Sydney – our second work trip

It has been another busy week for Wiley and I. This time a work trip to Sydney kept us occupied Wednesday through Friday. Earlier in the week I had a taxi talk and on Tuesday I needed to head into the office to assist in getting JAWS working on the Guide Dog server. This is still a work in progress but things are going in the right direction.

The Sydney trip was a lot more hectic than the one to the coast last week. I headed up with our regional manager and the person sharing the Client Liaison Officer position. We were doing orientation and training for our new role.

We drove up (the company was awesome which made for a drive that passed quickly), and we arrived at the Chatswood office mid afternoon on Wednesday. We had a busy schedule for the next few days learning lots of different policies, procedures and systems. I was also fortunate to spend time with another employee who uses JAWS. She is amazing, I learned more from her in a little over an hour than the many hours spent going through the tutorials.

On Thursday we were joined by another person who had recently started as the Client Liaison office in another region. Having a few of us doing the training was great as we could chat amongst ourselves between sessions. It was very reassuring to hear the others were finding in hard to retain all the new information, it wasn’t just me.

Where we stayed was within walking distance to the office so my colleague and I walked in and out everyday. I had forgotten just how busy, frantic and constantly noisy Sydney is. It makes navigating the streets a lot more stressful for both Wiley and I. It was wonderful having company as that took away a lot of my anxiety.

Wiley’s performance the whole time was amazing, it never ceases to amaze me how calmly he accepts everything. Changes to his work environment, where we stay and what we do – he handles them all with ease. I knew it was hard work for him so made sure he had lots of time to chill out and relax and chew his nylabone which is a great stress reliever.

I had a few issues at the hotel as the doors shut between 10PM and 6AM. As per our usual schedule I wanted to take Wiley for a recreational walk each morning. I needed to do this around 5AM. The first hiccup was trying to locate the button to push to open the doors so we could leave the lobby. Once I figured that out I took off Wiley’s harness, changed his working collar over to the his recreational one, took out my cane and started to walk. My plan was to walk the block, I though if I kept turning left I couldn’t get lost. This was good in theory but in practice didn’t work. We ended up walking onto a road, according to my plan we needed to head left, Wiley was insistent we turned right (he wasn’t working but still turned to the right with a great deal of purpose). I have learned from previous experience it is always best to follow my dog so we turned right. Sure enough that took us up to the road the hotel was on.

Getting back into the hotel was even more problematic. I did a lot of feeling around but couldn’t locate a button to push. I did feel a phone but was unable to read the number that I expected it said to call. I kept running my fingers over the wall until I eventually located a small box with a plastic cover over a slot. I tried putting my room key card into the slot and low and behold it opened – phew!

The next morning I thought I would make it easy on myself and go the same way as the day before. Although I thought I was doing that about half way through I realised we had at some point taken a different path. So once again I got disorientated and once again Wiley took us in the right direction – he really is remarkable.

Despite the trip being quite tiring and challenging at times it was a wonderful experience. My travel companions are amazing and fun to be around plus i met lots of people in person that I usually only get to talk with over the phone. I was also able to sort out a couple of things for upcoming speaker jobs and workshops.

Everybody that I met for the first time or caught up with were so lovely, it seems Guide Dogs attracts great people and I am honoured to be part of the team.

First post on my new laptop using JAWS

My new laptop arrived last week, followed by my new software purchased by work under a job access grant. It has been a rather frustrating week as I have attempted to become familiar with a new operating system and JAWS. I am very slowly getting better at using both but I am incredibly slow and still struggling with simple things like web searching and reading and sending emails.

It took me about 30 minutes just to get the point where I could write this post. I have been a bit neglectful of my blog lately but will try to do better as all computer use is great practice while I get used to everything.

Things are going well at work, I have the phone system sorted but as with the laptop I am very slow at using the computer. I have a couple of work trips involving overnight stays coming up which will be fun but hard work. The challenging of working in a new and completely unfamiliar environment is great for Wiley and I as it reinforces our teamwork and tests our skills. I will need to streamline my packing for things I like to take for Wiley, otherwise I will be lugging huge suitcases everywhere.

Wiley loves going to the office, as soon as we get off the bus his tail starts to wag and he quickly trots off to get us to the building as soon as possible. He adores all my colleagues and once I am settled and have taken off his harness and lead he will wander into the next room to say hello to everyone.

Aside from work, laptop set up and practicing JAWS Wiley and I have found time for relaxation. On Saturday I took WIley to my friends house so he could run amok with his Guide Dog pal Jazzy. Once they had some time to play we harnessed them up and went to Belconnen Mall for a cuppa. Both dogs performed perfectly, not at all distracted by each other.

