We’re back

I can’t beieve it has been well over 9 months since I posted an update. So much has happened it is hard to know where to begin.

Our New Home

Wiley and I finally moved into our new home in September last year. Before we moved in I had new floors laid. Naturally all chosen to suit Wiley, i.e. hard wearing, non slip etc. The only other work was installation of some celling fans which have provided some much needed relief during the summer heat waves.

One of the biggest issues when I purchased my property was the fact all the windows had been painted shut. My Dad as been wonderful, installing new ones so at least I can open some of them. The next project is the purchase and installation of a heater, this is a priority as winter isn’t too far away now.

Unpacking wasn’t too much of a chore thanks to the audio labels I put on all the boxes. As my new place is considerably bigger than my old flat there was plenty of space to put everything so within a day the whole house was organised. Wiley has two cupboards dedicated to his stuff. all his gear, spare toys etc is in one and his food, treats, supplements and medications in another.

I haven’t done much in the way of modifications. A couple of tactile markers here and there as well as hooks so everything has a place to live is all that was required in the short term. I would like to install a hand rail for one set of stairs, it is next on my to do list once the heater has been purchased and installed.

I love living in Yass, it is a friendly town and very easy to get around. Everything I need is a short walk from home. There are regular week day bus services into Canberra which is essential as I need to go into town once or twice a week.

Work

There have been big changes for me at work as well. I am still doing (and loving) my PR work but I have handed over the role of volunteer co-ordinator and accepted the position of Client Feedback Officer. This is a wonderful position, I can do some of the work from home but also head into the ACT office to work from there. There won’t be much written on here about my new role but I will continue to share what Wiley and I have been up to as far as our PR duties.

PR Talks

I have had some lovely talks at schools, community groups, girls brigade and other venues.  I am still doing training for taxi drivers and bus drivers and a couple of weeks ago I spoke to court staff for the first time.

Last Tuesday was a very special day as for the first time ever Guide Dogs NSW/ACT held a graduation outside of the training centre and it was held in Canberra. The event was held at the Federal Golf course, Gulliver the giant guide dog was there as well s the graduates (five gorgeous young labs) and three puppies.

I gave a brief speech about the impact both my beautiful Guide Dogs have had on my life – it was only for five minutes and it was the most nervous I have been giving a talk for a long time. I was so anxious I’d go well over my five minutes but I am pleased to say I didn’t ramble and stuck pretty much to time.

For me the highlight of the day was meeting a wonderful lady who sponsored Wiley’s litter five years ago. I took Wiley’s harness off so she could give her boy a pat and we had some photos taken together as well as one of Wiley on his own. What a privilege it was to be able to say thanks in person to someone who was such an important part of Wiley’s guide dog journey.

Travel

Since the last update Wiley and I have done quite a bit of travel. One of the highlights was flying over to Perth to attend the Blind Citizen’s Conference last year. It was a fabulous conference with engaging speakers and lots of information. There were quite a few Guide Dogs and Seeing Eye Dogs in attendance, all of whom were very well behaved.

Wiley handled all of the travel incredibly well, he loves planes as he get lots of treats whilst flying. The only issue for me was that as the stay was so short (3 nights) I wanted to keep him on his regular feeding and tolieting schedule – that meant finding time to give him his meals during the afternoon tea brake and taking him for his morning relief walk at around 4AM. Despite having an absolutely wonderful time we were both happy to be home.

Training Courses

The other travel has mostly been to attend course or training. A couple of trips to Sydney which are easy compared to flying to Perth. I enjoy attending courses as I love to learn. All of the course have been related to my new position – I have done several complaint focused courses with the NSW Ombudsmen as well as an Accidental Counsellor Course in Canberra run by Lifeline.

Without exception all of the trainers I have worked with have been fantastic about Wiley being in the class and also providing me with course material in an accessible format. I have been able to participate in the training the same as everyone else which is the way it should be, but isn’t always the way it is.

Wiley

What can I say, my boy is as special, talented and loveable as ever. He isn’t perfect, can still be a little food distracted, but it is the fact he does naughtily things occasionally that makes him so adorable and fun to work with. He has never let me down when I needed him and I have asked a lot of him at times.

He loves his new garden, every morning after our recreational walk he does zoomies around and around chasing his ball or playing fetch. He also loves to venture outside during the day to sun bake on have a quick nibble on the grass. The fact he loves his outside space so much reinforces to me that we made the right decision in moving further afield.

I know I have missed out a lot of what has happened during the last nine months but I am sure I will fill in missing pieces here and there. For now it just feels good to be back at the keyboard sharing our adventures.

