Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and the kennels were still,
with most dogs now asleep having eaten their fill.

The Labradors sprawled out, quite snug in their beds,
while visions of ANYTHING edible danced in their heads.

And the Goldens and Shepherds curled up on the floor,
some twitched in their sleep and some even did snore.

The dog food was stacked in the feed room with care,
in hopes that a trainer soon would be there.

On the window ledge, one of the kennel cats lay,
surveying the lawn at the end of this day.

Something was different, that little cat knew.
Tonight something would happen, it had to be true.

For that day as the workers had left to go home,
they’d wished Merry Christmas! before starting to roam.

The dogs had noticed it too during this past week’s walks;
the trainers seemed just that much happier and eager to talk.

In the mall where they worked through the maze of people and stores,
there were decoration and music and distractions galore!

Most dogs pranced along without worry or fear,
but some balked at the man on the sleigh and those fake looking

The cat was almost asleep too when he first heard the sound,
a whoosh through the air and a jingle around.

It reminded him of a dog’s collar when the animal shook,
but this sound kept on growing. He’d better go look.

From the ceiling there came a faint sort of thunk,
as the kennel cat climbed to the highest pile of junk.

Once before people had worked on the roof
and come down through the trap door to a chorus of “Woooof!”

But the dogs still were quiet, all sleeping so sound,
as this man dressed in red made his way right on down.

He patted the cat as he climbed past his spot,
and then made his way right to the trainers’ coffee pot.

A shepherd sat up, not fully awake,
then a Golden followed her with a mighty loud shake.

That did it! All the dogs sprang to life with loud noise.
In spite of the din, the old man kept his poise.

He filled the pot full and it started to brew,
then he pulled up a chair and took in the view.

Dogs all around him, so carefully bred,
he knew well their jobs, the blind people they led.

Some had stopped barking and looked at him now,
while others delighted in their own deafening howl.

Laying a finger in front of his lips,
the jolly old man silenced the excitable yips.

“You all may not know me, but I’m Santa Claus,”
the old man smiled and took a short pause,

While he filled up his mug with hot liquid and cream,
“I’ve always wanted to stop here. It’s been one of my dreams.”

The cat had climbed down and was exploring Santa’s sack.
“Yes, little kitty, that’s an empty pack.”

Santa smiled as he drank and looked at those eyes,
deep brown ones and gold ones held wide in surprise.

Some of these dogs, he’d seen just last year,
in their puppy homes, cute and full of holiday cheer.

He’d seen the effects of a pup on the tree,
but now they were here at the school, just waiting to be.

“I didn’t bring you presents or bones just to chew.
I’ll tell you something better, what you are going to do.”

“You all will work hard and the trainers will share,
both praise and correction, gentle and fair.”

“You’ll go lots of places and face big scary things.
You’ll ride buses and subways and hear fire sirens ring.”

“Cars will drive at you but you will stand strong,
not moving into danger, not moving toward wrong.”

“And then just when you think that this trainer’s the best,
the kindest, and funniest person, toss away all the rest,”

“That trainer will begin to ignore you and give you away,
handing your leash over despite your dismay.”

“Now the person who pets you and feeds you will be
a blind person.
That’s a person who can’t see.”

“This man or this woman may see just a tad,
but their view’s missing parts or the focus is bad.”

“So you, well trained dogs, will act as their eyes.
You will work as a team and discover the size

Of this great world we live in, because you will go
a million new places with this person, you know.”

Santa sipped at his coffee and looked over the brood,
knowing what he had to say next might sound kind of rude.

“Not all of you will make it and become canine guides.
Your time here isn’t wasted though. You won’t be cast aside.”

“Some of you will be drug dogs and some will find bombs.
Some will become pets in a home with a dad and a mom.”

“All these things are important. People wait on long lists,
to receive such good dogs as you, the school folks insist.”

The last drop of coffee had gone into his cup
as Santa turned, smiling at each wide eyed pup.

