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.


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4 comments

  1. torie says:

    Hi Tereesa. I am so sorry that your girl is retiring. I have yet to face this with my Ushi, but am dreading the day.

    I hope Phizz enjoys working as much as Viky did, and wish you good luck in your training and the future.

    Take care,

    Torie

  2. Jane says:

    What a very moving story. I had trouble reading it as I was in tears. Good luck with your new adventure and I look forward to reading more stories about your GDs I am a GD owner myself and have a golden retriever who is my first GD and I am not looking forward to the day when he retires

  3. Alan Fletcher says:

    Hope all goes well with Fizz, I met her with her previous owner, lovely dog.
    I was at the Guide Dog of the year awards and had been nomination for inspirational guide dog owner, but like you realsied I had not won when they started showing videos and knew I hadn’t done one.
    I think we were all winners.
    Enjoying your blog
    Take care
    Alan

  4. Vicky Reaveley says:

    A lovely story Theresa….I think you could easily write a wonderful book all about how your 1st Guide Dog Vicky empowered and enriched your life in so many loyal ways – but chiefly as your fantastic guide!

    I am dreading, yes, it never gets easier, my 3rd time of training again perhaps this year (2015 later on) as my 2nd current working waggy-tail girl Willow has turned 9 years old but has slowed up on her more mundane routes and definitely takes to her doggy bed more for power dog sleeps…I trained from home with her in Oct 2007 – the day before my 1st boy Fabian hung his harness up to put on his slippers – still feels raw to this day after he worked & changed my life completely with total blindness since we first trained away at Redbridge for 3 weeks back in May 2000. He had a great chill-out time & lead walks and free-runs sometimes alongside my Willow (when he was younger at 10 and 11 years) & his local fan club here begged, borrowed & stole Fabian for sleepovers (he had his Fabian suitcase ready)…so losing him into much needed pain-free forever sleep in July 2013 was another huge heartbreak which will be with me forever – but I can at least make reasonable comments & empathise with others having to go through that process – but I never wanted him to go elsewhere & he adored his play girl Willow & they got on so well. She is now my strength & my in-tribute memory sponsored guide dog puppy Labradoodle Fabian carries on the legacy & his name to help another person – I met the golden boy 3 days before his 1st Birthday on 15 Jan 2015 & he goes into Big School in March 2015….just hope he can make the grade – lovely way to remember my 1st guide dog & help & give something back (£5,000) but priceless independence & mobility for someone in need.

    I do hope Fizz’s training with you at home goes well – the “speed” always knocks you back for a few days and the head turning etc as they are young & learning just like you – you will love it and she sounds like a bubble of Fizz too. Good luck Theresa & to your super Vicky & family. Wish you success you certainly deserve it! Just don’t ask Fizz to hold the base of your climbing rope! Ha ha.

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