Archive for January 18, 2015

The end of a (half) Era


Today is one filled with mixed emotions, concerns and thoughts.  Today, 18th January 2015 is the last working day for my guide dog Vicky.  We have been working together as a qualified team since 18th November 2009, and it has been an amazing 5 years and 2 month.

I maybe should have warned you that this post will probably get soppy and definitely be emotion (for me at the very least).  Anyone who has had a pet dog will tell you, a dog is more than ‘just a dog’ they are a companion, a confident and a loyal friend:  Then add to that a dog that works for you, a guide dog (or other working dog) and the level of support, trust and love you feel for them increased even further.

Add to the mix, that Vicky is my FIRST guide dog and all of the changes she has allowed me to bring about, along with all of the changes I have had no control over that she has helped me to overcome, even when it felt like I was fading.  And it has been an amazing time together.

Before she arrived I was highly dependant on family and friends, I found myself disappearing into myself after my eye condition was finally diagnosed in 2008, the thought of my sight going completely and leaving me blind, unable to watch my daughter grow up, marry, have children of her own, along with no longer being able to earn money to pay for the things she needed and wanted.  The question of if my partner would be happy to stay with me, ultimately becoming my carer… All fears of my future.

Which were all quashed with the increasing bond between me and Vicky, with the feeling of independence that she gave me, the feeling of being safe, even on a tube in the middle of London.  And as well as guiding me and making me feel safe, she listened, she loved and she showed no judgement.

She gave me so much more than what was on her job specification.  She gave me back me, but not the me that was there before.  She gave me a stronger, altered version of me.  She can’t change how my eyes deteriorate but she has changed the way I think of the future.

She enabled me to feel safe while I carried my son in my belly, she enabled me to take my daughter to pre-school on my own.  She allowed me to feel I could be more, do more and even helped me quash my fear of being in a relationship where the role of carer overtook the role of lover.  She even gave me the strength (indirectly) to walk away when my relationship failed.

Now that both my children are now at school and my previous career has come to an end, my priorities have changed.  My sight is such that I tire from using my eyes, using a computer, reading and concentrating cause pain and exhaustion.  With eye strain a daily accurance, I know that I can reduce my stresses by making the changes I have, I no longer have to ‘waste’ my sight while walking in the street or taking the children to school, Vicky gets me there safely, regardless of a rough wheelie bin, dumped child’s bike or even a car parking on the pavement.  I can prioritise my sight to sit reading with both my children after school, helping with homework and even cooking dinner (with the help of a few cheats, like pre-cut veg or meat)

If someone had said that having a guide dog would enable me to be a single parent and help my children with their homework I would have thought they were crazy, but that is what she has done.

She has enabled me to live, rather than just exist.

Vicky came into my life to guide me, she came to me as a mobility aid, just like a long cane.  But a mobility aid with a brain.  I can never ever repay her for everything else.

Vicky will have a forever home with me and the children, she will get to put her paws up and enjoy the peace and quiet, the lead walks where she can finally stop to smell who has wee’d on the gate post!  Free-run more with the other dogs in the park… And generally get to be more dog.

My new guide dog, Fizz will replace Vicky as a guide dog, she will take on the role of being my leading lady, but she will never replace Vicky.

In fact, she has some rather big paws to fill.  I still have plenty of room to grow, my eye sight will continue to deteriate and only time will tell how Fizz will help with all of these things.

Fizz is different to Vicky, not just in breed (although also black) she is a faster girl than Vicky now is, she has a bit of a cheeky personality and we both have a lot to learn about each other.  We will do this, it will take time, but I am sure she will be a great addition to our home and my independance.

So watch this space for updates on our training journey and Tales from Vicky’s time as a retired pup.

Celebrating 2015 with a Fizz

Just before Christmas I had a call from guide dogs. The one I havd been waiting for for over a year.

“We think we have a match for you”

Excitment, hope, fear and absolute dread were some of the emotions that were stirred up.  An appointment was made and Fizz was due to come out to meet me with Jo the GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor)

Fabulius Fizz……

A beautiful black lab, crossed with a golden retriever…. With the shiniest smoothest coat I have ever known.

She is a speedy little lady, that took my breathe away for the first five minutes of our matching walk, but actually, she wasn’t walking any faster than I used to walk with Vicky five year as ago.  She was very easy to handle and we seemed to soon find a pace that worked well.  She was a little cheeky, paying too much attention to the area where we walked (but only as it was all new to her)

Jo walked behind us with a second lead so that she could take control of needed, but after 15 minutes she removed it, she kept us walking for a further 15 minutes.

Jo thought we were a good match.  Fizz is currently boarding (a foster home for guide dogs) with a family that are manic and the children are around the same age as my pair, she has settled well there having previously worked for a short time with a partner that decided for whatever reason, they didn’t wish to continue with Fizz.

