Well its a year since my fabulous fable moved in and a year since I started writing this blog during our training. Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun 🙂 Its really interesting reading my blog posts from this time last year; we have come a long way and when I was writing last year I had no idea how much better my life was going to be and how much I would love Fabes – I can’t imagine my life without her now.
There have been lots of Team Mable adventures since my last post and as always some new challenges and more lessons learnt thanks to my little Fable.
We have been gallivanting around the country; firstly visiting friends near Oxford where we had a lovely walk and free run in the fields. Fable was a star on the train and settled well staying in my friend’s house and enjoyed playing with her 2 lovely girls.
We have done a few fundraising collections and I have learnt that once again the advice from Guide Dogs about only spending 2 hours at a collection or event with a Guide Dog is spot on: After this time Fable does start to get a bit fed up and seems to try and move herself away from all the fuss the public are giving her. She enjoys it for a while but its important not to overdo it. Here’s a few photos of us at a collection.
I have also made my debut as a speaker for Guide Dogs; a friend asked me to speak for 10 minutes at a secondary school and tell my story, what she omitted to tell me until a few days before was that there would be about 700 teenagers in said assembly!!! Talk about a baptism of fire, but I really enjoyed it, I got some lovely feedback and the kids were fab. I think I’m going to enjoy this aspect of being a Guide Dog Owner, fable was a star and laid still on the stage while I spoke and then she enjoyed all the attention afterwards. To top it off this school are going to raise money to Name a Puppy of their own and they will be able to follow its training as it becomes a little life-changer for someone. Here’s a few photos of us at the school.
Since becoming a Guide Dog Owner I have been an active volunteer; fundraising and speaking to raise awareness of the work Guide Dogs do. For me, its really important to be able to give something back as Fable has given me so much and the service I have received from all the staff at Guide Dogs has been excellent and has really helped me improve my confidence and independence. With their help I have moved from a place where I went out of my way to hide my disability and the impact it had on me to a place where I accept that my disability is part of me, its ok to admit it and to even be proud of how I have managed it. I was honoured to be nominated for a local volunteers award in the category “Inclusive and Embracing”. This was mostly as a result of this blog; I’m so pleased it has been enjoyable to so many of you and that I have been able to share my experiences as a Guide Dog Owner. Here are Fable and I collecting our award with fellow volunteers.
Our biggest adventure so far has been a weekend away; we went on the train to Dorchester. This is the first time in my life that I have felt confident enough to go somewhere new on my own without relying on being with a friend or family member. We stayed in a hotel and met up with some friends. We had a great time but it was really stressful and I was exhausted afterwards. There were so many little worries; I have never arrived somewhere unfamiliar by train before without having the security of either being with someone or meeting someone at the exit, I have never had to move around a hotel on my own before (would I be able to find my room from reception etc), I have never stayed in a hotel on my own so I was concerned about whether I would find the plugs or would be able to operate the shower or TV or air con. I was also concerned that if I went out for a walk would I be able to find my way back to the hotel. I needn’t have worried as the hotel staff orientated me to the hotel, room and fire escape. Fable and I went out for a walk for about 20 minutes to orientate ourselves and once we had done this and I had found some grass for her to spend on, I said to her “find the way back”! Off she went, no further instructions form me, she found her way back to the hotel, to the lift and then to our room! That was a really important lesson for me; all the things I find hard she has in hand and does so well. I would never have been able to do this a year ago so thank you Fable and everyone who has made this possible. Here are some photos of our weekend, including a little free run with Fable’s friends….
A few days ago we went to the Guide Dog National Breeding Centre for a puppy experience day. It was brilliant; I learnt lots about the Guide Dogs breeding programme and we got to cuddle and feed lots of gorgeous puppies. Fable was so excited by all the smells and went we went to meet the pups she was looked after by the staff and apparently made herself at home in the bed of stud dog who wasn’t at work that day 🙂
After the puppies we were lucky enough to be able to visit Fable’s mum; Harvest and her owners, known as a Brood Bitch Holder. It was so lovely to meet them and to be able to show them what a difference Fable has made to my life. Fable was born in the home of the BBH and stayed there for the first 6 – 7 weeks of her life. Having 10 tiny pups to look after and helping your lovely dog give birth is a massive commitment and I would like to thank Harvest and her family; you should be very proud of how your little bouncy tiger has turned out – she is amazing and I love her so much. I really hope we get to see them again.
I didn’t know whether Fable and Harvest would recognise each other but I think the level of excitement and the amount of fun they had left us in no doubt that there was some kind of connection. It also become clear where Fable gets her craziness from 🙂
Amidst all the fun I have still be learning about being a Guide Dog Owner; having been to lots of new, unfamiliar places over the last few weeks I started to notice that Fable was quite frantic and very sniffy in new places. Her work was feeling a bit erratic, she didn’t ever put me in danger and whilst I thought she might not be fully focused she was still reliably stopping at steps and avoiding obstacles. However, it just didn’t feel right and I didn’t entirely trust her in these situations. I have been doing some long cane mobility training with my Mobility Instructor, just to try and find ways of making myself more confident in new places so that I can be calm for Fable. As I have said previously she’s a bit of a stress-o-meter for me! I often notice her being a bit distracted and then I realise I’m stressed – she’s such a sensitive soul underneath her confident exterior 🙂
Anyway, the sniffy, Frantic, erratic behaviour didn’t seem to be improving despite me making a real effort to be calm and confident, so I rang my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, who once again was reassuring and helpful She explained that its normal behaviour for dogs to be more excited in new places and given that Fable is towards the excitable end of the spectrum it will probably be more of a problem for us. So she suggested I give her a bit of time to sniff and get the information she needs about the new place but that I need to use the touch command to get her attention and focus back on me after a few minutes. Then she suggested that using the halti collar would give me more control without having to do too many firm corrections, it will also help to calm her down and make her a bit slower which will ensure I can take the time I need to orientate myself and maintain our safety. When we are in familiar places I don’t need to use the halti as Fable is calm and I don’t need the time to orientate myself. Once again I am truly grateful to have the help and support from my GDMI; it continues to be invaluable and I’m sure its going to ensure that we keep improving as a team.
So I think that’s about it from me for now; I have been busy training for our tandem ride which starts tomorrow and is 85 miles. we are raising money for Guide Dogs so if you would like to support us please visit my just giving page.
Fable also has her own Facebook page where you can keep up to date with how she’s doing.