Here Almost a Year!

Tomorrow is guide dog day, a fundraising day for Irish guide dogs, with events taking place all around Ireland. Last year I was in Cork for
guide dog day
training with Sibyl. That means she has been living in Donegal for almost a year. And what a great year it has been.

Retiring a dog and working with another isn’t an easy thing to do. Although you have lots of experience with the first dog, and you know all the basics before you start training again, it can be hard to get used to a totally different dog with a different personality. When I trained with O.J I was so excited, because I’d wanted a guide dog for so long. Although I was delighted to be matched with Sibyl, to be able to retire O.J when he was happy and healthy, and not have to wait in between dogs, I wasn’t very excited about training. I didn’t have the same instant love for Sibyl that I had for O.J, if I’m completely honest. That’s probably because part of me knew that she was continuing the job he had already done so well, and could have done for another while. I felt guilty that I wasn’t still working O.J, and then I felt guilty that I wasn’t crazy about this new dog straight away, because that seemed ungrateful. I had to often remind myself to give her more of a chance during training, and not to compare her to O.J. I had to give her time during the next year to learn and mature and settle down. Sometimes I was probably hard on her, and hard on myself, expecting both of us to do routes and walks without mistakes or so many distractions, but this was unfair. Training with a new dog can be emotionally exhausting!

I’m writing all this as a reminder for myself. It’s interesting to reflect back on this, almost one year after we have qualified. O.J is enjoying the perfect retirement, and I can visit him whenever I like, because I still miss him at times. Sibyl and I have both become so much more confident working together since we left Cork. Sibyl is the perfect successor to O.J. She is so different in some ways, but still has that brilliant personality and dependable nature that he had. She is lively and silly and playful, but in social situations when she needs to be good, she’s chilled out and patient, particularly around children. She loves travelling, and we have lots to do during the next few months to keep her busy.

I feel so lucky to have been matched with Sibyl when I was. Even though
I was shocked at the quick timing when I got the phone call to come and meet her, I’m so grateful that it happened when it did. Sibyl came at the right time. A time when I knew a career change was in order. A time when I was so unsure of what was ahead of me. A time when I want to travel more and do new things. A time when I need a confident dog with lots of energy to keep me busy. Sibyl won’t let me get bored or get stuck in a rutt. She has too much energy and enthusiasm for that, and she has the confidence to try new things, so I think we’re very well matched.
If you have a few euros to spare and you meet anybody collecting this weekend, this is why you might want to think about giving it to guide dogs. Because they really do change lives and provide the best independence, and we need as many people as possible to experience that.

A Very Special 30th Birthday!

I was 30 last Thursday. I had decided a long time ago that I wanted to do something different for my 30th birthday. I didn’t want a party or presents, but my family love celebrating birthdays, so I knew it wouldn’t be that easy! I also wanted to spend time with them, so it seemed like an obvious thing to celebrate for guide dogs.
I came up with the idea of having a coffee morning in my uncle’s bar. People could come and spend time together, relax, have some food, and donate a small amount of money to Irish guide dogs. I literally came up with the idea, created a Facebook event, told a few people, and put ten posters around the town. Everybody else did everything, and it was such a special day.

I woke up early and was entertained by my best friends sending me messages on our what’sapp group. They sent youtube videos of happy birthday songs; one sung in harmony, one barked by dogs, and one called ‘happy birthday Jenny!’
Some of us had spent the previous afternoon having lunch together with Sibyl and a couple of their small children. One friend drove to the cafe (a 20 minute drive) without even telling me where I was going! Only because she knew she would get away with it because I can’t see. Another friend baked me a cake! They are so generous and always want to have fun. I’m very lucky!

Unfortunately Nicky had to go back home that morning, and was unable to be there for the day. My brother-in-law also couldn’t be there. I really missed them both, and thought about them a lot during the day. They would have enjoyed it. Unfortunate things happen, and there was nothing anybody could do. It was too late to cancel anything, and the day just had to go on.

