I became a volunteer for Guide Dogs For the Blind in 2015 and had the pleasure of raising a very special dog called Keano. He came to live with me when he was seven weeks old, and left when he was 13 months old to continue his training with Guide Dog professionals. This is his story, in his own words.
My name is Keano (pronounced KEE-No) and I’ve been a working Guide Dog since June 2017. This is the story of my first year as a Guide Dog Puppy, when I lived with my Puppy Walker in Wiltshire from the age of 7 weeks to 13 months. Thanks for joining me, I hope you enjoy my blogs as I dip into my personal diaries and relive a few highlights of my journey from the blue puppy coat to the white Guide Dog harness.
Information correct at time of Keano’s training, November 2015-May 2017, please check the Guide Dogs for the Blind website for up to date information: www.guidedogs.org
After a thorough health check at the Breeding Centre I and several other puppies were put in a special Guide Dogs van to go to our Puppy Walkers. It was a long journey from the Breeding Centre, but we passed the time by swapping stories of our time with our mums and how we did in our assessments at the Breeding Centre. I was particularly taken by a pretty little girl called Rosie; we share a birthday, but she has a different mum and dad to me.
The van stopped a few times, and each time a puppy was lifted out and after a little wait we would go on again without him or her. I was very sad when it was Rosie’s turn to go, as I had no idea if I would ever see her again. Finally there was just me.
When we got to the PW’s home she was waiting at the door, very emotional and excited, and I was placed straight into her arms. She buried her nose in my fur, exclaiming, “I’ve been told that puppies smell delightful!” Unfortunately, I’d been pee’d on in the van so I certainly didn’t smell of vanilla and coffee as she had been led to believe. She had expected my arrival to bring tears to her eyes, but not quite like that!
I was given a gentle wash, taken outside to relieve myself, and placed in my crate for a welcome snooze after the long journey.
If you look closely you’ll see the crossword puzzle kindly provided by the PW for my intellectual development. No pen, though, so I couldn’t fill it in. I was so pleased to have my piece of the blue and white litter blanket tucked around me, knowing that my brothers and sisters each had a keepsake piece too.
When I woke up I was taken outside again and properly introduced to the area where I was to go to the toilet. It’s a small, enclosed concrete yard, and the PW explained that I’d be taken out to it every twenty minutes, as well as immediately after waking from a snooze, after each of my four daily meals, after play times and before being put to bed for the night. I think this area will soon become very familiar to me.
I slept through the night, but was wide awake and in need of a cuddle, a pee, fun and games, and breakfast – not necessarily in that order – when the PW came in bright and early. She took me outside first so I could do my business (they call it ‘spending’, don’t ask me why). I’ve noticed that when I get into position to go the PW gets quite excited and says “Busy-Busy” in a sing-songy voice. It’s quite off-putting, actually. I’d much prefer some privacy. When I was done, she cleaned it up and washed the yard with water and something that smelled like flowers and we went back indoors for some more fun.
We played for a bit and I was suddenly so overcome with tiredness I just dropped where I stood and fell fast asleep on the rug.
If you look closely at this picture you’ll see a blue mark at the top of my leg. When Guide Dog Puppies are born we are marked with a blob of nail varnish as follows: the first boy and girl are not marked; the second boy and girl are marked on the right shoulder, then it’s left shoulder, right haunch, left haunch, base of the tail, back of the neck, the head. If there are more than eight they have to get creative! My marking shows that I was born 4th in my litter.
After that post-breakfast nap we were having great fun, but that came to an abrupt halt when I did a pee on the rug. It wasn’t my fault, the PW had forgotten to keep an eye on the time! I was put in the kitchen while she cleaned up the mess. It seemed to take an awful lot of foamy spray from a bottle and at least half of a roll of kitchen towel. I know she forgave me though, because when she popped me in my crate for another snooze there was a new toy in there. He’s called Big Ted and I love him more than anything because he’s so big and soft and warm and squidgy, just like my mum!
The rest of the day was lovely, with lots of play and cuddles and visits to the spend area, and there was only one more ‘accident’, this time a little poo. She muttered a bit while she wielded the foamy spray and used up the rest of the kitchen towel, but she did admit that poo is easier to clear up than pee. I’ll try to remember that.
When it was time for bed she took me outside and put me down on the ground, but suddenly there was this weird, creepy hooting sound, very close. The PW said it was an owl up in the trees and it wouldn’t come anywhere near me. Even so, I’m very small and aren’t owls rather big and fearsome?
I scuttled back inside the door as quick as my little legs could carry me.
I was so tired I really welcomed being put in my crate with all my cuddly toys for company, especially Big Ted.
I’m not sure what to make of it, but bars have appeared across the kitchen door. The PW says I need to learn to stay in the kitchen sometimes and pointed out that I can see them and they can see me, and it won’t matter if I have a little accident on the floor because it’s easy to clean. It seems that humans need the occasional respite from our needle-sharp teeth, and a break from their continuous anxiety about the living room carpet. Why don’t they change it for the same thing that covers the kitchen floor?
I’d far rather be in the living room with them so they could play with me all the time. Besides, I wouldn’t have to be put behind bars if the PW kept a closer eye on the intervals she takes me out. I can see a timer on the kitchen counter, she could use that as a reminder.
My favourite sleeping place is on the PW’s lap. I’m not allowed on the furniture so she says she’ll be sitting on a cushion on the floor for the whole year that I’m with her!
She has noticed that I sleep a lot. I’m her first ever puppy so I wonder if she knows that puppies sleep from 18 to 20 hours day because we’re growing and need our rest?
My collar was put on for the first time. I didn’t mind it, but then an ID tag was put on it AND a lead with a yellow Guide Dog Puppy flash on it, and I wondered what else was going to be put on me – a saddlebag perhaps so I could carry my stuff when we go out? But the collar and lead were taken off and put on again throughout the day, and I realised that they’re just what I need to take the PW where I want to go!
I’ve got a new bed in the living room for daytime naps, a squishy, squashy one in dark red, which sets off my pale golden fur. Now I don’t need to go in my crate except for night time. I only take up a small portion of it, but that means there’s room for all my cuddly toys. The PW says it won’t be long until I fill it with my own body, and I might even outgrow it, though that’s hard to imagine!
My collar and lead were put on after my post-breakfast nap and I took the PWH for a little stroll in the garden while the PW took photos of this momentous event. I think the PWH did very well, considering it was his first walkies with me!
I still have be carried if we go beyond the garden boundary though, because I can only go down on the ground where no other dogs have been. The exception is when I’m with other Guide Dog Puppies like me, and the PW says she’ll take me to meet some soon.
At lunch time we went to the local pub. There’s a model of me on the bar for people to put their spare coins in. It’s cute but not nearly as cute as me! I was an instant celebrity, so I hope we go there often.
Another short outing today into the big wide world, this time to a café. In a small field opposite there were these two white woolly things called sheep. They clearly hadn’t a clue about my importance and were very rude.
I wanted to insult them straight back, but I couldn’t think of any cutting remarks so decided to growl and frighten them away. Unfortunately it came out as more of a squeak and they just made this silly ‘baaaaa’ noise and turned their backs on me.
