Must Love Dogs…

From the moment I adopted my Greebo cat – twelve years ago already – I knew I would always have cats in my life.
I (we) have had as many as six cats, and currently we have four – Greebo, Magic, Minx and Twister.

“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”
— Emily Dickinson

If you had told me, even five years ago, that I would one day share my bedroom with as many as seven dogs – I would have laughed in your face! I would have told you I was a cat person with no plans to change that.
We adopted Thelma and Louise mainly to let us know if someone came to our gate, but they were mainly outside dogs and certainly not spoilt.

20151225_100118_PatrickNimbleRiddickPennyLouiseThelma_small

“Dogs got personality. Personality goes a long way.”
— Quentin Tarantino

Yet, here I sit. And I laugh at myself.
There are seven dogs in our bedroom. And they’re not small dogs either. Thelma and Louise are too big to be lap dogs, there are 3 big Labradors, a Labrador-sized bitch who has taken over the pack, and the biggest fox terrier you ever did see!

20151230_092521_small

“Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog.”
—Franklin P. Jones

Two of the Labs are not ours – snuggly Patrick will be graduating as a Guide Dog soon, and wiggly Nimble is our Guide Dog puppy, who will probably also go on to become a Guide Dog – then it’s only our own five dogs.

20160109_200812_NimblePatrick - Copy

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”
—Dean Koontz

I’ve had furniture, shoes, cables, phones, and the garden wrecked by pooches of various ages. I’ve cleaned up a mountain of poop and puke. One dog is epileptic, and one is blind and diabetic, and our rescue has some behavioural issues that we’re working through.
I love our Guide Dog puppies, I love all our dogs, but my Riddick is mommy’s baby and our Penny is her daddy’s girl.
I’m frequently surprised by how different their personalities and quirks are, and their “tells” – like when they’re asking to go outside.

Who’d a thunk it!

The Big Dogs…

Our old ladies, Thelma and Louise, keep to themselves – not playing with the puppies or getting up to mischief. They chill on “their” couch inside the house, and outside they have their own igloo.

Our big dogs – Riddick and Penny, Guide-Dog-in-training and weekend visitor Patrick, and Guide Dog puppy Nimble, hang out together. Playing, sleeping, eating, and misbehaving.

20151210_153207_RiddickNimble edit 20151207_IMG_101335_RiddickNimblePenny edit

Riddick is still my baby, following me from room to room. <3 He is almost completely blind, so we don’t move furniture around too much if we can help it, and we put bells inside his favourite toy so he can hear it when we throw it for him. He is also diabetic now, so I watch him like a hawk for weight loss or gain, and any odd behaviour, and he gets an insulin shot twice a day.

20151210_072350_RiddickNimblePenny edit 20151201_072528

Penny is a daddy’s girl, happiest when she can be as close to her daddy Glugster as she can get- even in the heat. She has to win everything. We should have named her “Monica”! 😛

20151201_072240 20151201_072448

Nimble is 7 months old and very clever! She also follows me around, and she loves to play with the other dogs!

20151030_175914 20151010_102511_PennyPatrickNimbleRiddick

Patrick hasn’t spent weekends with us for several weeks, but we’re back into that routine until he goes “on class” with his new owner early next year. Then he’ll be a working Guide Dog and we won’t see him much after that!

Etiquette at the Vet

If you have a dog, or a cat, or a few of each like we do, you will have been at the vet at some point.

I spend quite a lot of time at our vet… We do the normal vet visits for inoculations – with four dogs and four cats we take one a month so we don’t go broke. 🙂 We also have some special needs pets. We have a half-blind cat named Twister, who was born deformed and is now on a special diet ‘coz he gets crystals in his urine and then pees everywhere except in the litterboxes.
We have a blind Labrador name Riddick, who has cataracts as well, and has now been diagnosed diabetic and is on insulin.
We have an epileptic dog named Louise who is pretty much okay most of the time, as long as she has her meds…
And I stop in once a week with whichever Guide Dog puppy we have so they can be weighed, and get used to being in the vet’s office.
Our vet’s receptionists get to know our zoo quite well.

