Ever since I first walked with my Bailey back in january of 2006, I knew that working with a guide dog was something very special.
Bailey has been all over the place with me, on trains, the metro, buses and even the underground without hesitation. But a lot of our big adventures didn’t happen straight away.
He and I were both very much eased into the guide dog partnership as I needed to build my confidence in going to many different places. I would use a cane prior to getting Bailey; when I ultimately had to. If I could get away with being sight guided, I would.
This meant I was not a very confident solo traveller and would be more than happy to be guided everywhere.
Once Bailey and I started to adventure on our own with success, I quickly learnt how amazing these dogs could be.
When he retired last August and I was forced to use the cane, which I hasten to add, I did; I found it much more of a chore and would reluctantly rely on sight guide in unfamiliar or busy places.
When Bertie came along in January this year, I was super excited to work with another dog. I knew during training that quite early on he’d be expected to go to unfamiliar areas and work. This is not usually advised by Guide Dogs as the partnership is so new.
However, he worked lovely when I attended the RNIB Forum in carlisle back in April and I was pretty sure he’d work well this past weekend in Birmingham.
We arrived at the station and I made myself aware to the assistance staff with plenty of time to grab a Starbucks. Bertie always seems to locate some stairs in the station which is not always a bad thing as I know where I am in location to everything else from those stairs. We walked along and he indicated without hesitation in a doorway. I was certain this was another coffee shop and not Starbucks because of the smell. I asked him to find the next one but it was shuttered up. He immediately pulled me back toward the shop he’d indicated originally. A man from this shop asked if I was looking for a specific shop and I said, yes, I was, Starbucks and he said this was it. I should have trusted pup more. He clearly knows what he’s doing.
He lay quietly on the train down to Birmingham which is an hour and a half from manchester. Got to the venue after being helped and settled with no issue. Lots of other dogs and new smells but he just lay next to me and slept.
We had a lot of sight guiding as the building was so big and confusing the first day. I honestly hated this and have said it was not my favourite part of the experience as a visually impaired person who is normally much more independent than that.
Toward the end of the Saturday, Bertie knew the way out to the spending area though so he would happily guide me. If we followed people he would do that quite happily to, [although he’d like to be in front if he could].
He was calm, settled and so good when he was guiding, never rushing in crowds but would take off at Bertie speed when he could.
Some people say they wouldn’t have a guide dog because they feel it would restrict their lives, mine does nothing but enhance mine. He came everywhere, even to the bar at the nigh time and settled under my chair and didn’t hear a peep out of him. he spent when he was asked and he just was a dream to have by my side.
I did need some sighted help because of the immensity of the building. If someone had taken a little time to explain a little about locations and where they related to one another, I may have been able to do more by myself than I did. But time would not have allowed for that and I appreciate that element.
But now having a guide dog again, it just reaffirms to me how independent I am and how much frustration I get when I can’t use my dog to his full potential.
By the end of yesterday though, he’d worked out a lot more than I had and it just proved to me that if I’d been given more information of the building beforehand or in the beginning, I may have worked out a lot of the routes much better.
When I was given verbal instructions, he followed my repeat of these instructions and got it right every time. I’m so proud of this fabulous dog! He showed initiative, resilience, energy, amazing manners and I am proud to have him as my guide.
A huge thank you to everyone involved with my dog from his brood bitch holders, to his puppy walkers, to his early and advanced trainer but to everyone who has had a hand in the raising of such a wonderful dog. I know everyone thinks their dog is the bees knees but I know mine is just that and more. He dealt with all this and he is just two years old as though he had been doing it for years. Clever boy Bertie and thank you labborghini for being the best!