Last Saturday afternoon, 8th of July, O.J, the dog who changed my life, my favourite dog in the world was put to sleep.

This is the hardest post I’ve written in almost ten years of writing this blog. I wanted to give myself a few days so that I could write something that would make sense. I wanted to describe my last day with my special boy as best I could.
We discovered at the beginning of March that O.J had very bad arthritis, and that medication would only ease the pain for so long. For the next four months he had good days and bad, and there was a few times when I thought I might have to take him to the vet sooner than I was prepared to. Throughout this, O.J stayed his typical self. He played when he could. He looked for food and attention from anyone who would give it to him. His tail never stopped wagging when I spoke to him, except one day at the end of June when I visited my parent’s house and didn’t realise he was in the kitchen. But every other day he tried his best.

Last Saturday morning after making an appointment with the vet, Sibyl and I walked around the park and along the beach to my parent’s house. This was O.J’s favourite walk. Sibyl was unusually relaxed and quiet, and was completely happy for him to get all the attention for the afternoon when we were there. People say dogs sense things, and I think I believe that from how Sibyl and Dougal have been acting since Saturday.
I sat on the grass in the sun and talked to and cuddled O.J, while he wagged his tail, play bit me and barked at people walking up the road. I groomed him, which I have done for the last ten years almost every time we went somewhere in public. I had lunch inside and O.J enjoyed eating a chew. Two of my nephews were there, and I tried to act normal around them, although they knew O.J wasn’t well and I wasn’t happy.

When we arrived at the vet, O.J decided to go for a pee before we went in, which was funny. He stepped on and off the weighing scales a couple of times, and tried to get petted by anyone who would look at him. To them, he just looked like a big gentle dog with a shiny black coat and a very sore leg. The vet we went to was so kind and sensitive. She asked questions, completely listened to me, and only when I had made my final decision told me that in her opinion I was brave and fair to him, and that it was the right one. She admitted she wished she wasn’t working that day, and genuinely seemed upset. She told me that we could give him very strong painkillers, but he would be sleepy all the time, and he wouldn’t be the dog I knew. Up until the end, O.J was his usual self, and that’s the dog I’m going to remember. The whole thing was so relaxed and peaceful for him, and he was wagging his tail with his head on my knee until he was quietly and gently put to sleep.

Even though we were all heartbroken, I think I was the person who was most prepared. My family really weren’t expecting that outcome, and telling my seven and ten-year-old nephews was especially difficult. I always said I would never let him suffer, or keep him longer just because I don’t want to let him go, and that was a promise I was able to keep. Of course I wish I could keep him forever. His collar is hanging at the bottom of the stairs. Someone put it there as a reminder for me to put away somewhere, but in the meantime I like it being there. I sometimes touch it when I’m going up or down without thinking about it, and then it reminds me of him. I have photos that people can describe to me. I have some videos and a recording of his bark on my phone. But I still can’t believe I’m never going to be able to pet him again, which I suppose is the equivalent of not seeing him. I don’t ever want to forget what he feels like.

O.J was the most genuine gentle dog I have ever met. He wasn’t a perfect guide dog. No dog is, but he was perfect for me. Other dogs will continue to build on the independence and confidence that he gave me, but they will never make such a huge lifechanging impact on my life like he did.
My two favourite letters of the alphabet will always be O and J.
I’ll always have a soft spot for black labrador retrievers.
O.J will always be my favourite dog, and I’m so lucky to have had him in my life for ten amazing years.

O.J, 13/03/2006 – 08/07/2017
RIP xx

Where Did July Go?

I’ve been writing this blog since August 2007, and I’m almost sure I’ve posted something at least once a month every month since then. I know that’s not many posts in nine years, but the point I’m making is that I never missed a month. Until now! Disgraceful! I did think about this during July, but never sat down to write, so here’s a summery of what I’ve been up to.

In January this year I became a volunteer with the local Foroige club in our town. I help out with the junior group on a Monday night, and the children are between the ages of ten and thirteen years old. Everybody was very welcoming right from the beginning, but I feel like it has taken me a while to really find my feet, and learn how I can be a help to the children. On second July we spent the day in Dublin at the citizenship awards, because our group had entered a project that they had been working on throughout the year. It was a long and busy day, with lots of noise and food around to distract Sibyl. She was quite sniffy and tried to eat sweets from the ground a lot, which is something we have to work on preventing. Apart from that she was good. The kids won an award for their project, so they all went home happy.

