Thanks Freddie

My guide dog Freddie: 10th June 2000 to 15th august 2012. RIP.

I can’t explain how utterly upsetting it is to write this. Today, while I rubbed Freddie’s ear, we put him to sleep. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. I wanted to write sooner rather than later because it’s very important to me that I say thank you. Thank you to everyone who commented on this post. Thank you to Freddie’s puppy walker. Thanks to Irish guide dogs for giving me a guide dog that is simply one of a kind. Thank you most of all to the family who took him during his retirement. I know it only lasted two years but wow he had an amazing two years. I seriously can’t express enough how grateful I am for the way they treated Freddie. It was actually my father who really confirmed it last week when he got to see Freddie for the first time in his new home. He said that the best decision I could have made was sending him to that particular family. It is simply amazing how much they cared for him. I could never have asked for anything more. The more I visited Freddie the more I noticed their attachment grow.

For me, and I know for everyone with a guide dog, one of the hardest things is that day when you hand over the dog. It’s not like turning off a light switch. You have taken care of the dog and equally, the dog has taken care of you. That bond isn’t one that’s easily broken. That was actually very evident tonight. Even though Freddie could hardly move, he still found the energy to look up at me for assurance when the vet was shaving his paw. When Mark told me, in a funny way I knew that I was meant to be there. Not being there for the end would have been simply wrong.

That’s really the only reason I wanted to write. I just wanted to thank everyone. I am finding it a great comfort to recognise that Freddie has been incredibly lucky. Just think about it. He had a brilliant puppy walker, Ok, he had to put up with me but still, he travelled a lot and experienced a lot more than any other dog I have encountered. Then to top it all off, he lived with a fantastic family in a lovely area. I couldn’t ask for any more. When it was his turn to move on, he did it just like he did everything else in life. With speed. Within a very short space of time he rapidly declined. I think that’s much better than a prolonged illness. It meant that up to two weeks ago, he still had his normal character.

Origional blog post written on the day of his retirement.

This shows Freddie walking through a shallow stream. As he’s walking, he’s licking his nose.  Very attractive!
No blog post could do this topic Justice. Not even a novel could really come close to explaining all the ways that the past seven years have changed everything.

I’m also no different to the thousands of people who have gone through this process. Thousands of people who could probably express the significance of this much better than I ever could or will.

This post is a thank you. It’s a feeble attempt at gratitude and recognition for over seven years of constant service, companionship, trust and loyalty. It’s an impossible task. How can you begin to show this level of gratitude to a creature that doesn’t understand? I’m not writing this for you, the reader, I’m probably writing it more for me. This day marks a change that I knew was coming for a long time. It’s actually a welcome change. He’s done his job. He’s probably done more work than most guide dogs ever will. We’ve lived in Dublin, Drogheda, Dundalk, Limerick and Balbriggan. At one stage, we were changing apartments every six months. When Irish guide dogs for the blind said it wasn’t good for the dog, I was worried but he impressed me by taking it all in his stride. That has been the one defining characteristic of Freddie since I got him. Things that I and others thought he’d never do were things that he excelled at. He’s commuted to Dublin from Monday to Friday for many of these seven years. Again, working through rush hour commuter times he’s amazed people at his relaxed nature while navigating through dense crowds that would pose a challenge even for sighted people. The dog has the most incredible memory. Long time readers of this blog may remember a time four years ago where he guided me from college green through Trinity college to pearse station. I had never been that way before, but while I was out of the country, Emma took him for a walk through Trinity once. He is the kind of dog that remembers a route after doing it once. He was also the kind of dog that allowed rules to be broken but would make sure I stuck to them rigidly if I got a bit too reckless. Emma laughed when she began to get to know him as she noticed that if it seemed that I wanted to cross a road without stopping for an adequate period of time Freddie would curve his body around me so that I wouldn’t walk any further.

