Guest Post: Skye’s Training To Be An Irish Assistance Dog

Sorry for the late post, even though it was sent  to me as soon as I asked for it.

I was searching for something assistance dog related online recently, (have no idea what it was) but lost track when I discovered the blog of today’s guest poster. I’ll let her introduce herself and tell you about the great work she does.

“Hi, my name’s Anna, and I am 13. This year my family and I are fostering Skye, a Flat Coated Retriever. Skye is in training to become an Autism Assistance dog. She will stay with us until 12-15 months of age, after which she’ll move on to her advanced training before hopefully being partnered with an Autistic child, and becoming their assistance dog or ‘forever friend’ as the association calls them.

Skye came to live with us as a tiny 11 week old pup, and we’ve done the basics of her training which includes housetraining, socialising, lead walking, shop & café training etc. The foster puppies basically become one of the family during their time with you, and you take them pretty much everywhere you go (though at the same time they do need to learn to stay home alone too for short periods)
In her jacket, Skye can come into public places where dogs aren’t normally allowed. We often take Skye to town with us when we go to the shops. She’s really well behaved out and about now. Skye, being a retriever, loves her food and therefore is very easy to train. Aswell as the training Skye does in jacket out and about, we also train her to come when called, sit, down, stay and more.
Skye also has lots of fun time, just enjoying being a dog! We take her on free walks (she especially likes to go to the beach) and she loves to play a good game of fetch. Amber, our Bernese, is Skye’s best buddy and they both love to play together.
I think it’s a great thing to do, and we’re really enjoying our year with Skye. It has been hard work at times (particularly in the first few weeks!) but worth it, and it’s lovely to see Skye maturing now and becoming calmer and more sensible – though she still has her puppy moments! I have 5 siblings and we are all home educated so our dogs get a lot of attention and socialisation. Since having Skye I’ve realised that I defiantly want to work with dogs in the future.
I set up a blog on our year with Skye back in May as both a record of our year with her, and to try and raise awareness for Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland. You can take a look at it and see lots of photo’s of Skye:
it’s been great doing the blog, and it’s nice to look back on all the things we’ve done with Skye so far!”
Its fantastic to see young people becoming so involved in the training of an assistance dog in Ireland. I’m sure Skye will make a great assistance dog and bring a lot of happiness to the child she is working with. Keep an eye on Anna’s blog to find out how she gets on.
ps. hopefully I can add the lovely picture of Skye soon.
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Guest Post: Guide Dog Awareness

Hopefully you’ll be glad to know that the monthly guest posts are still happening in 2012. The first one of the year comes from Allison, who is raising her fifth guide dog puppy. Check out her post and find out more by visiting
her blog.

 
Thank you so much to Jenny, for letting us be a guest blogger!Most of you guys have seen (or heard of) a guide/service dog. Some of you may have family
members or friends that use a guide/service dog. But do any of you know the extensive training that goes into those wonderful animals?
I do because I help raise & train them.I open my home up to a cute little 9 week old pup (from
Southeastern Guide Dogs
), and for the following year, I will raise & train the dog, having him/her with me 24/7. Making sure to keep in the back of my mind, that once the time
is up… the dog will head back for “further” training, and then hopefully be placed as a guide/service dog. Which means, this dog was never mine in the
first place – I’m just someone in it’s life, that will put an imprint on his/her heart and help it get on the long road, to hopefully becoming a guide
dog. Our blog (okay…
Brandon’s blog
) is about the life of a guide dog in training. If you decide to follow his blog, not only will you be following “a guide dog puppy’s adventure” you will
be following a blog that explains and shows the extensive training put into these wonderful dogs and the amazing outcome once they go back.    Though Brandon
is still quite young, training does start early, so Brandon already has most of the basic commands “under his belt” (sit/down/stand/stay/come/etc) he
will soon start using & learning the basic guide dog commands (find the door/switch/heel/forward) and much more. To mix things up a little, I have also
started teaching Brandon “ASL commands”. Brandon adores learning sign language, and he soon will be doing ASL just as well as a regular command! Brandon
does go everywhere with me (shopping/church/meetings/college/etc) and he really enjoys working. We also attend monthly guide dog meetings, where other
dogs in the group are also in training to be guide dogs.Brandon is a 4 month old male yellow lab. His favorite chew toys are nylabones… and boy does
he like to listen to the sound of them being dropped on hard surfaces! Brandon really enjoys going on walks, and is already doing a great job at maintaining
a “loose leash”. Brandon is the 5th guide dog puppy I’ve raised for
Southeastern Guide Dogs
, and though it’s a roller coaster ride, I truly enjoy every second with these puppies! Questions are always welcome over at our blog, some people may ask
training questions – others wonder about certain “guide dog rules” we follow, either way, we really enjoy answering them all!If you are interested in the
training that goes into these pups, feel free to stop by
Brandon’s blog
, we always enjoy new visitors!