It’s my two month birthday and I can control my bladder for a whole two hours! What I haven’t got the hang of, though, is indicating when I need to go out, so the PW still needs to be alert at all times and have her coat handy. She wants me to do my business almost as soon as we’re in the spend area so she can go back in, especially if it’s raining, but I have to work to up it. I do this by sniffing the whole area several times to select just the right place and then going round and round in circles on the chosen spot. I’m not asking her to stay with me, but it seems she has to be there to say that ‘Busy-Busy’ thing at the right time. Oh, and she has to clear it up, of course.
Indoors we did some ‘sit’ and ‘down’ exercises and the PW was very happy, thinking she was teaching me, when in fact it’s the other way round – I’m teaching her the words for my actions! Afterwards she wanted to read the newspaper so I played with my toys for a bit and then I chewed the rug.
I particularly enjoyed it when it started to unravel, because then I could tug the loose strand of wool, making it longer and longer. However the PW wasn’t as amused by this game as I was. She said that a puppy that had as many toys as I had shouldn’t feel the need to chew on anything else. Shows how much she knows about puppies!
The PWH cut off the unravelled bit and put a sticking plaster on. I didn’t think it would be a good time to show her the other bit of rug behind the sofa that I chewed on earlier.
An utter catastrophe occurred today! With no word of warning all my toys were suddenly whipped away and put in this big white, noisy machine. I had to wait AGES to get them back again, and all I could do was watch helplessly as they got swished about in bubbly water and spun round and round. When I did get them back they smelled awful! I hope this isn’t going to happen on a regular basis or I’ll have to put in a formal complaint.
When I woke from my nap there was a tree in the living room! The PW spent ages rummaging through boxes and bags and putting lots of sparkly, pretty things on the branches.
When she was helping the PWH put fairy lights round the window I saw my chance to creep up to the tree to investigate. I could see my reflection in the little gold, red and green baubles on the lowest branches and they made my nose look huge and round. As I got closer my nose got huger and rounder!
I swear that all I did was touch one of the baubles very gently, just to have a sniff, and it jumped off the branch and shattered on the floor. The PW came rushing over and picked me up, worrying about my soft paws on sharp bits of bauble, and carried me out the kitchen. So there I was, behind bars again, and the next time I was allowed into the living room, the tree wasn’t there! It had been moved into the conservatory so I couldn’t get to it unless supervised.
If you ask me, that’s where they should have put it in the first place.
It’s Christmas Day!
The PW was up very early and we went through our usual routine: outside for Busy-Busy, my breakfast, PW’s first cup of tea, cuddles. I love snuggling into her pink, fluffy dressing gown because it’s really cosy and it reminds me of my mum and my brothers and sisters. Another thing I like to do is sink my sharp little teeth into the bottom of it and swing from it while the PW is moving around. She’s not so keen on this game, though, and keeps telling me to ‘Leave’. When I first heard that command I thought I was being told to leave the room, but I get it now. Doesn’t always mean I’ll do it, mind you.
After the PW and PWH had eaten their breakfast the conservatory door was opened so we could fetch our presents from under the tree. The PWH got a smart new sweater and there was also one for me inside my Christmas stocking. We’re only allowed to wear the blue Guide Dog Puppy coats, but as a neighbour’s little girl had bought this just for me, to get me used to the idea of wearing a coat, the PW said I could wear it and pose for some photos to send to the little girl with a thank you note.
I got some new toys too, so when I got really tired I gathered up all my toys, old and new, and had a good, long sleep in my squashy bed.
The most amazing and wonderful thing happened today. The PW took me to another PWs house for a playdate – and it’s where Rosie lives!! Rosie, sweet little Rosie, the puppy I met in the van coming from the National Breeding Centre!!! The PW and Rosie’s PW Sue are friends, which means we’ll get to see lots of each other. We played and we played and I let her think she was getting the best of me in our play-flights by lying on my back and letting her clamber on top of me. She liked chewing my tail. It was the best day and I can’t wait to see her again!
It’s the end of the year, and it occurred to me today that the command I’ve heard most of all so far is ‘No’. At first I thought the PW was saying my name and I’d missed the KEE part, an easy mistake to make! I’m amazed at the tonal variations the PW can achieve on such a little word. A short, strangled NO or a long, desperate one means I’m doing something she really, really doesn’t want me to do (chewing the legs of the dining chairs comes immediately to mind, or forgetting myself and having little accidents on the rug), a sharp NO means I might be doing something that could be hazardous to my health (going anywhere near electrical cables). Sometimes she says it while trying not to laugh, and I know I’m doing something I shouldn’t but she finds it funny anyway, like stealing the TV remote when I don’t like what they’re watching. Come to think of it, though, she stopped finding it funny when she saw my teeth marks all over it.
Tomorrow is a New Year, and when I sit and think a bit, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned since I was born just 3 months ago!
It’s New Year’s day, so it’s goodbye 2015, hello 2016!
The PW and PWH stayed up much later than usual last night, and they drank some glasses of fizzy stuff, so perhaps that’s why they’re both tired. They decided to have a lazy day and watch a film called ‘The Sound of Music’. I heard a whistle blow and thought the children in the film were being called to eat, because they all came running and stood to attention just like I do when it’s food time (well, I sit to attention rather than stand, but you get my meaning).
The PW and PWH are very fond of the log burner, and I thought my help might be appreciated. The PW said it was very good of me, but could I please not climb into the basket and chew the logs, or she’ll sprinkle them with something called Olbas Oil. This is horrible stuff, and she sprinkles it on things she doesn’t want me to chew.
Seems to me the list of things we Guide Dog Puppies can’t get our teeth into is rather long, not only logs or anything else made of wood like chair and table legs, we also can’t chomp on remote controls, pens, cables, shoes and slippers, tissues, carpets, newspapers and magazines, curtain tassels, any kind of paper, any type of clothing, pebbles and stones, bricks, dirt, plants of any kind, coasters, mobile phones, the stuffing out of toys and cushions, anything made of plastic, screws, nails, bolts, bees and bugs, cat poo, cigarette butts. And there’s probably more!
My most favourite pastime this morning, a playdate! It was with Rosie and PTS Leanne came to see us to find out how we were getting on and to ask us how the PWs were performing. We were able to give good reports, considering both my PW and PW Sue are complete beginners!
She gave Rosie and me a thorough physical checkup and clipped our claws, then she said something terrible. I couldn’t believe my dark gold ears, and neither could Rosie! From tomorrow our meals are to be cut from 4 times a day to just 3!!! Apparently we’ll get more kibble in total, but surely we’ll starve between meals? When we got home I grabbed my blankie from the crate so I could sit and think about this. Was it happening to all my litter mates too? I decided I must have misheard.
Oh no, it’s true! Our meals have been cut! I waited for meal number 4 to be put down beside my water dish but it never came. I’ll probably fade away to nothing.
A visit to the supermarket today. I like going out to places like this, because I get a lot of attention from people. Most people are very kind and let us get on with it, but the PW gets a bit exasperated at those who call to me or make silly noises so I get distracted. Most people are very kind and let us get on with it, and when we’ve finished with the exercise and we’re through the check out she loves talking to people and explaining all about Guide Dogs to anyone who’s interested.
Apart from concentrating to make sure the PW is doing everything correctly, I also have to try not to pee or poo in the shop. If I do have a little accident though, the PW swings into action with the contents of her trusty backpack and has it cleaned up in no time. I think she could win a competition!
