I passed my MOT

Woof and waggy tail from me, guide dog Fletcher! I’ve some pawsome news to share. I passed my MOT (also known as aftercare). I had my annual test for safe guiding, kerbworthiness and satisfactory emissions and I was pawtastic.

As a guide dog, I’m responsible for keeping my human safe when we’re out and about. This is easier said than done. So the charity Guide Dogs want to make sure I’m good enough and put me to the test. They do this annually with most guide dogs.

First up, obeying commands. Fiona, my wooftastic human, told me to go forward. But where exactly did she mean for me to go?

170921 pawsatthekerb parked car chain

The pavement had split into two levels. The raised pavement to the left of me went nowhere. If I went straight on, there wasn’t much room. There was a car parked in the way and I didn’t want Fiona to hit her hand on it. I could veer in between the poles (you’d say the poles were red and white, but I’m colour blind and can’t make out the colour red). Yep, that’s the best route. Oh but wait, there’s a metal chain connecting the poles. I can go under but Fiona can’t. She’s bigger than me.

Time to go slow. 

Me guide dog Fletcher in harness at the bottom of the screen. Back of head and shoulders showing. Next to me on my right is a large grey car on the pavement. Above my head and just noticeable is a metal chain connecting red and white poles. The gap to go through is narrow. @pawsathekerb

Phew, we made it. I judged the gap pawfectly.

If the gap was too narrow, I’d have to take Fiona onto the road and round the outside right of the parked car. Dangerous, I know. That’s why the charity Guide Dogs is campaigning against pavement parking.

Next up, road crossings. Yep, here I am. Paws at the kerb.

Me guide dog Fletcher paws at the kerb. Yes. My paws are at the kerb even though you can't see them. My golden furred head is in the way. You can seen the back of my shoulders too. I'm standing in front of the road which has

I’m good at finding the button for pedestrian crossings too.

Me guide dog Fletcher. Well just my top half just beneath the pedestrian crossing button. In the background is an empty road, some pedestrians and a glass fronted office block. @pawsatthekereb

That’s the easy bit. We have to weave in and out all the other humans crossing the road.

Me guide dog Fletcher crossing a side road. I'm about a third of the way across and in front of me are a few humans. One with a wheelie suitcase. Another with a mobile phone. @pawsatthekerb

Time to turn right. Oh no, bin in the way and more humans in our path.

170921 pawsatthekerb bin humans

Hang on, Fiona, I’ll get you to where you want to go.

And so we continue.

At last, we’re on the final straight. I recognise where we are. Now gently does it, there are two children ahead playing on the pavement.

Me guide dog Fletcher guiding along a narrow pavement on a side road. There's a white parked car on the road. In front of me are two small childen, one is about the same height as the car. The other one is 30cm shorter. I've blanked out their faces. @pawsatthekerb

Finally, we make it back to the Guide Dogs offices and here’s the door, Fiona. Reckon I deserve a treat. Lots of treats.

Me guide dog Fletcher in my white Guide Dogs' harness with yellow handle. I'm standing in front of a grey office door showing my human where it is. @pawsatthekerb

Of course, it’s not all work and no play. Here am I playing with fellow guide dog Bertie, a Labradoodle, in a country park with cows and a river. Bit different to the city streets…

Me guide dog Fletcher a labrador golden retriever cross, with golden fur, having fun in a country park with fellow guide dog Bertie a golden labradoodle. We're similar sizes and ages. We're running on the lush green grass. In the background is a bench and three cows. @pawsatthekerb

Woof and paw, guide dog Fletcher.

P.S. For those of you who’ve been following this blog, my health is much better. Allergies under control. I get to see a consultant next month to make sure that niggle in my back isn’t anything serious. Paws crossed. And because of all my earlier stopping, I’ll have another MOT at the end of the year. 
P.P.S. As always, grateful for all your pawsome comments. Drop me a line…

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, September 2017.

 

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My guide dog family

Woof, guide dog Fletcher here! Hope you’re having a pawsome Bank Holiday weekend?! The good news is that I’m continuing to improve my guiding behaviour and my back feels better. I’m getting my mojo back paw step by paw step. Reckon we’re two thirds of the way there now.

Today let me introduce, and re-introduce, you to some impawtant folk. Both four legs and two legs. My guide dog family. Well, just some of them. Being a guide dog means I have a huge extended family of fellow guide dogs. And rumour has it I’ll be meeting up with some guide dogs, including my brother Umber, very soon. Paws crossed that works out.