Freddie has a very unique personality. While working, his personality changes even more. While at home, he’s sneaky. He’ll decide that he wants to spy on you and the door of the room your in will open just a fraction so he can stick his nose through for a quick look. He wants to be part of everything. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a computer, watching the television or playing music. He always wants to be right beside the action. If he gets board though he’s quite content to make himself known. If that fails, he’ll skulk back off to bed waiting for the next interesting thing to happen. Funnily, if you tell him to do something he doesn’t want to do, you’re likely to get sneezed at or a loud sigh. Every action starts with a standard sequence. He gets up, stretches, shakes, and sneezes and then he’s ready to go. While working, he’s equally unique. He pulls left all the time no matter where he’s going. If he’s board, he’ll take a look around as he’s walking but he always keeps one eye on where he’s going. He’s always been very happy to work and in fact, I know no other guide dog that actually walks into his own harness. He knows his way around Cork, Galway, Dublin, Drogheda, and Limerick, Dublin airport, Dundalk, Carlow, Kildare and even parts of London. His confidence never seems to dip. He always seems to have a very clear idea of where he’s going. Even when it’s somewhere he’s never been before he thinks he knows best. Actually, in his defence, he usually does know best and it’s a regular comment from friends that I should just shut up and let him do the thinking because when I second guess him I’m usually wrong.

A picture of Freddie guiding me down a quiet road with a grass verge and large trees on each side.
His retirement from work is something that has been on the cards for a long time. I’ve never really felt sad or sorry about this. I am delighted that he’s had such an active and varied life up until now and because he’s worked so much, I can think of no better reward for him now than enjoying his retirement in a home that is going to treat him like the amazing animal he is. Of course, I’ll miss him. Both as a companion and as a mobility aid but I can honestly say, this is overshadowed by the relief that he is going to enjoy himself.

It’s true what they say. A guide dog is always more than a mobility aid. I think it will be strange for people who are not blind to read that for me, he was actually best at being a conversation starter. In college, I had a great circle of friends. I enjoyed myself a lot! For the first two years though that circle of friends stayed quite static. When I got Freddie, people that I’d never even heard of approached me. When you are blind, or indeed, if you have any kind of disability at all, it can be difficult for people to approach you. Having a dog really breaks down that barrier. Within weeks, my social life had changed. I suppose, I was a little bit more independent and confident and that really helped me take more risks and having the dog with me was something very different. Even people who didn’t like dogs warmed to Freddie. The place that I work in at the moment is a perfect example. The person who complained about having a dog in the office actually petted Freddie within six months of me starting. She was terrified! She had nothing but bad experiences with dogs and she couldn’t stand the thoughts of working in the same room as a dog. I myself was not a dog person. In fact, when I got Freddie first, I was afraid of rubbing his head because it was too near to his mouth for my liking. But he seems to have a way of completely eliminating those fears and inhibitions.

I want to try to cover all the benefits he’s provided but I can’t. It would take too long.

If you have a dog half as good as Freddie has been for me, you’re incredibly lucky. People have said, and I believe them, I will never get a dog that is as suited as Freddie is to me ever again. Freddie is outstanding.

The past seven years have been the most rewarding of my life. I finished college without having to repeat even one exam. I worked in companies that were the worst and the best in the world. I made friends, travelled the country and the world and took pleasure in travelling to areas in the country that would have ordinarily been inaccessible while using the Cain.

As I write this, Freddie is sitting under my seat on the train. We’re on the way back from a weekend in Galway. He had a fantastic time and it was really nice to spend the last weekend with him doing what he loved doing most. Guiding me around areas that he’d never seen before. Showing me he was right and I was wrong. In his little head, he took great satisfaction when proving me wrong.

Now, jumping eight hours ahead, I’m sitting at home. Its 9PM. Freddie was left at his new home and at 5:45PM today, we drove away with one less member of our family in the car. The home he’s gone to is fantastic. They have two young kids and a four year old dog. There in the countryside and they have plenty of land around them. It’s the kind of place I always hoped he’d retire to. No city streets, no busy roads and no built up areas. He’s got independents, people to keep him company, a dog to play with and no more work. I know he’s going to be very happy there.

The wife of my friend commented that I was very brave in the way I was handling it all. People have said that I’ll really miss him when he’s gone. I really wanted to make sure I was happy when I was leaving him there. Dogs are very perceptive of the mood of those around them. I wouldn’t want him to be down because I was feeling sorry for myself. I kept my head up, convinced the family they were going to do a great job, ran them through the likes and dislikes of the dog and tried to act as normal as I could.

My false face lasted until I got home but putting his collar and harness away was when it hit me. He’s gone. The dog that devoted seven and a half years of his life to my mobility is no longer with me. Gone are the days of him sneaking up on me while I’m sitting on a chair to give me his head for a rub. Gone are the days of him dropping his toy on my knee so I can play with him, gone are the days of him racing to the car before I get there so I could let him in. Gone are the days where he’d sneak into my computer room and quietly lie beside my chair without me noticing. Gone are the days of simply relaxing while walking around and through crowds at rush hour times. Gone is the silly dog that liked taking the long way around an obstacle just to show that he was working well. Gone is the Freddie that took corners so fast it could make your head spin. Gone is the Freddie that loved to keep up with my speed. Gone is the Freddie that could wait for me to do a job for hours on end but would just as happily work for the entire day walking around the most difficult of environments. Gone is the Freddie Era.

