Travelling with a Guide Dog

Wiley and I have had a busy but enjoyable week. There will be a few posts about what we have been up to but I wanted to start by sharing what it is like to travel with a Guide Dog.

Our latest trip was a flight to Sydney for work. We were scheduled to depart Monday afternoon. I think I have mentioned before that it is difficult to pack light when you are travelling with a Guide Dog. My bag was again full of things for Wiley, I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed while we were away.

I have equipped myself with some great luggage. I have my usual over the shoulder bag/treat pouch, another over the shoulder laptop bag and a big backpack. What this means is that I can carry everything whilst still leaving my right hand free to give hand signals to Wiley while he is working.

I caught the bus from Yass into Canberra where mum and dad picked me and took me to their place so I could do some work before heading out to the airport to catch my flight. Mum and Dad dropped us off at the airport about an hour before our flight. I always like to make sure there is plenty of time for check in just in case there is an issue with me taking Wiley on board.

As we had flown several times before Wiley easily guided me into the terminal and took me over to the QANTAS area of the airport. A QANTAS staff member approached us to ask if we need assistance and they took us over to the check in counter.

I confirmed Wiley had a seat allocated to him and checked my big back pack so I didn’t have to carry it around anymore. I was asked if I needed assistance to get to the departure gate. I asked what the gate number was, it was one we usually fly from so I said we’d be fine to get there ourselves. It was really lovely being asked if I wanted assistance rather than having the assumption made I needed help.

Wiley and I made our way to security, another helpful staff member helped me put everything on the conveyor belt. We stepped through the screening arch together and as expected we set off the alarm thanks to all the metal on Wiley’s harness. I stepped off to the side for a pat down (nice to be the one patted rather than Wiley). Again someone helped by collecting all my gear from the conveyor belt and we were on our way.

We found the gate and I listened to an audio book until it was time to pre-board. The flight to Sydney was uneventful, Wiley was very settled, happily ate his treats during take off and landing and spent the rest of the flight snoozing. Here is a photo of him waiting for take off.

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

As per the usual protocol we waited and disembarked last. I was met by airport staff who kindly took me to the baggage collection area, found my bag and escorted us to the taxi rank. I used the follow command so Wiley went wherever they did making things nice and easy.

I took a taxi to the campus where I was going to be staying for the next couple of days. I had arranged to meet the course convenor our the front and they took me to my room, described the layout and left us there so I could get settled in and most importantly feed Wiley.

After a couple of great days it was time to head back to the airport. I had just gotten into the taxi when I received an email saying my flight was delayed. It was a little disheartening to know I was going to have an almost four hour wait for my flight.

Once we got to the airport I sought assistance as I didn’t know where the QANTAS check in desk was located. On check in I was very kindly offered entry into the QANTAS Club which I gratefully accepted. We had an escort through security and into the lounge where we were well looked after by some lovely QANTAS club staff as well as other travellers.

There were lots of questions about Wiley which along with my audio book helped to pass the time. My biggest concern was the fact Wiley was going to be fed really late. I thought the best thing was to give him a small dinner portion and then feed him the rest when we got home. I always have at least one and sometimes two spare meals to deal with these types of situations. The small portion was enough to keep him from being too unhappy and settled during our long wait but wasn’t enough to cause tummy issues when flying.

Again we pre boarded and someone came to collect us from the lounge. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix up with the seat allocation so I had to move seats, I was very surprised when we were given a seat at the bulk head in business class. There was so much room we both became a bit disorientated. We quickly figured out how he could safely remain in one spot and be given treats so he was happy and I had a lovely comfy seat to enjoy during the flight. Here is a photo of Wiley in business class, thought I’d better take a picture as it is likely to be the only time we travel business class!

Wiley travelling in business class on a QANTAS jet

Wiley travelling in business class

Our disembarkation was a little different to usual, normally Wiley and I walk down the stairs but on this occasion there was a person who required wheelchair assistance on the flight so we used a portable lift thingy which was an interesting experience.  It was a little loud and unsteady but Wiley was a good boy and laid down as it was moving. I love having a food motivated dog who is easily rewarded so I can create a positive experience during potentially scary experiences.

My wonderful parents were there to meet us (I had told them the flight was delayed) even though by this time is was past 10PM. I have never been so happy to get back to my parents, where I fed Wiley, took him out to toilet and then fell exhausted into bed.

The great thing about this particular trip was that I gained confidence in our ability to cope with change. It will give me more confidence the next time we fly.

Testing Wiley’s new camera harness and our day at an Expo

It has been a busy couple of days for Wiley and I.

On Wednesday we made the trek into town as we needed to go into the Guide Dog  office at Deakin. While I was there the lovely CLO helped me fit the new camera harness I purchased for Wiley. The idea is to shoot some footage with a Go Pro camera so viewers can get a dogs perspective of guiding.

