A day in the life of a Guide Dog - staff blog by Deano
I like to have breakfast at 6.15 even at the weekend. Sometimes I remind Mummy to get up and feed me by rattling the lounge door or doing smoke alarm impressions. The Labrador part of me thinks food is very important! After breakfast I have a little power nap as you never know what the day will bring. Work days I take Mummy out to the taxi at 7.25. I hop in the foot well, greet the driver and tuck my tail in before Mummy gets in.
Work really begins when we arrived at the railway station. Mummy puts on my harness and off we go. I’ve got to safely negotiate people, luggage, bicycles, noticeboards, ticket machines and find the ticket office. Then I’ve got to get us through the barrier, down a sometimes packed platform round pillars, pass bicycle racks, round people, who are oblivious to other commuters, to the lift. I find the button for the lift and point it out to Mummy with my nose.
Then it is across the bridge, into another lift (if it is working) and another packed platform to the waiting room. My reward once I’ve found Mummy a seat is a treat.
As a guide dog there is no special treatment getting onto the train … I have to find the way through the scrum and wait our turn to get on the train. Getting into the carriage I have to be careful that my tail doesn’t get caught in the automatic doors. Once Mummy has found a seat, often where there is a table and a bit more room for me, she takes my harness off. I’m meant to lie down under the table and tuck myself in neatly but there are great scavenging opportunities on trains. I can get into a small space if there is food to be had. I usually have a little sleep on the train. Sometimes I meet a colleague on train and we compare notes on our owners and work.
Mummy gets my harness on and makes sure we are ready to get off the train before we reach our destination. It seems like hundreds of people get off the train when with us. It can be packed going through the barrier – we always go through the widest one. The stairs too can be very busy. I sit at the top of stairs so Mummy knows that we are at a flight of stairs that go down. I’ve got to watch out that no-one stands on my tail as it can be quite painful. I don’t move until Mummy has her foot on the step and gives me the command. Mummy likes to be near a handrail she can grab just in case we get jostled. If we are going up the stairs I stop with my front paws on the first step so Mummy knows we are going up. Again I don’t move until she is ready to move and gives me the command.
Getting Mummy from the train station to work is a job that requires lots of concentration and it’s a job I’ve had almost two years of training for. I’ve got to find the way safely round all manner of street furniture and obstacles. I have to find curbs, steps, pedestrian crossings and daily I’ve got to take Mummy off the pavement onto the road and back onto the pavement as soon as I can do so. At the moment Mummy is stopping to photograph all the vehicles we encounter parked on the footpath for some presentation she is doing about parking on pavements.
Contrary to popular belief Mummy is the one who decides when we cross a road. Although I’m a special dog and extremely well trained I can’t judge how fast the traffic is moving, or work out how much time we have to get across a road, or understand the erratic actions of some drivers. I can get Mummy to a crossing, find the button for the control box and I’m allowed to refuse her forward command if I really don’t think it’s safe. Mummy will decide on when to cross based on the funny noise on audio crossings or from the rotating cones on some crossings, or by moving when other people move or on whether or not she can hear any traffic, which means we have had a couple of close calls with cyclists and electric vehicles.
Wherever possible we use a controlled crossing or a pedestrian crossing. We will indent – go round the corner away from a busy street to cross a side street. Mummy thinks carefully about our routes so we minimise the number of times we have to cross roads and sometimes we will take a longer route because it’s a safer route.
Most of the time Mummy is in charge and she will give me commands to move forward or turn left or right or back. I know about fifty different commands. When Mummy issues a ‘find’ command for example ‘find the way’ then it’s all up to me to work out how best to find the way. It is a partnership! I do have a good route memory and generally I can work out where we are going if I’ve been there once before.
Usually I have a toilet break (we call it ‘spending’) on the way to work on my favourite bit of grass although I’m gutter trained. (Where do Guide Dogs get these terms from?) They even have a command for spending … busy, busy. Although I’m a male guide dog I would never cock my leg, I spend like a puppy or a girl dog.
Mummy might stop for a coffee on the way to work. I’m allowed into places like food shops, restaurants other dogs aren’t. Apparently my predecessor was quite smug about her access rights.
Once at work Mummy takes my harness off and I can have a drink and a nap. I have free run of Mummy’s open plan office. I usually ignore Mummy at work and sit with her colleagues. I particularly like to do this when they are having lunch though Mummy has briefed them not to feed me. I usually go under the conference table at meetings, where I can listen to the discussion but have a kip when it gets boring. I always make sure I’m the first one who is introduced when anyone new comes in.
Mummy takes me out a lunch-time so I can ‘spend’. I’m not that keen on going in the rain. I’m not meant to sniff when I am working or scent. I’m also not meant to scavenge but I’m half Labrador – I can’t help it though I do get told off.
I never know where we are off to when Mummy picks up my harness. I just know its time for work when my harness goes on and time to just be a dog when it comes off. My workload is just a varied as Mummy’s is. I’ve travel throughout Hampshire and sometimes further afield like the time I went in an airplane to a conference in Manchester.
I like to have my dinner as soon as I get home about 6pm but if we are late I’ve got to wait. After dinner I like to unwind by playing with my ‘sisters’ – my bossy Golden Retriever older sister Tamara, who will be thirteen in February. Tamara is my predecessor and is always going on about when she was a guide dog. Heidi, who is six, is a black Lab retriever cross and works as a guide dog for Daddy.
In addition to my guiding duties apparently I’m great company. I certainly ensure Mummy gets noticed and is remembered. I’m a great networking asset. I don’t know why but whenever Mummy has to do any social media it falls to me.