How are the dogs?

I’ve become terrible at writing here recently. I’m in the house doing nothing on a Friday night, which is actually really nice after a busy week of work. I’m feeling sorry for myself though because Eddie Vedder’s playing in Dublin right now and I had nobody to go with. I’m really lacking people who like the same kind of music as me and have time to go and hear bands play live. Since it is one of my favourite things to do, it’s really depressing! So I’m writing this as a distraction, and of course to write about my three favourite dogs and how they are doing.

Sibyl is the youngest and silliest of the lot. If she gets her play time off her lead every week, she’s fine, but if not, I soon know about it. She’s in no real working routine now that I’m working from home, but it doesn’t bother her at all, and she’s ready to go at any time of the day when I pick up her harness. She still gets a bit too overexcited when we have visitors, and moves her bed, or lifts Dougal’s instead, which is really annoying. I’m working on preventing this though, and she’s getting better. Her work overall is excellent, and her dog distraction is practically non existent now since she had her glands removed.

Dougal is almost ten and a half now, and he hasn’t changed much at all. He likes going for walks if they aren’t too often! He loves walking with my PA, so she takes him once a week, sometimes with her own dog and they are great friends. Dougal still hates being groomed, and likes attention, but only on his terms. He’ll always be OJ’s buddy, and Sibyl’s housemate. They don’t fight though, and are actually funny to watch together, especially when they take turns chewing the same nylabone, even if there were three to choose from.

The main man O.J is in great form these days, after a tough month of not feeling too good. A week before he turned 11 in March, he began limping, and it got pretty bad pretty quick. The vet x-rayed and examined and did blood tests, which confirmed he’s very healthy for his age, but has bad arthritis in his elbow. After weekly injections for a month, and then trying two different types of medication, we finally found a treatment he responded to. He’ll have to take a tablet every day for the rest of his life, but they have made a huge difference, so I don’t mind. Luckily I kept him insured for another year, so the vet can monitor him regularly and I won’t be robbed! He went from a dog that could barely put his foot on the ground in March, to one with a slight limp, who doesn’t go for long walks anymore, but can still swim in the sea, just minutes from his house, and he still loves it.

I have three dogs at three very different stages in their lives. Three dogs who are so much fun. and three dogs that I’m very lucky to own.

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Two’s company, and three’s crazy!

OJ has been staying in my house for almost a week, and he’ll be here for another one. It’s great having him, even if the house is a lot more hairy! He’s still his usual silly lively self, maybe more attention seeking towards me than usual. He interrupts me when I’m typing by poking his nose in my side and lifting my arm up so that I have no choice but to pet him and laugh.

Having three dogs in the house is a bit crazy. They don’t go upstairs or into the spare room, so there isn’t exactly lots of space. They work out who sleeps where though, and when I’m here on my own, you’d hardly know they were here.

I’ve worked out a feeding routine in the morning and evening. They all get fed in different places so that they don’t rush their food and go investigating in someone else’s bowl. An ideal morning is when they all do everything they have to do in the run (the fenced off dog toilet) in the yard. It’s easier to have to clean it all up at the same time, rather than remembering who went, and who still has to go later on. I would need a never ending supply of dog poop bags!
After grooming yesterday, I had a bag of hair, leads and brushes in my hands, and accidentally dropped Sibyl’s comb into the wheelybin. It smells in there, so there was no way I was going in to find it!

Dougal is more shy than usual with the two bigger dogs around. I suppose he feels very small, and he can only make himself known by barking. Sibyl has been surprisingly more calm than I thought. OJ, even though he is the oldest, is the one who instigates all the playing, and if I didn’t stop him, I’d have Labradors running around my kitchen at high speed ten times every day. They were particularly hyper the other day, but when I took them to the park with my PA, they just stood looking at each other.

Sometimes I feel like I’m running dog kennels. I think I could do it no bother if I had more money and more space. It’s a bit crazy round here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

These are a few of my favourite things…

Happy new year! Let’s hope 2016 is a healthy and happy one for everybody.

Thankfully I had another lovely Christmas, spent with family, friends and dogs. I celebrated a friend’s birthday, went to an engagement party, had a couple of nice meals out with Nicky, cooked very little (which is always a bonus!) and enjoyed some lovely dinners with my family. I think Sibyl enjoyed her first Donegal Christmas. We stayed in my sister’s house on Christmas eve, and my parent’s house on Christmas night, and she loved the change of scenery. The three dogs spent lots of time together, and we all had a couple of nice walks together in between the showers of rain.