My sister came to do my make-up and brought me to the bar, where people had been busy organising and decorating all morning. They even had napkins with labradors on them! People had made granola, scones, buns, bread and another birthday cake! They decided that a breakfast/coffee morning would be a little bit different rather than the usual sandwiches and lots of sweet buns. People seemed to like the idea too, because during the next 4 hours, probably 200 people came through the pub doors, right from the minute they opened at 10:30. People made such an effort to be there. People that I hardly know. People that I wasn’t expecting. People who went out of their way. Two other guide dog owners came. Everybody donated so generously, and I spent the day feeling so overwhelmed and happy at how supportive people in our town are. My family did so much. My nephews all helped to make it very special. One worked hard behind the bar, while the younger boys made sure that all the children who came were fed, as well as keeping me up to date with anything they felt that I needed to know. O.J was there too of course. Himself and Sibyl had sniffing competitions where they lay, but they behaved really well, and everybody enjoyed petting them.

I received some lovely presents, even though I wasn’t expecting any. Some people even gave me hand-made cards. Everything was so thoughtful. My phone never stopped all day. I was exhausted from talking when we left the bar after 3 PM. We visited my Godmother, who gave me a present, and another homemade cake! That’s three cakes in 24 hours! All very different, but equally Yummy! My brother and his girlfriend made a lovely curry, which we all enjoyed before sitting down to read cards and count the money. There’s still donations coming in, but my birthday raised over 1,600 euros so far. That’s an incredible amount of money!

Puppywalkers, You Do Amazing Jobs!

I went to Dublin on Saturday, where I met Nicky as we were invited to a 30th birthday party in the city. I was in Dublin for exactly 24 hours. It’s amazing what you can get done in that time!
We had lunch in a hotel that the bus stops outside. The staff are always friendly, so it’s a good place to eat. Then we took a taxi to our own hotel, the
Grand Canal Hotel
which isn’t too far from the city. It’s often difficult to get a hotel in or near Dublin city with grass nearby, and they can be so expensive, especially on a weekend. This one was in a great location, with grass and a bin just a minute’s walk away. The things us guide dog owners have to worry about!
The hotel staff were very helpful without being intrusive, and one in particular adored Sibyl! The breakfast wasn’t anything special and not worth the extra money, but apart from that it was perfect, and I’ll definitely be back.
The party was fun, and Sibyl did great. We met up with some friends and met some new people, which is always nice.

In between lunch and dinner before the party, Sibyl’s puppywalkers came to the hotel to see her. She went back to Cork for training in October 2013, they hadn’t seen her since and possibly didn’t think they ever would. I don’t think she particularly recognised them, but I know she’d remember their house if she saw it again. Two of their children couldn’t come but really wanted to see her, so we’ve promised to go and visit them soon. We talked for more than two hours, and it was lovely for me to hear about the places they brought her and how much they enjoyed having her. She was their first dog, but hopefully they will puppywalk another, because they were obviously very good at it.

I’m very lucky to have met both of my dog’s puppywalkers, and that they have taken such interest in their dogs and my life with them. These are the people who do all the hard work before the dog reaches training. These people are the heros of the guide dog world! I think Irish guide dogs could do more to connect puppywalkers and guide dog owners, both during training and when dogs qualify. I sent an email to their CEO this morning to suggest this, as well as an email to the manager of the Grand Canal hotel to tell him or her how helpful their staff are.

Service Dogs Europe

Every day last week, Joe Duffy spoke on
about an organisation based in co. Louth called
Service Dogs Europe.
I’d heard about it before, but not in any major detail. I listened to the show last week, to all the people who called in with their experiences of this organisation , and I can’t stop thinking about it since.

