Tag Archives: guide dogs

Puppy Days

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.Photo0352
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!Puppies 1

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.

UshiWe 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.Ushi 1 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!

Warming up with Walkies

Since last April, it seems as if we’ve hardly gone a few days without being rained on here in the UK. Many places have seen flooding during the unprecedented rainfall, with homes and businesses being flooded over and over again. I can only imagine how depressing that must be for those people caught up in this miserable cycle, replacing carpets and furniture only to have them destroyed again as another deluge descends. Thankfully, the rain seems to have abated, and while we’ve had the coldest March since 1963, at least it has dried up a little and at times the sun has even peeked through.

We woke up to pretty chilly temperatures again this morning and they’re set to continue throughout the Easter weekend. Our favourite way to warm up is a visit to our local animal rescue centre where we are volunteer dog walkers. On the journey to the centre, we stop off at a farm shop for coffee/hot chocolate, sometimes accompanied by a tasty cake or bun. This morning we resisted the cakes as we’re both trying to shed a few pounds 🙂

Tricia with Daisy and CJWhen we reached the centre, we were greeted by Daisy, the German Shephard, and CeeJay, a Westie, two delightful sisters who are always eager to get out in the country lanes for their walk. They came to the centre when their elderly owner died and are absolutely devoted to each other. On the walk, if one of them stops to sniff or do the necessary, the other one waits patiently until they can both walk on together again. They are absolutely delightful, even if they refuse to look the same direction when having their photo taken 🙂 We were so pleased to know that they will soon be going home with their new owners who are thrilled to adopt them both. Such good news for these lovely girls.

TorWe also took Tor, a two year old Springer Spaniel and a real force of nature. Tor is very bright and gets bored very easily, so out on walks she’s all over the place searching for the next interesting thing.
AJ and Enzo 'Ferrari'Then there’s Enzo, who AJ has nicknamed Ferrari, because when he sits waiting for his walk, he’s like an engine revving for take off. He’s a beautiful two year old boy who is incredibly affectionate and really loves to be cuddled and stroked. A real delight.

What I love about these rescue dogs is that, regardless of the reasons they’ve come to the centre, often too harrowing to contemplate, they live in the moment. Even more amazing is how even after being ill treated they have this ability to let go of the past and put their trust in another human, often showering their love and affection even after a moment of meeting people. To continually put themselves on the line by giving their trust away so readily after it’s been broken, perhaps time and time again, is quite a thing and perhaps one of the reasons why dogs so easily capture my heart.

Photo0099Oh, in case you’re wondering, our guide dog puppy, Vinnie, has now entered full time training as it was decided that he’s basically too bright for his own good 🙂 We weren’t too surprised, believe me that boy is Oxford University equivalent material, but we were sad to say goodbye. We’ll be doing some boarding for guide dogs throughout the summer, so hopefully it won’t be too long to wait for our next charge.

Hope everyone has a lovely Easter weekend, and that the sun shines on you wherever you are.

Vinnie has arrived!

How cute am I?

Meet our new little bundle of love. Vinnie, our latest guide dog puppy, arrived on our doorstep and threw our lives, once again, into happy disarray. Now eight weeks old, he’s into absolutely everything.

Vinnie was the last born of a litter of eight: six sisters, two brothers. His mum, Anna, is a black Labrador and his dad is a golden retriever called Spike, who was on loan from the US. We like to think he has dual nationality 🙂 The poor little guy had a difficult birth and had to be helped to breathe for the first ten minutes of his life. It hasn’t held him back! This little battler is tenacious and seemingly fearless. He gets a little nervous of new things for about a minute, then wades in to investigate and explore.

For the first few nights he wasn’t particularly keen on using his crate and howled his protest into the wee small hours. He might be small but he has one very healthy set of lungs! Thankfully, he settled eventually and all the Jones family managed to get a decent night’s sleep.

Vinnie loves his cuddles, he also loves his teddy (which is currently bigger than he is) and enjoys a game of tug. Housetraining is a bit hit and miss at the moment and more often than not he doesn’t quite make it out to the yard.

He seems to recognise his name but we’ve decided he has selective hearing and will only respond when we call him for something good, like his dinner. Whoever is preparing his kibble gets Vinnie’s undivided attention and he will not budge from that person’s feet until he gets his dinner. He makes little whiney noises, as if to make sure we still know he’s there waiting. Our supervisor advised us to put his feeding bowl in his crate, so he can start to associate the crate with really good things and this seems to be doing the trick.

We took him for his first walk in our arms to the local park and he was desperate to get down and play with the other dogs. He seems to love children and is undaunted by loud noises, as evidenced by yesterday’s thunderstorm when he didn’t even flinch when the thunder clapped and the lightning flashed.

He’s one cool customer and already we love him with a passion.