It’s been three months and one week since I retired Freddie, my previous guide dog in June. It’s been an interesting few months. I had to readjust to using the Cain again, I went on holiday for two weeks, I went on another tour around Italy and I continued adjusting to my very challenging and demanding new job in work.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. In fact, it’s been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Not just because I have to allow more time when travelling somewhere but also because I was very attached to Freddie. It’s funny when you consider how much we’ve been through together. I got him while I was still in college, He sat beside me during dozens of exams and he came with me to some very wild and memorable parties. In fact, at times, I don’t think I would have found my way home after said parties if he wasn’t there nudging me in the right direction! After college, we commuted from Dundalk to Dublin making for a fifteen and a half hour day. That only lasted three months before we both couldn’t take it anymore. Then, he moved around to different apartments sometimes as much as every six months for around five years. He lived with me in apartments that really weren’t big enough for one person never mind a person and a big dog. At the time, we also worked on a 2 to 11PM shift getting home at just after 12AM. At that time, the tiny apartment we lived on was in a lovely part of Dublin but the walk home every night was through some very secluded and frankly dangerous streets. There were times when we both kept one ear behind us to make sure we were keeping well ahead of the people coming up from behind. Then again, we lived in a fantastic apartment in Drogheda that couldn’t have suited us any more if it had been built especially for us. We both made a lot of friends and it’s actually funny and a little sad to greet people in work, on the train, at home in Drogheda and even on the street who ask about Freddie. He befriended a lot of people and it’s been a little weird noticing their sadness when I tell them that he’s gone off to another life.
Yesterday, I got to see him settled in to that new life and it was fantastic! I honestly couldn’t be happier for him. He’s with a really brilliant family, in a house that really suits him and with loads of land around so he can explore as much as he wants. There’s also another dog there called Banjo and the two of them get on like they’ve known each other all their lives. There are two young children in the house and Freddie seems to love their company. To be bluntly honest, even though I’m relieved, it’s a little disconcerting to see him mean something very different to another family. It’s great! Don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little hard to see too. It’s great to see that Freddie has taken Mark as his new master. When Mark left the room, it was easy to see that Freddie was a little torn as to who he should follow. He stuck beside me like glue though not moving a muscle until I told him he could but when I gave him the go ahead, he was very happy to leave me to go into another room. Before I retired him that would never have happened. That’s great though. Freddie has found a new independents that I had always encouraged but he never took. It’s great to see that he’s not so dependent on human interaction. He loves it, and he’ll try to get it when someone is around, but if he doesn’t get it, he is actually now quite happy to go play with his squeaky toy in the corner or on the grass outside.
I was worried when I got to the house first. I was genuinely concerned that he wouldn’t remember me. And, for about two seconds, I thought my fears were justified. When we pulled out, Mark and Freddie walked out the door but Freddie was quite happy to follow at Mark’s side. When they got closer though Freddie seemed to have a rush of recollection and he rushed over to me like he always would have when I came back to collect him from somewhere after being away for a few days. From then on for the four hours I was there he stuck beside me unless I told him he could go somewhere else. Without thinking, I kind of fell back into old habits of making him sit etc but I soon remembered to stop it. It was thrilling though to see him pick up exactly where he left off. Freddie has been renound for his amazing obedience. In one way, I’d really like him to be able to forget about it, but on the other hand, if he wasn’t like that, he wouldn’t be the same really. It’s hard to explain. I took him for a walk alone after a while. I wanted to have a few minutes with him. After a few feet though he fell back into his old position beside me. Freddie never walked beside me on the lead. He always walked a step or two in front of me tugging slightly as if he was on harness. It was the position most familiar to him and he was most comfortable walking like that. Without prompting, he began doing it again. I tried to discourage it but he was so happy walking in front that it was hard to not let him do it. I also realised how slow I’ve been walking over the past three months. Freddie and I always really walked at a fantastic speed. That deteriated over the last year but yesterday it was if he was 7 years old again.
The fact that he no longer works every day has helped him relax and resort to a physical fitness state of two years ago. I was told that he’d get stronger and less sore after he retired as he didn’t have the same physical or mental strains every day but it was still astonishing to see it. I know now that I made the best decision to retire him then. He was unable to work but with the new life style he enjoys he is really thriving.
I’ve written a bit too much here I think. Let me finish by sincerely thanking Mark, the man who took him. I seriously can’t thank him enough. I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a better retirement for Freddie. He’s with a lovely family and he’s got the reward he deserves for so many years of hard work.