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


Winnie’s #BigSkool Update #5

Thomas wanders down the hot dusty path from the summerhouse to the mailbox. He’s not expecting anything other than the usual bills and flyers but he finds a blue envelope with the address written by a familiar fair paw … an update from Winnie!

He rushes back to the summerhouse, rips open the envelope & hollers for Chloe and Jessie. The fambly excitedly gather round and listen while Tom reads:
Winnie GD training with Mark 2 (RealJoannek met them) 29 April 2013Dearest Mama & Papa, Nanny and lickle Chloe
This is just a quick update to let you know that I have nearly finished my time here in basic training. My trainer thinks that I am good enough to move on to my Advanced Training and in a couple of weeks I will move to Nottingham to work with a new trainer and do even harder lessons.
And guess what? I had such a big surprise yesterday, we were out training in Wigan and we bumped into Ted & Issac’s Mum @RealJoanneK. She came to talk to me and Maik my trainer and I gave her a big face lick after she patted me! It was so exciting to meet her and she had a lovely chat with Maik.
Maik thinks I must be a very popular pup with lots of pals, what with @alfms huMum knowing me too *giggles* Little does he know!
 I have also met one of my brothers again here at #BigSkool. Last time I saw Blake we were 7 weeks old so we had lots to catch up on. He looks just like me and he loves his food too. Speaking of which, do you think you could send me another one of those sossidge pies before I head off to Nottingham? I would like to give it to Maik as a thank you gift BOL.
After I have settled in with my new trainer at Nottingham she will ring MIL with an update on my progress and then, when I am nearly ready to go live with the person I will be guiding, MIL will be invited to visit me. What a reunion that will be!!

Winnie GD training with Mark 1 (RealJoannek met them) 29 April 2013

Well, I have to go now as the dinner bell is ringing and if we don’t get there on time we don’t get fed. Also, I have some homework to catch up on; I have to work on my bird distraction issues. I blame papa and the seagull chasing episodes for that.
 I hope you are all well and that my Twitter pals have not forgotten me. I miss you all very much
With love and hugs from Winnie xxxx’
Guide Dog in Training

Winnie’s #BigSkool Update #4

*rushes in from clearing the mailbox* We have received a letter from Winnie’s Guide Dog school trainer !! *the fambly excitedly gathers around the breakfast table as Thomas rips the envelope open and reads the letter to them*


“To the Archers in the Summerhouse …
I am writing to update you on Winnie’s progress in her early training. She got used to the kennel routine quickly and enjoyed meeting the other dogs that came into the centre at the same time as her. Although she was initially shy around the centre, it took  less than a week to settle at home in her new surroundings.
She was confident out on the streets from her very first visit and has always been eager to be the first out of the van and get working. She began picking up the tasks quickly, which was probably due to her positive attitude and how much she enjoyed getting the work right.
Winnie has always walked at a comfortable pace with a nice level of tension on the handle, which will make her popular when the time comes for her to progress on to advanced training. She also accepted the full harness with no issues.
An issue I did have to work on with Winnie was her bird distraction. She does love her birds; initially it seemed she was trying to fly off with them. This has much improved by giving her tasks to focus on whilst passing them, such as sit wait or even using them as an obstacle. This enables Winnie to remember she has still got a job to do even when she is tempted to play with the pigeons.
One of the areas I am most impressed with Winnie is her behaviour in any social situation such as cafés etc. I have been in some situations where children have tried to get her to play with them, and even tempt her with toast, but she remains in her down stay regardless.
All being well Winnie will progress onto advanced training in May/June, but I will keep you updated on any additional information as I receive it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your hard work with Winnie, I look forward to working with her every day and she is a pleasure to be around.
from Winnie’s Trainer”

Winnie’s #BigSkool Update #3

*Winnie pulls up outside the summerhouse in #winniescab*  Woo hoo Papa, Nanny, where are you? I’m here on a flying visit. We’ve been working so hard at #BigSkool I’ve been given a day off.