The following Saturday I travelled to Dublin again, without Sibyl this time. Myself and my five best friends went to see Beyoncé in Croke Park, which was a present for one of the girl’s 30th birthdays. I’m not a fan of Beyoncé at all, and honestly didn’t even know how to spell her name properly until we were getting the tickets!! The weather was beautiful, I had bought some new clothes, and we all rarely get a chance to meet up without partners or children anymore, so I was happy enough to be there. While a few of us waited for a taxi or bus to the stadium after dinner, a rickshaw drove passed, and I was so excited when the driver said he could take us there. It was such a fun journey, and I hadn’t laughed so much in a while. I said that even if the concert was rubbish, it was worth it for the journey there.
The concert wasn’t as bad as I thought. Beyoncé’s voice was amazing, and she seemed very humble and genuine, not what I was expecting. It was a very visual performance with lots of costume changes. Videos were shown each time she went off stage, which I didn’t really appreciate, and she played bits of some songs, without doing the full thing, which I found annoying. It definitely was better than I expected, but I wouldn’t go to see her again.

I had the next weekend free, which I used to finish a big transcribing job which I’d been working on for almost two months. It was really enjoyable and I learned a lot.
The following weekend Sibyl and I, along with my parents travelled to Liverpool, where we met Nicky and went to a wedding. It was very different from weddings we’d have at home, but it was good fun and the weather was amazing. I had a chance to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years, and meet her new baby for the first time. We also used the trip as an opportunity to spend a few days in Wales, as Nicky had a friend there who he’d been promising to visit for a long time. I’d never been to wales before, but I definitely want to go back. We spent a few days with lovely friendly people, who I liked as soon as I met them. We went to Hereford to meet other friends and their new guide dogs, which Sibyl loved. We went to a seaside town called Barry and had the nicest fish and chips ever! The children walked Sibyl and bought us two mugs to keep as suveneers. We had drinks sitting outside a pub which had blankets if we got cold. We were spoiled and looked after so well. Hopefully I can return the favour if they come to Ireland next year. Sibyl wasn’t there long enough to really learn her way around, but it was useful to have her, especially in the airport on the way home, when Nicky walked with the assistant and we followed behind. By the time we had landed in Belfast, Sibyl had been to seven different airports, which isn’t bad considering that she went on her first holiday almost exactly one year ago. I wonder how many she’ll have been in by the time she retires?

Of course when you come back from holiday, life just goes back to normal, or what seems to be normal in O.J’s world anyway. We collected him from the vet on Thursday after he had another lump removed. I think this is his forth. I’ve lost count. This one was under his tail, and the vet didn’t like the look of it as soon as he saw it. It might be nothing, but he said that if they left it and it grew bigger, removing it could make him incontinent. That would obviously be a nightmare, so removing it was the better option. He had a cone to stop him from itching it, but it was annoying him so we took it off after a couple of days. He’s eating and going for walks and seems lively and happy. It’s the quickest I’ve ever seen him recover from anything before. The fact that he’s so fit really does make a difference.

So there it is, my July update, which could have been made into three or four well written posts if I took the time to write them.

On the Mend

O.J is almost ready to go back to work. I don’t know who is happier, me or him! He’s been so good since his operation, and has been making a really good recovery.

Last Tuesday the vet rang me to tell me the good news that O.J had two benign lipomas. That’s what they had expected, but it was a huge relief to have it confirmed. The vet took O.J’s stitches out on Friday. He was happy with how well the swelling on his side had gone down. My sister had taken him the previous weekend to have it checked as the wound looked very swollen, and she was worried. Apparently that was to be expected since the piece they removed was so deep down that it was almost near his lung. The day before when I was petting him, I found another lump under the skin on his neck. Of course I was a bit freaked out, but the vet almost laughed when he told me that sometimes dogs get a reaction to an injection. He seems convinced, and it makes sense because of where the lump is. He better be right!

The vet thinks it would be okay to take O.J back to work, but I don’t want to risk putting his harness on too soon. I’d hate it to irritate the area where the shaved hair is growing back, and the skin is already probably tender enough. I took him for a two minute walk to my aunt’s the other evening, and although he walked, he didn’t pull into his harness much. So we’ll be keeping his work short for another week I think. Luckily I don’t really have to be anywhere very important, and all this couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’m just really looking forward to going for a long fast walk along the beach again.

