Sunday, May 22, 2011

Unwelcome Visitor

...and so I was just about to bend forward to clean my teeth when I noticed this unwelcome visitor! I don't know who got the bigger shock, me or him/her.

I'll assume this is a female, though I've no idea why I should think that. No doubt someone more enlightened will be kind enough to add a comment. Anyway, while she strutted about trying to decide which was her best side, I snuck off to pick up the camera.

I made my setting well away from the the subject, and with my eyes shut (because, had she moved towards me, I'd have jumped and dropped the camera) I held the camera at arms length, held my breath and pressed the shutter. She was a star. She never moved. What a poser!

What I don't understand is why I always encounter one of these intruders, in the bath or the wash basin, when my husband is away. And how do they get there? From the tap? I can't believe they walk the length of the pipes. My water comes from a borehole 200 feet underground. And at the other end, down the plughole, is the cess-pit, and that's a long walk, even for a creature with eight legs, through a pipe underneath the lawn - country plumbing.

It's only in a photograph that I can appreciate the beautiful markings on her back. In real life I daren't look closely enough.

Well, she's gone now. Husband came home and picked her up and put her out the window. But she's probably got a family somewhere all hoping to get in on the next photo-shoot.

PS. Perfectly harmless British house spider so I've always been told. Anyone know its proper name?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Krystal's Coming...

Krystal is my new Guide Dog puppy. She'll be with me on June 2nd. She's a black Labrador bitch and will be six and a half weeks old on arrival. Watch this space!

In the meantime, just like being pregnant, I have to prepare for the arrival. Check my fencing in the garden. Remind myself which plants are likely to cause tummy upsets. Check the bedding I have... do I need to buy any new? Check the toys for damage that may become a hazard... stuffing coming out, stitching weak etc. There's always the temptation when a new pup is due to splash out on new bedding and new toys. But really it's not necessary. Pups don't mind hand-me-downs. In fact they like the comforting scent of another dog on bedding and toys. After all, this is their first time away from their brothers and sisters. To find themselves in a bed for one after sharing with the entire brood must feel very strange.

Guide Dog pups are born in the homes of volunteer brood bitch holders and when they're six weeks old they say 'bye, bye' to Mum and their siblings and move on to the next stage of their development. They are transported to the Guide Dogs Breeding Centre where they undergo early diagnostic aptitude tests and have their first jabs, worming and micro-chipping. A busy time. All their paperwork, which will follow them all through their working lives, will be put in place here.

They will already have been allocated to a puppy walker, and after about 48 hours, they will leave the Guide Dog Breeding Centre and travel to the regional centre in the area of the country where they are to live during their puppy walking stage, which usually lasts until they are around 14 months old. The puppy walker will have been informed several weeks in advance of when to expect the pup and hopefully will have taken the opportunity to have lots of early nights and sleep-ins, because she won't get many more for a long while!

I didn't choose Krystal's name. Guide Dogs staff do that. Each litter is given a letter of the alphabet, so all pups in that litter will have names beginning with the same letter. For example, Krystal's litter will be known as the K litter 2011 and all her brothers and sisters will have names beginning with K. This helps to trace their origins in the future. Naming pups becomes difficult for X Y Z litters, and U is a problem too. Of course if you and your friends raise £5000 you get to name a pup yourself, and this name can begin with any letter. Some companies aim to do this as their annual fund raising challenge, and some people do it in memory of a loved one.

As well as its name, each pup has a computer number which identifies it and links to its records right throughout its life. But the reality of identifying one pup from another, when they're very young and all look alike, causes a few problem for staff members who have to deliver them to their puppy walkers. To get around this, so that puppy walkers are not given the wrong one, each wriggly little pup is marked with a dab of pink or green nail varnish and the whereabouts of this marker recorded next to their names on the list the staff member has when delivering pups. eg. pink, base of tail = Krystal

So Krystal may arrive with a splodge of pink nail varnish on the fur at the base of her tail. She'll bring with her a small piece of blanket or towel that has the scent of her mother and siblings on it... for comfort... although I've never known a pup who really needed it. She'll also have a new lead and collar, her Guide Dog tag engraved with her identifying computer number, a bag of food and a bag of worming and flea treatment. She'll have a health card that will display her computer number, her date of birth, her parents details, and the name of her puppy walker. This card follows her right through her life. It will tell me what food she is to be given and the amount. It will show me that she's been wormed and flea treated and that she's deemed fit and able to cope with the journey to the next stage of her development... meeting her puppy walker and finding her way around her new home. As she gets older, all her innoculations and any health issues or changes of food will be recorded on her health card for subsequent carers and vets to see.

She's bound to want to pee when she arrives. 'Spending' we call it. And I'll introduce her to the area in my garden where she is allowed to do this. She has to learn to spend on all types of surfaces: grass, gravel and concrete. And she has to learn to do it BEFORE we go out anywhere, and to hold on until we get home again. Clean walks are what we aim for. Of course it will take her a while to catch onto this routine. But she will. Eventually, she'll spend to the command 'busy, busy' (all puppy walkers use the same commands), but that's a long way off yet. To start with, she'll go through the usual house training routine that all pups go through.

So, when she arrives, she'll be tired, may be a little fretful, perhaps anxious. But she'll quickly make herself at home in a snuggly, cosy bed with a nice new fluffy toy... yes, I WILL buy her a nice new fluffy toy. Why not.

If you'd like more information about how Guide Dogs, with their 80 years experience, recommend training puppies, the above book tells all. Available through Amazon or http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Thanks to Laura for the Versatile Blogger Award! It seems I'm supposed to tell you 7 things about myself now. Mmm... where to start? Well...

1. I live with a foot in two countries.
2. I LOVE my volunteer role with Guide Dogs for the Blind.
3. I allow myself one coffee a day. A good strong one from a proper shop in a proper cup. (I  dislike  paper cups. Woops... that's number 3.5.)
4. I love the Almond Croissants they sell at Cafe Nero.
5. I'm learning to play the ukulele and loving it.
6. My shoe size is 2.5 or 3 so I have a weakness for shoes because they've always been difficult to find.
7. I keep my shoes in boxes.

Now I'm supposed to send an award to someone else... so I'll have to work out how to do that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daisy's Last Day

If you drop in to my blog space now and then you may have realized that I'm passionate about Guide Dogs and their training. It's wonderful to be involved in an organization that gives so much, not only to its end clients, but to its 11,000 volunteers.

I'm involved in the capacity of Puppy Walker and also of accredited Speaker, giving awareness-raising talks at schools, rest homes, work places, golf clubs.... you name it and that's where I go.

But the hardest part of all this is giving up the puppy that you've raised from 6 weeks old to 13 or 14 months. Yes, it hurts! And yesterday, Daisy left to start her new life, first at the Guide Dogs training centre, and then training with a potential blind partner with whom she'll live and work until she's about 8 years old.

It's always a painful time for Puppy Walkers. But we're so proud when we're invited to see our pups 'graduate' at the end of their advanced training.

Here's a little montage of Daisy's life as a pup.

All grown up now, at 13 months. Had her little operation. Out for a last fling with her boyfriend Sparky, who is the pup sitting on my lap at the coffee shop in my profile photo.

Relaxing with her Sparky on her last day before working life begins.  I'm sure she'll do well in her training.

Daisy... wishing you a happy life and a kind and thoughtful owner.

(Postscript: When Daisy arrived at the Guide DogsTraining Centre she found herself in kennels with her sister Dolly and brother Dixon. A family reunion. That was nice.)