Another playdate today with Rosie and two older GD Puppies, this time at PW Hilary’s. When we were offered treats I thought it only polite to stay back and let the big dogs get theirs first. Not Rosie, though, she said why should we wait just because we’re younger and smaller? She muscled herself in between them and they didn’t seem to mind at all. That’s Nessie on the left and Wilbur on the right of her in the picture. You wouldn’t think Rosie is exactly the same age as me, as I’m growing much faster than she is. She’s such a titchy thing it makes me want to protect her, but actually she’s far braver than I am and doesn’t need protecting by anybody!
The PW went on holiday on Monday so I’m staying with PW Hilary. Nessie was worried I might be missing my PW and my toys so she let me share her bed, even though there isn’t really room for the two of us. I love Nessie!
I think it’s really nice that we’re always looked after by other PWs or Boarders when our own PWs go on holiday, we have such a lovely time.
The PW is back! She came to pick me up this morning and I was very happy to see her, though I was also sorry to say goodbye to PW Hilary and all my friends. But the PW assures me I’ll be seeing them all again very soon.
I told her that PW Hilary had made sure I practiced everything I’ve been taught so far, and she took me to the vet for my vaccination. Not only that, but I was the star of the show when she gave a talk to Reception pupils at a local school.
My photo was in the paper!
I’m grown up enough not to need the crate anymore! That will soon be going back to Guide Dogs for another puppy to use, and the PW is pleased because there’ll be more room in the kitchen when it’s gone.
From now on my lovely soft red bed will be placed in the kitchen at night, but the bars will remain across the door because the PW suspects I’ll sneak out and climb on the sofa. I don’t know why we’re not allowed on the furniture, but it’s a rule, and that’s why the PW always sits on the floor to cuddle me.
It’s funny, I always fall asleep very quickly when I’m snuggled on her lap, but she says only her legs go to sleep. Imagine that!
The PW took a friend to a foot clinic and I went along to make things more interesting (I reminded the PW that she has my claw clippers if that’s what the friend needed, but apparently it wasn’t anything to do with nails). In the waiting room I expected the PW to put my blanket on the floor as she usually does so I could lie down, but she was too busy talking about me to the receptionists.
I got it myself from the backpack and gave her a disapproving look. She always sits on comfy chairs and cushions, so why should I have to lie on a hard floor?
Afterwards we went for a walk in the city centre, and it was really, really busy. I was very good except for (a) trying to lick up discarded food, (b) wanting to chase pesky pigeons (c) doing a poo in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. I was very apologetic, but I think all the excitement brought me to the point when I just couldn’t wait any longer. Fortunately the PW is always prepared and carries things in her backpack for every possibility, so in no time at all it was cleaned up and we were able to carry on, visiting a few shops before we came home.
A trip with the PW to the dentist today. I would have liked to go in with the PW because she seemed very nervous and I’m sure I could have helped, but I had to stay with the PWH in the waiting room. Some horrible high-pitched noises came from the other room and I was relieved when PWH explained it was a drill and not the PW! When she came out her face was strangely frozen on one side, so as soon as we got home I offered to comfort her in the best way I know how.
I know I’m growing very quickly, because I can easily look over the top of the gate of my spend area now. At this rate I’ll soon be able to step over it to freedom! I have a feeling, though, that the PW would never allow that.
The PW likes to do housework on a Sunday, and today was no exception. I followed her round to make sure she did a proper job.
I think today has been the most exciting day of my life! I got my first free run, and it was with Rosie! We were let off our leads in this enormous field and allowed to run around all on our own. The only rule was that we had to come back every time PTS Leanne or either of the PWs blew their whistle. It was worth it, because it pleased the PWs and we got treats and lots of praise every time, and then they let us go free again.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, when our free run was over PTS Leanne had new blue puppy coats for us. I don’t know who was more proud, Rosie and me or the PWs, because they got quite emotional!
Today we went to a big store that sells things for the home. Before we went inside I took the PW for little walk round the car park to show her that I know how to strut my stuff in my new coat.
We walked all around the store downstairs and then we went in a glass-fronted lift to the first floor, which didn’t frighten me at all. We were attracting a lot of attention and the PW had to very politely explain to a couple of people that they should never try to distract a puppy in training.
It was all very tiring and I needed a long nap when we got home.
The PW is at it again, stealing my toys and putting them in the white machine with a round window that makes them smell horrible. No way was she getting my precious Big Ted, though!
Valentine’s Day, so of course Rosie and I had to be together! I seem to be growing at a much faster rate than my girlfriend, which makes her super-cute in my eyes. I’m so pleased that we share a birthday and our PWs live so close to each other. They say we’re the love story of Guide Dog Puppies.
My first bus trip. We went with PW Hilary and Nessie and PW Sue and Rosie.
It seems that PWs can’t function without a regular intake of coffee and cake, so first stop was a cafe, where the owner was delighted to welcome us. We puppies laid down and listened to the conversation, which was all about us, of course! They discussed taking us on a train trip. I’ve been to the station several times and watched the trains, so it will be exciting to actually get on one and go somewhere!
A fiendish game was introduced today to reinforce the ‘Leave’ command when there’s food involved. I asked the PW how she’d feel if I put a pile of chocolates on her hand and wouldn’t let her have them, but once I realised I’d get the treats eventually anyway, I was happy to wait for as long as the PW wanted me to. I didn’t even drool.
My first trip on a train and just like the bus experience it was with PW Hilary and Nessie and PW Sue and Rosie. It was a bit of a squash and we dogs had just got settled in the aisle when the refreshments cart came through, so we had to be pulled out of harm’s way and I had to sit on the PWs lap for a minute or two!
I thought we were heading for a bath, despite being not at all dirty, but it turned out that Bath is the name of a city. Very pretty it is too, though there are far too many pigeons for my liking. We went into the café of a big store and we were very good.
My teeth are falling out!
The PW assures me this is normal and the 28 teeth I’ve been perfectly happy with have to come out to make way for 42 adult teeth. Hmm, that’s almost twice as many gnashers to crunch my kibble and chew my treats, so that’s OK.
It was quite sunny today and the PW suggested we take a walk round the village so I could practice the ‘Steady’ and ‘Hup-up’ speed of walking and the ‘Sit’ at kerbs before going ‘Straight On’. But I just didn’t feel like it.
However I was soon tempted out of my mood with a few well-chosen treats and we were on our way. As always, I was super-good with all the commands, especially the ‘Staying Calm Around Other Animals’ one (actually, that isn’t a command but maybe it should be, because there are some strange animals out there and I was a bit nervous the first time I saw some of them!). Here’s a picture postcard of what I see when we walk this regular route:
Salisbury Hospital is a very big place. Even the car park is enormous, and I know this because the PW walked me from one end to the other hoping I’d ‘Busy-Busy’ before we went inside. I eventually obliged, otherwise she would have been late for her appointment. I was prepared to stay in the waiting room with the PWH while the PW saw the consultant, but a nurse said that as I was such a special dog I could go with her. I lay down at her feet while she had a little chat, but the doctor couldn’t keep his eyes off me. He asked if he could say a proper hello to me, and you know what he did? He got down on the floor and played with me! He said that if he had his way there would be dogs like me everywhere in the hospital as they cheer people up. What a nice man, I do hope we see him again!
On our way out of the hospital we passed a stall selling all sorts of things for charity.
A very kind lady said she had a toy that looked just like me, and of course I had to have it. One look from my puppy dog eyes and the PW bought it for me.
She said I deserved it for being so good, and gave it to me to carry back to the car.