Service Dogs Europe claims to train assistance dogs for people with autism, hearing difficulties and a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions. They train dogs to alert people to seizures and for people who are diabetic. They seem to train dogs for everything except guide dogs! Unlike Irish Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs Ireland and My Canine Companion who all train dogs for children with autism, and Dogs for the Disabled who provide dogs for people with physical disabilities in Ireland, Service Dogs Europe do not have a waiting list, so dogs are available to families much quicker. But unlike the other organisations, SDE is not a charity, so people pay up to 7000 euros for one of these dogs. People can choose a puppy from the puppy program, which lives with the family until a certain age when it is taken to SDE to be trained for a few months. Families can also choose an adult dog provided by the organisation, or give their own dog there to be trained.

Henry Fitzsimons is the CEO, head trainer, and only board member of Service Dogs Europe. He has two sons on the autistic spectrum, and wanted to train dogs to help people like them. He has 25 years experience training dogs, but I can’t seem to find a list of his exact qualifications online. As far as I can tell, his trainers come from all over the world, so I don’t know their qualifications either.
Henry Fitzsimons states that their dogs are trained to the same standards as Assistance Dog International (ADI), but they clearly aren’t. They aren’t even registered with the ADI, who inspect all service dog training organisations thoroughly. So that’s the problem. This organisation is a scam!

When parents contact Service Dogs Europe, they are promised a well-trained dog that will help change their child’s life. If they can raise the money, they won’t have to go on a waiting list of up to five years, so of course this sounds perfect. But it is far from that, according to the majority of callers to the Joe Duffy show. These dogs turn out to be no more than very expensive pets, who in many cases aren’t even housetrained. People have reported their dogs coming back from training in worse condition than they were sent, fearful, underweight, badly behaved, aggressive, and in one case actually biting the child it was apparently trained to assist. I only heard two callers who had positive experiences, but they had only owned their dogs for a number of weeks, and the dog hadn’t been sent back for it’s formal training yet. Many people who avail of these dogs come from the UK, and there were questions about whether these dogs were even brought from Ireland legally.

Parents of children with special needs will do absolutely anything to help their child. They are some of the bravest, most determined people I’ve ever met. Sometimes these parents are vulnerable, and can be easily led by promises of something that could change their family’s life, which is what Henry Fitzsimons promised them. These parents are under stress, desperate to find anything that will help, so maybe they didn’t do enough research. Henry can probably talk the talk, although funny enough he was unable to talk to Joe Duffy last week and had a colleague to do his dirtywork. His website may look professional, though I don’t think it reads professionally at all in places. When you visit his training place, you have to arrive at a specific time, and are frowned upon if you come unexpectedly or early. People talk about always only seeing the first two kennels closest to the main entrance. When you leave with your dog, you may be forced to write a testimonial about the benefits of the organisation, even though you have hardly had your dog home, and haven’t seen anything that it was trained to do yet. When you have problems with your dog after training, Henry will offer more training. When that doesn’t work or if you don’t want it, you’ll be told that the dog just wasn’t right, or that it was your fault and he’ll offer you another dog. If you ask for your money back you’ll basically be laughed at.
What these parents are unaware of is that it is impossible to train a dog so young to assist somebody in the way that Service Dogs Europe say they can. Assistance dogs are always at least 18 months before they qualify, and undergo intensive training. It is impossible to train a service dog within a couple of months. They aren’t mature enough yet.
SDE use dogs from breeders, but I bet they don’t pay much for them. They also use dogs which are donated or come from rescues, where they have no idea of their history. SDE are expecting to put these dogs, after little or no training into families with young children, to keep them safe. This is devistation waiting to happen!
Henry Fitzsimons also runs a website called
Let’s Go Fundraise
where you can set up a page for people to raise money for your service dog. But of course when it doesn’t work out, they don’t get their money back.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Henry Fitzsimons also runs a dog training facility called
Top Dog Training
where owners leave their dogs for two weeks to be trained. People spoke of how they left their dogs their at a cost of hundreds, had no updates in between, and returned to find no improvements in the dog’s behaviour. Again dogs were in poor condition, fearful and aggressive, with one client having to subsequently have her dog put to sleep. Any worthwhile dog trainer will tell you that it’s impossible to successfully train a dog without teaching the owner how best to interact with the dog too, so leaving a dog with someone for two weeks will not work at all. This is another scam!