“The best gift of all is to give something back.
That’s why there’s nothing for you all inside of my pack.”

Draining his mug, Santa went to each pen,
and petted and scratched each dog again and again.

“Now next year and many more years after that,
you all will give gifts wherever you’re at.”

“You might lick a hand that’s had a bad day,
Or notice a car and step out of the way.”

“You might help catch a crook or discover some loot,
Or just bring some joy to a tired old man in a funny red suit.”

“Your master will love you and treat you with care.
In return, your training and trust will always be there.”

After the last dog had been petted and soothed,
Santa put away the coffee pot and made ready to move.

Up the ladder he rose to the door high above,
with a smile and a wave as he slipped on his gloves.

And all the dog ears were pricked as he disappeared out of sight.
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!”

~ Author Unknown

Happy Christmas to anyone who has read here during the year. I hope Santa paws comes to all the dogs and they get something nice.

O.J got his first Christmas present last night. My friends and I always go to my cousin’s pub on Christmas eve eve to do secret santa and open our presents. I got a CD and O.J got a stocking. We ended up being the last ones to leave the pub. The girls were singing Christmas songs and didn’t want to leave! O.J didn’t know what to think of it all.

I usually spend most of Christmas eve visiting people and giving presents, before going to mass and staying in my sister’s house, so I can see her excited children getting their presents in the morning. Christmas would be boring if there weren’t any children around.
Have a good one everyone.
Jen and O.J xx


Surviving the cold snap

We’ve had snow here since Friday night, and it is really beautiful outside. My mum and I took the dogs for a walk in it today. O.J was let off his lead because there was no traffic and he loved it. Dougal refused to walk and had to be carried part of the way. His paws must have been freezing though because the snow had caked in around his feet by the time we got home. Ouch!

The snow created a good opportunity for me to practice obedience with O.J. It sends him completely crazy, and he will run constantly until you put his lead back on. If we’re out for a walk his recall is almost perfect, but in our garden he can be a nightmare. Yesterday he ran down the steps to the neighbours house for the first time in his life, because she had left out food for the birds. She has cats and feeds the dog down the road as well, so I was hoping O.J would never discover this. He hasn’t until now! He ran down today and completely refused to come back when I called him.
My mum thinks I should just always take him out on a long lead but I want him to learn not to go down there and to come as soon as he’s called. We did lots of obedience exercises to remind him of this. I call him and make him sit at my right hand side. I will walk a few metres away, then call him until he comes and sits at the same place again. I let him run free for a minute then call him again. I rarely use food to motivate him but he gets an unexpected treat now and again, just to make sure he keeps coming back.
The excitement of the snow is just so much for him and its not surprising he forgets to listen to me, but it was a good reminder for me that he can get a bit naughty sometimes.

The snow is fine because if its bad enough nobody can go anywhere and there’s nothing you can do about it. The trouble starts when the snow melts and we’re left with icy freezing conditions that are difficult to work in with a guide dog. The dog is trained to stay on the footpath and not walk on the road unless you are crossing over. Footpaths here never get gritted so walking anywhere is impossible.
How do other guide dog owners manage when they have to go somewhere? I keep meaning to try out a pair of
yak trax
which might help me to walk more easily. I know that O.J would have a fit if I put dog boots on him, and I wouldn’t blame him!

Icy weather and no walks means that bordum will eventually set in. I’m lucky that O.J has lots of space and toys inside and Dougal to keep him company. He is very relaxed, but by the third day of no walks he gets restless. Looks like we’ll be doing lots of training to keep his mind active if the cold weather keeps up. He’ll be learning to read soon enough 🙂

What happens when you don’t train a puppy…

My family brought me home, cradled in their arms,
They cuddled me and smiled at me, said I was full of charm.
They played with me and laughed with me, they showered me with toys,
I sure do love my family, especially the girls and boys.

The children loved to feed me, they gave me special treats,
They even let me sleep with them, all snuggled in their sheets.
I used to go for many walks, often several times a day,
They even fought to hold the leash, I’m very proud to say.