And when we got home I carried around with me everywhere – until it was time for supper, of course!
I am not the only four-legged creature in the household, there are also two guinea pigs. I’ve no idea what they’re for, but they bear a remarkable similarity to many of my toys, ie small, furry and squeaky. I like to look at them scurrying about in their cage, but the PW says I’m not allowed to play with them because I’m so big and bouncy and might forget that they’re not toys!
A bit of a disappointment today. I was certain I had a tasty chew stashed away in my bed for when the PW was busy with her housework and I’m left to entertain myself, but I couldn’t find it because I’d actually eaten it already. I hate it when that happens!
My first Puppy Class! There were lots of other Guide Dog Puppies there, including Rosie and Nessie and Wilbur. As it wasn’t a playdate we were only allowed to say hello to each other very briefly because we had to concentrate. PTS Leanne asked us to walk our PWs around the hall, and then we spent the next 45 minutes doing various exercises like ignoring food put on the floor and walking round obstacles. It was great fun, but the PW couldn’t take any pictures as she was too busy with the training. I was very pleased with her progress as a PW, but thought she was a bit slow with the treats.
Play date at PW Hilary’s house. Much more fun than Puppy Class because we can play as much as we like. Rosie was there, of course, and Nessie and Wilbur. It was a nice sunny day, but the PWs stayed indoors doing their usual thing of drinking coffee and eating cake and talking about us!
My favourite time is cuddle time with the PW. I remember when I could curl up in her lap, but I’m too big for that now!
As part of my training I have to be put in front of all sorts of smelly food temptations to prove that I can ignore them. Today we went to a butcher shop, not somewhere the PW likes to go as she’s a vegetarian.
She asked the butcher if we could go in and he said yes of course, as he understood I was training to do a very special job. I didn’t so much as sniff at a sausage, and I could tell that the PW was relieved when we left.
In a week’s time I shall be 6 months old. I wonder if the PW will throw me a party?
A visit to the supermarket, and I ignored anyone trying to distract me and passed all the food aisles without a problem. Well, almost all of them.
Some things just smell so interesting to a dog! Did you know we can smell thousands of times better than you humans, so imagine how fresh bread smells to us!
Afterwards I gave the PW some walking-me-on-the-lead practice in the streets of a large housing estate. When we passed a poo bin I sat down in front of it and told the PW a joke. Well, I thought it was funny!
I’m 6 months old today! We popped in to see Rosie to say Happy 6 Month Birthday to her, because we were born on the same day. I’m not sure if she’s very small or I’m very big for our age!
There was no cake or anything, instead there was a nasty surprise – our meals are being cut AGAIN from three to just TWO. We were assured, just like before when our meals were cut from four times a day to three, that we’ll get more kibble in total, but I’m telling you now, if my meals get cut again to just one a day I’m going on strike no matter how much kibble I get!
A misdemeanour on my part today, but I blame it on the missing midday meal. Now I only get breakfast and dinner, and yes, I do know there’s more of it, but I still miss having lunch! The PW was busy elsewhere in the house and I couldn’t resist the temptation of the sofa cushions in the conservatory. I tried looking innocent when the PW came in and discovered the damage, but she was having none of it. Fortunately for me all the cushions are due to be replaced, that’s why they didn’t have covers on, but I was still in disgrace.
I thought it prudent to retire to my bed and stay out of the way until dinner time.
I took the PW along to a fundraising event in a church hall. I led her around for half an hour to meet people and tell them all about Guide Dogs, and then I had my bone filled with frozen kibble to keep me occupied while the PW indulged her obsession with coffee and cake. As I’ve never tasted either coffee or cake I’m not sure who’s getting the better deal here.
Salisbury hospital again, I’m really getting to know my way around this place. When we walked into the waiting room a lady already sitting there announced in a very loud voice that no-one should touch a Guide Dog Puppy in training. That meant I was totally ignored! I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I like it if I get just a little attention and admiration. I’d happily give autographs if anyone thought to ask me.
We went for a walkabout and popped into various waiting rooms. They all looked the same to me, people sitting on hard chairs looking thoroughly fed up. As we passed the lifts we saw a little boy who was crying, so I suggested to the PW that she let me cheer him up. The PW asked the little boy’s mother if he’d like to meet me, and she said yes because he loves dogs (well, who doesn’t love dogs?!) so I sat down and invited the little boy to scratch my velvety ears and when the lift arrived to take him up for his appointment he was happy again.
A day off today, so we paid a visit to Rosie as soon as it stopped raining.
She and I ran about together in the soggy garden and then I went to the house to ask the PW for treats to keep my strength up (that Rosie just doesn’t stop!), but she said I was too dirty to come in and sent me off again treatless!
Oh dear. In trouble again. Honestly, I did this ages ago when I was teething, is it my fault the PW didn’t notice? It was when I was left on my own in the kitchen. The door is only closed when they leave me to go out and when I’m put to bed at night, so the PW didn’t see it until she decided to clean the glass both sides. Apparently the damage isn’t repairable so they’ll have to replace the door. Now I’m wondering if the radiator cover behind my bed will have to be replaced as well, because it probably won’t be long before she spots what I’ve done to that!
A bus ride into town in the morning with PW Sue and Rosie, and then a free run. Guide Dog Puppies can only free run for a certain amount of time while we’re growing, five minutes per month of age is the general rule, so we had half an hour of dashing about and chasing each other.
Accompanied the PW to the supermarket to do a little shopping and training. I behaved perfectly, and when we got home I sat and watched while the PW unpacked the shopping and put it all away. She opened a large packet of toilet rolls and took some of them to the bathroom. I guessed the others were going to be put in the big store-cupboard, so I picked one up to take it there for her. It was so soft! So chewy! So… irresistible! A bit like the cushions I ate a few days ago, really. Before I knew it I’d torn it apart, and I didn’t have time to hide the evidence before the PW returned.
So that’s another month of puppy training behind me. I know I’ve been a bit naughty chewing things, but PTS Leanne has reassured the PW that it’s normal behaviour for a pup my age. It seems that puberty is fast approaching!
The PW just laughs and says the only time I’m being good these days is when I’m asleep. Well, you must admit, I do look rather angelic!
The PW is going to spend a couple of days in Wales without me, so this afternoon I was taken to PW Hilary’s to stay until Friday. I suspect the poor old thing is worn out with all the training I’m making her do and needs a rest. No rest for me, though, as I need to keep PW Hilary up to scratch! The best news of all is that some of my pals are here, so we’re going to have a great time playing together and swapping stories of our separate but oh so similar journeys to Guide-Doghood.
I had to report to the vet for the kennel cough vaccine. I was expecting an injection into the scruff of my neck like I’ve had for previous vaccinations, but this one was sprayed up my left nostril. A bit of a shock, that was! I think I’ve mentioned before just how sensitive our doggy noses are.
The vet commented on the size and pinkness of my nose (it used to be black but it’s changing colour) and the PW laughed.
I didn’t find it funny. I have a magnificent nose!
As I’m never likely to go into kennels I can’t understand why I need this vaccination, but there you go. Not everything the PW does makes sense to me, but she says rules are rules and it’s necessary as the cough isn’t always caught in kennels, I could catch it anywhere. I required further explanation so she looked it up and told me that it’s a highly infectious respiratory infection caused by bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza viruses. It’s correct name is ‘infectious tracheobronchitis’. Try saying all that with a mouthful of treats!