As a guide dog owner, and someone who benefits from an assistance dog on a daily basis, I’m outraged that an organisation like Service Dogs Europe exists in Ireland, and that people have been too afraid to speak up and do nothing about it. This affects all assistance dog owners, regardless of where we were trained. It is easy to print up a certificate that looks professional, and if people don’t know any better, they think it’s real. Assistance dogs have access to all public places. If a badly trained dog from SDE comes into a restaurant and misbehaves, the owner has every right to refuse the next person who comes in with a dog. That could be me, or somebody else with a perfectly trained, well behaved dog from a reputable organisation. People often tar everybody with the same brush, so if they see a poorly behaved dog, they think they are all the same.

Henry Fitzsimons needs to be reported and stopped. His businesses need to be closed down, and he should be banned from working with animals. What he is doing is not only cruel to animals, but to parents, families, children with disabilities, and anybody who uses an assistance dog.
People need to ask questions.
People need to stop bringing their dogs to his training facility. Don’t be fooled by the lies on his website.
Make sure that breeders do not donate or sell dogs to him.
If you hear anybody mentioning this organisation, make sure they know the truth before making life even more difficult for their families.
Share this post, and please do anything you can to help spread the word about the corruption that is Service Dogs Europe in Ireland.


Good Things Always Happen in Cork

I’ve been to Cork five times in the last year. It’s one of my favourite counties, I love the accent, and every time I go, I always really enjoy it. I went there last weekend, and it was no exception.

Sibyl did her first journey on the Dublin bus on Friday morning. It’s one she’ll be doing many times, so luckily she seemed to enjoy it. We arrived in Dublin earlier than expected, and met Nicky at the train station, where we took the train to Cork. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Ballincollig, as all the hotels nearby were booked up. It was quite basic, but the owner was friendly and they were happy to have the dog there. One of our friends was staying there too, so it was lovely to catch up with her.

Irish Guide Dogs had their AGM in the centre the next morning, which was the original reason we had decided to go to Cork. Sibyl didn’t seem too excited to be back at the centre, where we trained only nine weeks ago. Maybe she was afraid I was going to leave her back there. She behaved brilliantly, and wasn’t bothered by all the dogs and people at all. The dogs were excellent. The meeting probably lasted over three hours, and there wasn’t a sound from any of them. It was interesting to hear the questions and concerns that people had, and how the guide dogs organisation intends to deal with these. They do incredible work, but they are willing to listen to their service users and work to the best of their ability.

By this stage, you might be impressed by the fact that I traveled an eight hour journey by public transport, just to attend an annual general meeting. But there was another factor which made me very determined to be in Cork on July 11th. Some very kind person decided that the AGM should be on the same day that The Frames were playing in the Marquee, a venue I’ve always wanted to go to. I told Nicky I’d definitely go to the guide dog centre if I could get Frames tickets, even though it was sold out. It was the last gig of their three 25th anniversary concerts, I had missed the other two which took place in Dublin, so I had to be there! The hunt was on for tickets. Without the help of Laura and Claire, it would not have happened, and I’m so grateful to them, because it was a lot more than just a brilliant gig.

When you finish reading this long post, take some time to read
assistance dog Cassie’s
facebook page. It gives an incredible insight into the difference that an assistance dog from Irish Guide Dogs can make to the life of a child with autism and their family. The “Colm” you’ll see on that page is the violin player with The Frames. Sibyl’s trainer is also a huge fan of the band (she’s liked them even longer than I have), so it was really nice of her to tell me that they’d organised a photoshoot with the band. I don’t have pictures yet, but no doubt they’ll be put online by somebody soon.

Nicky and I arrived at the Marquee with Sibyl at 5 P.M, after the taxi driver frustratingly drove us around Cork city even though he didn’t really have to. We were met by one of the Aiken Promotions staff (who know us well at this stage), and from then on, we were treated like VIPS. That’s Very Important People by the way, not Visually Impaired People, as we are sometimes referred to!

