Sunday, 29 November 2009

Guide Dog Training: Week 2

And the exhaustion continues! Last night I felt so ill and today I'm no better. I'm completely run down. Here's this week's summary day by day.

The morning was spent walking to the post box, newsagents and post office rewarding Calvin with treats when he found the doors and box. Spoilt paws was slow on the way home again, which was frustrating and it was decided I was going to have to learn a new route home.

Later we got to do off curb obstacles in the pouring rain. Calvin was great at it, not even walking into the traps, but it wasn't very enjoyable. The delight of wet dog. Urgh!

We still stayed in the village, but did the route to the co-op instead of the newsagents and then went around to the post office. Instead of turning back on ourselves we continued round in order for spoilt paws not to slow down. It worked, but it was hard for me learning a new route when I don't rate my mobility.

After arriving home I was taught how to groom again. I'm fine with the brushing side of things, but get all girly when it comes to checking his eyes, nose and paws!

There's nothing like a nice long walk to Narborough train station, Oasis Health and Beauty where I get my massages done and waxing and then onto the doctor's. I was pretty impressed on the way there, but on the return route I was tired and found it difficult to locate where to cross over on a couple of roads. Spoilt paws wasn't much help either slowing down yet again on the way home and I was struggling to stay hyper with my 'hup ups' and 'find the way'! However, I will give Calvin brownie points for treating horse muck as an off curb obstacle! He was intrigued by the sheep we passed, but not amused by the staring goats.

The lovely walk back to Narborough train station and this time we got onto the train heading for Leicester. I was discouraged to discover that Calvin couldn't distinguish where the closed doors were and isn't able to find seats on trains. He squeezed in between the seats though and had fun scavenging for food.

On arrival we walked to the Adult Education Centre where I have my tutorials for my OU degree. He worked well in the crowds and found the crossing boxes well, but insisted on trying to take me into an insurance firm and recruitment agency. Do you think he's trying to tell me something?! Yet of course he tries to take me everywhere except the place I need! I'm not exactly sure where the door is down the street as there are no clues, so I was told it is unlikely he'll be able to find the place. Brilliant and the point of having a Guide Dog is…?

When we arrived back at Narborough train station Mitch said we had to walk to Oasis and the Doctor's again before returning home. God I was just sooooo tired.

The walkie-talkies came out and Mitch was now going to follow us from a greater distance. We were heading back to the Adult Education Centre. By the time we got to the train station I was ready to ring Calvin's neck! He just kept looking back for Mitch, stopping, slowing down, taking me onto the grass, lots of sniffing and generally being a nightmare. I didn't expect it to be so tough. Since he was misbehaving it was disorientating for me too.

I had to take my cane to find the train doors and felt like a muppet with a dog and a cane. Calvin couldn't locate the doors to the Adult Education Centre again and on the way home got me lost in a car park. Oh yeah he couldn't resist the grass either and decided to do a busy.

A new day, forget about the struggles before and everything will go smoothly. In your dreams Selina! We had the walkie-talkies again and were just staying in the village. I cued Calvin in to find the post box and did he heck! He found the newsagents, but then I swear I was saying find the door for the post office forever and he didn't even attempt to find any door never mind the post office. I felt really lost doing the new route home, but was too stubborn to ask for help and managed to find the way. Every dog in Cosby was out to get me, barking at Calvin, which was awful. Then I had the usual of Calvin looking back to see where Mitch was, slowing down, stopping and sniffing. I corrected him so hard at one point the walkie-talkie went flying off me into the road! Whoops!

I'm feeling ill, but can't ignore my duties to the dog. I feel like I've had quite a stressful week and instead of going forward feel like I've gone 10 paces backwards! They say the first year is the hardest. Well on the bright side only 50 more weeks to go!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Guide Dog Training: Week 1

Well I'm back from the hotel and will sum up my week day by day. In conclusion though, I'm truly exhausted!

Arrived at the Holiday Inn in Leamington Spa late thanks to my dad being stubborn and refusing to use the sat nav! On arrival I met Mitch my trainer and we did a bit of mobility around the hotel. After lunch I was shown some obedience with Mitch at the end of the handle and then finally I got to see Calvin again.

I was left in my room with him for half an hour and the mad lab cross retriever clearly couldn’t have been more excited to see me. Extreme tail wagging, sniffing and legging it up and down the room. I heard him drinking in the bathroom and wondered to myself I can't remember any water being left out for him…he was only drinking out the toilet! Urgh! There after the lid remained firmly down!