I accompanied the PW to Heathrow Airport to pick up the PWH, who’s been away for a couple of weeks, and while we were waiting for his plane to land I walked her all around the Arrivals Hall. The crowds and rattling suitcases trundling by were a bit annoying at first, and we had to dodge these beeping trolley-things carrying passengers, but I soon got used to it as it was a bit like being in a supermarket. I was really excited to see the PWH and wanted to run to him straightaway, but I knew I had to sit and wait, proudly displaying my blue coat, until he came to us.
It was a long day so I was glad to get home and settle down for a nap on the PW’s lap, even though she wanted to go to her own bed.
Friday 13th May
In the morning the PW said we were going to have a new experience and visit a gentleman who lived in a very old house. She explained to me that the gentleman is disabled and in a wheelchair and wouldn’t talk much, so I was to be really, really good and do everything she asked me to. She said I could take a toy to show him as long as it wasn’t Big Ted, so I chose to take lambie.
I went very slowly to the gentleman and I touched his hand with my nose and he smiled at me and scratched my ears. The PW put my blanket on the floor and asked me to settle down, but I thought the gentleman would like it if I laid down beside the wheelchair, so that’s what I did. Before we left the PW asked me to ‘Up-sit’ so the gentleman could scratch my ears again and give me a treat. He was so happy, and I was really, really good for a whole hour, so the PW says I can go with her every week from now on.
In the afternoon we went for a free run because it was such a lovely day. The fields are full of lovely little golden flowers! It’s a pity we didn’t take a picnic.
I took the PW out for a training session in town. We went into the library and in and out of a few shops, and we walked along a very busy road. Noisy traffic doesn’t bother me at all. When I was little the PW had me sit beside a lorry that was emptying dustbins along the street, so even a motorbike roaring past doesn’t cause me to break my stride. This is very good news, apparently, as it shows I’ll able to handle noisy places when I’m a working Guide Dog. I like to think I’ll be able to handle anything!
It started to rain so we scurried back, but were both soaked by the time we made it home. The PW dried me off with a towel and gave me a good grooming before serving me my dinner. Then she threw some cushions on the floor,which always means she’s going to sit down and give me a cuddle.
There was a time I could curl up on her lap, but nowadays I can only stretch myself across her legs. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of maneuvring to get comfy and she complains that I’m very heavy and have sharp elbows.
A free run with Rosie, and I wanted to show her a view of the golden fields around my home. I can easily outrun her with my long legs, but I don’t want to give her a complex about her tinyness so I let her think she can beat me.
In the early evening I took the PW along to a Beaver Scout meeting to help PW Hilary give a talk about Guide Dogs. There were about twenty children aged from 6 to 8, very lively and very loud! But once they were all sitting down they listened to what PW Hilary had to say and asked lots of questions (mostly about toilet matters, for some reason). One boy in particular seemed to have a hundred questions and the Beaver Group Leader had to tell him to let someone else have a turn. He still kept putting his hand up, though, and shouting out more questions. I can understand his enthusiasm, because seeing Guide Dog Puppies like me must be about the most exciting thing there is!
We met PTS Leanne at the train station so I could show her my jumping on and off trains skills (at which I am excellent, if I say so myself). Noisy stations and trains with their hissing or slamming doors don’t worry me one bit, nor do the gaps between platform and train give me any problems because I’ve got such long legs. I’m not sure why, but on this occasion we didn’t actually go anywhere on the train.
When we returned to the car park PTS Leanne handed the PW a flat blue horseshoe-shaped thing. At home the PW blew air into until it was all plumped up and then put it on the floor in front of me and asked if I could guess what it was. I sniffed around it, thinking at first that it was a toy, but an inflatable toy wouldn’t last ten seconds with my teeth. I decided it could be one of two things, a cushion for me to sit on when we’re out visiting places instead of a blanket, or some kind of flotation aid.
The PW found my guesses very funny, and then she took it away, saying I’d find out soon enough what it was for. I hope I’m wrong, but the way she said it sounded a bit ominous.
PW Hilary organised a fundraising event for Guide Dogs at a pub and quite a few of us Puppies were taken along to help. I really like fundraising because it means people can meet us properly, which they can’t do when we’re training because we need to concentrate. Now we’re older Rosie and I were allowed to spend a whole hour in the pub meeting and greeting, then our coats were taken off and we jumped into the car to have a rest.
Friday 3rd June
To the vet this morning. I wondered if they had any ideas of squirting more liquid up my nostrils, but instead I was weighed and a very nice vet lady gave me a thorough check up from the tip of my nose to the end of my tail. Apparently I’m in perfect health, so that’s a relief. She also said she thought me extremely handsome. I liked her for that and gave her an extra special tail wag! The receptionists made a fuss of me too while the PW arranged my next visit. It’s in less than two weeks’ time, but as I was so enjoying being admired I didn’t hear what the visit was for. Maybe the nice vet lady just wants to see my handsome face again.
Playdate with Rosie and it was a lovely day so we were able to play outside in PW Sue’s big garden. Our size difference gets more and more apparent, but looks are deceiving. She may be little but my Rosie is absolutely fearless! We love being together, and we come up with all sorts of games.
It was a very big day for me today, for it was time to meet my sponsors in Southampton. They had raised a lot of money and given me my name under the Name a Puppy scheme and the PW wanted to make a good impression. She gave me an all-over grooming, including claws, teeth and ears. When she was done with me I lay down and watched while she cleaned and polished my ID discs until they gleamed and pressed my blue coat.
The journey was about an hour and a half in the car and lots of people were waiting to meet me when we got there, including the person I’m named for. We were followed round the big supermarket with people taking photos and videos while I demonstrated to them how good I’m going to be at my job when I’m qualified.
A lady came over to us and said her daughter wanted to give me a present, so I sat down and took it from the little girl very, very gently. It’s a pink doll, not quite the thing for a big boy like me, but it was such a kind gesture. I carried it back to the car and now it’s part of my growing collection of toys.
The PW took me along to a fundraising event at a donkey derby today, but by my own admission I was not well behaved from the moment I got out of the car. I really can’t explain it, but I just couldn’t settle and I didn’t want to listen to the PW. In the end she had to put me back in the car and help out on the stall without me. I heard one of the other PWs say I was out of sorts because I probably sensed that something’s happening tomorrow and it’s making me anxious. I’ve really no idea what she was talking about, what on earth could be happening tomorrow? I wasn’t anxious before I heard that but now I am!
I got carted off to the vet this morning and abandoned there! The PW explained that I had to have a little operation and she’d pick me up at 5 o’clock. So this was the ‘something’ mentioned yesterday at the fundraising, but she didn’t explain what this ‘little operation’ was. She seemed a bit apprehensive when she left me, but I had no sympathy. She was going home without me! A very nice nurse shaved some fur from my front right leg and the next thing I remember was waking up in a kennel with a horrid plastic cone thing covering my entire head. I thought this could only mean that they’d operated on my ears, eyes and/or nose, but a quick check proved to me that they all worked perfectly well.
I was very relieved to see the PW, who came promptly at 5 o’clock as she’d promised. When we got home she took the horrid cone thing off because I was filling it with drool and, in her words, looking ‘utterly pathetic’. She put the blue ring round my neck instead, the thing I’d thought might be something to sit on or a swimming aid. I felt too woozy and strange to care and I could not keep my balance or stay awake for longer than a minute or two.
