Fable’s first trip to London and a valuable lesson for me….

Its been a while since I have written a blog post so soon after the last one, but so much has happened this week I thought it would be good to reflect on everything.

The last time I wrote you will recall I had been feeling a bit frustrated as things weren’t quite going as well as they had been with Fable’s work. Well, my amazing Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, who obviously reads my blog, contacted me the next day with some advice that has made the world of difference. We talked about how I was getting stressed about some stuff in my life and she helped me realise that this might be impacting on Fable’s work. In fact she said that when they are being trained as Guide Dog trainers they are advised not to work their training dogs if they are upset or stressed as it can have a massive impact on the dog. We all know how emotionally intelligent dogs are but I think the harness and the very nature of our partnership, and how in tune we need to be means that my emotions are going to affect fable even more. So with this in mind the next day I made a conscious effort to forget about everything  worrying me or annoying me and I just focused on enjoying the walk with my girl. When cyclists nearly run into us on the pavement, or cars are parked on the pavement or people distract her I acknowledge it, correct Fable if necessary and try my best to educate the people concerned, but once the moment is passed I just let it go! I try to visualise myself giving myself a little shake just like fabes does when she gets a bit stressed and then just get on with it.

Anyway, you’ll never guess what happened on this very first walk to work with my new found calmness; yes that’s right it was the best, most focused, fastest and most enjoyable walk to work we have had ever!! I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I am about this and I have managed to keep it up since which has meant Fable has been a absolute star 🙂

Its so simple really but such a valuable lesson to learn and has stood us in good stead for the challenges we have dealt with over the last week.

Last weekend my parents and their friends ran a line dance to raise money for Guide Dogs. It was a brilliant night and we raised a massive £1,500 pounds (little Guide Dog Puppy Mable isn’t too far off now). I have a Name a Puppy Account which means if I raise £2500 I can name a little GD Puppy and if I raise £5000 I can then name them and get to meet the little future life changer. Its a great thing to do for individuals and for schools and organisations. There will be information on the Guide Dog Website if you’d like to name your very own little life changer.

Fable’s friend Guide Dog Bess and her lovely owner came to stay. These 2 are a brilliant team and I am very grateful for all the support Bess’s owner has given me over the last year; we have some exciting adventures ahead.

I also did my first little talk as a Speaker for Guide Dogs at the line dance. I’m not a fan of public speaking but when you have a story to tell that you feel passionate about its actually so much easier and even quite enjoyable. Fable had a great time with Bess and was a little star as you can see.

The day after the line dance Team Mable did their first collection. We were at a local garden centre and I learnt a lot about how to set up a collection with trading from my 2 fab friends who have a lot of experience at fundraising for Guide Dogs. I also learnt that Fable can be calm while enjoying all the fuss from passing children and adults. Although I can now see why Guide Dog Owners are advised to only do 2 hour sessions with their dogs; Fable did become a little unsettled after a couple of hours so we left. Its a tricky one for me this; I am co-organiser for our local fundraising branch so I feel a sense of responsibility to be there for the whole event but I can see that Fable can only cope well for a couple of hours. I think what we really need is lots more volunteers, both Guide Dog Owners and sighted volunteers, so that we can all offer what we can without the responsibility being shouldered by one or two people. If anyone reading this would like to get involved let me know; its brilliant fun and you can see what a difference Fable has made to my life.

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On Wednesday I had to go to London for work. I was travelling with a colleague but I was really nervous about how Fable would cope with the crowds and I hadn’t been on the underground with her yet so  I was a bit worried about how she might be on the tube too. I lived in London for about 10 years as a student and just after so London is very familiar to me, but I had only really ever done new routes with friends or family and familiar routes on my own and I certainly hadn’t needed to consider the fact that Fable isn’t able to use escalators and I would need to find a safe area for her to go to the toilet. I discussed my concerns at work and agreed that an extra hour of travel time would be helpful to avoid feeling under pressure and we agreed that on this occasion it would make sense to take a taxi so that I could try the tube with Fable after I had done a London Mobility training session with my cane and my Mobility Instructor which is planned for June.

So off we went. On arrival at Waterloo I asked my colleague if she could stand back and let me work Fable through the station and find the area for her to go to the toilet. Fable was incredible; I have never moved through that busy station so fast or with such confidence. We asked for assistance on where would be best to take her to the toilet and were shown the exit. It was pouring with rain so I decided to offer her a quiet gutter rather than walking too far in the rain. yes you guessed it; she performed on command and we were able to get in a taxi. Here we are in the queue and you can see Fable enjoying the ride.

Unfortunately there was a fire en route which caused the traffic to come to a stand sill so we had to get out of our taxi and walk to the nearest station which was on the DLR. Again Fable did a great job of guiding me through unfamiliar streets very quickly. Here is a photo of us on the DLR.

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After the meeting I decided to be brave and suggested we take the tube back to waterloo. We found fable some grass and once again she did a big and little busy which meant I felt more relaxed knowing she wouldn’t embarrass me on the underground. At the tube station I asked Fable to find the button and she took me to the information point. I pressed the button as asked for assistance. The chap came really quickly and escorted us to the tube via the lift. Some Guide Dogs are trained to use escalators if their daily work requires it but there is obviously a risk so for Team Mable its not something that would be considered necessary as I don’t do London very often. The tube train was packed, there was standing room only and I was worried about fable getting anxious or stepped on. I needn’t have been; everyone on the tube was lovely. They didn’t distract her but were happy for her to lie by their feet quietly. I have never spoken to so many people on a tube before; it was great fun. We were met at the other end by another Assistance chap who was also excellent and he escorted us to the main station. I was very impressed with the London Underground staff and Fable of course. Here she is lying down on the tube looking very chilled 🙂

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On Friday Fable attended her first conference. Again it was really busy and I found it quite overwhelming and difficult to work her in the actual venue but we were  looked after well by the hotel staff and I was very impressed by how she settled down quietly for the whole day after only a short walk in the morning.

So its been a busy week of firsts for Team Mable and once again my little Fable is living up to her name and teaching me some valuable life lessons. All this deserved a relaxing weekend and a lovely free run.

 

 

 

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