told us we couldn’t get air-con unless we upgraded to a suite. If I knew it was going to be that difficult to sleep, I think I would have upgraded. It was rediculous, especially when there was a dog in the room, who was clearly not happy with the heat either.

We were up early because we couldn’t sleep anyway, and did more of the city tour, as well as a look around Trinity college and the shops. It was nice having a relaxing day to do nothing, and the weather was perfect. I felt like a proper tourist! O.J was brilliant, and had no problem with the amount of walking, getting on and off buses, up and down small stairs, and the amount of people who admired him. He does have a problem having to follow people all the time when he doesn’t know exactly where we are going. He usually wants to lead if I’m walking in a group, so he’ll be happy to get back to familiar routes at home tomorrow.