When we got inside, the band had just finished their soundcheck. I hugged Glen and Colm, and was starting to chat to them, when Sibyl spotted her trainer, who she still loves. She stood up on her back legs and wagged her tail, much to everybody’s amusement! This was the only time she went a bit hyper all weekend, so I had to forgive her and just laugh too. There were three guide dog trainers, who had brought some dogs who are still in training. Assistance dog Cassie was there, and she reminded me a lot of O.J. It was great to meet Sheila and the boys too. We chatted and photographs were taken. The band seemed genuinely interested in the dogs, and happy to take the time to meet us.
The trainee dogs were left back to kennels while Nicky and I waited for my cousin to come and collect Sibyl. He watched her while we were at the gig because it would have been too loud. It was great to have somebody that I know who could watch her, while still be able to have her in the photographs.

The gig itself was fantastic as usual. The band played a great selection of songs from their 25 year career, and were joined by all the former Frames members. Unfortunately we were surrounded by a lot of talkers, which dampened the atmosphere a bit. Sitting during a Frames gig isn’t something I’m used to, and at times I just wanted to jump around, but you really can’t complain when you get guest list tickets.
The people involved with guide dogs were given wristbands, so we went back stage for a while after the gig. People just sat around chatting, children played quietly together, and the atmosphere was nice and relaxed. It was a really nice end to a really nice day.

I was really grateful to be in Cork on Saturday. Anyone who knows me well enough, even through this blog knows how much having a guide dog has changed and improved my life. They probably also know how much I like The Frames, and that I think they are a bit more than just a good band. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I wrote
this guest post
for 2UIBestow in 2010, which might give you a better idea. Because of The Frames, I have been introduced to great music, met new friends and brilliant people, and had lots of fun during the last thirteen years. I’m not just inspired by their musicianship, but by their love for what they do, their incredible work ethic, and their constant ability to deliver more than the fans expect from them at every gig. Having my favourite band and my favourite organisation doing something together was really special, and a great way to celebrate 25 years of brilliant music.

Guide Dog Day

Today is guide dog day,. Irish guide dogs have collections and events taking place all around the country. It has replaced ‘shades’ week, which was their annual fundraising event at the beginning of May, which was always launched by their patron Roy Keane. Roy visited the centre two weeks ago, and did
an interview
with Kevin Kelly, who is from Donegal. Have a look, it’s really good.

Guide dog day seemed like a good day to introduce people to my new dog. She’s a golden lab x retriever, and her name is Sibyl.
I arrived in Cork on Monday afternoon, but we didn’t get our dogs until Tuesday morning. We’ve been getting to know each other since then, and so far I’m very impressed! She’s quite shy until she gets to know you, so the dog I have now acts completely different to the one I met three days ago. Her work seems good, and nothing really seems to phase her. The only major change I have to get used to is her small size. It feels strange when we’re walking, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough. She may be small, and have a cute lady-like name, but you want to hear her snoring!!!

I didn’t want to write a detailed account of training. Guide dog owners have done it very well, and I’m envious and impressed by how well they explain things in such detail. I just don’t have the brains for that this week. I’m very lucky to be training with a great instructor and two other trainees who are very nice. The evenings are very quiet, so thankfully we all keep each other entertained by talking and winding each other up. The three dogs on class all look very different, and they are all working well. The staff are great, and the food is amazing!

I’ve had lovely blog comments, texts, emails and tweets during the last week, and I really appreciated them all. Changing dogs is definitely not an easy thing to do, but I’m lucky to know so many helpful kind people who have made it a bit easier.

Penguins Don’t Eat Ice-cream!

O.J, my PA Deborah and I spent the morning in
Rosses Community School
in Dungloe at a book launch. It was an unusual way to spend a Monday, but it was a nice change. It was also a fundraiser, with half of the proceeds being donated to Irish guide dogs.