After doing some obedience with him we got to go on a walk in a quiet estate. To be honest I can't remember details of it now, but I enjoyed walking with him again.

One drags herself out of bed at 7am after constantly waking up throughout the night just to check the dog was ok. Which he was, of course. We took a trip to the Guide dogs training centre and did some obedience work around there. As we were leaving to go on a walk, the DM appeared and claimed he had nothing to do, so jumped in the car with us. No pressure eh! On the walk Calvin was ok, but not fantastic. He did a busy, which apparently he never did on walks, sniffed a fair bit and over shot some curbs. On a brighter note Mitch took the support lead off and I hadn't even noticed that I was flying solo with him!

Later we did another walk in a quiet area and practised indenting. Calvin generally didn't need correcting, but again did a busy, sniffed a lot and over shot curbs. At this point I realised it wasn't going to be as easy as I hoped!

Erm my memories letting me down! Oh yes now I remember! We walked from the Guide Dogs centre into town. This gave me an opportunity to test Calvin on steps and we went into a shopping centre. Whilst waiting for Mitch outside the toilets I got my first awwww isn't he gorgeous and suddenly I can't read so I'll stroke your dog who is in harness and clearly has a great big sign saying 'I'm working, don't bloody touch me'! I tried to stay calm and say nicely 'please don't stroke him', but the woman seemed a bit offended! Get over it love!

Again, Calvin spent on the walk and was over shooting curbs. It was getting quite frustrating and I wasn't sure what I could do to make it all better! In the afternoon we did an obstacle course that Calvin found completely uninteresting and decided to eat the berries on the bushes instead. He did walk me into a few things, but it was a good opportunity to learn how to teach him to watch it! Afterwards we did another walk in a quiet area and I had the chance to correct him when he walked me into over hanging bushes.

I'm very tired by this point and just dying to go home! This was the most challenging day for me and exhausting too. We walked to the train station and on route had to go through the park. Pretty cruel working your Guide Dog through a place where they just want to run around and play with all the other dogs that get to have fun. Naturally, Calvin tried his luck by attempting to go on the grass, chase dogs, birds and anything flying in general and by the time we got out my arm was throbbing from all the pulling! He didn't wince at the train station and fitted in-between the seats, but only because they seemed wider than your regular train.

We walked down to Warwick high street and stopped off for coffee. Well hot chocolate in my case. He did some great work around scaffolding and people, but was still over stepping some curbs and attempting to kill us both!

After the break we walked back from Warwick to the Guide Dog training centre, which was quite a trek. Calvin suddenly decided that he needed to find things for me and thought we needed to go in every shop and stopped at every crossing, which were not in his straight line of travel.

That afternoon we got to do traffic where a car is driven at you and you and the dog are meant to stay still so we don't get squashed. Well, Calvin sort of enjoys the danger I think, as it took a few goes before he realised we're not meant to move!

Thank god! First thing we did was traffic and Calvin had improved. We then did a walk in Kenilworth, which I'm sure I've spelt wrong. We went from a quiet estate into the town and Calvin deserved a gold star! Finally, he figured out how to sit at curbs and didn't do a busy on the walk. He lost a couple of points when he walked me into a post and bush, but was good on correction.

I got to hear him bark for the first time though, which made me jump a little. When we got out of a shop he saw a guy playing ball with a lab across the road. He couldn't contain his jealousy and barked refusing to move forward. Bless.

Home sweet home, but no rest for the wicked. We walked to the newsagents in Cosby and then onto the post office. He found the doors no problem, but wasn't impressed when we were walking home and slowed down a fair bit. On route we also tried teaching him to find the post box.
After a short break we then did a block route. He was in great form and it went nice and smoothly.

He's settled in well at home and seems to get bored of me in my room, so spends most of his time downstairs. It's been a long week and I get tomorrow off thankfully, but still have to get up and feed, spend and groom the dog. It's a big responsibility owning a Guide Dog, but although so far it's been tough with my highs and lows, there's no way I'll be giving him back! The feeling of flying through the streets is amazing and makes getting around that much easier. I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

An Elephant Never Forgets

I got my first assignment back last night and really wasn't sure what mark I'd end up with. Having never studied at university level before and it's been a good 3 years since I did my A Levels. At school everyone had high expectations of me and therefore I ended up getting them for myself too. I remember being devastated when I got a C in my GCSEs. It was only in RE, but seriously you would have thought it was the end of the world for me the way I reacted! Again at A Level I got 2 Cs in Maths and English Language, which I was really disappointed with. Though looking back I did really well due to the circumstances of having countless eye operations, missing school and dealing with my gradual sight loss.

