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.

 

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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.

I’m home

Woof, woof and woof again from me, guide dog Fletcher! Why all the excitement?! Well, I’m home.

Me guide dog Fletcher head and front paw only. I'm snoozing looking to the right in a red T-shirt under a cream blanket and nuzzled against a green cuddly toy. And I'm home. @pawsatthekerb

Wasn’t that long ago I was rocking this T-shirt look at Guide Dogs Redbridge Hospital Kennels just after my back surgery (photo below). That’s why there was a slight pause at paws at the kerb™.

Me guide dog Fletcher sitting looking at you in a bright red T-shirt. I'm on a white bed with nylabones around me. The walls are brown tiles. @pawsatthekerb

Waggy tail for all your get well soon wishes. Licks to all my new blog followers. And soppy kisses (or nose-bumps as my bunny friends prefer) to my regular readers. Knowing you are there for me means a lot.

Talking of kisses. My “kissing spine” and I even made it into Forest Vets’ newsletter. Forest Vets are Guide Dogs Redbridge’s authorised vets. Here’s the pawsome bit all about me:

Me guide dog Fletcher upside down in a CT scanner which is a white donut. I'm on the bed with tubes attached and my nurse and vet are nearby. There's also an CT scan of my kissing spine. The text says: Forest Veterinary Centre Winter Newsletter 2016. New CT Scanner. Clive, Paul and Glenn have been taking our first CT scans with some very impressive results. These pictures show a working Guide Dog in the CT scanner. The dog had been experiencing back pain. The image shows the spinous processes (the sticky up bits!) are touching. This is called a "kissing spine". This is not what Clive was expecting. The god will now have an operation to resect the spinal bones that are causing the pain. All being well, the Guide Dog will be back working with his blind partner as soon as he is recovered from the operation. Posted in pawsatthekerb.

Whilst the Guide Dogs Hospital Kennels staffs were lovely, I missed my fabulous human, Fiona. I missed my belly rub technician, Andy. Then after 6 weeks away, I saw my humans again. I forgot that I had a sore back and went crazy.

I’m home now. It’s woofderful.

For the first time in months, I can snooze on my back. For us dogs, it’s impawtant to take-up as much room as possible and get into the most awkward sleeping positions. Multi-tasking is also good. So whilst I’m lying here, I’m happy to receive belly rubs. Anyone?!

Me guide dog Fletcher snoozing on my back. Belly exposed ready for a belly rub. I'm wearing a white T-shirt and there's a red cuddly toy poking out from under me. @pawsatthekerb

I’ve also got a new bed (the Piggy Bank was raided – poor Miss Piggy – and my new bed’s got something called memory foam). It’s vast and has a very comfy head rest. Here let me show you.

Me guide dog Fletcher looking at you. My head and right leg are visible only. My head is resting on the brown bolster of my bed and I'm looking serious. @pawsatthekerb

I’m getting better each day. Be a couple more weeks before I’m allowed my free run in the park and to catch-up on all my wee wee notices.

My future as a guide dog is a little uncertain though. As per the vets’ orders, I’m currently on light duties building up to full working. But I need a little help so my guiding is really good and I don’t stop unexpectedly. To be honest, I needed help a while back. My humans are on the case but it hasn’t been easy for them getting others to help us (I may even tell you all about it in a blog post).

While my humans and I are waiting for help, I’ll just have to double-check that my new bed is properly squidgy.

Time for another nap… 

Woof and paw, Guide dog Fletcher.

P.S. I’m hoping to get in another blog post this month. Probably tell you about my doggie family. Make sure you don’t miss it by following my blog. As always, your pawsome comments are most welcome.

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(c) pawsatthekerb™, December 2016.