Guest Post: Bisket Baskets

A few weeks ago I got an email from Helen from
Biscuit Baskets,
who found my blog and offered to write a guest post. She suggested a number of topics, and I thought since its December, and most of my blog readers are probably freezing, the following post would be topical. Thanks Helen!

Warming Up With Winter Dog Care Tips

Hi there – this is Helen from
BisketBaskets.com,
and we’re so excited to be guest posting here today! We’re lucky enough to be celebrating 13 years in business, and we got our start actually creating pet gift baskets for dogs and cats, and branched out to meal gift baskets for their owners, too. We’re based in Parker, Colorado, and have several dogs of our own, as well as having rescued dogs in our local area. The summertime is beautiful here, but the winter is quite cold and chilly, especially for our canine family members! We’re here to share our own winter dog care tips with you and your dog to make the wintertime a happy one.

• Don’t leave your dog in the car – even in the winter. We all should know by now that leaving your dog in a hot car in the summertime is an n-o, but the same goes for the winter. Your dog could inhale dangerous fumes if the car is left running, or unknowingly lick up chemicals that spilled on your car’s floor. Plus, it’s chilly out there – your dog gets cold, too!

• Take care when walking near frozen lakes and ponds. Ice can be deceptive – that lake may look frozen and perfect for your dog to play on, but the ice may be thin or have cracks in it. If you do feel the ice is safe enough to venture out on, put your dog on a leash and walk with your dog. Otherwise, save the rivers and ponds for the springtime!

• Dry your dog after a bath or playing in the snow. Use a towel or blow dryer to dry your dog’s coat after he or she gets a bath or comes in soaking wet from playing outside. Just be sure to keep the blow dryer several inches away from your dog’s coat so you don’t accidentally burn him or her.

• Keep an eye on your dog when he or she is outside. Frostbite isn’t just for humans! Limit your dog’s outside time, as snow can build up inside your dog’s paws, with frostbite potentially occurring on your dog’s ears, tail, and feet.

• Holiday decorations and dogs just don’t mix. Holiday-themed plants, like holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia, can actually be dangerous to your dog. Keep them out of your dog’s reach. Same with Christmas decorations (like tinsel), holiday chocolate and candies, electrical cords, and small holiday gifts.

• Grooming isn’t just for the summertime. A groomed dog is a well-insulated dog. Snow can build-up within fur inside your dog’s toes and foot pads, so keep your dog’s fur trimmed to minimize this painful feeling for your dog, and to make snow removal easier for you!

• Use pet-friendly rock salt. It gets icy out there, and many of us sprinkle rock salt on our steps and sidewalks during the winter time. Regular rock salt can upset your dog’s stomach, so choose the pet-friendly kind. Many manufacturers denote on the bag whether it’s pet-friendly or not.

Feel free to share your own winter dog care tips by leaving a comment on this post! Our dogs are part of our family here at BisketBaskets.com, and we do all we can to ensure they live long, healthy and happy lives. We hope you and Fido have a wonderful winter season!

Guest Post: Plays With Puppies!

I’m delighted that this month’s guest post is from Patti, author of the excellent, entertaining, educational and resourceful blog
Plays With Puppies.
Thanks for the great post!

I am honored to write as a “guest blogger” on Jenny’s blog. In keeping with the flavor of my own blog, plays with puppies, I decided to offer a glimpse
of “a day in the life” of a puppy-raiser. Or, “what I went through so my puppy would behave at a Lions Club meeting.”

I am currently raising my 4th puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, a black Lab/Golden mix my husband named “Scout” (after the narrator from To Kill a Mockingbird).
Future Leader Dog (FLD) Scout is about 3 ½ months old and like all my other FLD puppies, she is a sweetie-pie.

However, as you will read, sometimes raising a puppy, even a sweetie-pie, can be a challenge!