As usual, I got lovely presents for Christmas, far too much to be honest. There was no need for half of it, but people were so generous and thoughtful with the useful things they chose for me. Sometimes you get one or two presents that you really won’t use, but I rarely do. New clothes, a clock for my kitchen (I have no clocks in my house), vouchers for cool discs, heating oil and River Island (talk about a random collection!) and money were all brilliant presents. I did get three others that I was really excited about:

Nicky gave me a digital radio for my room. I have very bad reception upstairs, so tend to listen to a lot of radio on my phone. I don’t like doing this because I’m constantly charging it, and I hate using mobiles any more than I have to.

I got an early 30th birthday present of Hunter wellies from my parents. My birthday isn’t until February, but they thought I might as well use them now during the wet weather. I can walk the dog around the muddy park and still look cool! I’ve also discovered that I can get the overpriced socks much cheaper in the children’s section of shops. Having small feet is great!

My new favourite toy at the minute is something I got for Christmas that I’ve wanted for the last year. I got the
NutriNinja
which is the coolest juicer/smoothy maker ever! I like eating well, especially fruit and veg, but sometimes find it hard to eat enough fruit, and use it up when i buy it since I live on my own. The idea of a big bulky kitchen appliance that’s difficult to clean put me off getting one, until I saw my brother in law’s Nutribullet. The ninja is the same thing. It’s small, and everything is blended into one cup that you can actually drink out of if you want, so there’s not much to clean at all. It’s safe and easy to use, and from a blind person’s perspective, this is great. They are expensive, but definitely worth the extra money for this reason. I’ve only made two smoothies for breakfast yesterday and today, but already I absolutely love this thing! It’s going to get lots of use in my house.

Happy Christmas Eve

I know things feel less Christmasy as people get older, but this has to be the quietest Christmas ever for me. I think the main reason for that is that I’m not working, didn’t have a staff night out, and haven’t been out much at all recently. I’m not complaining, it’s just strange. My brother is home, and there’s lots going on round here to distract me.

Nicky won’t be up for Christmas this year, and I wouldn’t miss Christmas at home with my nephews, so I suppose we celebrated it together last week. On Thursday I met him in Dublin, because I had won tickets for Colm MacConIomaire’s gig in Vicar Street. We stayed in Jurey’s in Christchurch, which was a nice hotel. Breakfast was nothing special, but the staff were lovely and friendly, and it was a good location for walking around Dublin city. Except neither of us had a dog so we didn’t walk far. I had to leave Sibyl with my sister, much to my nephews delight, and I really missed her for getting around. We don’t know our way around Dublin, but she really makes it much easier. It’s the first time I’ve really missed not having her with me, and was a nice reminder of how well we are bonding.

The gig itself was beautiful, as you would expect from Colm. He can do magic things with a violin, so adding an eleven piece band with that really was special. I can’t recommend his album ‘and now the weather’ enough if you just like lovely instrumental music, and if you buy a copy on CD, the cover, designed by his wife Sheila is lovely! As usual the Vicar Street staff were brilliant, and a little disappointed that we had no dogs.
While we were in Dublin, we had a chance to meet up with some friends for dinner, and more the next morning. It was great to finally meet Darragh and Emma’s new baby Rian, and see Meabh again. Then we went back to Carlow to relax for the weekend, and listened to lots of Christmas music.

I still wasn’t feeling completely Christmasy by Monday. I think spending time around children really helps, so was delighted when my mum asked me to come in to her class to see the students and accompany them to a carroll service in the church beside the school. It was my first time taking Sibyl to a chapel. Children were shocked to see a dog there as we came in. She didn’t really know where to lie at first, but when she settled down she was great. She lay still and looked around her, not moving until the child narrating asked everybody to stand for the final prayer. You’d swear she could understand! She got lots of attention from the students when we returned to their class. She really is very calm and gentle around children, and would have made a great assistant dog for a child with autism I think. I’m glad she became a guide dog though!

I’m sitting here at the computer on Christmas eve morning, in a quiet house, before all the madness begins. This year will be more quiet than usual I think, but we’ll have three dogs to entertain on Christmas
day which will be fun. Hopefully the weather will be dry and I can escape with someone before dinner and take them for a walk. I try and stay away from the Christmas dinner cooking as much as possible! The dogs got a present of doggy biscuits in the post yesterday. I haven’t got any presents in the post in my life I don’t think.