There’s nothing more I can say really.

I hope you’ve met Freddie. If you have, you’ll know everything I can’t explain. If you’ve never met him, you’ve missed out. He was one of a kind.

Thanks. I can only hope you now get the life you deserve.

A picture of our family. Emma, Freddie and me.


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29 Responses to Thanks Freddie

  1. What can I say! beautiful post!

    I’ve been lucky enough to meet Freddie just once. He’s a lovely dog and I know he’ll make his new owners very happy.
    Finding a successor who will work as well as you say he did might be a challenge! I hope you don’t have to wait too long though.

  2. Oh Darragh well done. Well done for a great post, for keeping your head and emotions so subjective and for finding Freddie such a great retirement home. I’m pretty sure Freddie knows exactly how thankful you are, dogs are so clever that way.

    “Every action starts with a standard sequence. He gets up, stretches, shakes, and sneezes and then he’s ready to go.”

    Heehee! You make me want to be a guide dog in my next life!

  3. Avatar Grannymar
    Grannymar says:

    I was fortunate to meet Freeddie on a couple of occasions. He was unphased, calm and patient no matter how packed the venue or the noise level. A true friend and well deserved of a comfortable retirement.

    Somehow the next Podcamp and Blog awards will have a void for me. I hope that the wait for a new four-legged companion takes long enough for you to adjust to being without Freddie, the faithful servant, but short enough not to disrupt your lifestyle!

  4. I just wanted to say thanks for writing such a brilliant and touching blog post. That sure was the best written form of tribute Freddie could ever get. It really moved me and I’m sure it did the other readers as well.

  5. Avatar Sabella
    Sabella says:

    Hi Darragh crying reading this. I seen it on your status on FB … and was shocked. We were lucky to have met Fredzer too! … Well done you Sabella x/wags

  6. Avatar dominiqueAnonymous
    dominiqueAnonymous says:

    that was an absolutely beautiful emotional and moving post and really does sum up my own feelings also for my beloved Holly. Having a Guide Dog is a lot much more than just enhancing and enriching your mobility. They bring you all of that as well as the best companionship ever imagined possible. Having a guide dog is exactly what darragh’s so perfectly and passionately described in a post that certainly does freddie justice. Holly met freddie and they got on really well. Happy retirement freddie. All the very best darragh. I dread the day with an unbelievable passion when I’ve to go through it when Holly retires. I love her so much. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and will ever have and no successor dog can ever replace her fantastic working ability and personality. She’s simply the best. Like freddie.

  7. Avatar Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    just a wee word from a puppy walker. i was delighted to read your blog. we get the pups at 6 weeks and train and love them until they are 12 months when they go to boarding school in model farm in cork. i hope and pray that my dogs go to someone as caring as you. its what makes it all worthwhile. may you make a perfect match with your new guide dog. he’ll never be the same but difference is great. thank you.

  8. Darragh just to let you know that Freddie is enjoying his retirement immensely. His new family asked us to mind him while they went on a two week holiday. They were so worried about leaving him with us. We have been friends of theirs for years and we have had dogs ourselves which have passed on due to old age.So they thought we would give Freddie the TLC that he deserved.
    We had such a wonderful two weeks with him. Every morning we would have breakfast together tea and toast. Then we would go to the Castletown Estate which the river Liffey runs through. We walked for about two hours and then he swam and fetched a plastic bottle again and again. He loved every moment of it as did his new friend Banjo. They get on very well together and they are the best of friends and Freddie reprimands Banjo when she is bold. When we get home we dried Freddie and then it was time for a shared lunch. Then it was time for a rest until about 4pm when we had tea and biscuits. Dinner was around 6pm and then out for a short walk for an hour or so. Then we came home and either worked on the computer or watched TV. He never left my side during the whole of his stay with us. He is such a wonderful dog and we cannot wait until our friends are off on holidays again which we hope will be real soon. I can understand the pleasure and service he gave you over the years and I know he is reaping his reward big time with the wonderful loving family he is living with and us when they are on holidays. We love him dearly.