When I do go to the vet, my dogs are on lead, and my cats are on lead AND crated – as per the signs in the vet’s reception.
Keeping the cats away from other animals in the reception is pretty easy, their being in crates. Keeping the dogs away from other dogs though, is a whole ‘nother kettle of bananas! :/
I try not to let my dogs meet the other dogs in reception while we wait for our turn, for a few reasons.
One – I don’t know if the other animals in the reception area are sick or injured, and whether or not the reason they are at the vet is contagious.
Two – I don’t know if they are properly socialised, or treated for ticks and fleas, and whilst I am getting pretty good at reading doggy body language, I would rather not risk illness or injury to my dog by letting them play willy-nilly. Not at the vet, at least.
Three – my Guide Dog puppies are in training, learning to be okay wth vet visits as well as learning to ignore other dogs.

In my experience, people with dogs who may be aggressive will usually wait outside until they are called in by the vet, but too many people waiting in the reception – who don’t know anything about my dog or why we may be there – will ignore my attempts to keep my dog’s attention on me, and bring their dog over to “say hello”!
They don’t know, and they don’t ask, if I’m there to get my dog treated for an illness, or something that their dog could catch, or just for regular inoculations.
I don’t understand it!

Please, for all our sakes, take a seat and keep your dog close.

You aren’t doing your dog- or mine- any favours by getting them all excited in the vet’s reception area, and you could be putting my dog- or yours- at risk.

Ever Wondered What Its Like Raising A Guide Dog Puppy?

It’s a lot like having a toddler in your house.

I would say its like having a baby in the house, but babies aren’t really mobile… 😛

widget_volt

Once you find out you’re on the list for a puppy, you can hardly wait for the email giving you the date you can go and fetch her (or him 😀 ).
You start racking your brain for possible names and buying toys, a new collar, name tags, bowls, and bedding for when your baby arrives home. Once you fetch your puppy, you get to pick her up and cuddle her, and carry her to the car, and you make the most of it ‘coz it won’t easily happen again – these puppies are not to be carried and coddled.

widget_Kenzo

For the first week, she sleeps a lot, often collapsing into a nap in the middle of a game! Then there’s the mad dash when your puppy wakes at 1am… and 2am and 4am and 5am… Get her outside for a piddle and back into her bed- in the dark- without too much of a disruption to your sleep or the rest of the household, praying that it won’t be long before she sleeps through.

widget_Lennox

Then she’ll start getting more active.
You will spend a lot of time asking your puppy what she – or he – has in her mouth, and then telling her to spit it out (leave it), or to bring it to you.
And if she does manage to get out of your sight, you spend a lot of time checking to see why your puppy has suddenly gone quiet… and then cleaning up whatever her newest mess is.

widget_Rhody

You’ll check to make sure your puppy bag is properly packed – lunch, clean up products, treats, water, and toys – and then you kick yourself when you get to your destination and you’ve left something behind. Or you’ve left the whole bag behind!
And since your puppy goes where you go, you try to plan your trips around your puppy’s nap times and meals, hoping you timed it right and she won’t need to pee (busy) until you get home again!
The morning run to get your husband off to work on time is extra challenging as you try to get your puppy fed and out for a pee while packing a lunchbox, and then getting your puppy into the car without freaking her out and putting her off car travel.
And you follow up every invitation with a request for your puppy to accompany you.

widget_wendal

You spend a lot of time worrying about whether your puppy is eating enough, and how her tummy is doing.
If she doesn’t want to eat its a concern. If it looks like she’s too tubby that’s a problem too. Her food is carefully measured and weighed and you keep trying to balance training treats with what she’s eaten!

widget_Patrick

You also spend a lot of time wanting to throttle people who touch and talk to your puppy without asking you if they may do so, and asking people to please not pick your puppy up.

And you aren’t just handed a puppy and told: “See you in a year!”
Your puppy’s progress is monitored throughout her time with you. There’s puppy classes, home visits, outings to nursery schools and malls, PR visits to expos and shows, progress reports for the development supervisors and sponsors…
Make no mistake – its a full time project, and not to be taken on lightly.
When these puppies are awake, they are learning, and if they’re not with you, they’re not learning the right way. Their learning is essential as these pups will one day be Guide Dogs to the visually impaired or Service Dogs for the physically disabled. That means they have to be pretty much bomb-proof as well as obedient.

988562_884108988304835_2956183347612745542_n

When your puppy turns one, you send them off to “varsity” by giving them back to SA Guide-dogs for their formal training, and a few months later you will meet their new owner when they graduate and start working in the career you spent so many hours preparing them for.

Then if you’re brave, and lucky, you get to do it all again!

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!

20140920_PuppyRaiserSocial_145210_edit

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.

20140920_PuppyRaiserSocial_145057_edit

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.