Yesterday we walked around the base of Mount Ainslie with my friend Jean and her lovely dog Haggis. It is about 10km and took us a couple of hours. Both dogs enjoyed all the different sights and smells. Wiley slept for hours once we got home.

This week is another busy one, today and Wednesday I have speaking engagements Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I am scheduled to work in my Client Liaison position. I love how at the moment each week presents an opportunity to learn and experience something new.

NDIS Pre Planning Workshop

On Thursday Wiley and I attended an NDIS pre planning workshop. I heard about the workshop via the google group managed by the ACT Guide Dog office. I thought it would be worth attending both for my personal benefit as well as being well informed for my new position.

The  workshops were being held in two locations on several different days over a couple of weeks. I requested attending the one at the NDIS office on Northborne Avenue near the city. This is on my regular bus route which made it very convenient.

The bus timetable meant I was going to be early which was good as it gave me plenty of time to not only find the correct building but also figure out where I needed to go when I reached the NDIA office.

I had pre programmed the address as a user point of interest in my Mobile GEO device. When I got on the bus I asked the driver to let me know when we were at the closest bus stop. Once Wiley and I got off the bus I turned the GPS on, listened to what it told me and gave Wiley the command to go right. We walked along the road for a while but when we reached the next intersection I thought we had gone too far. I gave Wiley the back command and started to walk the way we had just come.

Fortunately I found someone to ask which number along Northbourne Avenue we were standing outside of. It turned out the GPS was a little off and we had gone past the correct building. Following the directions given to me I asked Wiley to find right, he took me up a path and stopped at the steps outside a building. When I heard someone behind me I checked with them that we were at the right place which we were.

I gave Wiley the forward command, we went up the steps and he took me to the automatic doors leading into the building. Once there I was completely lost and had no idea where to go so I couldn’t give Wiley any commands. I should have emailed and asked for more information about where I needed to go once I arrived.

It turned out the person I asked if I was at the right building was also going to the workshop so Wiley was able to follow them. We went to the lift, when we exited the lift Wiley took me to a door but it was locked. The door we needed was on the other side of the foyer. The workshop co-ordinator heard us and opened the door – we had arrived – phew!

We entered the room and Wiley took me to a chair. Myself and the other gentlemen were the first to arrive so they were all empty. After I sat down I praised Wiley, gave him a treat, he then promptly crashed out and quietly slept through the whole presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised when the co-ordinator gave me a good description of the room layout without being asked. I was also told that I would be emailed a copy of the handouts as I couldn’t access the printed ones. I haven’t received these yet so will have to chase them up next week. As expected the NDIA staff were well educated about Guide Dog etiquette.

The workshop was interesting and informative. I think most of the other people in attendance was a carer for someone so we spent a lot of time on questions specific to their concerns.

We were told there was quite a lot of information requested in the application for access to the scheme. I asked if this would be provided in an accessible format as being sent a whole heap of paper in the mail would not be at all useful for me. They said that it should be but I might have to specifically request it.

At the end of the session I gave them my details so I could be put on their database. This means that just before I become eligible for the scheme in January 2016 I should be sent out the access approval documentation. There isn’t anything else I need to do for now.

It was much easier getting out of the building. Wiley and I quickly found our way to the bus stop on the other side of the road so we could catch the bus home.

I am pleased I decided to go. Change is always a little daunting, for me the best way to ease the accompanying anxiety is to be well educated and informed about the changes.

The week that was and the need to shop

Wiley and I have had a fairly quiet week. I wasn’t needed at the Guide Dog Office. There really isn’t too much for me to do until I get my adaptive technology organised.

We had two talks scheduled for the week. That meant a lot of bus and taxi travel but nothing out of the ordinary. The talks went well, particularly the bus talk where I had a lovely engaged audience.

We met up with a friend and my sister for a couple of lovely walks. Walks are even more fun when you can share them with people whose company you love. It is also nice to have someone warn me about approaching bikes, dogs etc.

The challenge of the week was to find a JP to authenticate my photo ID for my employment file. Wiley and I had to make out way to Gungahlin Town Centre where a couple of JP’s set up a stall each week.

Wiley performed flawlessly. I asked for directions from one of the shops in the centre but after they told me which way I needed to go Wiley did the rest. I had a great chat with the lovely ladies manning the stall. They were very impressed with Wiley and had lots of questions.