*She zooms into the house and kisses Papa and #ourChloe & gives Nanny big squeezy hugs*  Oohh, is that a sossidge pie I see ? *sits down at table & tucks in* The food at school is OK but it’s not a patch on yours.  *Sips #milomilk from Nanny*

I’m afraid I have a bit of a confession to make. I was s’posed to send this report from my trainer to MIL but honestly, we have been working so hard and having so much fun that I forgot about it *produces grubby dog-eared bit of paper from pocket of Skool blazer* Oops sorry *retrieves bit of sossidge stuck to it*

Tom puts his glasses on and starts to read, Nanny listens intently …

Guide Dog School update 3

Tom takes his glasses off & wipes his eyes. He looks proudly at his daughter who is playing with #ourChloePup and is lost for words. He walks over to them both and puts his paws around Winnie and hugs her tightly. She is on her way to fulfilling her destiny………

Guide dogs logo2

Winnie’s #BigSkool Update #2

Guide Dog School first pic 28.1.13

Dearest Papa and Nanny

I can’t believe that I have now been at #BigSkool for 2 weeks, the time has just flown by and I am having so much fun!

There are many doggies here and they are all very friendly so I have made lots of new pals. We go out training twice a day (in the morning and the afternoon) but the trainers are so nice to us it doesn’t seem like #skoolwork. They take us out to different places in their big vans so I am getting to see a lot of the world. Well, the bit near to #BigSkool anyway, BOL.

I think my trainer is pleased with me *hopeful ears* He is going to ring MIL and give her a progress report soon so I have been extra careful not to be too cheeky to him.

The food here is quite good but the brekkie is not up to your standards. I’d give anything for a plate of bacon, sossidge and scramblies washed down with a #milomilk *sigh* On the plus side you will be pleased to hear that I am no longer at the top of my weight range *proud ears*

Is efurryone well at home? Did Pop get that bone I sent him for his birthday? Has #ourChloePup chewed up all the toys I left her? Are all my pals on Twitter well? Have they forgotten me already?

It’s lights out time now so I have to finish and settle down to sleep. I don’t take any rocking these days I can tell you

With love from your devoted
Winnie xxxx
Guide Dog in Training

Winnie’s First Day at #BigSkool


Dear Papa and Nanny

Well, I have arrived at #BigSkool and it looks really exciting! When Teddy and I pulled up there were lots of dogs barking and yapping to welcome us and to be honest it sounded like a great big pawty.

The very kind staff took us to our room and as we had travelled over together and were furiends, we have been put in a room together. We are being looked after by a lovely lady called Kim who rang Mil to let her know that we had arrived safely and were settling in OK. Kim told Mil that she thought I was adorable *blushes*

We were left to unpack our things, which didn’t take long, and then we had our first lesson – which was playtime BOL! The staff took Teddy and me out into a huge field and let us play and run around to let off steam after the stress of our journey. I found some strange old rags in my truck that we took to the field and played tug and chasey games with.

Appawrently things will take a serious turn tomorrow when I am allocated to a trainer and get checked out by the *whispers* v e t.

We are not allowed computers or phones or even owls at school so I am sending this letter by snail mail and don’t know when it will reach you but I hope it finds you both well and happy.

Please let all my Twitter pals know that I am having a fab time but I do miss them. I hope they are having lots of fun too.

Love and licks from your ever-loving Guide Dog in Training, Winnie xxxxx

To my dear furiends … love, Winnie

My dear pals, I have now gone on to the next stage of my exciting adventure to become a Guide Dog. Mil and #ourChloePup waved me off as I excitedly hopped into the car that was to take me to Guide Dog Training School. My friend Teddy from Puppy Class came too so there was plenty of excited yapping as we drove away.

Winnie & Teddy arrive at Guide Dog School 15.1.13

Winnie & Teddy arrive at Guide Dog School

Thank you all for the fun, laughter and tears we have shared in the last 15 months, particularly the love and compassion that you showed when Mama @AngelKeely left us. I am now going to do my best to make Mama and Papa proud of me and work hard at school to become a fully qualified Guide Dog. We will let you know when that exciting day arrives. In the meantime, if you see a Guide Dog or other Assistance Dog working or training, think of me.

Please try not to be sad as this was always my destiny and we knew that this day would come. Rather, be happy for the fun that we have shared and if I have helped you to understand a little bit of the fantastic job that puppy raisers do and the sacrifice they make in returning us pups, then I am content.

Please take good care of Papa @PuppyNumber7 for I am his first-born and he will miss me very much. Maybe his good pals can help him drown his sorrows with a few baconbeers. Nanny @JessieJaney might be a bit gruff for a while, hiding her true feelings, but she has #ourChloePup to keep her busy now and the odd sniff of nip will keep her on an even keel.

Please also take good care of each other and remember always to be kind and loving. We have all seen how brief our lives can be and we should try to fill each day with happiness for ourselves and others.

Loves you all

from GDT (Guide Dog in Training) Winnie xxxxx

winnie Oct 6 036

Winnie, one month old

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