I am not really sure how it turned out, I have included a short video to this post. The clip is of myself and Wiley walking back into the office.

I spent Thursday night with my parents as I was booked to help staff the Guide Dog NSW/ACT at a Seniors expo at Throughgood Park the next day. When I have subsequent days of work in Canberra it is easier to stay with mum and dad. It saves a couple of long bus trips. It is also lovely spending time with them and I can give dad a morning off from walking their wee dog.

Thursday morning after a few navigational mishaps (i.e. getting lost) Wiley and I finally found the Guide Dog stall at the Seniors Expo, where we were scheduled to spend most of the day. As I usually do when I know I am lost I sought assistance from a passerby.

It was a wonderful day, I spoke to lots of great people, did a little bit of networking promoted the Guide Dog speaker program and generally had fun. We were near the stage so I had a little dance with Wiley when the live musician was performing.

I think Wiley enjoyed himself, especially as Alfie,  the ACT’s latest recruit – a Guide Dog Ambassador dog was there to share the patting duties. Wiley and Alfie get on very well, Alfie is still a young dog so he puts a bit of pep into the usually very sedate Wiley.

We finished up at the expo around 2:30 and headed into the city to meet up with a friend before getting the bus back home to Yass. It was a long but very enjoyable day.

Yesterday I had quite a bit of work to catch up on so Wiley had the day off, sleeping in his bed in the study. We had a couple of lovely walks as the weather has finally cooled down making exercise a lot more pleasant.

Below is a short clip of our camera harness trial walk, If it works I hope there will be more to post in the future.

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

The fortnight that was

Firstly I am pleased to report Wiley is back to his normal happy, fun loving and playful self. I am so relieved. I didn’t realise how incredibly stressed I was until he was well on the road to recovery. I have started to reintroduce his normal food so fingers crossed his digestive system copes.

Here is a little summary of what else has been happening in the last couple of weeks.

Easter

Wiley and I had a lovely Easter break. We spent some quality time with my family, heading over to my sisters for some delicious food, great company and scrumptious dark chocolate. Wiley loved his Easter toy and treats. I often wonder what Wiley thinks of these special occasions, he certainly seems to enjoy them as much as the rest of the family.

Our walk and talk catch ups with friends were lovely, plus it was good to walk off some of the dark chocolate.  Overall we had a great few days

House Sale

The agent has had an Open House every weekend for the last four weekends. Each time we have had at least a couple of people come through for a look but so far no offers. I am getting quicker at getting the place ready for inspections. This week we might have a mid week evening open house as well as a Saturday one. The agent is confident my place will sell but said it might take a while.

Talks

The big news is that the Taxi talks are back on again. I will be going in whenever they have a class, which is most weeks. The content has been tweaked a little. I had a great meeting with one of my lovely colleague from Community Education in Sydney. We worked through new power point presentations for both the Bus and taxi talks. It was great having her support and assistance.

I also had a bus talk on Friday, the new presentation seemed to go down well. There are a couple of interesting talks and events coming up that I am looking forward to.

Dog Sitting

Last weekend Wiley and I had an enjoyable couple of days staying at my parents. (Well until Wiley ate something he shouldn’t have and became ill) Wiley and the wee dog seem to getting on better than they used to. It is funny when they try to play together as the size difference makes things rather awkward. Tug of war is especially one sided so I join in to help the wee one out.

I took advantage of having some extra space and gave Wiley a bath, not sure he enjoyed it but he was a good boy and let me do what I needed to without making a fuss.

Today Wiley and I enjoyed a lovely morning walk, he is now crashed out while I catch up on some bill paying and other admin tasks. This afternoon we have a lunch date then I think it will be a quiet afternoon before another busy week next week.

Here is a picture of Wiley and the wee dog taken last weekend.

Wiley and a wee friend

Wiley and a wee friend

My still neglected blog and our first open house

I can’t believe another couple of weeks have passed since I updated the blog. Time is flying by – the big news since the last entry is my place is finally on the market!

Talks

I had a lovely talk at an after school care program on Monday. They were very well behaved and attentive, especially considering they had been at school all day. There were lots of great questions including one that I hadn’t been asked before – How would I feel if I got my eyesight back? I really wasn’t sure how to answer.

CLO work

Last week was a huge work week, it included – some filming for a Guide Dog project, a trip to Gundaghai, two pre-school talks, two days in the office, an interagency meeting and staff meeting. No wonder this poor blog isn’t being updated, Wiley and I were exhausted by the end of the week.

My CLO role is probably going to be winding up soon. The position needs to be full-time which I can’t do as I have my speaking role to consider. I am hoping another part time opportunity will open up for me but at the moment I am just taking things day by day.