Once I got my ID certified I gave Wiley directions on how to get to the Post Office so I could post off my paperwork. Unfortuantely the PO has a system where to get service you need to push a button and get a piece of paper with a number. I had to ask the person in front of me to get the paper and read me the number.

Once my number was called I was told to go to window 3, not very helpful when you can’t read the counter numbers. Thankfully the assistant behind the counter noticed my dilemma and explained how to get to her. The rest was easy, in fact it turned out to be quite an enjoyable outing.

Great news – John and Jazzy completed the Canberra Times Fun Run on Sunday. From all accounts they had a good time and as expected Jazzy handled the crowds and distractions beautifully. They have raised around $2500 which is amazing, I am so proud of both of them.

I am currently trying to motivate myself to get out and do some shopping. I need some new clothes to go with my new position. It isn’t my favourite activity but something that needs to be done.  The majority of my current wardrobe is too casual. I am thinking of keeping it simple with black pants (they don’t show up black dog hair!) and some different tops. I might ask my sister to join me, she is good about being honest about the way things look.

This week is shaping up to be a nice mix of different things to do.

The week that was including my first day at work

For the last few weeks I have been enjoying house and dog sitting for my parents while they were away. That meant walks in different areas as well as a garden for Wiley to play in. My parents wee dog was well behaved, despite his diminutive stature he is still very much the boss of the dogs.

I think Wiley’s highlight of the week was last Sunday when John and Jazzy came over for a visit. The two dogs had a great time playing chases through the garden. I had blocked off part of the garden as there was a high wall I didn’t want them to play near but fearless Jazzy soon taught Wiley how to jump over my barrier.

John and Jazzy are the dynamic duo raising funds for Guide Dogs by participating in the 5km Canberra Times Fun Run on Sunday 7th September. There was a great article about their efforts in yesterdays Canberra Times.

For me the weeks highlight was my first day at work. I only did a part day which was just as well as even that was quite exhausting. There are some limitations on what I can do until I get adaptive technology in the office but despite this I was still able to be productive. I think my favourite task is going to be answering the phone, I love talking to people 🙂

Wiley had a very relaxing first day on the job, being a Guide Dog office it is well set up for visiting dogs. There are water bowls and everyone was happy for Wiley to be off harness and have a bit of a wander around. Once he had investigated he chose to stay close to wherever I was. To my relief he didn’t feel the need to get up and go to the door whenever anyone entered or left. I think I will take in a bed and a toy or two that he and any visiting dogs can enjoy.

Wiley’s least favourite activity of the week was his mobile dog wash and blow dry. At least he feels and smells lovely and clean now. He is starting to lose his fine haired undercoat, the same thing happened last spring. For the next few weeks I will do twice daily grooming sessions instead of our usual one. This won’t bother  Wiley as unlike baths he enjoys being brushed.

Later today Wiley and I have plans to go walking with a friend,  it is such a lovely day I am really looking forward to it.

I got the job!

I have some very exciting news to share. I have officially been offered the position of Client Liaison Officer with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I will be working out of the Canberra office at Deakin. I am job sharing the role and have been employed on a casual basis. I will be doing administration and office work but also hope to get involved with client referral and community liaison work.

By doing the role on a casual basis I can keep up with my speaking role which is very  important to me. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Wiley has never worked in a office environment before but as all he has to do is get me there and then chill out while I work  I am sure he will love it.

I am looking into getting some more adaptive equipment to help me fulfil the duties of my new role. They include JAWS which is screen reader software that works with windows based systems. Also a pearl camera and OCR software so I can scan printed documents. I think I might also upgrade my home computer to a windows based one so I can use the same system at work and home.

I can’t wait to get started 🙂

A trip to the beach

Last week Wiley and I had the opportunity to visit the beach during an overnight trip. I was so excited – it had been years since I walked along a beach, not to mention it was a great opportunity to test my Mobile GEO skills and give Wiley the chance to work in a brand new area. There were also a couple of vision impaired friends that I wanted to catch up with.

It was a fabulous but exhausting trip. It always surprises me how much harder and tiring it is being somewhere new where I have no visual memories. Even finding my way around the motel room was challenging.

The trip reinforced just how wonderful Wiley is –  I can totally trust and rely on his guiding skills. It was also so empowering being able to independently and safely get around a completely unfamiliar location. Just 12 or so months ago I didn’t think I would ever be able to go away without family or friends to accompany me.

Listening to the ocean and enjoying the salty aroma of the beach was another highlight. Wiley loved being able to explore a new area. I hope to go back again soon.