Eek….. I felt the walk went really well, but was on tender hooks waiting for Jo to tell me what she thought.

Then it came….

“I think you worked beautifully together, if you agree (as I get to give my opinion too) I think this is the match for you and we should look at training dates and what the girls (Vicky & Fizz) think of each other”

So, a second meeting was arranged.  Where Vicky met Fizz up the road, they had a good ‘doggy’ sniff of each other.  Then Jo followed us home.

The girls got on like a house on fire.  They had a good romp around with school other.  Fizz took out each toy and several bones from the toy box, which Vicky didn’t bother with.  After this they both calmed down and laid together on the rug without a fuss.


So….. We are to train together, from home, not in a group class.

And we are due to start on Monday 19th January.

This is when Vicky will return her harness and be able to rest her paws and enjoy her time to stay home.

Which having worked with her over the Christmas period and since doing the walk with Fizz, I have realised just how much she has slowed and just how much she has had enough now.


So, in just over one week…… LET THE FUN BEGIN !!!




Manchester Madness

“It’s about time we met up for that coffee?’  a friend said several months ago.

All well and good, I do enjoy my coffee, but when the friend in question lives over 200 miles away, not so easy.

But who am I to let a 4 hour train journey stand in the way of catching up with an old friend and drinking coffee?

So, the planning began !!

Having spoken about it with friends (this end of the country) they suggested making a break of it, make it a city break to somewhere I haven’t been before, somewhere close to my friend.  So Manchester was decided upon.

Train from Southampton direct to Mancester Piccadilly.  Premier inn right in the heart of the city, booked.  My children were excited about the mini-break they would be having with the dad too… So, with times and dates put in place, me and google spent many hours together planning the time.  What to do, see, how to travel around and where to eat.

I can bore you with the details about me and technology, but that’s for a different post!

So, the day arrived.  A good friend agreed to get up rediculously early to drive me to the train station, my suitcase was packed along with the pooches essentials.

And off we went!

The train journey was made even more comfortable when a guard moved us to First Class so that he could make me a decent coffee.

By the time me and Vicky arrived in Manchester our plans had changed.  The ‘friend’ we were meeting wasn’t available on Saturday.

So, we were in this big, noisy, smelly city and no idea of what to do.

Firstly, we had to negotiate the trams…. Not using them, rather, walking on the path without being ran over by them…. Even Vicky struggled with the metal lines embedded in the concrete, her step was so gentle, like a small child trying not to step on the cracks.  It wasn’t easy.  But within a few attempts, she had the hang of it, sitting back from them as if they were a curb edge.  Then waiting for my command before walking on.

She was a star, an absolute star.

The hotel, being a premier inn, was very well concealed in a building line, with just a small sign and a single glass door with intercom to enter.  But with the helping arm or a stranger, we found it.

It was nice enough, exactly the same as any other premier inn and therefore perfectly familiar for me, regardless of  the distance from home.

The first walk after checking in was nerve-wrecking, where to go, what to do and where the hell was there some grass for Miss Vicky to do what she needed to do.

In went the headphones (just one ear) on went the Google map app and soon we were in Piccadilly Gardens sat in starbucks and watching the world go past.

By this point I was already tired out, especially my eyes.  I could feel the strain in them, but I didn’t travel all this way just to sit in a hotel room and ignore the city around me, so I started to plan!

Plan what I could do, where I could go and think of how I would cope if the coffee and catch up never happened.

Exhausted. Pained and feeling very vulnerable a dear friend answered their phone on the second ring, they calmed me down, they picked me up and they made me feel proud of what I had done so far, so if I did decide to spend the next three days in the hotel room, I hadn’t wasted my time, I hadn’t been stupid and I had faced a major hurdle for me.  After the pep talk, I decided it was time to do this, to be strong and enjoy my time, enjoythe being with me, enjoy knowing that regardless of where we were I was safe with my guiding girl by my side.  She wouldn’t let me down, no matter what.


The coffee never did happen, but… The visit to The Lowry, The Imperial War Museum, The Blue Peter Garden, The big wheel and many more places did.

The downside of independance mixed with stubbornness like this, Is that when I did arrive back in southampton late on the Tuesday night I was so physically and mentally drained that I could hardly speak, let alone eat or even sleep.

It took five days for the eye strain to ease. For the headache to go and for the emotional wreck that was me to go away.

… … Now though, several months later as I write this (not feeling so raw) I realise that it was a massive thing for me and one that I can never forget.  In fact, it is a trip I hope to repeat, with my two wonderful children this time.  And we shall enjoy plenty of cake !!


Happy New Year

It has been an interesting 2014… Lots of challenges.


Here is to an even more interesting 2015.


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