In the end, the effort is always worth the trouble. FLD Scout learned a lesson, my patience and persistence were reinforced, and together we were able to
express our gratitude to those who so generously support the mission of enhancing the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

HERE’S MY POST:

Rain. It started the night before and continued all day. Hard to get the puppy out for exercise, but I needed a “good” puppy that evening. If I’ve said
it once, I’ve said it a thousand times—A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy.

Future Leader Dog (FLD) Scout and I were giving a presentation about Leader Dogs for the Blind that evening to a Lions Club “zone” meeting—a gathering of
local Lions Clubs. And Scout was acting like it was a full moon, even though it was almost new.

The corner of the blue dog bed in the living room that she’d been “suckling” now had a small hole in it, just enough for her to pluck out a bit of stuffing.
She’d become fascinated with all the computer cords under Andy’s desk. Although she wasn’t getting up on the couch anymore, she could still sometimes reach
the pillows.

I don’t wonder anymore how my mother always knew I was in to something, even though she was in the other room and I thought I was being quiet. Raising a
puppy means that sometimes you just can’t get anything else done.

So. Taking a long walk wasn’t attractive on this wet and windy day. I opted for obedience work inside. A couple of 15-20 minute sessions with Scout on-leash
practicing loose-leash heeling, stairs, sits, downs, stays, and come should have done it. Nope.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon, I braved the cold wet woods in an effort to really tire out my puppy. Base layers under rain gear topped with my Tilly hat
and we were off. An hour and a half and maybe only two miles later, drenched and finally tuckered out, we were home.

Andy was ready to send out a search party. He said, “You left and it was raining hard. Then it rained harder.”

“Miss Scout and I had a significant event,” I said.

I don’t know if she didn’t want to go back into the woods (the day before Andy and I took the dogs for a long, leisurely hike), or if she didn’t like the
rain (it never bothered her before), or if she just wasn’t interested in behaving, but most of the time I was either walking backwards or standing still
as Scout flailed against the leash and argued, sometimes flamboyantly. I thought our little noisemaker had learned to shut it off, but I was wrong. Squeals,
whines, barks, moans, howls—more than once I wondered if our pack of coyotes would appear to investigate!

It didn’t matter that we turned around to go home; Scout was just as unhappy. Somehow, I stayed calm and collected until FINALLY, up our last hill home,
Scout settled into an easy heel, leash loose at my side. Yay! Good puppy!

Once inside and dried off (somewhat), Scout waddled over to her mat and curled up with heavy eyelids.

Mission accomplished. 

LATER

It was still raining when we arrived for the Lions meeting, but FLD Scout “parked” and trotted comfortably next to me into the hotel and through the halls
to the conference room. She amazed everyone, and me too, when she greeted each Lion calmly enough to be petted.

I shared my experiences as a volunteer puppy-raiser and fielded thoughtful questions from the group. During my half-hour talk, FLD Scout settled in at my
side (after whimpering a few times under her breath).

“That’s her pouting stance,” I said as she sprawled out on the floor with her chin between her paws.

It was great to have a chance to thank the Lions Club members for their strong support of Leader Dogs for the Blind. FLD Scout and I will have another opportunity
soon—members of the Hale Lions Club took my contact information.

I only hope it isn’t on a rainy day! 

LINKS

To learn more about the Lions Clubs and Leader Dogs for the Blind, visit this page:
http://www.leaderdog.org/lions/history.php

Here is a link to my blog post about “A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy”:
http://playswithpuppies.blogspot.com/2010/04/tip-for-tuesday-tired-puppy-is-good.html.

To hear my little noise-maker when she first came home with us, visit my blog post here:
http://playswithpuppies.blogspot.com/2011/09/tuesdays-training-tip-be-quiet.html.

If you are interested in what a “Tilly hat” is, check out this website:
http://www.tilley.com/The-T2-Cotton-Duck-Hat.aspx.

Guest Post: Assistance Dog for Autism

This month’s guest post is from a blogger I have mentioned many times here during the last couple of years. They won an Irish Blog Award earlier this year, so I thought it was time they introduced themselves in their own words.