The Patient

Just a quick update on how O.J is doing since his operation.
I collected him on Monday evening, and he was very sleepy and sore from the operation and the anaesthetic. He could hardly stand up and was whining a lot. Unfortunately I didn’t get to speak to the vet who had done the operation, but the staff member was helpful and the vet had left very good discharge instructions. They are 90% sure that the two lumps that were removed from his side and under arm (or paw) are nothing serious, which is a great relief.

O.J’s recovery has been going well since Monday and he is improving every day. He basically spent the first two days sleeping, but was livelier yesterday and was showing signs of bordum. Myself and my dad took him around the park for a slow walk on his lead today. He was happy to be out but is very tired now. His stitches come out in a weeks time, so I just have to keep him from jumping around too much until then. He has wounds in two different areas so he has to be very careful. Luckily they are both on the same side, so he can still lean up against people with his other side!
Dougal has been staying with my parents just encase he gets in the way and accidentally hurts O.J. It’s very strange having only one dog.

Our Weekend

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

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

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

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

A busy day


Today was one of those crazy busy days, and now that I’ve washed up after dinner and can’t go walking because its pouring rain, I still want to be doing something.

This morning I bought my first ever TV licence (how grown up am I!), and did a few things in town. One was related to my new phone, but that’s the subject of my next post.

I was asked to be the guest speaker at my primary school’s prisegiving, where I had to present a cup to the student who had achieved a lot in their time at school. I won the same cup when I was in sixth class, so it was nice to be able to be handing it over to someone else all these years later. I was nervous at the thought of speaking but it went well and the teachers and students seemed interested and happy. When I got past being nervous, I realised how nice it was to be asked, and that its lovely to be able to go back and talk about my school with very fond memories. I am proud of the school today, and proud to have been a past pupil.

O J had his annual check-up and vaccination this evening. We got a vet who I really like, and he spent lots of time checking O J, asking questions and petting him. He’s never been above his recommended weight in the time that I’d had him, up until March this year when I took him to get his rabies vaccine for his passport and he was 37 KG. His maximum weight is supposed to be 34! When this dog of mine decides to do something, he likes to do it properly! I’m feeding him half a cup less a day but it hasn’t reduced his weight much even though I think he looks thinner. The vet said its not too noticeable, and that I only know because I know him so well, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. I would prefer if he stayed around the 32 or 33 KG mark now that he’s getting older. I’m hoping it isn’t the mature food he’s on, because unless I can get a roral canin that would be lighter, I don’t want to change brands completely.

Anyway, that was boring!

Expect more exciting things, BlackBerry related soon! 🙂

O.J’s results

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

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

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

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

He’s home!

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

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

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

Lets hope its nothing serious

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

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

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

Annual vet visit

I’m writing this more as a record for myself than anyone else!
O J had his annual check-up with the vet today. For some strange reason he jumped out of the car quickly when we got there, and couldn’t wait to get inside. He wasn’t pulling, but just happy to be going in. He must think they can’t hurt him anymore now that his glands are gone. Before that, he would try and go to the door to get out any time it opened, and couldn’t relax much when we were in there.
He was checked by a new vet that I hadn’t met before. She was very thorough, and made sure she didn’t forget anything, so it took about 15 minutes just for a checkup. He weighed just over 31 KG, which is maybe his lightest ever since I’ve had him. I noticed he had lost a bit of weight recently, and a girl I work with mentioned that she thought he looked thin from the back. He’s happy and healthy so I’m not worried, I just wouldn’t want him to lose any more.
The vet advised me to give him denta sticks twice a week because a few of his teeth are starting to show signs of needing a bit of a clean. She said its bound to happen sooner or later because of his age. I haven’t been good at giving him them once a week never mind twice, but now they will be his main treat. After a booster injection, I got flea and worm treatment for both dogs and we left the vet, hopefully for another year.

I did some shopping in Derry today, including a present for my nephew Harry who is one today. Where did that year go!
I also found nylabones in a shop called B and M bargains, for only £2 each, which is better than the £7 I pay in the pet shops. The dogs are obsessed with them and I have to buy them often, so this was great. That, along with
Pet Land
in Letterkenny giving a discount on food for guide dog owners, I have made some good shopping discoveries!