Now I know what was done to me! I woke up a little sore in my nether regions, and though the ring round my neck made a proper investigation a little awkward, I discovered that a part of my anatomy has been removed!
Nevertheless I expected my usual walkies mid-morning, but it didn’t happen. No afternoon walk either. In fact we didn’t leave the house at all. The only good thing I can say about today is that the PW was extra, extra kind to me and there was cheese and marmite inside my marrow bone instead of the usual soaked and mashed kibble.
The PW has discovered that I can reach the area where there used to be more of me than there is now, and I’ve been licking the stitches. It’s because I have such a long body, which makes the inflatable ring somewhat unfit for purpose in my case. She called PTS Leanne, who suggested a pair of pants might be the thing. The PW went to a charity shop and came back with these ridiculous child’s pyjama trousers. As soon as I moved they just slid off down my legs and pooled round my feet – a look only marginally less embarrassing than wearing the ring, quite frankly.
After much discussion the PW ordered the PWH to donate a pair of his underpants to the cause. She cut a hole for my tail, pinned the pants to fit snugly round my waist, and this is the result.
The PW and PWH couldn’t stop laughing, which I think is downright mean considering what I’ve been through. I think I look rather fetching! And I must admit, the pants are comfortable.
A quick check up at the vet, which at least got me out of the house for more than five minutes. All is well, apparently, but I was quite affronted at how the receptionists and the lady vet, who I’d thought so nice, laughed when they saw me in my grey pants. The good news is I can have a short walk on the lead a couple of times a day, but the bad news is there are to be absolutely no free runs or playdates just yet. I even have to miss out on next week’s Puppy Class, so I won’t see any of my friends for ages.
Another check-up, and I was delighted to hear the lady vet say that I’m healing well and I’m as handsome as ever. Now I like her again. Even better, the humiliating pants are no longer needed and life can return to normal!
Fundraising in Devizes. I’m waiting for a new coat as my old one is too small. The store was very busy with lots of people stopping to chat and the collection bucket soon grew heavy with coins. The PW has a pouch full of little stickers to give to people who donate. They nearly always choose one that looks just like I did when I was a tiny puppy.
Afterwards I took the PW through the weekly street market, showing her how good I am at finding a way through crowds of people.
When we got home it was collar off for a bit of grooming, an activity I really, really love the sensation of being brushed and combed and it keeps my coat in the best condition. The area of my right front let that was shaved seems to be taking a long time to grow back though.
So ends another month. I didn’t enjoy the operation, nor did I like being cooped up in the house afterwards, but I’m assured that nothing else like it will happen to me, so that’s OK.
I wonder what July will bring.
First thing this morning the PW updated the calendar for the month, and it looks like it’s going to be very, very busy as usual. I don’t think pet dogs get to see all these places!
My new coat arrived in the afternoon, which I’m pleased about because my old one is far too small for me now and I like to look my best when I’m out and about. We went for a quick stroll and I posed on the grass verge while the PW took a pic.
Today we went on an outing to a lovely place called Avebury. We seemed to walk miles, and I was much admired by my adoring public in my smart new coat. There were lots of sheep just roaming around, with no-one looking after them as far as I could tell, and I stopped to have a little chat. They were much more polite than the two I met way back in December when I was a tiny puppy, but I have to say, they all needed a good grooming.
We had lunch at the village pub and sat outside as it was such a lovely, sunny day. The PW took my coat off and I laid under the table, minding my own business. All of a sudden this little Italian Greyhound crawled under the table to join me. We introduced ourselves and he was very impressed when I told him about myself.
I took the PW for a free run and when we got back we settled down for a cuddle. After a while the PW started complaining that she was losing all feeling in her legs because I’m so heavy. I was too sleepy and decided to ignore her – if she had no feelings in her legs they couldn’t be hurting, right?
Apparently this wasn’t so and I don’t know how she managed it, but she manoeuvred me so my head was resting on a couple of my toys and I didn’t wake up!
We’re off to Wales for the weekend. I’m allowed to take one toy, but it has to be a small one so I can’t take Big Ted. As the PW packed my bed, food, dish, towels, the backpack and everything else I would need she said I had more stuff than they did. She’s exaggerating of course.
Home and happy to be reunited with Big Ted! Life just isn’t the same without him.
The PW was putting things in the car before taking me to do some fundraising at the supermarket, and I trotted into the spend area to watch. She couldn’t believe how magnificent I looked as I leaned on the gate and she ordered me not to move so she could take a picture.
She dug out a photo taken in January so we could see how much I’ve grown in just 6 months.
We were playing a game of tuggy and the PW said it was lucky I’m such a gentle boy with my gnashers! I might shred the odd toy but I wouldn’t dream of biting anyone!
I’ve never barked either, which the PW says is both a blessing and a problem. She’d like it if I barked when the doorbell rang or when I needed to go out to the spend area or come back in again, but somehow I’ve never felt the need. She’s not once had to use the ‘Quiet’ command on me!
A bit of an oops this morning when my tail caught a mug of tea on the coffee table and knocked it over. I commented that there seemed to be a lot of liquid for a small mug, and the PW retorted that she used to think that about my bladder! I could be offended by that, but looking back on my pre-house-trained days when I was but a tiny pup I suppose she has a point.
The PW gave me a thorough grooming today. I love having my fur brushed and combed and my ears and teeth cleaned, but I’m not so keen on the claw-clipping part. When it was all done I checked myself out in the mirror – there’s no denying it, I really am a handsome dog!
I don’t know what came over me this morning, but I had a mad moment and chewed a hole in Big Ted! It was like I went into a trance, and before I knew it there was stuffing all over the place. I came up with what I thought was a good story, but the PW stood and looked at me with her hands and on her hips, a clear sign she didn’t believe me.
I thought I was in trouble, but then I could see the PW was trying hard not laugh as she collected up all the stuffing. She doesn’t like sewing, but Big Ted is my favourite toy in the whole wide world so she fetched needle and thread, put the stuffing back in, and stitched him up good as new. I shall be more careful with him in future.
It was a lovely day so the PW decided on the spur of the moment to go back to her favourite place, Avebury.
We did the same things we usually do, ie ambling around the ancient stones and dining at the pub, but on the way back to the car I spotted this sign on the church door and insisted we check it out:
The PW suggested I relax on the cool tiles. I was happy to do so as I assumed she was going to get the container of treats, but all she did was wander round looking at the walls!
Rosie and PW Sue accompanied us to Bradford on Avon. It’s a very pretty town, and the PWs like to go to a riverside cafe that serves three different kinds of hot chocolate. The train was busy but the PWs found seats and we settled down for the short journey. Rosie is so small she can easily tuck herself out of the way, but I’ve got a long body and long legs (and a big head, according to the PW!) so have no choice but to spread myself in the corridor.
But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I’d got comfortable the refreshment trolley came through and I had to practically climb onto the PW’s lap to get out of the way, getting hair all over her jacket. Thankfully it’s a very short journey, and we’d reached our destination before the trolley came back again.
I was lying in the conservatory waiting for the PW while to finish reading the newspaper so we could go out, when I felt something land on my nose. I had to cross my eyes to see what it was – and there was a bright green grasshopper staring back at me! It was rather tickly so I politely asked it to get off and it hopped onto the windowsill. The PW went to fetch a glass and it was very entertaining watching her try to catch it. Amazing that such a little thing can leap so high and so far.