First year and leaving cert applied students wrote stories about their pets, which were compiled into a book called ‘Penguins Don’t Eat Ice-cream!’ The title was inspired by a school visit to the zoo last year, when one of the students, Jack Gray, decided to feed one of the penguins some of his ice-cream. This got him into a bit of trouble, but made for a funny story which he recounts brilliantly in the book. Other students wrote about their pets, as well as writing letters to some celebrities, asking them about their own pets. They received some great replies, including lots of information about the queen’s corgies!
I also wrote a piece about working with O.J for the book. His photo features in it a few times, so it’s a lovely keepsake for him to be part of during his last year as a working guide dog.

I have worked in Rosses Community School a couple of times now, and ms. Brennan is one of the most enthusiastic teachers I’ve ever met. The students have really grown in confidence since I first met them, and that was obvious when they read stories from the book and helped out during the launch this morning. Guest speaker was Angela Dromgoole, past pupil of the school, and more recently, Dublin creative business person of the year. In her speech, she encouraged students to work hard, do their best and follow their dreams. I didn’t speak long, but just thanked the students for choosing guide dogs to benefit from the sales of their book. O.J was very relaxed, which is always good when you are representing the organisation at these types of things. The students all signed a copy of the book for me, and I bought one for a friend. Hopefully sales will go well, because they’ve put in a lot of effort, and it’s a good quality book for only é10.
The teacher appologised that she hadn’t produced a braille copy for me, so I suggested that maybe with all this new confidence, the students could consider making an audio copy soon!

Our Weekend in Cork

I went to Cork on Friday to attend the service dogs of Ireland seminar I mentioned in my previous post. O.J had a play on the beach, followed by a walk on Thursday, so he was looking good for the weekend. He was the only guide dog at the event, and behaved very maturely, making me very proud!

When I arrived at the Corin Centre in Fermoy, Andrew who organised the event was the first person I met. He put a lot of time and effort into this event, and should be happy with what he had achieved. There was a good crowd, and four of the five charities were very well represented. Irish guide dogs had three members of staff, but since no guide dog owners were informed about the event by the charity, there were none there except me. This was quite disappointing, but I’m glad I came, and I enjoyed spending the day with their staff, who were very helpful.

Each of the five service dogs charities gave interesting presentations. I particularly enjoyed Dogs for the Disabled, who used a dog to demonstrate how a person using a wheelchair can be assisted by a dog. The dog helped to pull off her gloves, pull off socks, and most impressively, pick up a bottle she dropped and put it in the bin. Assistance dog owners spoke of the lifechanging difference having a dog has made to their children with autism and their families. This story is so touching, no matter how many times you hear it. We had discussions about access issues and legislation among other things. The president of the Irish Kennel Club gave an interesting talk in which he promised financial aid if the five organisations decide to come together and form an umbrella service dogs group. So many topics were discussed, its hard to remember them all. With Andrew’s permission I recorded the event, and I’m hoping to transcribe some of the information in the next few weeks, just for future reference encase anybody wants it.

Apart from the talks, I really enjoyed meeting lots of friendly people and lots of gorgeous dogs. I was lucky enough to be sitting in front of a Newfoundland who was a therapy dog. Needless to say, I just wanted to keep petting him all the time. Probably luckily for his owner I moved seats after lunch, and ended up sitting behind Thorp, a Newfy x Retriever who was also beautiful. I loved getting to pet lots of labradoodles and golden doodles, since I am interested in knowing more about these breeds. The highlight of all the people and dogs was meeting Clive, Murray and Fiona. I’ve been reading
Clive’s blog
since Murray was nine years old and now he’s sixteen. It was lovely to finally meet them. Clive is taller than I’d expected, and I think Murray is too! I wish I could have talked to him more, but the room was noisy and busy with lots of dogs. I got a photo taken with them both which was really nice. Fiona was great, introducing me to all the doodles and describing them for me. Hopefully someday we’ll meet again and get a proper chat.

I traveled to Cork with my aunt, and we stayed with her son who lives there. We had a lovely weekend relaxing, going for walks and spending time with their children. O.J and I were spoiled there, I think we could have easily stayed a bit longer!