“Greetings from Clive & Co over at Clive – Assistance Dog for Autism and many thanks for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and talk a little about assistance dogs, autism and the impact both have had on our lives.
Three years ago we started blogging about Clive and Murray – our assistance dog and our son who has autism.  Clive is 6 now, Murray is 13.  Clive came into our lives five years ago and during that time a huge transformation has taken place in Murray.  A lot of work has also taken place during that time too
– lots of special needs schooling, lots of occupational therapy and speech therapy, lots of horse-riding and swimming and Special Olympics competitions
but it’s been the ‘lots of Clive’ that has really turned things around for Murray.
Before Clive came into our lives – simple everyday tasks were difficult for Murray.  He craved routine, familiarity, the safety of home.  Taking him shopping, trying to stand in a queue, attempting to go to a football match – these were all things that Murray found extremely frightening and upsetting.  He had little language to explain his fear, his sensitivity to noise and crowds, his nervousness of strangers – so Murray cried or screamed or got so upset at
the idea of leaving the house – he threw up.  We got so used to Murray getting sick that we couldn’t remember a time when Murray didn’t throw up at the idea of a change in routine.  That was what life was like for our family or rather it was a lack of a life because we couldn’t do much as a family. Murray has another sibling who didn’t get much of look in with all that was going on with Murray.

Clive has changed that – Clive has transformed Murray – Clive has enabled Murray to lead a relatively normal life.  When Murray has Clive with him – he feels secure, confident and is able to cope with a change in his surroundings, Murray can manage and now enjoy interaction with people outside of the house.
 From the days of not even being able to go to our local GAA club to watch Murray’s sister play football – we can now go into Croke Park to cheer on Dublin! 
Over the past five years Murray’s speech has come on hugely – Clive has helped that because Murray wanted to communicate with ‘his dog’ so having Clive with him 24/7 has helped develop Murray’s language skills.  Murray has become far more independent because of Clive – more independent than we ever thought possible – seeing him able to take Clive for a walk on his own this summer was a truly magical experience.  An experience we would never have considered
possible five years ago prior to Clive coming into our lives.  Murray’s confidence has grown hugely – he now engages willingly and happily with people outside the house.  He is hugely proud of Clive and always willing to go places, try new things, meet new people.
Clive has literally opened up the world for Murray!   Clive has taken Murray to Spain, France, Belgium and the USA.  A fellow blogger in the USA – reading Clive’s blog in South Carolina has invited us over to her house for the past two summers.  Clive and his blog have enabled Murray to experience new countries, new experiences – truly a whole new world.  On the rare occasion that for some reason, Clive can’t be with Murray – Murray can now accept and understand
that and can carry on without Clive (once he knows Clive is safe and happy at home).
Murray is a magical kid – a kid that has given his family so much pleasure over the past 13 years – he has enriched our lives and made all the family sit up and view the world a little differently.  He has got his family involved in fundraising, autism awareness and supporting Irish Guide Dogs and the work they do.  He has done all this and more because of that great golden shaggy dog that came home from Cork one June morning five years ago.   If Murray is
magical – then Clive is his ‘magical’ canine!

There are currently 175 assistance dogs around Ireland working with children like Murray.  There are also over 200 children with autism on a waiting list for an assistance dog.  The current wait time for an assistance dog is four years.  That’s a long time when you have a child with autism ….
Many thanks for taking the time to read our guest post here on Jen’s Blog.  For more stories on Clive and the work he does as an assistance dog for autism
– please check out his blog
assistance dog for autism.”

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.

Guest Post: At A Glacial Pace

The first blog post of each month is a guest post from a guest blogger. This month’s is from Jes, whose blog has been an inspiration to me since I discovered it earlier this year. When you read her post, you’ll know exactly why. Then go follow her blog:

At A Glacial Pace.

You only think your life is busy until you read about hers!

Have you ever taken a step back and wondered

“where did the time go?” or,

“what have I done in the last six years?”

I didn’t necessarily think these things exactly, but in December of

2005, I started writing a blog. I don’t think anyone really read it,

but I was okay with that. It was more for my own entertainment and

musings; something I could look back on and remember what was going on

in my life. It was also a place for me to vent my feelings and

sentiments about living as a twenty-something, blind girl blundering

my way through life with my first guide dog, Jetta, by my side. A lot

has changed since December 2005. Jetta has retired, I’ve moved a

million times-it feels like it anyway-and I’ve grown up a lot. I still

rant from time to time, but I think I’m a bit more eloquent now and

perhaps don’t get as fired up about certain things as I used to.

