I don’t seem to do many non day to day activities these days, but last weekend was an exception with Beth’s hen do and meeting Calvin’s puppy walkers.
Calvin was obviously so excited after watching me pack our things the night before he decided to wake me up an hour early! I know I get anxious about missing trains, but would have preferred the extra sleep!
The hen do was taking place at the Cliffton Hotel in Teignmouth, Devon, which is an Action for the Blind hotel for visually impaired guests, but the fully sighted are welcome too. The journey would take approximately 5 hours with 2 changes at Birmingham and Exeter. The plan was to meet Katie on the train from Birmingham and Jenny at Exeter. However, true to form the trains got delayed. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait longer at Birmingham than necessary, as they put on an emergency train, but it did mean I arrived an hour earlier than Katie and Jenny.
I have of course travelled on the train with Calvin before, the furthest being Newcastle. However, since the last time we travelled I’m sure he’s grown! With his bum stuck underneath the furthest seat from the aisle, his front paws and head still seemed to be sticking out. At Birmingham New Street the assistance guy found Calvin hysterical. When getting assistance you’re always offered an arm to be guided or you can follow. In an unfamiliar, noisy and busy place like Birmingham I always get guided. The assistance guy was amused that Calvin was sniffy, picked up a leaflet and barked at some random person or thing. Excluding the barking, this behaviour is nothing new to me, but I was a little surprised that the assistance guy hadn’t come across any other Guide Dog like Calvin. They can’t all be perfect little workers, surely!
Anyway, we eventually arrived in Teignmouth where the hotel staff collected us. Beth wasn’t due to arrive until later, so I had the Coach House where we were staying in the grounds of the hotel to myself. When we arrived, I stressed that Calvin would be bursting for a busy, so they lead us to a spending pen. Once Calvin had finished he sprinted off, obviously distressing after the long journey and no intention of coming back! It was the guy’s fault to be honest for leaving the gate of the pen open. I had no treats or whistle handy, so couldn’t really do much when Calvin ignored my enthusiastic calls. He was eventually caught.
Since it was a hotel for the blind I was expecting the Coach House to be really accessible! However, the spiral staircase and far from simple layout of bedrooms had me baffled for a while. You couldn’t even trail the walls, as pictures hung there threatening to fall off! Calvin seemed quite stressed out, most likely due to the free run being cut short, but he also couldn’t understand what we were doing in this strange place that must have smelt of a thousand dogs. He panted and followed me adjitated. However, about an hour later when Jaynie arrived, he felt right at home.
Beth’s flight was delayed, but when she arrived she was greeted by pink balloons that made my fingers swell up from my rubbish attempt of tying knots, L plates and a bride to be sash. We played truth or dare, which was funny and eye opening at the same time! We also played how well do you know the bride, where every time we got a question wrong Beth got to open a novelty gift. The ones I bought included hunk soap, nipple tassels and ring for sex bell!
I was absolutely exhausted, as Calvin didn’t sleep very well, fidgeting as he obviously needed a busy and I took him in the end about 6am. We went rock climbing, which is an activity I love, but haven’t done for about 4 years. I was convinced Calvin would be climbing up the wall with me, but I supposed that could have happened if he hadn’t been benched to something secure. Sandie and Jaynie were fine being benched to a seat, but not Calvin who dragged it across the floor when I moved away from him! He was benched on his own for a while and when I was traversing (going across the wall, not up) he cried, but at least resisted from barking. When we moved to another room, he was benched with Sandie and Jaynie and after a couple of minutes was happy enough to play with them and ignore me. I’ve always been pretty good at rock climbing for some unknown reason and I was pleased to find I still had the natural ability. I raced up the wall, but had to stop and wait a few times as they couldn’t belay quickly enough. We only got 2 up climbs, which was a shame, but I enjoyed what I did get to do.
That evening we all got dressed up and went for an Italian. I was a buzzy bee with wings, head boppers, hair clips one in my hair one on my dress and stripy tights. I also tied a bumble be to Calvin’s lead, so he could look suitably silly too! We also had a butterfly, lady bird, fairy and an angel. Notice the wings theme!
