Cheeky little B*******

Things are continuing to go very well with myself and Nama, my new guide dog.

I’m taking it easy for the first while with him but even when I’m taking it easy things are still moving forward. Last Friday we joined a few friends in a pub in Dublin city however I went to the wrong place so poor Nama had to take directions from me through an area that he had never been through before. To make things worse, it’s not an area I would know very well either so we had to get pointed in the right direction twice along the way. No harm though. As always, he took it in his stride. In fact, I got the impression that he was enjoying himself! We walked from that pub to Connolly station at around half eight in the evening and he did exceptionally well.

I know the instructor took him to Connolly station however I suspect that while there she needed to use the toilet. I’ll explain why in a second! He confidently walked right through the station with me pointing straight ahead. I knew once we got to the ticket validation machines that we would be able to get another point in the right direction. We must have veered to the right a little because before I knew it we had walked through a narrow doorway whereby I was informed in a rushed tone by a lady that I was in the women’s toilets. Thanks Nama! He thought this was brilliant! The tail was wagging so much that I could feel it on my left hand! For a few seconds afterword when I set back off back to where we had come from to find the right direction he was very unsure where the hell we were going because surely he was right and I had to be wrong.

Last night was the next change from the norm. It’s important that we don’t do too much but I was in the mood for a bit of a walk last night so we took the long way home. It’s interesting. He hadn’t walked that direction before and when I started the route I was a bit apprehensive because I remembered that there are a few parts that are less than by the book from the perspective of a guide dog. For example, there’s a loading bay on one stretch of path and it is designed very badly. It completely cuts the straight line away because they’ve put grass at odd angles. It’s like the path ends, there’s a huge step up to the loading bay then after a while there’s grass, a step down and the path resumes after a few feet. Before I knew it Nama had completely ignored the loading bay and had gone straight. I think this was probably the best thing to do because it was the safest and the most straight forward. Freddie use to do a complicated sequence of steps up and down but at the time I questioned if this was absolutely necessary. That’s one of the things about not being able to see where your guide dog is leading you at times, sometimes it might be wrong but you have to trust that it’s following the straight line principal and this in the majority of situations will be the right thing to do. The next part of the walk that I thought I was going to have problems with was coming near to the area I live in. The path forks but there are no tactile or audible difference from what I can tell. This fork gives access to one side only so you have to cross a small road to reach the other one. There’s no barrier to indicate that the path will end. It just leads straight onto the main road. Freddie use to do this walk with me and he learned that he should cross as early as possible when we got to this area. Fortunately Nama took it upon himself to find the curb for me and we crossed safely. Of course, if I missed it I would have just turned back and crossed at an area that I thought was safe. I didn’t expect Nama to determine this independently and in fact I’m not really sure how he did it. I’m thinking of getting someone to walk that area with me during the weekend. I’d really love to know how he knew that it was safer to cross there than walk up to the end. One bad thing happened actually on that walk. There’s a section of road where I live where the angle is just all over the place. Or, maybe it’s not but I can’t figure it out. It annoys the hell out of me because ordinarily I pick up areas really quickly. I’ve lived here now for five years and in fact my family even live around this area so I’ve been around it all my life but I simply can’t figure out what way I should be facing when I cross this one section of road. It’s not particularly wide or busy but I keep messing it up. I did this first with Freddie five years ago and I fell so badly that I did a lot more damage to a knee injury and I cut up my head quite badly. I’ve walked it since then of course but I try to avoid it whenever possible. I can’t understand it! Anyway. Yesterday I thought I was facing the right way so I gave Nama the command to go forward. Within a few seconds I knew something was wrong because we didn’t step up on the path. However, I thought maybe the path had been dipped and we had gone on it without knowing it. NO. I wasn’t that lucky after another few seconds a car stopped in front of me and someone told me I was on the road. I know what you’re thinking. How can I be so damn stupid? I don’t know. I think Nama was looking for the up curb but my indecisiveness was causing him to be confused. I just wanted to tell you this because although I’m really happy with Nama’s work we are having problems and their really up to me. Not him. In fairness to him I was probably too early to cross and I was facing the wrong way.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is, it’s lovely to be able to take a notion to take a nice long walk home from work without even giving it a second thought. I’m returning to the freedom I had two years ago where I can make decisions and not worry what impact my mobility will have on them.

I started writing this post on Thursday but I haven’t really had time to continue it. It’s now Sunday night so the timing is a bit off. Still, I thought I should fill you in on a few more little things.

Last week Nama decided that he was too good to use a simple dog run and only the deck would do someone of his stature. This meant that for four days he relieved himself on the deck. I know that I should have been stricter on him but I didn’t want to break his routine so I just let him away with it. That of course was a mistake. I should have practised what I preached. Consistency is always the key when working with dogs so I shouldn’t have let him away with this. As always, he was just pushing his luck. Since Thursday things have been turning around though so with any luck he’s back to the run again. I certainly hope he is. The run is a lot easier to clean! It was built two years ago just for this reason. I’m just telling you this because it’s important that you are aware that although things with Nama have gone better than I ever could have anticipated, he’s still a cheeky little pup that constantly tries to push his luck. In fact, his cheekiness verges on complete disobedience at times but it’s just his character. Guide dogs aren’t machines and with the good you have to accept the bad. The great thing is, with Nama, the bad doesn’t matter because the good is so fantastic.

We had our second free run today. It was on a beach near Drogheda. He had a brilliant time. The run lasted about two hours. We walked for miles up and back down the beach so he got great exercise. He’s actually lying in his bed at the moment snoring. I think, for the first time in a long time, he’s worn out! About time! This is brilliant! Nothing usually tires him out. Considering he spends about an hour a day constantly playing along with a good few hours’ work, this is impressive. That doesn’t include the quick play sessions in the morning or dotted around the day of course. The hour long play session is usually when I get back from work. I find it’s a good habit for the both of us to get into because it gives him something to look forward to, it’s great exercise and it means he’s happier for the rest of the night. He has such an abundance of energy. He actually tires me out. And that’s not an easy thing to do! I’m enjoying it though.