A Blindfolded Eye Opener

On Saturday my Glugster and I attended a Puppy Raiser Social at the SA Guide-dogs Association’s Gladys Evans Training Centre in JHB.
These socials are an opportunity for puppy raisers and brood stock holders with pups of all ages to meet each other and meet members of the training staff.
There is time for socialising, refreshments are provided and they include an activity or talk that is either informative or fun (they usually try to make it both).

For Saturday’s two hour social, we were surprised with blindfold masks and then we were escorted across the training lawn to the GDA’s College of Orientation and Mobility hall.

There we were assisted to a seat – exactly they way they would help a visually impaired person – and then shown that there was a knife, fork, cup, spoon and serviette set out on the table in front of us.
And just a note here – the following pictures (except the first one in this gallery) I took while I was blindfolded because I couldn’t NOT take any pictures!

Once everyone was seated the GDA staff walked around pouring fruit juice and then served food and we were informed where the food was on the plate – rice at 2 o’clock, quiche at 6 o’clock and veggies at 9 o’clock – and, still blindfolded, we were invited to eat!

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Plates were cleared away (with many people not even sure if they’d finished eating) and dessert was served. A couple of slices of tinned peaches on a plate are tricky to find without using your fingers!

All of this was done under blindfold, with us having to keep control of our puppies-in-training at the same time!
Wendal was an absolute superstar, and having been under formal training for a few months already he was as good as gold, lying at my feet.
My Glugster had a bit of a harder time than me, having offered to look after almost 16 week old puppy-in-training Ash whilst her mommy was busy. She is very well trained already, but there was another young pup under the table next to her so they weren’t quite as chilled as Wendal was.

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Executive Director Gail spoke to the Puppy Raisers afterwards and explained why the pups knowing to sit quietly at a table whilst people are eating is so important.
The social was certainly an “eye opener” for many puppy raisers!

Now you know what we did, let me try to tell you how I felt…

Firstly, I have a deep and intense connection to my camera (and my phone of course), and not being able to take pictures and tweet what we were doing was immensely frustrating!
Is that ridiculous or what!?
I found myself racking my brain to try and think how I was going to access the apps on my touchscreen Samsung S4 if I couldn’t see the screen!!

Walking across the lawn under blindfold was strange… I know the property so I knew where we were going, but it felt to me like we were walking in a circle to the right! I battled not to try and steer my guide by yanking on his arm as we walked!
Once we reached our destination he guided me to a seat and then I realised I didn’t know where my husband was or who was sitting next to me! Was it a round table or a square table?! Was my handbag going to be okay under my seat!? And reaching out to see if there was someone in the seats next to me was a little tricky as I didn’t want to grab someones boob or smack someone in the face!
And the noise! I battle to filter out background noise under normal circumstances and without my eyes I was even more aware of the voices around me! Thankfully they seated my Glugs almost opposite me at what I realised was a long table, and I heard a voice I recognised a few chairs down from me, but there was not a lot of conversation… Without eye contact its very hard to initiate small talk so I found myself talking to my husband, who was not quite a metre away from me at the table but it felt like a mile!

At the start of the little luncheon I handed my camera to one of the Guide Dog trainers and she took a few pictures of the seated guests for me, and then she got busy so I had to either not get any pictures or make another plan, so without removing my blindfold – which was incredibly tempting – I remembered how to unlock the screen and turn on the camera, and held thumbs!

We were blindfolded for maybe an hour, and it felt a lot longer. I kept catching myself trying to look past my blindfold, as if I was just holding something in front of my face and turning my head a little to the left or right would fix it. Let me tell you, it took considerable concentration to not simply remove the blindfold, like you would brush your hair back out of your face.

Once I found my cutlery – with the aid of the GDA staff member who had seated me – I kept touching it as if I was expecting to forget where it was or someone was going to take it away!
Eating the food on my plate was tricky – I couldn’t tell if there was anything on my fork and I kept turning my fork upside down and getting nothing on it! And I couldn’t see how big a piece of the quiche I was cutting so I got almost the whole thing in my mouth!
I tried using my fingers to see if there was any food left on my plate, but I also wanted to be polite and not make a mess!
Dessert was two slices of tinned peaches on a plate, and lemme tell you bunnies – that shit is slippery!! I resorted to using a finger to hold a piece while I cut it with my spoon and I managed to eat it, but I got sticky fingers in the process!

I was terrified I was going to knock my cup over, and I was quite sure I would spill food on my shirt and in my lap!

It was an eye opener and a half, excuse the pun. It was fun and a little scary. It made me think differently and I learned a lesson or two.