I had a lovely free run in the fields this morning with a couple of neighbourhood dogs, mother and daughter Yorkshire terriers. While we ran about and sniffed around I filled them in on everything I’d been up to since we’d last met. Back home I settled down to take a nap, but then I got to thinking about the conversation I’d had with the Yorkies – I’ve been to so many places and done so many things that pet dogs like them wouldn’t ever see or do! I’ve been to the cinema and theatre, supermarkets and restaurants, hospitals and clinics, and oh so many other places, because wherever the PW went I was allowed to go too! Then I found myself wondering about what Big School will be like, because I’ll be going there in just three months time. What other tasks and commands will I have to learn? Will I make some friends there? Will I make it through to Advanced Stage training? And the biggest question of all: Will I be allowed to take Big Ted?
I’ve had so much experience outside so many stores I’m a real pro at this fundraising lark. All I have to do is sit and look handsome, which isn’t at all difficult, and I’m like a magnet. The PWs collection bucket is always very heavy by the time we finish our shift. The length of time Guide Dog Puppies can do at these events is strictly according to age and I can do two hours now. The time passes very quickly with lots of people making a fuss of me and wanting the PW to tell them all about Guide Dogs.
My pal Alpha, another Guide Dog Puppy pal came to stay overnight. She came barging in and helped herself to my toys and chews, and when we sent outside to play she jumped on me and pinned to the ground! There must be something about small females, because she’s as domineering as Rosie!
Tomorrow I’m going to stay with PW Hilary for 2 weeks while the PW and PWH go on holiday. It won’t be a holiday for me, of course, because PW Hilary will still put me through my paces, but I’ll have a jolly good time on playdates and free runs with my pals. I wanted to take my diary and Big Ted, but the PW said I couldn’t. I’ll have plenty of company, she said, and it would do no harm to go straight to sleep every night instead of writing up my diary.
The PW came and picked me up from PW Hilary’s and I was very pleased to see her. I was even more pleased to see Big Ted, just where I left him. I had a really busy time with PW Hilary, accompanying her to lots of places, including the theatre and cinema.
It’s my 1st birthday today! I got some treats and a toy duck from the PW and PWH.
They had bets with each other as to how long it will last. It was in bits within seconds, so I think they should have a word with the manufacturer and get me something more durable.
Of course it’s Rosie’s 1st birthday too, and we went to PW Sue’s house so we could celebrate together. The PW bought us each a rosette, pink for Rosie and blue for me, and PW Sue had made us a special cake made out of our kibble!
When we left I thought we’d come straight home so I could pull a bit more stuffing out of my new duck, but the PW stopped off at the vet to weigh me. Why didn’t she do that before I had the birthday cake? And do they take into account the weight of the coat, collar and lead?
On the positive side, the receptionists saw my birthday rosette and made a real fuss of me.
PTS Leanne met us in town to watch me lead the PW round the streets, up and down steps and in and out of various shops. Of course the session involved coffee and cake for them, with me lying at their feet and minding my own business while they talked about me. PTS Leanne was very, very pleased with me and said she was sure I’ll be ready to go off to Big School in a couple of months’ time. I’m feeling rather proud of myself right now.
Saturday 29th to Sunday 30th
A real special occasion today, my best friend Rosie came and she stayed the night. We had a nice little chat as we snuggled together on our beds.
I was hoping for a free run today, but a thick fog had descended on the village and the PW didn’t want to let me off the lead because she said we wouldn’t be able to see each other. I thought that was silly, because I’d hear the whistle and know where she was. I think she was scared to be on her own, really.
Puppy Class went well, as always. We were put into the ‘down’ position and told to ‘stay’ while our PWs left the hall for a few minutes. Of course PTS Leanne stayed with us as we’d never be left unattended anywhere, and the younger pups tried to follow their PWs, but I was quite happy to just lie there and look handsome.
The past few evenings have been very noisy with fireworks, and tonight was the worst yet. I snoozed through most of it but when I was awake I could hear some of the neighbourhood dogs barking. I know some dogs really hate the loud bangs, but they don’t bother me one bit. Especially if I can drape myself over the PW’s legs!
A fantastic playdate at PW Hilary’s followed by Puppy Class. We did the usual things like ‘sit and wait’, ‘down and stay’ and weaving around cones and ignoring the treats and toys next to them. As it turned out, I learned that this was to be my last class, as PTS Leanne announced that I will definitely be going to Big School next month. I’m so used to all the exercises now I can do them without thinking, so I guess I’m ready.
A really funny thing happened towards the end of the session though. I barked! I’ve never barked before and it shocked everyone in the room. I’ve no idea what made me bark at that moment after all this time, and I’m not sure I’ll ever want to bark again, but now everyone knows that I can!
It’s Remembrance Sunday. The PW has been wearing a poppy on her coat this past week and she put a badge on my collar to honour the dogs who had served alongside the soldiers. She told me that dogs and horses had been some of the hardest and most trusted workers in World War One. All sorts of dogs had played all sorts of vital roles, including regimental mascots, guarding the trenches, finding wounded soldiers on the battlefield, carrying ammunition and cigarettes, catching vermin. I’m not sure I would have been as brave as my fellow canines, so I am very proud to wear this poppy.
Playdate at PW Hilary’s. I was expected to entertain 12 week old Guide Dog Puppy Jacko outside while the PWs indulged in their usual coffee and cake indoors. He’s very cute, but he has needle-sharp teeth and sometimes he’d latch onto me instead of his toys. He found a tuggy and brought it to me, but instead of pulling it with me, which is the whole point, he just expected me to hold it while he chewed on it.
Some people are surprised when they see German Shepherd Guide Dog Puppies and working Guide Dogs, but they, along with Labradors and Golden Retrievers, are the most common pure breeds that are trained for the job. There are also crossbreeds like Labradoodles, but Labrador crossed with golden retriever is considered to be the most successful guide dog of all – so I’d better be successful, right?!
The PW took me for a long free run today, and in the evening we settled down to a favourite pastime of mine, watching wildlife programmes on TV.
A quiet day today, with the PW leaving me home alone for a couple of hours while she went out. I would have liked to go too, but she reminded me that it’s part of my training to be home alone for up to three hours, so that was that.
The PW took me to an evening lecture about Avebury, her favourite place. There were lots of people there and I was allowed to meet everyone before I had to settle down while they watched lots of slides and listened to the lecture. I wasn’t particularly interested in the pictures, I’ve been to Avebury several times after all, so I curled up and spent most of the hour with my eyes on the PW.
The last day of November and we went for a lovely free run in the fields for an hour. Amazing to think I’ve been with the PW for a whole year! I’ve learned my commands, I’ve proved time and again that I can be taken anywhere and do everything that’s required of me, and in just two weeks time I’ll be graduating to Big School. And what’s even more amazing is that I still have my little piece of litter blanket. I wonder if all my siblings have still got theirs?
The PW flipped the wall calendar to the December page and the first thing I noticed was that the 6th is ringed in red and a sad face has been drawn on it. This is the day PTS Leanne will collect me and take me to start my next stage of training at Big School.
I know the PW had hoped I’d be with her for Christmas, but the decision has been made and I know she’s very proud of me for making it this far. Many times throughout my training people have asked, “How can you bear to let him go?” and her reply has always been: “He is not my dog, and he has a very special job to do.”