Now, my blog focuses primarily on my life as a blind woman in the

process of moving from the United States to Edinburgh Scotland. It

chronicles the happenings in my house with two guide dogs and a

husband. It’s much different from the raging, slightly radical

Sociology student that often spewed words out in an attempt to make

her brain shut off. I still advocate for equality and accessibility; I

still try to raise awareness for those populations who may not

necessarily have a voice-that includes animals; but it’s a less

aggressive and probably much more readable approach.

My blog is constantly changing and it’s probably because I don’t stay

still well. I always have at least two projects on the go and if not,

I’m looking for something else to add. I used to be a competitive

swimmer for Canada and retired in 2008. It took me a few years to

realise that the fire for competition had not burned out and I made it

my mission to fulfill this void; this happens to be training for a

triathlon. I have dreams of competing in the Paralympics again as a

triathlete. If you’re going to dream, dream big.

Athletics are not my only interest. I have a degree in Sociology and

Massage Therapy. I would also like to get my Master’s in

Physiotherapy, which is in the works for September of 2012. On the

side, I love training dogs and interacting with them. My most recent

dog related adventure was starting up a Pet Consulting business that

will be a side project until I can build up a client base. On top of

all of this, my posts are full of stories about the move to Scotland,

my experience as a guide dog handler and a few random ramblings about

the necessity of coffee. In reality, you will probably never know what

the next day’s post is going to be about as I never run out of things

to say. Strangely enough, I am quite the opposite in person; if I

don’t know you, I probably won’t talk much.

“At A Glacial Pace” is the title of the blog and is intended to be

ironic and a play on words all at the same time. Glacier is my current

working dog and nothing moves “at a glacial pace” in our lives. The

URL for the blog is “Walking Barefoot in the Sand” because that is

what life is like. Sand is unstable and if you were to walk on it

every day, or at different times of the day, it would be different.

Sometimes it’s warm and pleasant under your feet; others you must run

because it is too hot; and sometimes it is cold and wet and sticks to

your feet. Life is like walking on a sandy beach: you never know what

you’re going to experience and sometimes it can be pleasant, soothing

and exciting and sometimes it is cold, ungiving and desolate. Either

way, life-and sand-go on and the next time you step out your front

door, or on to a beach, it will not be the same. That is what is

exciting about life and I think my blog reflects that; or at least I

hope it does.

GDO’s Unleashed

A website for guide dog owners, called
GDO’s Unleashed
Was recently set up, to act as a community for people around the world. It contains a blog, a forum where people can discuss topics and ask questions, and a podcast. The brains behind the idea is Marie, who agreed to write a guest post explaining why she felt that there was a need for a site like this.

My name’s Marie and I’m 27 and live in greater Manchester, England. I have been totally blind since the age of six and finally trained with my first Guide dog Bailey five years ago. I was 22 when I qualified with my loveable pup and had waited to get my first guide until I was emotionally ready to handle the responsibility I feel comes with working with a dog.

before having Bailey, I had lived in California for a year on an exchange programme and had since made several American blind acquaintances, some of which were guide dog owners themselves. Over the years of online interaction with other visually impaired people who are or have been guide dog handlers, I realised fast that the service and support I had received from Guide Dogs in the UK was not a universal experience. I was saddened to hear tales of people having to “send” the dogs back due to some problem as though they were a faulty product or not feeling like they had anyone to talk to about an issue they were experiencing with their dog. As I have had incredible support from the association from which I trained, I got to thinking that maybe some kind of international network for guide dog owners could be established to enable those feeling a strain or not feeling as though they were being supported could confide in other handlers within a supportive and friendly network. they could hear stories of other tales of woe from other guide dog owners and not feel as alone.

The podcast was an idea to have a group of guide dog owners discuss issues that affect us on a daily basis working these gorgeous dogs in the public eye, problems we may be experiencing both with working our pups or a wide spectrum of issues. And to not only huddle together for support and comfort at our downfalls, because let’s face it, we all have our off days, but to celebrate and rejoice in the cherished partnerships that we have formed.

I wanted to show the differences in training, the attitudes within society, the wonderful relationships we build and although not a replacement for your school or association, a cushion for those who need a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, or a stage to showcase extraordinary and indeed ordinary stories from all from across the globe.