Another rough night and Calvin needing a busy during it. I woke up with a cold, sneezing, blocked up and shivery. The plan was to take the dogs for a free run on the beach, but the tide was high and extremely wild by the sounds of the crashing waves. I wish I lived near a beach though, as I love listening to the waves! We strolled into town or in Calvin’s case dragged me into town. His guiding skills when following others is pretty poor. I understand he wants to keep up and be in front, but when we don’t know where we’re going it’s better to be behind. So, he didn’t stop at curbs or steps and I constantly used the double arm steady technique to try and keep control of him. We went into a few tacky seaside shops, but most things were closed on a Sunday. We then went for cream tea, however, I had soup! When we got back, Katie and Jenny went swimming, which I couldn’t do because of my ankle being strapped up, so I ended up having a nap instead along with Beth.
We had a roast for dinner, watched the X Factor results, bitched a little and then finished off by playing how well do you know the bride game again.
I was up at 5.30am, thanks to the lovely Calvin who apparently is rubbish at crossing his paws and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was excited to meet Calvin’s puppy walkers, but nervous at the same time. I waited for them in the hotel bar and heard the receptionist bring a couple through. They came up behind Calvin, who for once when approached by people stayed lying on the ground. I said his name, he gazed at them for a few seconds and then the penny dropped with a big old splash! Calvin didn’t know who to turn to Dave or Sue and so jumped on them alternately. I was worried for a moment that he couldn’t remember them at all! We decided to go for a walk, so they could watch Calvin in action, plus the weather was gorgeous. We got out of the hotel and there were a set of steps to the left that Calvin immediately took me to. Apparently, if you went up those steps and walked through the park it would take you to the puppy walkers house! Calvin’s memory was on top form and was dying to follow the yellow brick road!
Instead, we walked up by the sea front, which made me feel like I was on holiday. Calvin took me to every set of steps so he could go down to the beach, but we had to walk up a way, as the tide was still high. He got a good run, dipping his paws in the sea, they said he never did like going in fully, but he was daring and had a little splash. We then went to a cafe that he always went to and knew the way of course. He was very lively and found it difficult to stay sitting down, but I think I can let him off just this once! From the cafe he tried taking me back to the puppy walkers house, but we made our way to the hotel. Since there was a little time before we had to catch the train we let Calvin off in the first park that we went by. Just before calling him back, Mr reliving his youth, dived and rolled in some badger pooh! The puppy walkers giggled that they forgot he used to do that! He still does it now! Other things he still does is hold as many toys in his mouth at once, malt a lot, jump up on people and chew his toys!
I also found out that Calvin’s original trainer was in Worcester not Leamington Spa. I knew he changed trainers after a month, but thought he was always at Leamington. They commented that he was a cleverdog from the beginning, remembering instructions first time. I think it was great for the puppy walkers, Calvin and myself to meet up for all different reasons.
I would leave it there, but have one final story to share about my journey home. I planned to use the toilet at Birmingham New Street, but found with an hour to go on the journey that I was bursting. I was waiting for the ticket man or catering trolley to come through so I could ask where they were and if they could hold Calvin for me. However, nothing. So, Calvin and I got up, went out one end of the carriage, but there didn’t seem to be one there. I couldn’t find the button to go through to the next carriage, so went back where I came from and out the other end. I could tell there was a toilet there, by feeling around, but couldn’t find the door. So, back in the carriage, asked the luggage holder if they knew where the door was, no response, so walked further up the carriage and asked a human! A nice lady put my hand on the button to open the door and I started to panicthat it was one of those stupid electronic toilets. I got in feeling frantically around to find the button to close the door, setting the automatic sink off in the process soaking my arm. I still couldn’t find the button, but the door eventually shut itself. I knew it needed locking, but prayed nobody would enter the carriage, as the sensor on the outside would open it again. Trousers were done up without any intruders, but then I needed to find the button to get back out! I found one that made an alarm sound, but kept feeling around and finally found the correct buttons. I opened the door to get out and the ticket man was standing there and asked if I was ok! I played it cool and said yeah fine thanks, rushing off as fast as I could with Calvin back to our seats! Whoever thought electronic toilets were a good idea need shooting!