They used to laugh and praise me, when I played with that old shoe,
But I didn’t know the difference between the old ones and the new.
The kids and I would grab a rag, and for hours we would tug,
So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug.

They said I was out of control and would have to live outside,
This I did not understand, although I tried and tried.
The walks stopped, one by one; they said they hadn’t time,
I wish that I could change things, I wish I knew my crime.

My life became so lonely in the backyard on a chain.
I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.
So they brought me to a shelter, but were embarrassed to say why,
They said I caused an allergy, and then kissed me good-bye.

If I’d only had some classes when I was just a pup,
I wouldn’t have been so hard to handle, when I was all grown up.
“You only have one day left,” I heard a worker say.
Does this mean a second chance? Do I go home today?

Always paying attention

O.J often looks like he’s fast asleep, sometimes snoaring quietly, or lying on his back with his four paws in the air (he has no shame!)
Don’t be fooled though, this dog doesn’t miss much!

In the office he can associate different sounds with what’s going to happen next. When I put the phone on the answering machine it beeps twice. O.J immediately jumps up, because he knows we are going for lunch or moving from the desk. When I don’t need to bring him I’ll tell him to lie down again and he usually sighs loudly at me in disgust.
If I’m wearing headphones to edit some audio, he’ll lift his head when I take them off, wondering what I’m going to do next.
When Windows makes the sound to indecate that the computer is shutting down, O.J jumps up and gets all excited. That means I’m finished with the computer so O.J will try and get my attention before something else does.

Apart from the sound of his bowl, or me opening the container where I keep the dog food, O.J’s favourite sound is the bell on his play collar. I put it on when we’re going to the beach so that I know where he is and what he’s up too all the time (if the bells quiet that means he’s sniffing or eating something he shouldn’t be!) When he hears it he goes absolutely insane!

Maybe I should try and educate him about good music next. I’ve heard of dogs who whine when they hear tv theme tunes etc, so I’m sure its possible.

O.J, wag your tail when you hear Bruce, Christy or the frames. Stay snoaring when you hear westlife. Good boy!

Subject = none in particular!

I know. Its very sad that I’m sitting here alone on a friday night, on the internet again. I’m kinda glad of a quiet night, as the next few weekends will be busy. I’m going to see Bell X1 in Belfast next friday, have to go to my aunt’s seminar about aura soma on Sunday (I’m her special guest apparently, and have no idea why!) and I’ve my two year old nephew’s birthday party somewhere in between.
The following weekend I’m going to Laois (without OJ unfortunately) and the next I’ll be editing like a mad thing.

I helped out at a braille workshop in the central library in Derry today. Four of us (two blindies, one visually impaired and a sighted volunteer) talked to a P7 class about Louis Braille, how we read and write braille, and what we use to help us in our everyday lives. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, and he’s supposed to be our hero you know! Of course when it came to question time, all the children wanted to ask about was the two guide dogs!

After that I went to the Vodafone shop, and a very helpful member of staff helped me to order a new phone. Its the
nokia e51
Vodafone install talks free and then unlock it so that I can use it with my southern sim card. I know a few people who have it and say its really easy to use. I spend enough time online already without having a phone with easy access to the net as well. It will save a lot of time work wise though and keep me occupied on the bus every day. I should have it within ten days. I’ll have my current phone four years this June. It turns itself off sometimes, but otherwise works fine. Its been dropped so many times I’m surprised it works at all, and at least I’ll have a back-up phone if I need it.

I’m going to Donegal town to do my last interview for the documentary tomorrow. The lady I’m interviewing has three dogs, one of which just had three chocolate lab pups last week. I can’t wait to see them they’re going to be so cute! I can’t take OJ with me because they are so young and she’s afraid the mother mightn’t be happy with a strange dog near her babies.