I'm pleased I didn't go to university when everyone was pressurising me to after my A Levels, as I've had time to reflect, accept my visual impairment and study in a way that suits me. It's very easy for people to say 'oh you're smart you should go to university and you're obviously going to do well in life'!

Anyway, back to the assignment! I got 85% and couldn't be happier! I was so surprised and was aiming for 70% to be honest. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep the standard up as the work increases in difficulty, but I feel I've made a positive start and now know for sure that The Open University is the right choice for me.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Training Confirmed

Just a quick update. My Guide Dog training has been confirmed for 16th November. I'll be training in a hotel in Leamington Spa for a week and the rest of my training will be at home. I'm a little annoyed that I won't be training with anyone else, but I'm used to being a loner.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


We're a pair, we're a match! I thought I might as well jump to the point. When Calvin came on Tuesday he did a good job of trying to put me off initially, but his plan didn't work.

The trainer forgot to bring the shorter handle, which meant I had to walk with the regular harness on Tuesday. Calvin didn't try to chase anything, but was determined to go to the park and instead of crossing the side roads, he attempted to cut across the main road to get there. Dogs will be dogs I guess.

When he was left with me he was running around like a complete nutter. Instead of lying on his blanket he chose to run around with it in his mouth. He chewed through the rubber rings I bought him within minutes and chomped on the biggest bone ever constantly managing to gnaw one end off, so that went in the bin too. When my friend left he ran out the front door with her and did a busy on the front garden. Yet he wouldn't go when I took him.

After he had his dinner at 7pm he seemed to have wore himself out thank god. He finally did a busy at 10.30pm and I felt like I had won the lottery.

He was fine throughout the night, actually lay on his blanket and didn't get up to follow anyone around or wake me up either. In the morning he was spending fine, but a bit of a nut case again with the whole running around with the blanket in his mouth.

We went on a walk with the shorter handle and I was surprised at the difference in feedback. Calvin clocked the park yet again, but I started to correct him without prompts. You don't mess with me! I do need to learn you can't just be stern with the dog though and he needs praise too.

It was agreed that Calvin and I were working well together and training is either 16th or 23rd November. I'll spend one week in a hotel and the rest is home training, which suits me fine.

Although in my eyes Calvin is very boisterous and a big dog so not a perfect match, I feel and hope he will be a great guide and give me the freedom I've been craving for so long.

Monday, 2 November 2009

F1: Review 2009

So another year of F1 has come to a close and what a dramatic season it was. On the Ferrari front it didn't end up going too well, as they finished 4th in the constructors championship and had no driver in the running for the world championship.

Raikanan did well with what he had underneath him, but there wasn't much hope when Ferrari deferred all developments until next year halfway through the season. Massa, who was cruelly denied the championship last year thanks to Hamilton's luck in the rain suffered a horrific accident, which resulted in a fractured skull. A piece from fellow countryman Barachello's car hit him at full speed going under his helmet. This left Massa out for the rest of the season.

So, there was a big hype that Schumacher was coming back to the sport, which delighted me, but shortly before he was due to race it was deemed his neck was too weak in order to handle the force. Ferrari's test driver, Badawa stepped into the driving seat, but although he finished he was last and nowhere near getting the full potential out of the car. This lead to Fischichella's dream coming true. An Italian driving the best Italian car around. He was bought out of his contract at Force India and couldn't wait to strut his stuff. Unfortunately, the best he managed was 9th and therefore didn't score a single point for the team.

The championship crown was passed from one Brit to another with Button having the royal honour. I'm not anti-British, but was supporting Barachello since he used to drive for Ferrari and had many second places to Schumacher. However, the oldest man in formula 1 just wasn't meant to be on top. The young gun Redbull driver Vettal also put up a good fight and is definitely a star of the future.

Not many drivers have secured their seats for next year, but it is believed that double world champion Alonso will be partnering Massa in the Ferrari team next season. It's possible Raikanan is going to drive with the enemy Hamilton, but there are also rumours that Schumacher will make a return to the sport. 2010 will be interesting as the rules are changing so no refuelling will be allowed during the race.