Anyway, the blogs been quiet this month, but I just want to wish everybody who still reads it a very happy Christmas, and a healthy and peaceful 2016.

Toys and Beds

I’ve wanted to buy the dogs, (particularly Dougal) an interactive toy, where they have to try and dispense food using their noses and paws. It keeps their mind active, and is more challenging than just always eating food from a bowl or from my hand. Thanks to
Marie
who mentioned it on twitter, I bought this
dog brick activity toy.

Nina Ottosson is a Swedish dog trainer, and she has designed a range of toys. This particular one is basically a plastic board with bone shaped holes where food can be placed. The dog has to slide the plastic which covers the hole across to find the treat. There are also some plastic bones covering the holes, which the dog has to lift off to reach the food, making it harder to access. I’m probably not explaining it very well!

So, was the game any good?
It was for a few minutes, but both dogs figured it out quickly enough, Dougal obviously being a bit slower than O.J. When I tried it the first time, I didn’t use the bones that cover the holes, just to make it more simple. When I used them today, and the dogs had to lift them off, it made the fun last a bit longer.
I like the fact that the toy has grips on the bottom to keep it from moving around the floor when the dogs are playing with it.It’s also easy to clean. I’d like to find a more challenging toy, but this was a good start.

Spoilt paws O.J also got a new bed last week. This dog has had so many beds it’s rediculous! In the beginning, I used the fleece in the plastic basket shaped bed I took home from Cork. After a while, I found that actual fabric beds were easier to clean. I bought the dogs an expensive enough one when they were both still young, and it got torn one day when someone came to the door and they excitedly began playing tug of war with it, just to show off. That was the end of the expensive beds for a while. I’ve had various cheaper beds, and renew them when they get torn, smelly or out of shape, since most of them don’t survive too many washes. I’m also a bit limited for space since moving to my own house, baring in mind that there are sometimes three dogs sleeping in my hall! Last week I found a fancy looking bed on offer in TK Max, and feeling sorry for O.J after his operation, I decided to treat him. The outside cover comes off and can be washed. Luckily the dogs are well past the tug of war stage, but this bed is heavy, so I doubt they’d want to carry it too far anyway. Dougal will cuddle with O.J, but I usually put him in his crate at night. He has a favourite bed in there. It’s like a cushion shape that I bought in the pet shop for around £9. I have two now, because when I used to put it in the wash and he had to use a different blanket, It was like the end of the world! He’d wake up early, so we all didn’t get as much sleep!

I’m not somebody who constantly buys their dog toys, just because I love spoilling them. People who talk about their animals like they are children drive me nuts!! I’m practical, and only buy things I need. Nothing wrong with spoilling your pup if that’s what you’re into, but I just don’t want to come across like that in this post!

After all that, if anyone has a dog activity toy, or a good bed that they can recommend, I’d love to hear about it!

Our Weekend

On friday afternoon I went to an annual dog show that took place as part of the festival in our town. My friend was taking her Lhasa cross Roxy in the show just for fun, so O.J and I went to watch. He behaved brilliantly around so many dogs, and enjoyed all the attention he got, even though he wasn’t even in the show. One of the organisers joked that they should have had a working dogs category, or if I put him in, he’d have won best dog overall.

The best part for me was getting to pet so many dogs, some types I’ve never seen before. I know about dog breeds and know what many look like, even though I’ve never touched them. My aunt asked her friend to hold O.J while she asked owners if I could pet some of the more unusual types. I particularly liked the Alaskan malimute, the Akita, and the gorgeous gentle white long-haired shepherd. It was interesting to finally see what a St. Bernard looked like without it almost attacking me. I couldn’t help wondering how O.J wasn’t seriously hurt before, because of how heavy they are. Ben the miniature poodle attracted a lot of cuddles and attention, as did the labradoodle x retriever pup, who I could have taken home. There was a bigger labradoodle pup, but he didn’t stand long enough for me to feel him properly. They are becoming pmore popular as guide dogs in Ireland nowadays, and I’d imagine it would take you a while getting anywhere with one, because people would constantly stop and ask about the dog. You can’t beat the labrador though, and a four month old golden one tried to follow O.J around and play with him as much as she could.
Overall, it was a good afternoon. All the dogs behaved well, and it was lovely to see children so involved in looking after their own dogs. I hope to go to Crufts someday, and if I do, it might be very hard to get me to leave!

