Dear pals

Today was the MOST fantastic day since I have been at #BigSkool.

It started off as a normal day when Sara my trainer came to the kennels where I am staying overnight with my pal Frazzle – he’s another Labrador like me and we get on really well.  We had already eaten our brekkie, which although delicious was not a patch on those that Nanny used to make me.

My trainer Sara and me

Sara and me

Just like any other day our first lesson was obstacle training. This involves us walking through an area that has been created to look like a cluttered street scene with roadwork barriers, notice boards, wheelie bins etc scattered around. We have to learn to walk our handler safely through all of this, judging height as well as width, which can be a difficult skill for us doggies to learn. Effectively we have to learn that our personal space includes our handler as well as our own body & given that humans are so tall it is quite amazing that we ever get the hang of it.

A little vid of me working on my obstacle course can be seen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1R0nDrpBkw

My trainer has a little play with me at the end of the course and my tail is wagging all the time. This tells you that I am very happy in my Skoolwork.

After that I went back to my kennel for a short rest whilst Sara took Frazzle round the obstacles. Our trainers normally work 3 dogs each but as Sara is still learning like me she only has 2.

The kennels are very luxurious with indoor & outdoor play areas and we even have a TV to watch so I  watched an episode of Homes Under the Hammer whilst Frazzle strutted his stuff. I’m not one for telling tales but he wasn’t quite as good as me and tried to walk his trainer through 2 traffic cones placed close together. This was a deliberate trap as you have to move your handler over to the right to avoid them and I did that! Moving your handler is another difficult skill as you have to cross over in front of them and  risk tripping them up.  We have to be able to do this so our human doesn’t walk into anything but on a cluttered and busy street that does mean that we both have to concentrate very hard – another reason to never distract a working Guide Dog.

A little while later Sara came back and we all got into her big car and set off for our local town centre. Once there I jumped happily out of the car and set off with Sara on my usual training route around the shops. We start off on a quiet residential street to settle me down & get used to the traffic then moved on to the High Street which I have had to learn to guide my handler through without scavenging or being distracted by other dogs and people and safely avoiding all obstacles.

Well pals you will be pleased to know that I completed all of this very successfully although I did look hopefully at the pet shop that we sometimes go into and where the staff give me cuddles if Sara lets them.

I practised stopping to indicate steps and kerbs and moved my handler away from obstacles. You never realise how busy a street is until you have to guide someone else, I can tell you pals.

I stop to indicate steps

I stop to indicate steps

Nearing the end of our walk a norty little dog on a lead lunged and barked at me but I gave him my best imperious look and carried on working. His owner was very embarrassed and pulled him away from me but some owners are not so bothered and I have to be totally impervious to distractions. Sadly up to ten Guide Dogs a month are attacked in the UK by out of control dogs and the effects of this can be devastating for our owners.

So we walked back to Sara’s car and then I had a BIG SURPRISE pals as Mil and boyf were waiting to see me and, in fact, they had been stalking me all morning and taking pics.  As you can see we had a very joyful reunion.

A happy reunion

A happy reunion

I’m afraid I forgot all my training in my excitement at seeing them and went totally CRAZY, jumping all over them and giving their faces and ears a good wash. Many many tears of happiness were shed and my trainers kindly let them cuddle and play with me for some time and answered lots of questions about me.

You will be pleased to hear that I have been matched to a recipient and have met him as part of the matching process. He has had Guide Dogs before and unfortunately has had to wait 2 years for a replacement (me) due to the long waiting list. We start training together on 22 July. Yes pals, my owner has to be trained as well as me! During the “on class” period we will stay together in a hotel for 12 days so we get really bonded as a unit. UK pals who watched the recent Me & My Guide Dog programme on teevee will be familiar with how important this aspect is.

Anyway, after all this excitement it was time to be parted again so after one last cuddle I trotted off happily with Sara back to the kennels and my new life whilst Mil and boyf waved me off. They gave Sara a little present in a bag for me to have later and a hamper full of Mama’s sossidge pies BOL!

Dear pals, I am now well on the way to fulfilling my destiny to be a Guide Dog after a lot of hard work by a lot of people, many of whom are unpaid, although as Mil says, not unrewarded. She says that although it has been an emoshunal roller coaster of a journey she wouldn’t have missed it for the world or, in my terms, all the sossidges and chocmilks on the planet!

With lots of love to you all. When Mil has more news of me she will keep you updated.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx from Winnie

Happy Family happy Mil