House sale

Saturday after a long walk with Wiley I spent a couple of hours cleaning my little home from top to bottom in preparation for the first open house. Wiley and I needed to vacate while people were walking through. To fill in the time we took a slow stroll – Wiley loved it as he stopped and sniffed every bush and tree. It was a nice way to fill the hour or so. I hope whoever lives here after me appreciates the beautiful mountain as much as I do. I am really going to miss walking there when we move

On the whole it was a successful start to the marketing with five people coming through. Unfortunately no offers have been forthcoming but it was nice to know people were interested enough to come and have a look. There is another open house scheduled over the Easter long weekend. Fingers crossed more people are interested enough to have a look through.

Weekend happenings

It’s Easter – a great time to catch up with my gorgeous family, not to mention the perfect excuse to eat some chocolate. Wiley has a bag of roo tendons and a new toy as his Easter treats.

Walking catch ups. We have not one but two walking dates lined up with friends and their dogs. Wiley will love having doggy companions to walk with. The exercise will also be good to help offset any chocolate consumption!

Playing with my GoPro camera. I am going to dedicate some of the weekend to play with my GoPro camera. I want to work out the best way to capture Wiley at work.

Massage for Wiley. Hopefully Wiley will enjoy a massage sometime over the weekend.

Open House. More cleaning – fingers crossed there will be an update with a I’ve sold my house’’ post very soon J

Just because he is adorable – here is a photo of my boy taken on one of our car trips last week.

Wiley in the car

Wiley in the car

Poor neglected blog

The last few weeks have flown by, I checked my blog and couldn’t believe it has been almost two weeks since I wrote something. Here is a little summary of what has been happening.

Talks

Only a couple of talks in the last fortnight, a lesson for new Bus Drivers and a lovely girl guide group. The driver talk went a little over time as I had lots of questions and a very engaged class. The girl guide talk was so much fun – I spoke for a while then asked for questions which came thick and fast. I finished up both talks by taking Wiley out of harness and letting him enjoy a pat.

Work

I am still doing extra hours as Jo’s position has not yet been advertised. There is a great temp holding down a few days and I cover the rest. Most days it is simply a matter of answering phones and doing basic admin tasks. I particularly enjoy chatting to clients.

The highlight in the past couple of weeks was a seminar the office hosted on Tuesday. It was presented by Karen Wolffe and focused on assisting children with vision loss. She emphasised the importance of teaching social skills, having high expectations and the importance of work. Even though it focused on children I got  a lot out of it.

Walks

Oh how I love autumn, our walks have been spectacular. We leave when it is dark and for the first hour or so we have the whole area to ourselves. Once it starts to lighten up more people hit the trails so Wiley still gets to say hello to other people and dogs. Walking through the sunrise, dawn chorus and bouncing roos is the best way to start the day.

My friend’s ankle is getting better so I am not walking her dog anymore, I kind of miss taking the big fella out fro a stroll. She isn’t up to going for long walks so for the moment instead of going on a walk together the boys have been having play dates.

Selling the house

This is what has been taking up most of my time. I have scrubbed, polished, cleaned and shined every surface of my home. The carpets have been steam cleaned and windows washed. The marketing photos were taken last week and according to mum and dad and the agent they look great. I was hoping the first open house might have happened this weekend but the contract wasn’t ready so the launch has been put off to next week.

I have done everything I can to sell my home – now it is a matter of waiting to see if someone else loves this place as much as I have.

Here is a photo of Wiley for my gorgeous family in the UK. It is of Wiley and his guide dog pal Jazzy. They had a play date yesterday – they ran, played tugged and shared a nylabone. Wiley was very happy but exhausted when we got home.

Wiley and Jazzy, finally resting

Wiley and Jazzy, finally resting

Contracts have been signed

It is all systems go, on Friday I signed a contract with the Real Estate agent, engaged my solicitor and had an EER inspection done. Assuming there are no hiccups getting contracts drawn up my place should be on the market mid March.

At the moment I am equally excited and apprehensive. I am not looking forward to keeping the house in a show ready state, especially as it means putting away Wiely’s toys, dog beds and water bowl every time I leave just in case someone want to comes through for a look. I hope it sells reasonably quickly so I can start the search for our new home.

Last week was my busiest week at work to date. I was in the office Monday to Thursday. There is lots happening at the moment which is great as the day flies by. I can safely say Wiley’s best day was Thursday. We hosted a farewell for our regional manager who left late last year. Lots of people turned up along with six or so dogs, including Wiley’s friend Morgan the service dog. I think he enjoyed having some canine pals around the office, he and all the other dogs were very well behaved.

I realised today that summer is officially over as today is the first day of autumn. I am looking forward to the crisp mornings and cooler days.

I don’t have quite so much scheduled next week, it will be nice to have a chance to run a few errands in town.