Guest Post: Dog’s Eye View

Appologies for the late guest post this month. With so much going on, it was my fault entirely, and not the fault of this month’s author. This one was worth waiting for though 🙂

Hello everyone and thanks to Jenny and OJ for giving me the opportunity to make a guest post. First of all, for those who don’t know me, on the internet I tend to go by the name L^2 (that’s L-Squared written in mathematical-speak), and for the last 7 years or so I have been blogging over at
Dog’s Eye View.
Mostly I blog about life with my guide dogs, but occasionally I mix it up a bit with some of my other interests including crochet and lots of photography.

In March of 2010 my first guide dog, a female pale yellow Labrador Retriever, named Willow retired after almost 8 years of hard work with me. Then, I went back to using a white cane for 7 months, until in October 2010 when I was matched with my second guide dog, a male dark Chocolate Lab, named Jack. He and I are approaching our one year anniversary as a guide dog team and I can honestly say I couldn’t be happier with him.

Left-side photo: small Pale white-yellow Lab, Leader Dog Willow near the  end of her 8 year career dressed in her brown leather harness and leash  with a yellow 'Do Not Pet Me' harness sign on the handle, laying on the wooden floor and  brown rug in the entryway of our home.  Right-side photo: dark brown Chocolate Lab Guide Dog Jack about 6 months into his new career, dressed  in his black and white leather harness and black leather leash with a yellow 'Ignore Me I'm a working guide dog' harness sign on the handle, laying in almost the exact same spot as Willow on the wood floor and brown mat in the entryway of our home.

When Jenny contacted me about making a guest post, she mentioned the auction I recently held. So, I’ve decided to write a bit about fundraising. I’m not sure if other countries do this, but for at least the last 3 years, in the United States, September is designated as National Guide Dog month. This is supposed to be an event to promote awareness of guide dogs. However, mostly it is a marketing campaign put on by a well-known pet supply chain store and a dog food company, who get a couple of celebrities to help advertise for them. Together they make a video press release, commercials, and do a few television appearances to promote the sale of a certain type of dog food, from which some of those sales profits are donated to numerous guide dog organizations.

I think in some countries, guide dog organizations receive at least a little bit of support from the government. However, in the United States programs that train guide dogs do not receive any form of government funding. Also, most of the programs do not charge their clients any sort of fee to receive a guide dog – and even the few that do charge a fee, only ask for a tiny fraction of the total cost of raising and training the dog. So, all 15+ guide dog programs currently operating in the U.S. are only able to provide their services to individuals who are blind thanks to the incredible generosity of private donors. Thus, most, if not all, of these programs are constantly fundraising.

As some of you reading this probably know, about 6 months ago I embarked on a fundraising venture to sponsor a guide dog puppy. Many programs have started to offer sponsorship options – for a certain specific donation amount you can sponsor a guide dog leash, harness, newborn puppy, newborn litter, puppy in training, fully trained guide dog, student handler, or guide dog team. At my current guide dog’s program, a puppy sponsorship is a $5,000 donation which helps pay for anything the puppy needs while being raised to become a guide dog: including food, veterinary care, equipment, training, evaluation, etc..

I was motivated to take on this project partly because my guide dog Jack was a sponsored puppy himself, and this is treated as quite a neat honor at his school. I also decided to do it, because at one time I had hoped to be able to raise an assistance dog puppy as a way to “give back” for the gift of my first guide dog , Willow. I was never able to do that though, so I supported her school by raising funds for them in several ways with my photography. However, in my mind if I can’t raise a puppy myself, a puppy sponsorship is the next best option.

So far, to raise the needed funds, I have held a dog collar raffle and an online auction. Additionally I am continuing to offer special items for sale in my online photography shop (including holiday cards, items featuring an oil painting of Guide Dog Jack, and chocolate Lab 2012 wall calendars). I am donating proceeds from general sales at my shop during certain months to the cause as well, and of course, I have also been collecting a few personal donations from friends and family. With these efforts I am currently a little over 35% of the way to my goal. I haven’t quite been able to work out all the details for the fundraising event I had hoped to hold this month, but at some point in the future I am planning to hold an International Dog Walk, another online auction, and a few more fun contests.

When I started this project, I wasn’t sure I should even mention it on my blog, because a great majority of my blog’s readers are associated with Assistance Dog organizations other than my own dog’s program. So, I felt awkward asking for donations from them. However, I am both happy and grateful for my many blog friends who are able to look past the fact that this pup will wear a specific “In Training” jacket, and open their hearts to the more important fact that the money will provide for a future guide dog puppy who has the potential to help someone the way Willow helped me, the way Jack continues to help me, and the way that so many other awesome guide dogs help their partners every day. I truly appreciate this support, and I think it shows just how wonderful the guide dog community is – that breeders, raisers, and handlers from all over the world can come together to help a puppy on his or her quest to become a guide dog for the blind. And that’s why my puppy sponsorship is not really mine; the official sponsorship name that will appear on the puppy’s jacket will be
“Friends of Guide Dog Jack”, because so many generous friends and family are playing a part in helping to make this sponsorship possible.

Well, I didn’t mean to ramble on for so long about my own fundraising project, but my point is that I think everyone who is able to do so, should try to find at least a small way to help support a guide dog program. These great organizations couldn’t do what they do for those of us who want guide dogs, without the generosity of people who really care about such a worthwhile cause.

Its the end of the world as we know it…

and I don’t feel fine.
because REM, my favourite band of all time have decided to call it a day.

“A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing.
And now we’re going to walk away from it.
That’s what REM’s Michael Stipe said in a statement on their
official website
earlier today. After an impressive 31 year career as one of the world’s most successful alternative rock bands, they have decided not to continue. They say that they made the decision amicably, with each other’s best interests at heart. This is an honourable way to end a career, and I’m sure its how every band would wish to do it. They have enjoyed making music as much as their fans have enjoyed listening to it, and have never been shy about expressing their gratitude.