It rained for most of the day on Saturday, which was disappointing because I had hoped to take the dogs for a long walk. I ended up leaving them at home and going for a drive and a hill climb with my dad, sister and two youngest nephews. We got soaked but it was great fun!
I did get a chance to take O.J for a quick walk on Saturday evening. Yesterday he came with us for lunch, and we walked around the town to see what was happening for the festival. I took both dogs for an hour-long walk in the evening. They enjoyed walking around the beach, which was part of the very first walk I did with O.J when we came home from training in Cork. It’s always a nice walk for both of us.

At 10 o’clock this morning I left O.J to the vet to have a couple of things checked out. I’ve been keeping an eye on a small lump he had on his side. Like before, it started causing him to lose weight, which is why I decided to have it removed. Just last week I found another bigger lump. Hopefully it’s nothing to be worried about, maybe a lypoma like last time, but better to be safe than sorry.
Blogging is useful, because I could go back and read about his recovery last time and remind myself what to expect if all goes well. He won’t be working for at least a couple of weeks, and I knew this was going to happen, so I made sure that we got as much walking done as we could at the weekend.

My New Favourite Toy!

I detest hoovering. Of course I do it, but I hate it! I’m a bit of a perfectionist at times, so I hate missing bits. So it takes a lot longer than it would take a sighted person to try and make sure the floors are all clean. Luckily I have a PA, and use a couple of hours on a Friday to have my house cleaned well once a week, but sometimes there is a lot of hair downstairs. Dougal doesn’t shed hair, but when O.J and Orrin are together, they can sometimes shed a bit.
Anyway, I’ve found a lazy, but very helpful way of keeping the hairs away..

Last week I bought a
robot vacuum cleaner
in Aldi. I’ve wanted one of these for ages, but they always seemed like the type of gadget I couldn’t justify spending money on to be honest. This one was under half the price that I’ve seen them for sale before. I know it probably isn’t as good as other brands, because I believe you get what you pay for with things like this, but it’s got a two year guarantee so I thought it was worth a try. The hoover itself is quite small, and not very noisy which is good. It moves in a circular motion, cleaning the floor and returning to bits it missed. Apparently it returns itself to it’s charger when the battery dies, which is very impressive, but I haven’t seen it doing that yet. I’m not sure that it’s too great on carpet, but downstairs in my house is all wooden floors, and that’s where the dogs stay, so I’m not too worried about that. It doesn’t specify that it is a pet cleaning hoover like some of the other robot vacuum cleaners do, so naturally it’s not going to be as good as those. The hoover needs emptied after every use because it doesn’t hold much. Suppose doing that is a good habit to get into anyway!

As you can see, I don’t do technical reviews very well, but a robot vacuum cleaner seemed like a more lighthearted topic to write about than some of the stuff in my head these days.

Where did September go?

I can’t believe Septembers nearly over! I think I’ve only written one post. I’m usually good at writing in September since its a busy month.
This year was no different. I’ve been busy in work, trying to get funding, helping a colleague with funding applications and waiting for results. It looks like I’m going to be there now until February, working with secondary school pupils which will be very different.

I’ve just finished transcribing audio for a project that local women are putting together. Basically they are creating a book and a website with audio of stories about growing up in Inishowen. There wasn’t half as much work as we expected at first, but it was still brilliant to get it, and I found the stories very interesting. I’ll write more about it when its all put together. I’m always grateful to get freelance work like that.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to Portugal again this year with Nicky. We went on 18th September for four days, and the weather was lovely. Nicky played music along with lots of other singers and musicians, as part of a country music week. Of course the music is different to what I’d listen to at home, but I really enjoyed everything about the week. My aunt and uncle came this year for the first time, and they had a great time. Our dogs stayed at home, because even though they have passports and could travel, it was too hot and we didn’t really need them. The more I travel to warm places, the less likely I am to want to bring a dog. Maybe my next dog will be different, but OJ definitely wouldn’t appreciate the sun at all.

We’ve had lovely dry weather recently, so Dougal and OJ have had lots of nice walks. Hopefully the weather will stay like that for another while. We don’t mind the cold at all when the rain and ice stay away.

This might shock you;

but my guide dog is not my best friend.