I Won Some Sexy Shoes From @BeierSafe & @cathjenkin!

Did I forget to tell you?!

Ag sorreeeeee!!

Back in February, @cathjenkin hosted a giveaway on her blog for a pair of safety shoes from Beier’s new Sisi range.

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As luck would have it, mine was the winning entry and I could pick a pair of shoes from the Sisi range!
There was only one that REALLY caught my eye – the Angelina!

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Why would I even want a pair of safety shoes!? Well, having worked in safety shoes for many years I know they are comfortable, and they’re made for working and walking in.
I spend most of my working days on my feet, in my kitchen, and a good pair of shoes is essential. Having shoes that are non-slip as well is a huge bonus as I am so not the neatest baker…
And having dogs in the house means I often have a wet floor! Puppies have accidents, and Labradors LOOOVE water. And I have toes that get trodden on regularly and when your puppies weigh 30+kg thats no joke!

Due to my own disorganisation and car drama and life and and and, I only went to fetch my prize this week. I love them already!


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Don’t they look fabulous!?! You would never have guessed that these were safety shoes with steel toecaps!!

The Long Easter Weekend…

I was both looking forward to and dreading this long Easter weekend. I mean, who doesn’t like a four day weekend with a valid excuse to indulge in loads of chocolate and sweet treats!

So why was I dreading it? Because Saturday April 19th was the second anniversary of my sweet nephew Nathan’s death. I cannot put into words how much I miss that little boy… How much it hurts to think that I will never again be able to speak to him or hug him…
We didn’t do a lot on Saturday for Nathan, but there were images of Nathan showing on the TV, and we spoke about him through the day, and da Bruvva and my mom tidied up his little remembrance garden.

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For Easter we joined da Bruvva and his family at my folks’ place, with our now nearly completely blind Riddick in tow. We had chocolate Easter eggs, iced Easter cookies and cold meat sandwiches on my Glugster’s fresh homemade bread. My sisters B and C and their families couldn’t make it – B was working and C and nephew L were sick as dogs, so it was a much smaller family Easter than is normal for us.
da Bruvva’s two little boys hunted their Easter eggs in the garden, and when the knucklehead arrived he had to go and find his too!
I’ll explain his late arrival shortly…
It was a peaceful, happy day.

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my knucklehead finding his hidden chocolate Easter bunny

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I made iced cookies for Easter

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my nephew E eating an iced cookie

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my daddy darling and my godson J eating iced cookies

One thing I really love about visiting at my parents’ house is being able to take my dogs with me.
My parents’ dog is a fox terrier cross and he and Riddick love playing together. He’s also very comical in that he will climb a tree to catch the “lights” – reflections from the sun catchers in the garden!

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sweet Riddick, worn out after a day of visiting and playing

So why did my knucklehead arrive at my mom’s house late? Because getting all three of us, Riddick the Lab, the cooler box full of food and drink and the Easter eggs to my folks’ house took two trips… In a Smart car!!
Why on earth are we driving a Smart? Its certainly not by choice… And we had family and friends alike in hysterics over this situation. With just my Glugster and I in the car its like a clown car!
We have been driving my parents’ old Merc for a while but its age and wear-and-tear were starting to make it really unreliable… So my Glugster traded it in for a Peugeot 407 which we were supposed to get last Thursday, and when it developed some issue that delayed its delivery they organised this Smart for us to use until the 407 is ready. Which will hopefully be by later today…

On Sunday afternoon my Glugster and I went to the movies! I can’t remember when last we indulged in Ster Kinekor’s lovenest seats for a big screen movie, but its been long enough that we were quite flabbergasted by the ticket prices! And while we were enjoying a bit of a date for the first time inabout a year, we found a photo booth! How cute is this strip I now have in my wallet!
I love this!
Its like the cheesiest, most old fashioned thing a couple can do!

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I also got to see my dear friends Sweets and Leeds this weekend, and seeing friends I care deeply for is always a bonus.

I hope you had a good Easter weekend too.

What Does It Mean To Be A Guide Dog Puppy Walker?

For a year or so you have a 5:30am wake-up call; digging; chewing; that divine puppy smell; puppy cuddles; tail wagging; 2am toilet runs- even in the rain; and a bundle of lovable fluff that is deceptively smart.

Many years ago, there was a woman with a guide dog living in the block of flats my son and I lived in. Chatting to her briefly one day when she was out with her dog, she mentioned how the pups are raised by volunteer families, and it piqued my interest- but I was working full time and puppy raising wasn’t an option.

