As a guide dog user my guide dog is an extension of me and my Independence. This wasn’t a concept that I truly understood until we had worked together for several years.
When I applied for my first guide dog back in 2009, I knew that it would make a difference to my life, but to what extent I was not aware. There have been both good sides and low sides to having a guide dog. The biggest thing for me of having a guide dog is the emotional, love and soppy side that officially guide dogs don’t tell you about. When applying for a dog and training you are told all about how important the bond within the partnership is, for that reason it is key to have a period of bonding with no interruptions from anyone else before the training starts.
For me, both my daughter and my partner went away for the weekend, Vicky arrived on the Friday afternoon and we spent the weekend together, just playing and spending time in the garden. I groomed her, tickled her tummy and fell in love with her.
I was very nervous about starting our training and if I would be able to do it, but she seemed to sense this and just kept on nuzzling me as if to say “it’s going to be ok”. The very same way she still does now when I am down or upset. Without this connection I do not feel that we would have the working relationship and connection that we do today.
She has enabled me walk with my head held high and regain my posture that had slowly been being lost as I had began to look at my feet so much to watch my step, rather than my surroundings and where I am.
There was a very steep learning curve with Vicky, I made mistakes, we made mistakes together and we gained a wonderful trust for each other, that only strengthened our working bond.
A working bond that appears to be coming to an end.
It is with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I write this blog, my sight is slowly deteriorating, but with Vicky by my side my independence is at its highest, allowing me to improve my health and my fitness. But at a time when she is slowing down and asking not to work so hard or so much.
Vicky has had her own health issues during our time together, for which she has an inhaler to help to open her airways to increase her breathing, which she has responded well to. But, with her Eighth birthday approaching next week she has been hinting that it is time to hang up the harness.
She is well, she is very happy and will allow me to put the harness on and work, but she is also holding back, she has reverted to working in a way that we did at the beginning.
She is wishing to walk me close to walls, shop fronts and buildings, which with it brings an unsettled and troublesome result. Walking and working in this way means that the walk is a start-stop, we have to continually walk back out to walk around obstacles like a-frames, bins, posts and even people.
Initially we had trained this way, but as both our confidences grew, we moved more into the middle of the path, for Vicky to revert back to this shows a sign of unhappiness and possible stress or lack of confidence in what she is doing.
So, with great discussions with her and my guide dog mobility team we have taken the step to look at her retirement and me moving on to work with another dog.
I will take the time over the next few weeks and months to open up more about this, but for now, before my heartbreak over takes me I will end this post here.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to ask questions xx