Before I go, I’ll tell you this. The wind is howling outside so I thought I’d have a nice relaxing bath. All my lovely stuff from lush is finished, so I had to try and find bubble bath in the pile of bottles I have from different sets people have given me as presents. I’m home alone, so I’m there like a dork, putting all this stuff on my hand, seeing if it makes suds, or feels like body cream, to try and find the fecking bubble bath, but no luck. There must be everything there except bubble bath. Why can’t they teach guide dogs to read? I know there’s shower jell in the shower so it will have to do. Its not great, and doesn’t make too many bubbles, but at least I know I don’t have body lotion in my bath!
Oh the joys of being blind! but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My first post

I’ve seen other dogs posting on blogs, so I thought I would have a go when my owner isn’t here. She is always on her computer, so it must be good fun, and I hate to miss out on fun.

My name is O J. I am a gorgeous black Labrador retriever, and I am very special because I am a guide dog. I have a very important job; to lead my blind owner around safely.
I live with my owner and her parents and my little brother Dougal. He is small, white, and fluffy and barks a lot! We have good fun playing with our toys. I have my own bedroom, with a nice big bed, some toys and a special box for all my food. There is a bathroom too, but my owner doesn’t let me go in, only when I have to have a shower (I hate showers!) When I moved there first I drank out of the toilet one day. I don’t know why because it didn’t taste nice, but I’m not allowed in there anymore.
I am allowed into the kitchen mostly when my owner is there. It is nice and warm, and always smells of food. Yum! I am not allowed to beg for food, but I try sometimes and then I make my owner cross.
I am never allowed upstairs because my hairs go all over the house. It’s not my fault though.
When I am working I wear a special harness, so members of the public know that I am a guide dog. I don’t like getting my harness on because it feels funny. I love working though, even though people aren’t allowed to pet me. I am allowed into shops, restaurants and all kinds of exciting places that ordinary dogs can’t go.
We get the bus to work very early in the morning. Sometimes the bus isn’t very comfortable and there is no room for me to stretch out properly on the floor. Sometimes people stand on my paws too. I wish they would look where they are going!
When we get to work I can sleep in my bed most of the day. Sometimes I get a chew to eat if I have been a “good boy.” I am always well behaved in the office, because I don’t think the boss really likes dogs. How can somebody not like dogs! I never get to go into his office when my owner has meetings. I have to stay in my bed and be good. I wonder what is in that office.
We go to lots of cafes, but I don’t like them because the food smells lovely and I’m not allowed to eat any. If I eat human’s food I might get sick and I hate going to the vet. I really love going to the radio station and the primary school because lots of big people and children pet me. People always ask questions about me but I love all the attention. Sometimes people take pictures of me too and I love getting my photo taken.
I am usually very well behaved in harness, but sometimes my owner gets cross when I sniff at things. I like to sniff though. I try to sneak a quick sniff sometimes but I always get caught. My owner says I am nosey, but I think I am just inquisitive. I get excited when I see other dogs, and sometimes I forget that I am not allowed to play with them when my harness is on. When the trainer comes up from Cork I always have to be on my best behaviour or I’m in big trouble!
My favourite thing in the whole world is free running on the beach. I love when people throw sticks in the water for me to fetch. I am a very good swimmer, not like Dougal who is afraid of the water and only gets his toes wet. What a baby! I always come back when my owner calls me or blows a whistle. Dougal never comes back when he’s told.
I have to go now. My paws are sore from typing.
Woof Woof, OJ xx

Thought this was nice…

(I stole this from the Irish guide dog mailing list that I recently subscribed to, thanks to Darragh)

A Dog’s Purpose:

Because I am a vet, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found that he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt Shane might learn something from the experience. The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane,who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ The six-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like: When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a car ride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy. Take naps. Stretch before rising. Run, romp, and play daily. Thrive on attention and let people touch you. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough. Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you’re not. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently. Always be grateful for each new day and for the blessing of you.
ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY! Pretty good advice, huh?(Author Unknown)