Wiley in his new garden

Wiley in his new garden

Our second year anniversary

Time sure does fly, I can’t believe it was two years ago today that Wiley entered my life. I remember our first meeting as if it happened yesterday. He jumped down from the back of a station wagon, I gave him a treat and a cuddle, harnessed him up and took him for a test walk. From the very beginning I loved his jaunty walk, fast pace, his desire for praise and need for reassurance. I was confident he was the perfect dog for me.

I made him a promise on our first day together that I would try my hardest to be a worthy handler and partner. There is no doubt that over the last two years both he and I have made mistakes. That is to be expected and we have learned more from mistakes than doing everything perfectly. However despite mishandling and some guiding errors our love, trust and respect for each other has continued to grow.

Wiley and I celebrated the day with a long and very chilly bush walk and playtime with a new toy.

Lots to smile about

I have had a great week. Nothing particularly special has happened but lots of little things that have bought a smile to my face.

There have been four separate occasions when out walking with Wiley I have had a fellow dog walker call out to me – saying they had a dog, it was on lead and they had stepped off the path so we could keep walking. I made sure I thanked them, explaining how helpful it was.

I was approached about putting in an application for an upcoming job vacancy. I’m not sure I’m the best person for the position but it was lovely to be asked to apply. I have been working on a CV as my current one is very outdated.

This week Taxi talk was lots of fun. The students were very enthusiastic and keen to participate.

Two buses I caught had drivers that attended one of my bus training sessions. They pulled up close to where I was standing, told me their bus number and asked if I needed help. They did everything right which makes me so happy. It is also rather nice having a driver say ‘Hi Jo’.

I met up with my friend who has been training with his lovely new Guide Dog at Achilles training. Everything is going really well. Sometime in the next few weeks we hope to arrange a play session for the dogs. I am sure they would have a ball.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of wonderful outings with friends and each time Wiley’s work was flawless. I love it when his guiding is perfect in front of family and friends, they are always so impressed.

I’ve made a couple of very tasty veggie soups lately. There is something very comforting about a big bowl of soup on a cold night.

But best of all at the end of each day I get to cuddle with Wiley. Nothing makes me happier than having him rest his head on my chest and sigh with contentment – absolute bliss!

Wiley – The Student

Just as Wiley has taught me lots of thing in the 12 months we have been together, I am fortunate to have also had the opportunity to be his teacher.

I can’t count the number of new destinations he has learned. One of his more impressive skills is being able to take me to the correct bay at the bus interchanged. I tell him where i want to go (home, Belconnen or Woden/Tuggeranong) and he will guide me to the correct departure point.

Wiley’s repertoire of things (and people) he can find on command has increased dramatically.  He has especially become very good at finding the chocolate aisle in just about every supermarket we go to  🙂

He has learned the subtleties of my body language and he can read me like a book. Sometimes I feel like we have a psychic connection.

I have taught him a number of new commands including ’round you come’, ‘keep going’, ‘focus’ and ‘touch’.

There are a few lifestyle rather than work related skills that I have taught Wiley. These include stopping if I drop the lead when we are out on a walk, only eating chews on his special mat and waiting upstairs when I open the door for visitors. I am currently in the process of training him to return his toys to his toy box – but we still need to work on this.

I get a lot of satisfaction expanding Wiley’s skills and knowledge. He is easy to train as he is willing to learn, loves to please and responds very well to being rewarded.

Being able to teach and learn from each other has gone along to way making our relationship and working partnership so strong.

Meanwhile what we have been up to ……….

Monday I went out to do a taxi talk.  Instead of teaching a lesson as I was expecting I had a meeting with the trainer. He filled me in on a couple of changes and we brain stormed some ways to hopefully improve the retention of the information I am giving the students. We are going to try some more role playing and practical training sessions.

Tuesday one of my dear friends came over and we went for a bush walk and then onto a cafe for lunch. Wiley enjoyed the bush walk off duty but was then put to work as he guided me safely through the shopping centre to the cafe.

Yesterday was mobile dog wash day for Wiley and I had a grocery delivery. It always takes time for me to put away my groceries as I use an app to scan each item to figure out what it is and where it belongs in my fridge or pantry.

Last night we had to go to an Executive Committee meeting – it was a long meeting and went well past our normal bedtime. Wiley did his usual great job at sleeping through the meeting. But when it came time to leave and for him to guide me home he did a fantastic job. It is so comforting knowing he is there wherever and whenever I need him.

Wiley – The Teacher

Since Wiley came into my life I have learned many things…..