  9. Daragh,

    We had the opportunity to have Freddie on loan for two weeks while his family were on holidays. We feel honored to have had the pleasure of minding this loving dog. He is so special and we are looking forward to having him again when his new family go away again which we hope will be soon. He deserves the life he is now leading as a reward for all the years of service and pleasure he gave you. I can understand how broken hearted you must be to be parted from him. Its nice to know that he could not be with a more loving family who swamp him with TLC.

    Greg

  10. Darragh
    This is a beautiful post and a fitting tribute to Freddie.
    Having retired a dog myself, I know how difficult it is to let go. I think the best reward we can give our dogs when they retire is a happy home full of fun and treats where the dog gets a chance to be a pet rather than a working responsible guide dog like Freddie was. It sounds like Freddie is having a wonderful retirement with a family who love and will spoil him. He’s a lovely dog and i’m glad I met him.

    Happy retirement Freddie.

  11. Avatar Rachael Warke
    Rachael Warke says:

    What a beautiful post! My first dog was so much like Freddie, I just couldn’t help but smile! I got him over 40 years ago, and until last year, I didn’t think I could ever have as wonderful a dog! Enter Posh! My life is much slower now, and it is just Poshi and me, and she fits me perfectly! I often think she is an angel disguised as a dog. The dogs in between have been lovely, but again, I have been blessed with a truly exceptional companion. I can’t deal wit the thought of retiring her yet, but when the time comes, I can only hope I do as well as you have done! I hope that your next guide brings you much joy, and that, sometime, you, too, can have another one as exceptional as Freddie is!

  12. Am so sorry to hear of Freddie’s passing. Darragh, my thoughts and prayers go out to you, Emma, that family, and every person that wonderful dog has touched. He had such a personality, and will be sorely missed. xxx Rest in Peace Freddie xxx

  13. I’m very glad that you met Freddie, and that Freddie met you, Darragh. You were both equally blessed.

  14. Darragh, what a beautiful blog, and a beautiful ending to Freddie’s life. I shed several tears reading this as I know how hard it is to lose a dog that is part of your family for so many years.

    I remember the excitement when Freddie arrived into our class at college and I’m sure I’ve some funny pictures somewhere of Freddie having a bulmers in the student apartments after a long days ‘studying’…. Needless to say Freddie never was late for college the next day!

    Keep the chin up and take care 🙂

  15. Daragh, I am so sorry to hear about Freddie!! He was such a wonderful dog and a great fan (or music critic!) of our music in McManus’s and in Blackrock!! May he rest in peace!!xo

  16. Oh Darragh no, I’m so sorry you lost such a close friend, you write so brilliantly about him I can almost smell that doggyfur. I’m so glad you found each other and made such a difference in each other’s lives. I hope you’re okay.

  17. Darragh, my thoughts and love are with you, Freddie was so special and a loyal partner. I am pleased you were with him at the end, it obviously meant a great deal to him.

  18. Avatar Sven Christoph
    Sven Christoph says:

    Hi Darragh, I am sorry to hear about Freddie. R.I.P poor dog.

  19. Avatar mark o ocnnell
    mark o ocnnell says:

    just want to say thanks to Darragh and Emma for the opportunity to look after Freddie for the last few years. He was definitely more than just a dog- he was a kind natured gentle but mischievous fluffy messer. My kids,wife and other dog came to love Freddie very much for the calm and loving influence he had on our lives and all the people and kids that met him while he was with us.Thankfully he wasn’t sick for long and the decision to let him go to the great big sunny park in the sky where he can play all day with other dogs was made easier by the support from Darragh- tough one! Mostly though this experience has helped me and my kids appreciate, a little more how lucky we are and how lucky we were to have shared a little time with our very best friend. ‘better to burn out than to fade away’ will never forget you Fred! xxxx

  20. Avatar alan english
    alan english says:

    Darragh you said wonderful things about a wonderful dog , I think its quite funny how you described him it paints an acurate picture, He was and fantasic creature and im really glad i got to meet him and spend some time with him , He was such an intelligent fellow and really funny , I know you miss him dearly and you feel you owe him so much but i think your friendship to freddie was everything to him and it really showed when he would look at you, his tail would wag at such a rapid speed any thing in its path would be pounded or knocked over. I think his most favourite thing to do was when the ragger came out in the back garden or the park and he wrestle with all his might towards you, but the funny thing is if adam had the ragger he would go a lot easier on him, he would still win but it showed his intelligence.
    All i can say is bye freddie it was great to know him and he will always remembered.

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