Service Dogs of Ireland Seminar

Ireland’s very first seminar for service dogs takes place in Fermoy in Cork on Saturday 13th September. The seminar is organised by Andrew Geary, who’s five year-old son is being trained with a hearing dog. Andrew says:
“I discovered there are a number of charities operating in this field in Ireland, all of which are self funded through the work of volunteers. Through our connection with Irish Dogs for the Disabled we have become involved in various fund raising events. Through these events we have met others who are involved with other Canine Charities. All, bar one, are self funded through the dedicated work of their volunteers. The only state funded group being the well known Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, which gets approximately 15% of its budget from state support. I am a committed volunteer all my life and believe Community Spirit is what makes this country work, however in this case as in other spheres the volunteer can only do so much. The Charities concerned in this Seminar are listed alphabetically as:-
1. Autism Assistance Dogs of Ireland
2. Irish Dogs for the Disabled.
3. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind which also runs an Assistance Dog Programme.
4. Irish Therapy Dogs
5. My Canine Companion
From my voluntary work in this field I saw a need for more information, education, networking and interaction throughout this sector and therefore took this project upon myself to organise.”

“Through a number of speakers, demonstrations, workshops, discussions, surveys and educational material, the seminar will bring hundreds of people together.

Seminar Goals
1. Endeavour to seek state funding for guide/assistance/therapy/service dogs across disabilities.
2. Raise the profile of Assistance, Therapy & Service Dogs nationally.
3. Cut waiting lists and make the dogs more available.
4. Reduce duplication of services in the sector.
5. Look at Accreditation of the Sector and models of same.
6. Through networking get best practice for charities, families and trainers.
7. The event would grow as in other countries such as Canada, UK, and USA etc.
8. Showcase the world of Disabilities through positive media exposure.
9. Encourage future study in the area through the results of the surveys and workshops.
10. Look for more legislation in the area of disability and dogs.
11. Raise awareness of Dog needs, respite, retirement etc.
12. Highlight rogue operators. This has become a major problem in this country.”

You can find out more information about the event, and hopefully feedback about the day afterwards on the
facebook page.

I think this is a fantastic idea, which will help to highlight some very important issues facing service dog owners in Ireland. In the little amount of media coverage I’ve seen about this event, it was disappointing to learn how far behind Ireland is compared to other countries in regard to the use of assistance dogs, therapy dogs and dogs for medical purposes. Hopefully this seminar will be the first of many opportunities for us as a country to expand how we use dogs to help people in the future. Dogs are amazing, and can be used to do amazing things. I think we just need to learn how to get the best out of them.

How Not To Organise A Fundraising Event

I went to Letterkenny on Saturday afternoon for the ‘go walkies’ fundraiser for guide dogs. The idea is simple; people go for a short walk, and are encouraged to bring family members and dogs if they want. The events took place over the last few weekends around Ireland. Most people love walking and do it all the time, so you’d imagine it would be a popular, easy way to raise money. That wasn’t the case in Letterkenny. Myself, O.J and the four other people I brought were the only people there!

I don’t want to go into too much detail about this event because I didn’t organise it. The people who did probably did their best on the day, and they were very friendly and appreciated the fact that I travelled 40 minutes with my family and my guide dog. . On the other hand, I didn’t want to not write about it and pretend it didn’t happen. That wouldn’t have been right either, and I hope people can learn from what went wrong.
The only input I had was to volunteer to assist with any newspaper articles or local radio interviews if needed. They never happened and there was almost no publicity of the event. Even if there was, I think é15 per person was too expensive. People don’t have much money, and even if they did, I think charging that just to do a walk wasn’t fair. I think people really need to be more considerate when organising fundraising events these days.

I want to organise a fundraiser for Irish guide dogs before O.J retires. I’d love something a bit different, but haven’t come up with an idea I’m happy with yet. I might consider organising a ‘go walkies’ event in my local town next year. It will be cheaper, and I guarantee there’ll be lots of people there to walk, with or without their dogs.