Our trip out today was to the vet. I thought it was just to say goodbye and thank you, as they’ve looked after me for the whole year I’ve been here. They made a lot of fuss of me in Reception, and then we were called in to see the nice lady vet where I expected more lovely fuss. Turns out, though, that Guide Dog Puppies have to have a dose of the kennel cough vaccine before going into Big School, so after a thorough check up I had some liquid squirted up my nose again!
A couple of hours fundraising this afternoon in the town shopping centre where I’ve done a lot of my training in the shops, banks, cafes, up and down stairs, travelling in the lift, walking through the street markets, etc. I had a lot of attention as people came over to put their donations in the bucket, and the PW explained again and again about Big School and that this was my last event with her. And again and again came that question, “How can you bear to part with him?” I’m beginning to wonder myself, as I’m getting lots of extra cuddles at home – and she’s muttered a couple of times about disguises and leaving the country with me!
We met PW Sue in the morning so Rosie and I could have a last free run together. It wasn’t a very nice day weather-wise, but the PWs let us run wild and didn’t mind that we got very wet and muddy. When we got back to PW Sue’s house, though, Rosie and I were banished to the garden while the PWs enjoyed coffee and cake in the warm and dry!
Rosie should have been leaving for Big School at the same time as me, but she has a rash on her tummy and so will have to stay with PW Sue a little longer while she has treatment. It’s a shame, because we might have been in the same training centre.
PW Sue gave me a going away present, a toy lion. I carried it all the way home to add to my collection.
In the evening the PW packed my bag. She told me I’m allowed to take my piece of litter blanket and a couple of toys with me, and she showed me the label she’d made for my going away bag.
I thought this was very nice, but pointed out that there’s something very VERY important missing from the list: Big Ted!!!
Am I having to leave behind my most favourite toy in the whole wide world? Why?
I took the PW for a last walk round the village and then we spent an hour cuddling on the floor. There were some conspicuous sniffles from the PW. PTS Leanne was due to collect me at 1.30 so at 1.15 the PW brought my bag in… and Big Ted was in there! There was a new label too. The PW apologised for worrying me, but explained that she’d thought Big Ted was too big for me to take, but she’d then found out it was OK. Phew! I can’t imagine life without Big Ted!
The PW put on a brave face when PTS Leanne arrived, and we left quickly so the pain of parting wasn’t drawn out.
Ahead of me is a very exciting time! I’ll get to learn more commands and I’ll meet more dogs just like me, and lots of new people. I made a promise to the PW that I would work really, really hard and qualify as a Guide Dog. And she promised she would come and see me in training in about three months time.
When we arrived at the training centre guess who was there to greet me … Nessie! If you remember, Nessie was training with PW Hilary when I arrived and she let me share her bed. I still have that photograph:
And here we are, some months later, sharing a pen in the office!
In the evening I was taken to meet the family I’ll be staying with throughout the next two stages of my training (Early Stage is about 3 to 4 months and then I go on to Advanced Stage which leads to qualification as a Guide Dog and being partnered with the Owner I will guide for). I will be taken to the training office every morning and collected every evening, so during the evenings and weekends I’ll just be a regular family dog!
I had my picture taken in front of the office Christmas tree and it was made into a card to send to the PW.
And there ends my Puppy Diary, as I have a great deal yet to learn and shall be far too busy and too tired each evening to write it up!
But the PW has promised to update you all now and then about how I’m getting on, so it’s not quite goodbye!
EARLY STAGE TRAINING
Hey, it’s me again! I wasn’t expecting to write any more once my Puppy Diaries had come to an end, but the PW has insisted that you all want to hear in my own words what happened after I left her in December 2015 for Big School. I really didn’t have time to keep a diary, though, so I’m just going to outline a few things that stick in my mind.
I went to live with a lovely family near the Training Centre. They are called Boarders, and they take care of Early and Advanced Stage dogs until they are matched with an Owner and go and live with them. I spent my weekdays at the Training Centre, and in the evenings and at weekends I was just a regular dog (although there was an orange flash on my lead identifying me as a Guide Dog in training), taking the Boarders for walks, giving them plenty of cuddles and fuss and play!
Early State Training (EST) builds on all the lessons the PWs have taught us, and one of the first things we are introduced to is the harness. EST dogs wear a brown harness, sometimes a white one.
Here I am practising putting my head through the harness. Once it was over my head and settled on my chest and shoulders I waited in the Stand position while the straps were fastened to keep it secure.
Then we trained in all sorts of places so I could get used to the feel of the harness in any situation, including the park:
and the streets:
Believe me, there was a lot – and I mean A LOT – of new things to take in, but I loved every minute of it. I went home tired but happy, looking forward to further enjoyment in my evenings of rest and weekends of long free runs and more lazing around to rest my brain!
I was told that by the time I finished training I would have learned to:
- walk centrally along the pavement whilst avoiding obstacles on the route
- turn corners only when told to do so
- stop at kerbs and steps
- find doors, crossings and places which are visited regularly
- judge height and width so our Owner does not bump head or shoulder on an obstacle
- deal with traffic
- guide across the road, but only when told to do so
The “Find” command was fun, because that involved lots of treats. In the case of “Find a seat”, the idea is that my eventual Guide Dog Owner (GDO) will ask me to do this, and when I lay my head on it he or she can feel along my body to my nose and know where they can sit. I then lie down wherever the GDO wants me to go until it’s time to move on again. Smart, isn’t it?
On a lovely sunny day in April I was taken in the van for a session in Southampton city centre, to practise guiding in harness across busy roads and through bustling streets. We parked at the usual place, at the back of a hotel a short walk from the city centre.
But I knew there was something special about this particular day, as we were accompanied by the Advanced Stage Trainer (AST). I assumed she had come to assess if I was ready to move up, but as it turned out it was that and much, much more!
My trainer led the way, whispering to me that the AST would be following and watching from a distance, so I was to concentrate and be paw-perfect. When am I anything else? I asked. So, I strutted my stuff, finding crossings and waiting for the command to cross, finding the way through crowds, going in and out of shops, and eventually we arrived back at the hotel. Instead of going round the back to the car park, though, the EST slipped off my harness. Curious at this departure from the usual, I turned to look at her and…
THE PW WAS STANDING THERE!!! And next to her was the PWH! I couldn’t believe my eyes, and when the EST told me ‘go free’ I ran straight to them. Or rather, I ran straight at them and forgot to stop!
I was so excited I almost knocked the PW over, but she managed to keep her balance and only her handbag went flying. Oops!
It turns out they’d been stalking me all round the city centre, with the AST explaining what I was doing. Seems I impressed everyone, for the AST announced I was ready to begin training with her.
There were tears from the PW when it was time to go, but I wanted her to see that I was happy so I trotted away with the two Trainers with my tail wagging. And I couldn’t wait to get back and tell the other dogs at the Training Centre that I’d not only seen my PWs, but I was about to move up to the next stage, edging ever closer to qualification!
QUALIFYING AS A GUIDE DOG AND MATCHED WITH AN OWNER!
I sailed through the advanced training, proving I was up to the job of guiding a visually impaired person. I was then introduced to a potential Owner, a lovely lady who had followed my story on Facebook and was really keen to meet me. We were a match! After our weeks of formal training together. I moved into her home and not only was I her guide, I was also part of a family consisting of her husband, three children, a pet dog and a cat!
Of course I’m thoroughly spoiled, especially on my birthday! And they appreciate my sense of humour as much as my Puppy Walker did!
My second birthday
My third birthday