  • How to be a better handler. Wiley has shown me how effective a well timed reward can be and that the higher value a reward has for him (i.e. food) the better it works.
  • That routine is great but it can be fun to mix things up every now and then.
  • That trust and respect are earned and are corner stones in in a great working partnership.
  • When you are off duty there is a time to play, a time to rest and always time to eat.
  • That walks are better if you stop occasionally to soak in the world around you (or in his case sniff the circumference of a tree).
  • People respond positively to a wagging tail or smile
  • Nothing reduces stress better than cuddling a dog.
  • You get where you need to go one step at a time.
  • To be independent you occasionally need assistance.
  • Enjoy each day and don’t worry too much about yesterday or tomorrow.
  • Life is better when you share it with someone (or somedog) you love 🙂

Meanwhile what have we been up to…….

Saturday’s trip to Pet Barn went well, although Wiley was a little distracted having his friend along, not to mention all the wonderful smells and temptations. He still did his job and guided me safely through the store.

Sunday was a busy day, it started off with a seven kilometer run around Lake Ginninderra with the Achille running group.

In the afternoon I co-hosted our developments first social event for residents. The turn out wasn’t fantastic but the people that came were all lovely and we had a great time chatting and getting to know each other. Wiley was a trooper, he happily laid down next to me while i was otherwise occupied meeting and greeting.

Monday was Taxi talk day – I found out that the trainer has decided to stay which is the best news as I really enjoy working with him.

Today Wiley and I enjoyed a nice long bush walk and the rest of the day will be spent with him snoozing and me doing the housework.

Wiley – My Housemate

I love having my own space but living alone can get lonely and I hate the feeling of an empty house. Enter the perfect solution – Wiley:)

Wiley is a wonderful housemate, he fills my home with love, laughter, fun and personality. What he doesn’t do is hog the remote, make a mess, move things from the places they belong, veto what I want to listen to, bring home strangers or eat my food.

Unfortunately he doesn’t pay rent or contribute to the household bills but having him share my home is worth more than anything money can buy.

Meanwhile what we have been up to …….

I am pleased to report that Wiley’s tummy is all better so we have been back out working in public.

The other day my parents took me shopping for my birthday present – a new chair for my desk. We went to a lovely store where the shop assistants all ooh and aahed over Wiley. I had a nice long chat with them (and the other shoppers that stopped to ask questions or listen in) about Guide Dogs. I handed out a few of my Wiley cards as I knew otherwise people might try to pat or talk to him. It ended up making our shopping trip take longer that expected but we didn’t have much else to do so it didn’t really matter. I also ended up with a nice new chair that hopefully won’t tip over like my old one used to.

This afternoon I am off to Pet Barn with my friend and her dog. Wiley needs some more roo meat and beef strips. I am also going to do some baking as I volunteered to bring a sultana/maple syrup cake and choc chips cookies to our Community Centre’s Afternoon Tea. If I get time I will whip up a batch of honeycomb as well.

Wiley – The Social Facilitator

When I started to lose my eyesight one of the hardest things I had to adjust to was how different (and at the time difficult) it was to communicate with people. A lot of communication is non verbal. Body language such as gestures and facial expressions often express more than what a person says.

As I can’t read body language I rely a lot more on a persons voice, their tone, inflections etc to try and help fill in the missing caps. But as with all skills it takes time, practice and experience to become proficient.

Because social interactions used to cause me a great deal of anxiety I became withdrawn unless I was with people I knew well. As well as feeling unsafe when I was outside I also had a fear about talking to people which made staying home safe but socially isolating.

Everything changed when I got my first Guide Dog, Khan. I started to want to go out and having a Guide Dog tends to makes people gravitate towards you. In fact it often took several hours to complete my shopping as so many people wanted to stop and chat. This gave me a no choice but to talk with people and therefore I was able to practice and improve my social skills.

Wiley, like his predecessor has created lots of social opportunities for me.

When we are out and about working, the public often stops us to ask questions or simply admire how beautiful Wiley is. I also find people tend to offer me more assistance when I am using a Guide dog than when I am using a long cane. I suspect part of the reason for this is that I appear more confident and approachable when working with a dog.

Even when we are not working and just out for a recreational walk people tend to be drawn to Wiley. Often they are other dog people and we stop and chat about each others dogs.

Since I have had Wiley I have made a couple of really good friends, particularly in my little development. All because a conversation was struck thanks to having Wiley with me. I have also meet some great people I now call friends via talks or promotional work for Guide Dogs.

Thanks Wiley for making my life richer and more fulfilled 🙂

Meanwhile what we have been up to ….

To be honest we have not done much this week. Wiley has had a slightly upset tummy. It is nothing serious and he is his normal bright, happy and hungry self but it has thrown his toileting schedule out the window and I don’t want to risk taking him out in public.

I have postponed a couple of coffee, shopping and lunch dates but thankfully there are no jobs on the books this week (taxi talk was cancelled). All going well we can get back into public access work as of tomorrow.