A few weeks ago we were invited to the National Guide Dog Breeding Centre at Leamington Spa here in the UK. It was an appreciation day for puppy walkers to look around the centre, meet fellow volunteers and staff, and see the training the puppies undertake when they leave us after a year.
It was an amazing day. First we had the tour and saw lots of new born puppies. There was much oo-ing and ahh-ing, even from seasoned volunteeers, some of whom have been puppy walking for thirty eight years! We were told how the puppies are gently weaned away from mum, who for the first few days remains in the next pen so her puppies can still see her. Of course, all the pups seem to do at that age is sleep so we were creeping around and whispering for much of the time.
But suddenly food arrived on the scene and they went from nought to sixty in two seconds. Their tiny paws hardly hit the ground as they pounced on the dishes. You can see the photo is a little blurred as I tried to take this action shot!
After lunch we were able to see some of the dogs in training, which was fascinating. Some of the things these animals learn to do is incredible: assessing the height of an overhanging branch on a pavement to make sure their owner can pass safely underneath; alerting their owners to approaching cars; working out how to navigate unexpected obstacles and difficulties…stupendous stuff.
We are currently boarding a seven month old flat coat retriever. Ushi is adorable, just wants to be close to us and absolutely loves her cuddles. This morning we took her in the car to a really great pet shop which is several miles away. She is not the best traveller and would rather be just about anywhere than in the car, but she has to get used to it so off we went. All was well on the journey out, but on the way home AJ had to stop very suddenly and her plastic bed slid and she was tipped out. The bed sort of settled on top of her and all we could see was a pair of very surprised dark brown eyes looking out at us. We tried to settle her back, but she was not happy. Determined to see it through we tried to reassure her, but then ignored her (which neither of us find particularly easy to do, softies that we are). But top marks for ingenuity for our little lodger. Halfway through the journey home, she managed to get through the bottom of the grill and plomped on my lap before I even knew what was happening. There she sat for the rest of the trip, very happy and pleased with herself. Ah well, when the going gets tough, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, hasn’t she? Happy Days!