When I started working from home in 2010, I asked my husband if he would be open to raising a puppy for SAGA, and he said yes.
The following year we applied to SAGA, and a couple of months later they sent a Puppy Development Supervisor to visit us at home and meet us and our dogs and check out the house.
Once we were approved we went onto the waiting list for our puppy, and on December 22nd 2011 I went to fetch Volt, our first guide dog puppy.
I signed our contract at SAGA’s Puppy Block- after we battled for weeks to come up with a name that started with a U or a V (the letter allocated to his litter)- and after an instructional briefing I left with an adorable puppy, an ID tag, two bags of food, and a 67 page manual.

We had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into!

It’s a lot like having a new baby in the house, except that your puppy comes with a text book!
If you have any idea how cool it is to have an obedient dog, you’ll know how much work goes into training your dog to ‘sit’ or ‘shake’. Now triple that workload and add to it that you will be supervised to make sure your dog is trained properly, with positive reinforcement! And puppies are a handful, no matter the breed.
When your puppy is awake, it is learning. Not only is there a set of verbal commands (sit, stay, down, off, leave it, come, wait, forward and stand), there’s all kinds of behavioural conditioning they need to learn as well, and this doesn’t always have a command.
As a guide-dog-in-training, your puppy is not allowed to chase balls, bark or whine. He has to wait till he’s told he may eat. He has to be comfortable travelling in a car and must be able to go ‘potty’ on command. He has to be comfortable in any setting – from shopping malls to nursery schools. He has to learn to walk calmly and quietly on a lead, on your left hand side. He has to be taught to WALK (not run) up and down all kinds of staircases. He has to learn not to jump up on people, he may not beg, and he must be taught that noises like thunder and fireworks are nothing to fear. They are with you all the time, they go everywhere with you as much as possible.
And the SAGA PDSs are always on hand to ensure the pups are progressing and you have help if you need it.

And its not just about puppies, you have to be able to deal with people too.
You have to remember that you are unofficially representing SAGA when you are out with your puppy. You have to get permission for your puppy to accompany you to places that dogs may not be allowed. Security guards can be a nightmare, and while some people will call out to your puppy when you’re out together, others scream and jump out of your way as if your puppy is foaming at the mouth!
And people will ask you questions. The same questions over and over again. The most common one being “…isn’t it hard to give them up?”

Yes, it is hard – but you’re not giving them up, you’re giving them back.
There’s no pomp or ceremony, its kept low key and quiet.
You get given your dog’s intake date, you bring your puppy in and you say goodbye.
Hopefully you’ve done all you were supposed to do and your puppy can start its training as a guide dog with the proper basics already learned.
Your dog’s trainer will keep you up to date with your dog’s progress during its guide dog training, but except to meet your puppy’s new owner when they are ready to graduate and start working together, there is a likelihood you won’t see your puppy again.

Its a year or so of very mixed feelings… you want your puppy to do well and take on its life’s purpose with confidence- but at the same time you love your puppy and you devote a lot of time and attention to it, and you miss your puppy terribly when its gone.

Witnessing your “baby”, fully trained and walking in his harness with his new owner is a moment filled with so much pride and excitement you are almost fit to burst.
You have to hide behind trees and cars on the other side of the street so that your puppy- and he is still a puppy at that stage- doesn’t see you and get distracted from his new job!

But seeing your puppy doing what he was bred and trained to do makes everything worthwhile.

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Our second guide dog puppy, Lennox, is almost 11 months old so our time with him is almost up. Our first guide dog puppy, Volt, is working as a guide dog in the Cape, and the two weekend “boarders” we worked with have also qualified – Kenzo as a guide dog in the Cape and Rhody as a service dog in KZN.

We are immensely proud of our puppies, and we plan to raise guide dog puppies for many years to come.

I Know I’m Scarce Here…

but I actually blog once a week – at least – about our furry family!
I blog about our dogs and cats and about the guide dog puppies we raise for SA Guide-dogs on one of my “other” blogs.
Its called “Conradie Zoo“.
I split the blogs years ago because I was getting comments about all the cat pictures on my regular blog… Teehee…

Recently, I blogged about our beloved yellow Lab, Riddick, who ended up having surgery to remove a foreign object from his intestines as he has a tendency to swallow the things he chews on. He’s still in hospital so they can make sure there’s no infection, and I miss him so very much.

I also blogged about our two “old ladies”, Thelma and Louise, and how they handled the move to our new house.

And I post a weekly update about our newest guide dog puppy-in-training, Lennox, who also has his own Facebook page!

So I may not be blogging here very often, but I am blogging.

😀