Clever boy

I’ve always been amazed at how much you can train a dog to do, and O.J. keeps reminding me of this since we started training. I have noticed so many changes since we began training a year ago, and i have learned so much. Apart from becoming more relaxed and confident when I’m out with him, I can see how much he uses his intuition. Sometimes he’ll stop at an obstacle before deciding how to get around it, and because he’s quite a sniffy dog, I’ll tend to encourage him on instead of waiting for him to make a decision, as i think he’s doing something naughty.
There have been a few times where we’ve gotten slightly lost, and I tend not to trust him as much as i should to find the right way back. Sometimes I’ll be wrong, sometimes he’s wrong, and sometimes we’re both wrong. This happened to us the other day, and it reminded me again of how much i should learn to trust him.
We learned a new route home from work, coming off the walls down a ramp, which I’ll need if the gates where we usually come off the walls are closed. This is a slightly longer way that brings us back to the steps that we use to then find the crossing to the bus depot. I showed O.J. it on the lead before walking him in harness twice, so i thought we’d try it on Monday evening as i had plenty of time to get to the bus. We didn’t reach the steps, but i didn’t think we’d gone too far yet. O.J. stopped and i encouraged him forward, but he wouldn’t go. He stood there for a second and then turned around and brought me back to the steps. It was another occasion where my dog proved to be smarter than me and he knew it too.

Other random things this week:
The maiden City festival was on, and our online radio station
Verbal FM
is covering the events. There are performances in the cafe all week, and I have to interview musicians after them. I interviewed the excellent classical guitarist Sean Woods on Tuesday. He was great fun, and when we were getting our photo taken together afterwards O.J who was lying quietly throughout the interview decided to jump in too. Sean was laughing and calling him into the photo, and then told us that he has been terrified of dogs for years! What a brave man you never would have guessed.
As soon as the next interviewee came in, we asked if he was afraid of Dogs, and he said he owned 5.
Also there’s a busker who insists on busking on the walls outside our window at 10 to 2 every afternoon this week. He sings (if you could call it singing) ‘black is the colour’, ‘you fill up my senses’ and ‘hallelujah) every day without fail. and I’m worried that someone from our office will give him a piece of our mind soon and he won’t like it one bit! Wonder how much money he has made so far? I could guess… and my guess is not much!
O.J and Dougal went to the beach on Friday evening and they both loved it. I really must take them more often. Me and O.J did lots of walking this weekend.

almost my birthday

Well its my final day being 21! Of course I couldn’t wait to have a 21st party, but my 22nd birthday doesn’t seem so exciting. It hasn’t stopped me celebrating though.
Went to see the excellent Foy Vance in Derry on Thursday. Wasn’t sure how loud it would be so left OJ behind. The girls took me for dinner and to see Juno on Friday, so he was neglected then too. Its nearly my birthday though I think he understands.
I had a proper day off last Friday, which was a change. I went for lunch with my mum Jack and Danny (2 nephews). Theres an O.J lookalike hanging around the café, and O.J isn’t impressed cos its his local! The weathers unusually mild these days, so we can do lots of walking. He went to the hairdressers with me yesterday and was a bit freaked out by the hairdryers and smells for a while. Then we walked to Maureens and OJ and Jack played football for ages.
I’ll be working from 1 til 7 on Monday, but birthdays are always a bit more relaxed in work. There will be kids in the building, so OJ will enjoy it too. He’s not getting any cake its bad for dogs!

Pointless post

Got a new laptop on friday, and moved to a new desk in the office on monday. OJ keeps going to our old one still but he’ll get used to it soon.
Thank God Januarys over!
Its been six months since i went to Cork to train with OJ. Hard to believe! Sometimes it feels like ive had him for years. The last 6 months have been great, and i’m never ever ever using a cane again!
Today is pancake tuesday. dont suppose dog pancakes have been invented yet? No i didn’t think so.
This blog is listed on Tom Lorimore’s website:
Maybe someone else will actually read it.