It’s four days until I travel to Edinburgh to train with guide dog Annie. I can’t believe she will be dog number 4 for me in 9 years. People always ask ‘What happened?’. It’s always easy to say Berry had a career change because she didn’t like being a guide dog. I have had to come to terms with the fact that because she went to Dogs For The Disabled I will probably never get to know when she passes away. She will be 10 in September. Sandie has arthritis in her elbows and hips and considering her heavy workload did well to work until her 8th birthday. She lives with my mum and I see her often.
Connie is number 3 and I think will always be the hardest to talk about and explain. Usually I stick to ‘She was very poorly and can’t work any more.’. It’s not only that she worked for 13 months but also because our first walk could have been our qualifying work, we just clicked. It was horrible to watch her be so poorly, leaving her for emergency surgery not knowing if she would survive and then nursing her back to health. I know ultimately it was the best decision for both of us and with time it will get easier.
For the past 6 weeks we haven’t had a dog in the house. It’s been very quiet indeed. 4 weeks ago I received the most unexpected call to say they had a match for me. I expected to wait months because I had been so lucky and only waited 2 weeks for Sandie and 4 weeks for Connie. 5 days later they brought Annie to meet me.
The matching visit
Each matching visit with my dogs has always been exciting and nerve wracking. My strongest memory is of Sandie bouncing on two feet like Tigger on her matching visit and I was wondering what kind of a crazy dog they had brought me.
So on to the arrival of Annie…… First of all the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) always comes in and talks a bit about the dog. It’s always difficult to remember that bit because you are thinking ‘Hurry up! Get the dog out if the car!’
When Annie came in she was a typical shepherd and ignored me. She did a big busy in the garden. Feeling her she was like a golden retriever in size, body and ears. Her face, markings and personality are very much German shepherd. I immediately thought she was dinky she is in between the size of Sandie (27kg) and Connie (32kg).
We chatted some more and then I put the harness on. I immediately found out she sits at doors, stairs and kerbs. Quite a change for me. Berry and Connie stood and Sandie sat for about 1 week when they decided she hated it.
We set off at a very good speed which I am not sure the GDMI thought I would keep up. I did keep up thanks to my running with my personal assistants keeping me fit. That’s the thing with a cane you are really limited speed wise and so it can take a while to build up fitness again when you get a new dog.
The walk was good although I learnt I am using old commands so I need to brush up on my skills during training.
When we returned to the house Annie had some water then helped herself to a kong wubba and chilled out in the dog bed. She even licked my face which apparently means I am very honoured. It seemed like she was quite happy to stay. I took some photos to help me through until training and then they left.
So here I am with four full days until Wednesday. It will be my longest training so far and my first time in a hotel. I will write more about that another day.