Age: 6 and a half
Breed: Labrador/flat coat golden retriever
Occupation: Guide dog
Time in Position: 5 years, almost
Likes: smoky and hide bones, pigs ears, denture sticks, all my toys and food. Sniffing is wonderful and my beds are great.
Dislikes: Football games, too loud and scary. People who walk into mummy or tell her I can’t go somewhere because I’m a dog. And fleas. they’re horrible. Not to mention baths!
Favourite places: The park where I can run and going into Manchester as it is always busy. New places are lots of fun.
How do you like your work? Plenty and often with lots of challenges. I love being praised.
Do you like other dogs? Yes, of course! I love to say hello.
Barker/non barker: Barker. Is there any other way?
Bad habits: sniffing but mummy will always tell me off.
Type of Harness: A frame handle, the straight one. white and yellow.
Lead/collar: a fancy schmancy collar with quick release grips and a guide dog tag. My lead is leather and has a check chain/choker on the end that fits around my neck to give mummy extra control if I’m naughty.
Biggest annoyance while working? People touching me. I really don’t like it. I’m trying to work for mummy and keep her safe.
Happiest moments while working? Being praised and told I’m doing good.
Happiest Moments while not working? Hugs and playtime with mummy. Oh sleeping and playing with my toys, going to the park and generally being fussed.
Any Nicnames? Bailey bops, Boppers, bopperu, Lord Bailey
I trained until I was 19 months when I was qualified and partnered with my mum or as you humans refer to them as, guide dog owner. Before I qualified though I did a year or so of puppy walking where I was placed in a home and taught how to be a regular, well behaved dog. Then I entered intermediate training where I learnt how to adapt well, come on command, and start to work on command. And then I attended big school and went into advanced training and learnt how to guide a blind/visually impaired person.
I’ve had lots of adventures so far and hopefully will have many, many more.
[Mummy’s side of things]
My name is Marie and I’m 27. I got Bailey when I was 22 and due to start a university course. Let me start off by telling you about my Guide Dogs tale from the beginning.
I lost my vision at six and a half due to complications of my eye condition, primary congenital glaucoma. A basic description of this is that when I was born I had no channels in the back of my eyes to drain fluid and my retina in the right eye was screwed up so was blind in that eye from birth. In my left, despite the many operations, I had decent vision that I could see where I was walking, only needed glasses to read and so losing my sight was quite a wrench. Mainly for my family more than myself. I was a child and had the advantage of adaptability. I was back in school within six weeks, learnt the Braille alphabet within a month and was back on track with my school friends soon enough.
Due to my eye condition, I did have to see a specialist in Cambridge, England which was a five/six hour drive from where I live in Greater Manchester. While under this specialist at the Adam Brooks hospital, I met my first guide dog. He was sitting there, proud as punch, which his harness on, waiting for people to put money in his back. Yes, he was the life sized collection box for Guide Dogs. I asked my mum and dad what he was and what the harness was for and they proceeded to tell me that he was to collect money for Guide Dogs to which I inquired what were they? And they answered in a most amazing way, they told me it was to help people who were blind get around so they didn’t fall or bump into objects. At seven, this information delighted me because if my sight didn’t return, I’d be able to have a dog and get around still.
My next encounter was to be six years later when our local social services rehabilitation department enlisted a guide dog rehabilitation officer to come and help out as they were short staffed. I was assigned the guide dog rehab officer to work on my long cane skills. We talked often about guide Dogs and I knew I wanted one but not at sixteen as the lower age limit was then, much to the displeasure of some of my family members. 🙂
So I did the university thing, the irresponsible years and during university I contemplated having a dog. But due to the fact I was heading off on an exchange programme, I didn’t apply until December 04.
January 05, an assessor came to talk to me about Guide Dogs and then I was put forward for the mobility assessment which I underwent during the February. In March, I had a visit from a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, [GDMI] who did a walk with a short handle, essentially a double handle to see how well you’d respond to the dog’s movement. I was ultimately terrified I would fail but a few weeks later, on April Fool’s Day, I got a letter saying I had been put on the list and when a suitable dog came up I would be matched and go through training. So I waited.
The following January, the GDMI called and said she thought she might have a suitable dog for me and could she come out on a visit. So this lovely little yellow lab came in and the walk was successful but I didn’t seem to click with her. And the GDMI called after a few weeks and said she wasn’t handling busy places well but she thought she might have another match. So, in bounced Bailey!
The walk was fantastic, he was full of energy and mischief while in the house, and I just fell in love with him. Three weeks later, I was at the hotel training with him.
I was constantly worrying I wouldn’t be good enough or wouldn’t be able to cope with the responsibility of a dog but once I qualified, after doubts and tears, I couldn’t imagine not having him.
We will have been a qualified partnership for five years in March and I’m still enjoying every moment of working with him. There are ups and downs, there are good days and bad days but every day is special as he is by my side.
I hope to tell you many more stories on this blog about Bailey and you will read so many other stories from other Guide Dog Owners. 🙂