I’m just back from a nice walk in town with O.J. Sometimes the simplest walks on our own are the most enjoyable. While I was standing in the chemist waiting to get served a man asked me how I was, and how was my dog. He then asked me the most annoying question in history:
Is he your best friend?
When I politely (but sarcastically if you knew me well enough) told him that O J was just one of my friends, he asked me if I had two dogs.
Some people just don’t get it, do they?

Dogs are great. I love them and couldn’t live without one. I couldn’t manage without a guide dog and O.J is great company. But believe it or not, I have human friends who are much better company and more fun to talk to than he is, therefore not making him my best friend. He is a companion but not a friend.
Appologies to people who call their dog their best friend. I’m not saying your wrong. Some people might not honestly have real proper human friends, and their dog is the best and most loyal they’ve got. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s the way you think, but for me, my dog is a dog, not my best friend, so random members of the public, please don’t keep assuming he is.

And as for asking does he take good care of me, don’t even go there!!
🙂 🙂

Dougal

I always seem to have some sort of dilemma to think about. At the moment I still haven’t sorted out if I want to study in September, whether to explore dog training, or do something in the field of disability which would be useful for my work and for future employment.
Right now though, our mischievous bundle of fluff, otherwise known as Dougal is causing the problem.

We got Dougal in January 2007, when he was only six weeks old. I felt that he was too young to be taken away from his mother, but the people selling the pups were moving house and wanted to sell them ASAP. I chose him because he was the more confident independent pup, because he liked being handled and didn’t mind being away from his parents or littermate, who was the complete opposite. My nephew Jack and I often wonder how different things might have been if I’d chosen the other pup!!

Dougal was always unbelievably independent and strong-willed. He is friendly and likes to be cuddled, but only on his terms. Pick him up when he doesn’t want to be touched, and he will quickly let you know he’s not happy. He dislikes having his paws touched and can be quite possessive about his toys or his bed. For this reason, I can’t relax with him around children. He is fine with my nephews who know his personality, but you can never be sure.

Dougal is a difficult dog to watch because he was so hard to housetrain. Crate training was the best thing I ever did, but we always have to remember to take him out regularly during the day or there will be accidents. His recall isn’t great, so when he gets outside off-lead if a door has been left open, he will run down the road and try to find something to eat (and this dog eats anything!), resulting in a dirty and often ill dog afterwards.

Dougal has a number of issues that make him difficult to look after, and a lot of it is due to inconsistent training from myself and my family. Its very difficult to convince everyone to treat him the same way that I do, and to put as much work into him as I have. I am concerned that when I move house, things will become much more difficult. He mightn’t get as many walks, or the consistent obedience training and attention he needs, resulting in more disruptive behaviour and my parents becoming frustrated with him. I am unable to keep him with me during the week because I am out during the day and I would be afraid he would bark and annoy the neighbours. I will live beside an extremely busy road, I’ve had one dog knocked down before and I couldn’t go through it again.
Its frustrating for me because when I’m with him on my own he is usually fine, and I know he has the potential to become a great dog. He loves other dogs and is great company for O.J, which I think is a great benefit when we meet other dogs in public because O J is so relaxed and doesn’t really make a big deal out of it. I like him to be able to have free time with other dogs when he is not working, and I think guide dog owners often under-estimate the importance of this.

I need to seriously think whether I will keep Dougal or rehome him. Living without O.J there will be a big adjustment for him, and if he doesn’t have something to occupy his day, then he will become an unhappy, distructive dog. I will know the reason for this and constantly feel guilty.
I have never rehomed a dog before, and swore it was something I would never do. I want to learn more about dog training, and feel like I am failing already if I give up on Dougal. I love the challenge of working with him and trying to shape his behaviour into something more manageable.
On the other hand, I need to think about the future and about when O J retires. My parents always said that they would look after him if I felt that I wasn’t in the position to care for two large dogs, but I’m not sure if they would want two dogs either. Dougal is will be hard enough for them on his own. By that stage my parents will probably have retired and would enjoy having a dog like O J around. By then Dougal will probably be eight or nine years old, and it would be more difficult and stressful to rehome him then.
If I do rehome him, I know its better to do it sooner rather than later. I would have very specific requirements as to the type of people he lives with, but how would I know that they are the right ones? Would I keep in touch with them or would I just be better to rehome him and forget about him? He would be somebody else’s dog then, and not my responsibility anymore.

So, now you can see why my heads spinning. I don’t know what is best, and I really don’t want to regret anything.