I’ve now updated my blog post with alternative text on my photos. The apology for not having done so stands. And I’ve kept the following text from my original blog post here but left it in italics. I would have crossed it out but couldn’t work out how. [Original April text: Oh, an apology from me. Accessibility is impawtant to me. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties, and me needing some extra help, my photos don’t have the screen reader friendly alternative text descriptions. I’ll get it sorted in the next couple of weeks and I’ll update this post. I know, in the meantime, I’m in the dog house.]

Back to my guide dog family.

Here’s dad, Golden Retriever Archie. I reckon I get my stubborn streak from him. This photo, courtesy of his owner Ruth, was from last year when he was on holiday.

My dad. He's a dark gold fur Golden Retriever. So his fur is long and curly. He's lying down on some grass facing the camera. @pawsathekerb

My mum is the lovely Jazz. She’s a black fur Labrador. And yes, if you look closely you can spot the odd black fur in my golden coat. You have to look hard though. We met my mum last year with her humans, Ginny and Andy. I had a woofderful time. My mum is great at playing tug. Read about my visit to my mum’s. Here’s a photo of the two of us. I’m in my guide dog uniform at the front lying down with mum sitting behind me. Mum Jazz is a Willow and Camargo puppy born in 2010.

Me guide dog Fletcher in my Guide Dog harness and red lead. I'm lying down and looking to the right. I'm with my mum who is sitting behind me. She's also looking to the right. I've golden fur and my mum has black fur. We're on dark grey paving slabs. @pawsatthekerb

Next up are my litter mates. They are Stanley, Ursula, Usher, Umber, Ulan, Urwin, and Uska. I’m the second eldest. And I think all of them, except Usher, qualified as guide dogs. Don’t we all look sweet and innocent as young puppies in the photo below?

Me guide dog Fletcher. Well mini me I should say and before I was a guide dog. I'm one of eight golden puppies standing up against the metal grid walls of our pen. There's pink bedding around us. @pawsatthekerb
Both Stanley and I have been on TV. You can see Stanley in action being trained in London in the TV programme: Oxford Street Revealed, Series 2, Episode 6. I gather that, recently, his owner took the decision to stop being a guide dog owner after an incredible 22 years of guide dog ownership. Stanley was their 8th guide dog. I don’t know what he’s doing now.

I met my pawsome brother Umber and his human Lauren when we were all campaigning in the Houses of Parliament; photo below and I’m on the right. Feel free to check out my earlier campaigning Access All Areas blog post. (By the way, I was on TV in Emily Davison’s piece for Channel 4 News on this campaigning called No Go Britain: Guide dog owners denied access. I’m on near the beginning and my human, the pawtastic Fiona, was the first interviewee). I’m looking forward to seeing my brother and his human again. Zoomies time soon…

Me guide dog Fletcher with my brother on the left. We make a handsome pair in our Guide Dog Harnesses. The legs of our humans are also in photo shot. @pawsatthekerb
I don’t know much about my other brothers and sis. One day I might get to meet my litter mates again. Here’s hoping. I wonder if they’ll remember me.

Now from four legs to two legs. I’m a Guide Dogs’ Name a puppy. And I’m named after the incredible human Alan Fletcher, the now retired Chairman of Swindon Guide Dogs Fundraising Volunteers. He and the good folk in Swindon raised money to sponsor lifechangers like me in memory of Alan’s guide dog Joy. I’m one of several pups4joy. Of course, I had to track him down and say hello.

Me guide dog Fletcher and my namesake. He's a white male with grey hair and dark glasses. He's wearing a Guide Dog jacket with shorts and trainers. He's leaning down giving me fusses. I'm lying down on the grass all excited. @pawsathekerb
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the dedication, hard work and love of my puppy walker, Di. She made sure I had a great start in life. I owe her a lot. I was mentored by her dog Kerry too. It was great seeing my puppy walker again last year. I got lots and lots of fusses. I like fusses.

Me guide dog Fletcher with my puppy walker giving me a treat. Of course, I'm being good and sitting down for my treat. My doggie mentor, who also has golden fur except that my mentor's fur is longer and slightly curly, is standing beside me. My puppy walker is a white women with dark and grey hair, and glasses. @pawsatthekerb
When I was going through my early and advanced training, life was made so much nicer by my boarders, Cressi and Andrew.  They helped me get proper down time after training and helped me re-energise at the weekends. They were fun and still are as I found to my joy. Yep, I saw my boarders again this year.

Me guide dog Fletcher giving one of my boarders a sloppy kiss. You see the heads of all three of us. To the left is one boarder, a youngish white male with brown hair. I'm in the middle. To the right is my boarder, a youngish white female with darker brown long hair. We're in the sun and the sky is bright blue. @pawsatthekerb
It’s been grand tracking down my guide dog family. In case you’re wondering I only got the contact details of my puppy walker. Everyone else I had to sniff out. Something to do with what you humans call Data Protection. I have a pawsome guide dog family. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them. Let me know with your likes and comments…

Woof and paw, Guide dog Fletcher. 