I began listening to REM when I was eight years old thanks to my sister’s now 24 (or whatever version of the tape was out then.) I loved going to a particular restaurant in town because they had ‘losing my religion’ on the dukebox and I used to play it as often as I could. I didn’t buy my first REM album ‘green’ until I was ten. I was obsessed with ‘stand’ which is on that album. When I listen to it now, I’m surprised how particular songs appealed to me, since the lyrics are bizarre to say the least! I think I quickly got on well with my now brother in law because he used to lend me his REM cds, and later gave me some to keep.

I was lucky enough to see the band play live twice. The first time was a gig in Lansdowne Road when I was thirteen, and later in Ardgillan Castle in 2005, when I won a radio competition. Michael Stipe is a fascinating character, and very interesting to watch live. He is quite shy but the music speaks for itself. Those were two of the best gigs I’ve ever been too. I hoped I would see them play live again, but all I can do now is be thankful that I went when I did.

REM will be sorely missed, but at least they have a huge back catalogue to keep us entertained. I think there’s even some rare recordings and releases I haven’t managed to get my hands on yet, so I still have new REM music to discover, and I can’t wait.

O.J’s results

Sorry for the lack of updates on OJ. I intended posting more often when he was sick but honestly there was nothing to write about. He recovered well, everything was straightforward and he was his usual happy self all the time.
The drain that removed the fluid came out last monday, OJ finished anti-biotics last Thursday, and didn’t need any more. His stitches came out yesterday morning (there was only one because he must have taken the rest out himself with all his mad running around!) The vet rang this morning with his results:

O. J had a lipoma, which is a fatty tumor, which thankfully in his case was benign. This is a huge relief! The vet said that it will just heal itself now and he shouldn’t have any future problems.

I brought O J back to work today, just on his lead because I don’t want to put his harness on for another few days. He had to guide me on to the road to avoid some cars that were parked on the footpath, but he did a great job of getting me to work safely.

I hope to get OJ’s toenails trimmed in the next few days, and have him back working soon. I would also like him to gain another kilogramme in weight but I’m sure this will happen soon enough. I forgot to mention he had his teeth cleaned while he was having his operation. This is something I wanted done but didn’t want to do unless he was under anisthetic for another reason. Now his breath smells better, his teeth look whiter and his coat is in great condition, even though he didn’t get groomed for almost two weeks! I think he will make a full recovery soon.

He’s home!

The vet who did OJ’s operation rang me just after four to tell me that I could come and collect him. I left him there at half nine this morning, and even though I tried to keep busy, it was a long day and I couldn’t wait for that phone call. I didn’t collect him until almost half five, to give him a bit more of a chance to come round after the anesthetic. He had an x-ray on his leg three years ago, and he was hardly able to stand when I collected him afterwards.
He was very lively and happy this time, which was an unexpected surprise. The vet said that the lump looked like a cyst and she didn’t think it was anything to be too concerned about, but she will send it away to be examined and I should know on Monday week how that goes. OJ has a drain tube type thing in covering part of the wound to drain the fluid. I have to clean the wound with sault water and cream, and bring him back on Monday to have the drain removed. He has a bandage from the catheter but I can take that off myself and clean it tomorrow. I was expecting to have lots of tablets to give him and was happy to learn that he only needs one twice a day. I bought a cooked chicken earlier to disguise them in tomorrow, (fatty chicken legs work wonders since this dog is a nightmare!)

On the way home I sat in the back of the car with OJ. He kept trying to lick his wound so I decided the cone of shame would have to go on when we got home. My mum found the one he had last year and just last week asked me if I wanted it thrown out. OJ knocked himself slightly when he was excitedly getting out of the car when we got home. He whined a bit and it looked a bit red but seems fine. I tried to settle him in his bed in the kitchen, with Dougal tied near his at the other end, but he insisted on having food. After a few handfuls, and crashing into things a lot because of his lampshade head, he lay down and went into a deep sleep, where he currently is at the moment.

Sorry if these next few posts are boring, but I wanted to write in detail for my own records. Things are looking positive so far. I think I will be very shocked if the results turn out to be something negative.

Lets hope its nothing serious

I usually always love September for some reason, but not this year. I have had a very difficult week, and a visit to the vet with OJ this morning hasn’t improved things.

On Friday night, after spending all day away from the dogs, they were very happy to see me. I was petting OJ and noticed a lump on his chest, just above his left leg. It wasn’t sore to touch but it felt big enough. I tried to put it out of my mind during the weekend because I knew things would be difficult enough. My Granny’s funeral was on Sunday, and like all my family, I was very close to her. Today I knew I couldn’t leave it any longer, and my dad took O.J and I to the vet at 9 this morning.
O.J was a bit under 32 KG, so hadn’t put on much weight since last time. I was still concerned about this and when I found the lump, I instantly wondered if the two things were related. The vet took a blood test to see if anything showed up, but said that either way, it would have to be removed, so that operation was scheduled for Friday morning.
I got a phone call from the vet about an hour and a half later, (humans would never get blood results so quickly!) to tell me that his bloods were clear, which was great news. She said that it is possibly just a cyst which is common enough, but that when it is removed it would be sent to the lab for testing to rule out anything else.

As is always the case with O.J, even when he is ill, he is in fantastic form, eating well and bringing his toys to anybody who might play with him. If it wasn’t for his weight loss for no apparent reason, I wouldn’t be so concerned about him. One of the kennel staff in guide dogs said that it is probably nothing to worry about and I hope she is right. We’ll just have to wait and see.