For me, the relationship I have with my dog is special and sharing the good and bad times with others, no matter where they are in the world makes the good times seem great and the bad times not so bad.

New contributors are welcome, and they can contact the site by emailing
admin@gdosunleashed.com
or following
@gdosunleashed

Thanks for the post Marie. Hopefully some Paws For Thought readers will check out the site. It would be nice to hear their voices on a podcast in the future.
I think with regular updates and a variety of participants, GDO’s Unleashed could be a valuable resource for guide dog owners and people who just want
to find out more about these working dogs.

I want to try and make guest posts a regular feature on my blog, once a month if possible. If you would like to post something, or have an idea in mind
that I could research and post, please get in touch.

Guest Post: To You I bestow

Many blog readers already know that I produce a music show for my local community radio station
ICR FM
which is broadcast every Sunday between 8 and 9 pm. I enjoy picking music for the show and introducing listeners to the music that I like, but it can get a bit boring because the show is pre-recorded.
When I move house I hope to get lots of new equipment which will hopefully enable me to broadcast my show online from home. I haven’t worked out the exact format of the show yet, but my love of music by Irish artists is making me consider an Irish alternative music show. Who knows how this will end up, but that’s not the main point of this post.

The main point is to give you an insight into a blog which has inspired my appreciation for Irish artists even more. I guest posted on Peter Nagle’s blog
2 U I Bestow
just over a year ago, and he kindly returned the favour when I asked him to write a bit about his blog last week. Thanks Peter!

I’m Peter and I write the 2 U I Bestow Irish music blog and a folk column for the collaborative blog
fourforty4.
For my day job I teach Maths in a special school but in the evenings and the weekends I’m constantly listening to music, discovering great music or going to gigs and festivals. The 2 U I Bestow blog has enabled me to run a sessions gig in an intimate venue in Slane called
Boyles
and we imaginatively called the night ‘Live at Boyles’. Around half of my online traffic still comes from the US, with a sizable amount from the UK and the rest from Ireland. I’d say that there are over two hundred views from Ireland per day which I’m delighted with as the blog is just a hobby and there’s no revenue from it. I’m going to talk about the origin of the blog and where I see it in years to come.

The main inspiration for me to become a blogger was when I discovered
Mp3hugger.com
around five years ago now. The writing was and is still crisp and to the point with an opportunity to listen to new music before going off to buy an album or to see the band live. As mp3hugger only satisfied the indie/alternative side of me I went looking for blogs that were writing about Irish artists, or singer-songwriters or even good blogs writing about artists I adore like Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. So when there’s a spot in the market you have to go for it. I began a blog in February 2008 called Mixtape4Melfi. I was thinking along the lines of a website which provides good music to escape from the mundane day to day life. Yeah I didn’t think it through enough. Anyway while writing the Mixtape4Melfi blog I realised that I was writing about Irish artists that no one else covered such as Finglas born but Pittsburgh based Mark Dignam or Galway’s Peadar King. I therefore began planning an Irish artist only blog which went live in November 2008. I wanted a name for the blog that was the name of a popular Irish song. It came to me that I remembered reading that the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack has sold millions worldwide and it contains that Mundy song To You I Bestow.

There have been times in the past where I wondered if I was of any help to the bands I write passionately about. My ‘best of … ‘ lists rarely include albums that end up on the Choice Awards lists or are revered by other established bloggers. It’s taken some time to build an Irish readership because the blog is my own thoughts suited to my own tastes and it’s not a tool used by PR companies, record labels or concert promoters. I therefore have free reign to write about those artist I value and to ignore the music I do not value. Over time I hope those artists I write about gain the recognition and attention they deserve. I’m particularly delighted for artist such as Lisa O’Neill and Henrietta Game who are building a sizable fan base years after I first wrote a few words about them.

I aim to continue writing until I lose passion for the blog. I’d love to see the establishment of a Nationwide Irish music only radio station because we have so many wonderful musicians and bands. Ireland unfortunately is too small to keep a band gainfully employed full time. They need to look beyond Ireland to the UK, Europe and beyond in the way Villagers, Julie Feeney and James Vincent McMorrow have been touring and promoting recently. For this reason I hope all of my readers from the US and the UK keep returning to the blog to discover new Irish music.

Thanks Jen for asking me to write a guest post for you. I hope your new radio show goes well and that you continue to find new Irish music from 2 U I Bestow.

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! 🙂