P.S. Woof again! Been all sorts weather wise this Bank Holiday. Yesterday, cloudy then sunny. Today, my human says it’s raining cats and dogs. I’m protesting because I’d like to say hello to all those cats and dogs…

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, April 2017, updated May 2017 with alternative text on photos, updated August 2017 with mum Jazz’s details.

 

Fun with my boarders

Woof from me, guide dog Fletcher! I know it’s been a while. I’m still trying to sort out this niggle in my back. Thankfully it’s just a niggle and I’m getting a helping hand from an osteopath. My guiding is getting better, though I’m still stopping unexpectedly. Less so than before and I like this positive reinforcement technique that my human is now using too. All good stuff. Talking of good stuff…

I had fun with my boarders. No, not the wall kind of boarder which some in the USA are on about. By the way, that one is barking. No, I’m talking about two very impawtant people, Cressi and Andrew.

They boardered me when I was undergoing my early and advanced training to be a guide dog. Basically the time period after I was with my puppy walker, Di. And before I went to live with my human, Fiona, and qualified as a guide dog (I’ll give you a timeline and who’s who in my next blog post).

Cressi and Andrew took me into their home and made sure I got plenty of TLC in the evenings after training all day. Plus they made sure I had fun at weekends like going to the seaside.

I last saw them in July 2015. Here’s a photo of Cressi, Andrew and me from back then and when the sun was shining.

Me guide dog Fletcher back in 2015. I'm in the middle of my boarders Andrew and Cressi. It's a selfie. And I'm giving Cressi a lick. Photo credit: My boarder Cressi. (c) pawsatthekerb

And I got to see them again in 2017.

And we all went to the park. My first time running in a park since my back operation.

And Cressi and Andrew brought along life changer-to-be, Isaac; he’s now left them to live with his new owner-to-be and paws crossed he will qualify as a guide dog.

I had a mega pawtastic time!

In the park, I got treats from my human.

Me guide dog Fletcher sitting down. I'm not looking at you. I'm looking to the left and focused on my human who is giving me a treat. Her hand and my mouth are touching. (c) pawsatthekerb

Lots of fusses from Cressi. From Andrew too. Here I am receiving fuss from Cressi alongside Isaac; he has black fur and mine is golden.

Me guide dog Fletcher the handsome one on the right of the picture standing facing my friend, Isaac. Isaac has black fur. My fur is golden. We're in front of my boarder who's hand you can see rubbing the backs of our necks. (c) pawsatthekerb

Of course, life changer-to-be Isaac and I couldn’t resist running around and rolling on top of each other.

Me guide dog Fletcher lying down in the park. I'm wearing my Perfect Fit harness. My mouth is open. I'm on the left and have gold fur. my friend Isaac is to my right and he's upside down on this back. (c)pawsatthekerb

Oh, and there was the obligatory sit down photo call. Here I am showing Isaac how it is done.

Me guide dog Fletcher. A handsome Golden Retriever Labrador cross with golden fur. Sitting with my friend Isaac. He's on the right and has black fur. (c) pawsatthekerb

Then I got to show my boarders my awesome guide dog skills when we all went to the pub after the park (I am a professional after all). Lying down is key guide dog skill. As is staring up at humans with big brown eyes…

Me guide dog Fletcher lying down on the blue and cream pub carpet. My golden head just in view at the bottom of the photo. My friend Isaac is lying down turned to you. His black fur paws are wrapped around our boarders feer. (c) pawsatthekerbVolunteer guide dog boarders are pawsome (here’s the link to Guide Dogs’ website if you want to know how to become a boarder). A big thank you to everyone who boarders a guide dog-in-training / guide dog. I got two of the best boarders (not that I’m biased!). Plus I got to see them again when I was a fully-trained all qualified guide dog. That’s a big thing for me.

For, my human didn’t get details of my boarders. She had to track them down on something called Facebook (I’m not on Facebook. I’m still getting my paws around Twitter and blogging here). Took my human and Cressi over a year to connect. They got there in the end. Now we have said thank you to another two members of my guide dog family. How lucky am I?

Woof and paw, Guide dog Fletcher.

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to my woofderful mum, Jazz, who’s now retired. Her humans are Ginny and Andy. And to all guide dog brood bitches (that’s what they call our mums. Not very polite is it?!) and their humans.

P.P.S. My humans took me to the park briefly today (I’m not allowed too long in the park whilst my back still niggles). I rolled on my back (which made my humans happy). And also rolled in some very nice smelling poo (which made my humans less happy).

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, March 2017.